Published: June 7th 2011March 17th 2011
No Bad Days in Cabo
Beautiful shot of El Arco from the Pacific Side
Hola from sunny Los Cabos. After enduring another soggy western Canadian winter, I am pleased to announce I have fully recovered at my favourite destination. Truly, there are 'No Bad Days' here in Cabo.
Why do I love Cabo so much you ask? Simple. I love the brilliant sunshine. I love the friendly locals. I love the parched desertscape....three things that elude me back home. Best of all, Los Cabos provides me with some serious downtime....and for that, I am grateful and appreciative.
Normally, I'm all about the adventure travel....and more than not, I'll return home from my trips absolutely shattered, needing a vacation from my vacation. Whether it be from random skirmishes with jungle rot, road rash, dengue fever, and those garden-variety contusions….or maybe the never-ending games of charades with ridiculous customs officials, re-wearing musty undergarments that never seem to dry completely in a hostel overnight, sleeping in unnatural positions that rival the kama sutra, or spending the best part of a twelve-hour bus journey trying to explain to the Peruvian granny next to me why I won't marry her eldest grandson....all the whilst turning down her offer of dried Alpaca jerky she has pulled from the safety
Youth traditional dancing
These kids are practicing a Oaxacan dance for some upcoming celebrations SJD
of her brassiere.
Any of events above seriously have me pondering my own travel sanity.
My landlocked, 'untravelly' coworkers think I'm nuts. "You look haggard," one quips thoughtfully, "Didn't you say you were on a vacation?
" Um, thanks?
Enter Los Cabos.
Strictly designed for the North American Vacationer or UK Holidayer, the unofficial motto is No Bad Days. But Eat, Sleep, Drink...Repeat seems more relevant.
So, what's there to do in Los Cabos? It turns out that all travel, whether it be touristy or adventurous, is not so much about the destination, but about the memories you make. Secret finds. Connections. Places, smells, experiences.
Flocks of Americans and Canadians overwhelm this tiny Los Cabos area each year with only one thing on their minds. Get insanely drunk, frolic the endless beaches with their Bo Derek braids, buy ridiculous trinkets (penis-shaped hashpipe anyone?), spend the next few days looking like a boiled lobster peering sheepishly from the shady realms of a palapa, perform several acts that allow you to justify the statement "What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico", and make at least one late night visit to an emergency department. Each to their own,
mexican door to nowhere
My favourite old door in SJD
I always say. But that is not why I come here. No, you will usually find me laid out in a hammock knee-deep in novels, making little or no decisions.
This year, I had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow bloggers MerryJo and Dave of team D MJ Binkley
. Merry Jo asked me why I don't blog more about Cabo. That's the problem. What DO
you write about?
When I do finally get out of the hammock (a feat harder than you think, stupid hammock), I set my sights on exploring off-the-beaten-track quirky places that the average vacationer doesn't see while visiting Cabo. Not that they don't want to, but after they wade through the plethora of snorkelling, surfing, ATV’ing, fishing, golfing, dune buggying, zip-lining, parasailing, standup boarding – it doesn't leave much time to experience the real Mexico. Hotel chains design it this way to keep their resort dwellers fully occupied and spending money during their week long vacation. A few brave individuals venture off resort property, but the majority are a little skittish. For some reason they have an underlying paranoia of being randomly assassinated at any moment. Thanks CNN. Then there are the throngs of cruise
Thar she blows
Cruise ship patrons are shuttled to the snorkeling area of Chileno. Perhaps this is what the natives saw when Cortez came to town?
ship patrons. Descending Cabo like an invasion on Normandy, their steadfast determination to do everything in Cabo in less than four hours is frightening...but with a hardcore agenda like that, you end up doing sweet nada other than haggling for a ride on the chicken bus to take you to the Mayan ruins. Hint of the day: There are no Mayan ruins in Cabo.
In the 30 plus years I've been coming to Cabo, I have tried everything. I've been hung upside down willingly for free tequila shooters, I've gone diving in a school of hammerhead sharks, I've screamed into a microphone with Sammy Hagar after drinking too many margaritas. Plus, there is all the crazy stuff I can’t remember. I feel the need to throw an apology out to the universe at this point. To whoever you are, I’m sorry. No really, I am.
