Saturday, February 24, 2007

Paint: Mexico's Favorite Color

Crossing over the Sea of Cortez has introduced us to a Mexico even more vibrant with culture and scenery, along with my quarter-century notch. It's strange passing into the title of mid-20s without sharing a birthday cake with my lil bro and easy access to a phone connected to loved ones, thanks everyone for the well wishes.

A rigorous driving schedule partnered with smooth, multi-laned toll highways has delivered us to Puerto Vallarta, our pockets over $40 lighter with tolls (yikes). We've crossed into beautiful tropical jungles, as well as a plethora of tourist havens. Gringos seem to flock to all the same areas, for good reason as the beaches are pristine and the scenery is stupid pretty. Unfortunately the culture feels watered down with the addition of each sunburned belly peeking out beneath a wildly patterned parrot shirt. Reading signs in English again feels unusual, although our Spanish capability still feels like we're driving through sticky mud with wheels of wooden cogs.

Soaking in the colors and overall feel of our surroundings has been a pleasure. Mexico has so much to offer in the vibrancy of their landscape, and with the many coats of brightly colored paint over everything, tombstones and trees included. I love the unexpected colonial feel of the towns, as well as the intrigue of every dusty little pocket town lining the roads. Now if I could just work on that Spanish.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Carnival Meat

In a few hours we will embark on our 20-hour ferry ride from the beautiful city of La Paz to mainland Mexico. We lucked out and caught the city at the perfect time, right in the midst of their colorful and strange Carnival.

We spent two nights bumbling along, shoulder-to-shoulder among thousands of people young and old. Among the sea of cowboy hats, men and women burst into spontaneous dance, peddled goods, and feasted on pastry delights and strung-up meats.

We dodged drunkards wielding chili-rimmed styrofoam cups, blasted our eardrums with blaring speakers, and watched with bizarre fascination as blanket salesman spasmodically auctioned while folding and unfolding giant blankets decorated with tigers, eagles, and large mythical beasts. Needless to say, it was a good time.

Now we can leave with a vague sense of accomplishment after exploring the entire Baja penisula, coast to coast, norte to sur. What a beautiful chunk of land. However, I do look forward to greenery, and a relief from wiping down Guntero's formaica'd surfaces with their daily fresh coat of desert dust.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Great Waves and the Great Caravan Breakup

After weeks of sunny flat beaches on the Sea of Cortez, we finally found some waves. We've been squatting (quite literally) at an abandoned RV Park just south of Todos Santos for the past five days. Apparently the once plush beachside San Pedrito has been pummeled in the last three hurricanes and is now all but abandoned. We bumped down the washboard side road to find about 10-20 gringos enjoying the beachfront camping at a top notch break. Some of the campers have apparently been living there for months, drunk all day and playing the world's longest bacci ball tournament. The stay has been filled with great surf, big BBQs, raging bonfires, and some mindblowing sunsets. This is the first stop that feels as good as I imagined the trip to be.

Did I mention that there were some good waves.

Rachel finally got a chance to try out her new beautiful longboard, and we both got the cobwebs out of our shoulders. It's amazing how much of your paddle you can lose with 6 months of no surfing.

Getting to Todos Santos was a significant accomplishment for us, as we have finally hit The Tropics. The water is getting warmer and my belly is only getting a little larger. The town itself is a kinda weird Gringo settlement in the middle of Baja. The bars and hotels are named after Eagles songs and the place is teeming with well-off Hip-a-Yuppies. This means that basically every artist and artisan has moved out to Todos to fill up the Gringos' second homes with some of the nicest folk art I have seen yet in Baja. But the nicest thing about Todos is its natural beauty.

So Todos Santos was pretty much feeling like total paradise, until a cruel twist of fate brought an end to our caravan. Apparently not everyone was fond of us squatters. Someone appears to have dumped sugar into the gas cans of our caravan buddies, Chris and Tyler, taking out their dirtbikes. The end result was a rather frustrating early departure for the boys from Orcas Island. It was an enjoyable and unexpected experience meeting and hanging out with them for this much of the trip. They will be missed.

After this refreshing stop we are now headed down to Cabo to dip a toe in the overcrowded waters. After that it's back to La Paz to catch a boat to the mainland. We will miss Baja but we are both looking forward to some fresh culture, climate, and comida on the mainland.

- JJ

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

CaraVANning is Fun

At last, Guntero has made some amigos. His new pals include Chris and his dirtbike-toting Biodiesel van, whose engine requires the use of a crank to start up, and Tyler, with his sleek Tacoma camper complete with aquatic toys. They go everywhere together, those three. Bumper to bumper they've worked their way down the coast of the Sea of Cortez, languidly settling on sandy beaches for the night, while their owners relaxed in the peace of having their own entourage.

They ventured to Ojo de Liebre, famous for its grey whale mamas and babies. You can take a small fishing boat out for a mere 30 bucks a person, and get within 5 feet of the underwater behemoths. A very cool way to spend the afternoon: chasing undulating grey mottled backs and tails, until you are too annoying and they dive away from you.

It's always good to have friends with special talents.

We head further south, amid schools of leathery retired motor homers. We long to see unvisored faces. Beaches are picture perfect pristine, the water is cold, and we are still aching to get some surf. But for now, some coronas, mescal, and tacos will fill the void.