Todos Santos, Baja California Sur
Our whole plan to drive to Baja this winter got jumpstarted as soon as we heard the Drive by Truckers were playing in Todos Santos for two weekends as part of a Music Festival. The Drive By Truckers are one of Michael’s favorite bands and he had a good friend flying to Mexico for the event, a collision of awesomeness right there.
The Festival started January 15. We left the northeast corner of Oregon as soon as we were ready, which was when, a lifetime ago?? We can no longer be counted on to know the day of the week, month or let alone what month it is. Time is so irrelevant to our lives these days, but we can tell you how big the moon is and how bright the stars are and which direction the wind is blowing. So, yeah, we thought we’d just hit the pavement running and cruise down here for the festival. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FAR AWAY WE ARE? It took us a few days longer than we had hoped or expected, so we missed the first weekend of the festival. Which, I suppose is why I got to party twice as hard as you’ve ever seen me, for the second weekend.
We got to town on a Wednesday night. The first thing we did was get beers, tequila and tacos. We wandered the streets of Todos Santos until we found the hotel Michael’s friends were staying at and asked if they had checked in yet. They had. We also asked where we might find a good place to camp while we were in town and the hotel manger suggested we either park right outside the front door of the hotel, or if we would be more comfortable in front of his house. Sweet! Wherever we want to sleep, no problema! Things have been this easy the whole time we’ve been here.
Within a couple hours Michael’s friends found us at the bar and thus started a weekend of insane amounts of fun. Simon and Dustin are hilarious. For the next three nights the four of us would be front center stage for every single artist playing music. We saw the Drive By Truckers (and sang with them when Patterson Hood shared his mic with me!), Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Dawes, Peter Buck and Friends, Kev’n Kinney, Joseph Arthur, and Nortec Collective. The talent was off the charts and the intimacy of playing a small festival in such a cool town was special for everyone here.
In 2001 I drove down here in a van with five other people and a dog. We camped a few miles south Todos Santos at Los Cerritos, a well-known surf spot on the peninsula, for weeks on end. Fifteen years ago we had the beach nearly to ourselves. Then, it was a mostly a small group of RV-ers, mostly from Canada that occupied the beach. There was a single palapa where you could buy a beer and a taco. The woman that ran it packed up every night and as she drove by our camp on her way out the road, she occasionally left us a grocery bag full of vegetables. There was one guy parked on the beach with a truck full of surfboards for rent. And that was it. Today, the beach is strewn with condos and barbed wire, at least three surfboard rental shops and not a single street taco stand, not to mention the “huge Mexican mansion that looks like it imploded from the pages of a Dr. Suess book” (right, Laura?!) that sits on top of the rock we used to scamper up to drink our beers and watch our friends surf. There is some overly sized hotel looking thing that we heard offers cheeseburgers for almost twenty American dollars. WTF. I knew the Baja that I had once come to know had blown up since I visited, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I have counted my blessings that I was one of the few fortunate souls to spend time exploring Cerritos when it was still wild and the dunes were dotted with cacti, sand, scorpions, snakes and other wildlife, instead of the trash clinging to barbed wire fences separating one string of condos from the next. It’s still beautiful and I suppose it could be charming if you don’t remember it the way I do. It makes me think of Alaska and my undying desire to go back to the wilderness there. I’m so lucky to have found and cherished these few remaining patches of Earth that are so wild and that one still has the opportunity to be a guest and not an intruder.
Todos Santos es un pueblo Mágico mexicano about 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean and the exact crossing of the Tropic of Cancer. It is 81 km from the city of La Paz and 85 km north of the city of Cabo San Lucas. Many of the waiters and waitresses in the local establishments speak English so it’s easy for us to get around, yet the Mexican culture is very much intact. The architecture is beautiful with old Colonial buildings; and in typical Mexican fashion, all the windows have bars over them, many open-roof structures or palm frond roofs. Art is vibrant and plentiful, as are spas, Wi-Fi café’s, espresso, street dogs and tacos everywhere! My favorite tacos are the street tacos, where they serve coleslaw, limes, guacamole and tomatoes in Tupperware dishes instead of ceramic bowls. Fifteen years ago Todos Santos was much smaller and had all we needed. Today, it has all we need and more. A blessing and a curse, I’m sure.
After the show we filled up on water and vegetables and drove a few miles down the road to a surf camp where we parked for a couple of days to recover from the festival festivities and to stop ourselves from spending every peso we have left on more fish tacos.
A suburban full of guys from Oregon camped next to us for a night on their way down to Panama. Their blog is here: The Suburban Diaries. What a super interesting group of guys that I look forward to following online. I have no doubt that some of the people we meet on this trip will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.
We love it here. It’s artsy, touristy and most importantly, still authentic. Tonight we walked down Los Calles del Mangoes, Mango Street, to the beach where we watched almost two hundred baby sea turtles, that just hatched today, be released to the ocean. A woman named Fran runs a tiny hatchery on the beach, releasing the two hundred or so turtles every night at sunset. We watched with a small crowd as BBC filmed tonight’s release. We might volunteer with her for a few weeks in March.
How’s is our adventure kitty? Sophie is terrified of the daytime. It doesn’t matter if we park on a secluded beach or on a bustling street, she won’t step foot out of the van. Which makes our life easy! She seems content to sleep, leaving us free to leave the doors open and come and go as we please. At night, she is fearless, armed with bike lights she roams the sand dunes and hides in bushes, satisfied to walk further than we are comfortable with, forcing us to fetch her and bring her closer. I never imagined it could be so seamlessly easy to travel with a cat!! She impresses me daily.
Everyday is a new adventure, full of sand, limejuice and salty sea breezes. Hasta luego!