Hedonistic Los Cabos is kinda tiresome to me now. I’m more interested in finding treasures that don’t come in monumental denomination requirements. I find myself newly excited to peel back the layers of this dust bowl like a Mexican wrestler removing his Nacho Libre mask and discover what a truly extreme and diverse
Clouds always guarantee a pink sunset in Cabo
ecosystem Cabo teeters on. With its lively culture and community, this is a very special place.
The biggest joy for me comes in the form of volunteering. Whether it be dog walking for the local animal shelter, or participating in activities at the community centre, it is the best way to become intimately acquainted with the region. One particular charity I work with provides basics for families squatting in the arroyos, keeping dignity in tact. Most of the individuals we help have migrated here from the mainland for the tourism work, but they do not have family they can rely on. The parents work around the clock, kids are left to fend for themselves in the shanty cardboard towns and most do not go to school because they cannot afford it. Basic healthcare and proper food are an afterthought. The centre provides childcare, emergency based needs, but most importantly we provide the children with required uniforms and school supplies, so they can attend. In exchange, the families volunteer for clean up projects around the town, we'll hit a random beach for garbage pickup on a weekend, or clean up a local street and paint over graffiti, haul away junk.
Medano Party Beach
Where all the cruise ship patrons are dropped off to enjoy a day of sand and sun and booze. It can be pretty packed and just as wild.
After, we have a mini fiesta with fun games and hotdog lunch. It’s very community and it is a blast.
Each year, I participate in a local sea turtle program which incorporates two of my favourite pastimes, beach camping & interacting with sea creatures. Our tent city springs to life on a remote part of the East Cape, the owner of the property - a gruff ranchero called Frito finds our activities annoying - yet intriguing enough to allow our yearly trespass. Even better, he arrives at sunset with a bottle of tequila and a nights' worth of dirty jokes. We all wait around in anticipation for the turtles to arrive...fun for the first few nights, but after about a week I'm passed out my tent, only to have my watch alarm rudely wake me at 3 am for my look-out shift. No vacationing person should ever have to be up at this ungodly hour, yet I spring to my feet like it's the first day of school. Sea turtles are amazing creatures. How they swim across the Pacific from Japan and find this exact beach at this exact time of year is mystifying, but the tags don't lie.
Super Moon over Mexico
March 21, 2011 supermoon was no more brighter than normal I'm afraid.
Apparently they are hardwired with a sophisticated GPS.
As the full moon casts a blue hew across the white sands, several hundred of these gorgeous creatures haul themselves out of the ocean like clockwork and the sands starts a-flying. Depending on the time of year, species such as Olive Ridley, Black, Leatherback, and Loggerhead come to lay their eggs here. This year, we are waiting on the massive Pacific Loggerhead Turtle, or Caguamas as the locals call them. And, oh man are they massive…they can be a meter (4 feet) in length and can weigh up to 113 kgs (250 pounds). Years ago, we used to collect the eggs from these nests and take them to be safely incubated indoors, but it was discovered that the baby turtles require those two months buried at the beach to fine tune their GPS prior to hatching. So instead, we are nest sitters, drinking cold cervasas on the shoreline, making sure no one ATV's over them, and chasing off packs of dogs or buzzards trying to dig up an omelette smorgasbord. Not a bad little gig. Joining us are most of the fishermen who actually used to kill these very turtles for
My happy place
All rejuvenated, refreshed and rebooted after a month in SJD
food (considered a delicacy here on the Baja - I can guiltily admit I once partook of turtle soup and turtle suntan lotions many years ago....so I'm trying to fix some bad juju by volunteering). I've made good friends with Ignacio, who is instrumental in teaching his fellow fishermen from the local fishing cooperatives conservation awareness which has exploded in the recent years. Hopefully with the researchers, volunteers and fishermen, this will benefit all sea turtles. Watching the tiny hatchlings battle their way back to the lapping ocean is an unforgettable experience.
Mountain biking and hiking in the blistering desert heat may not be appealing to most, but my friend Jorge and I often spend a day or two doing just that. He was born and raised in a small town east of Los Cabos called Miraflores, so the entire mountainside of Sierra de la Laguna is his playground. We usually ride the old mule trails for about 3 hours before they become more rugged at the incline. Ruts where the summer rain run-off almost swallow my front tire, I have to really concentrate so I don't eat it. At the end of the daunting trail, we stop for
Count em 3 cruise ships...ah ha ha ha
All hell breaks loose when the cruise ships come to town.
a water break and to hide our gear amongst the scrub. We then set off by foot, the looming mountain range ominous. Here the terrain is almost too steep, I find myself easing, the excitement of discovery slowed by brutal humidity. After scaling along a narrow crumbly ledge, we stop to get our bearings. A spectacular view unfolds before us, the bluest ocean just beyond the haze. This is where a camera would be helpful...note to self...again. Instead we just sit, and look. The deep afternoon shade from the steep cliffside is silently coveted. There are a few shallow caves behind us, and we both look at each other and laugh when we realize we are only steps from the elusive cave paintings we had heard about. Inside the mouth of the first cave are several faded outlines that are permanently leeched into the sandstone. I marvel at the fact that they have existed here for centuries untouched. I also love the fact that only a handful of humans have set eyes on them. The dry desert preserves their earthy coloured stories. I fight my urge to reach out and touch them, content to leave them be. Proof again, that
Anything for a picture!
There were 20 foot swells when my amigo took me out to catch dinner this day. We were laughing watching all the tourists puke. Fun!
if you are willing to explore, you never know what you may come upon.
A horticultural walk in the backcountry may not be every one's cup of tea, but I really enjoy this activity, especially in November, when the desert comes alive after the rains in September. All the plants are in full bloom, and the landscape has a beautiful green liveliness about it. I spend most of my day taking photographs of various plant species, remembering to drink enough water, and trying not to run into danger creatures. Most critters are asleep during the heat of the day (hmmm you'd think I'd clue into that fact). Occasionally you will catch sight of a coyote or a weird little fuzzy kangaroo rat or rock squirrel, buzzards stalk the skies high above looking for nearly dead wandering horticultural types. Bugs, birds, bees and other crawlies are in full 'get it on' mode. At the end, if you time it right, you can drop by the freshwater springs at Santiago. A gorge that fills up deceptively cold making a great place for a refreshing dip, especially after hiking and sweating it out in the dusty desert all day.
in Cabo during the winter season, I usually head north to the bay of Magdelena. Thousands of grey whales come here to calve and nurse their young in the calm shallow waters. I've also gotten to know several of the local fishermen who have instinctively become tour guides, realizing eco tourism makes way more dinero than fishing all day. They wait around and load up their pangas with tourists for their experience of a lifetime. Mexico is still a little lax on the whale interaction regulations and rules, so most will manipulate their boat right alongside. Luckily, whales are very intelligent and seem to know you mean them no harm. They interact gleefully. Something very powerful comes over you, and this feeling of internal peace and connection with nature envelops you, as calm waters rock the boat gently. These beasts of the sea will proudly introduce you to their babies, pushing them upward for a better look. Some will spray or sing for you, others will allow you to touch their barnacle smooth skin. I have been covered in whale snot more than I’d like to admit. But until you have looked deep into the gigantic eye of a whale,
How to get lost in Cabo
Criss crossing the Baja, fantastic hikes and bikes in the Sierras are wonderful
you cannot justify your life.
One of the most interesting spectacles to witness while in Los Cabos is any National holiday. There are many. Mexicans love their holidays and really really love to fiesta. This year, I was in town for Benito Juarez's birthday which was March 21st. Benny is a much revered El Presidente from Oaxaca, so those from the mainland Sinaloa have made it a big deal here on the Baja, and a gong show of thousands descend on the tiny town of San Jose del Cabo to celebrate. There is a certain controlled chaos with any festival in Mexico, you get your typical rodeo with tough-as-nails rancheros, traditional dancing, food vendors try to entice you to their stall, kids freely scream on the rickety rides offered by a travelling carnival midway - their use of duct tape would make any Canadian proud. About 75,000 people cram into a few square blocks, most drinking before noon. The smell of deep fried churros and diesel, loud accordion music, recently escaped horses galloping through the crowds, and wildly colourful costumes are the norm. For people watchers like me, I’ve hit pay dirt.
Self discovery in Los Cabos is
Blue Agave equals Tequila!
The Agave that makes Tequila puro. Also very decorative.
really for the individual to experience. Many ask me relentlessly, what's your favourite restaurant in Cabo? What's the best thing to see while in Cabo? Where do I go? I always hesitate to answer. Nothing thrills me more than hearing someone excitedly chat about the wicked tortilla soup they had when the stumbled upon a hidden Taqueria. Or how they found this secluded beach where they learned to stand-up board and a pod of dolphins surfaced nearby and followed them all day, or how they were just casually walking past a walled courtyard and invited into the shade to watch a mariachi band practice. If you are willing to explore you will find a story. That is the true Los Cabos. I hope you too will find it.
There are more photos below