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Published: February 13th 2015
We departed Pt. San Carlos early in the morning in another dense fog with a long 5 1/2 hr. drive to Cabo San Lucas ahead of us. Most of the drive between San Carlos and La Paz is boring and flat desert with no views of the ocean or any discernible towns. We arrived in La Paz and were so happy to be in our home stretch with a new road and scenery ahead of us on the Pacific side of the Baja.
Just as we were headed out of the city limits I heard a police car squelch siren behind us. I looked in the mirror and saw a municipal cop behind us. I asked Dennis if he was after us, and he said probably because he did not come to a complete stop at the last four way stop. For anyone who has never driven in Mexico before quite literally no one stops at any stop signs and red lights seem optional. Throughout our time here we have seen a complete disregard for any traffic laws by local drivers so it was hard to believe we were getting pulled over for such a minor infraction. I had read
in other travel blogs many people telling stories of how they were literally "shaken down" by the police for bribes and I quickly tried to remember how much they paid or what recommendation they gave for such encounters. The officer pulled in front of us and waved us down to stop alongside the highway. He approached the car and greeted us with a large smile and a hearty handshake to Dennis. He asked for Dennis' license and then proceeded to explain the "reason" for the stop and then wrote down 1000 pesos (about $70 usd) on the back of his ticket book and said we could get the license back if we paid this. I had told Dennis about this scam previously so he smartly told the officer we did not have this much (we did). The officer told us we would have to go to the La Paz police station if we could not pay on the spot, and then we would have to pay the 1000 pesos to the station. I asked where the station was with the map in my hand, but the officer asked Dennis how much we had. I took Dennis's wallet and pulled out
400 pesos ($27usd), looking for another 100 to make a 50% off offer to this corrupt excuse for a public servant so we could get on with our day and not waste time looking for a police station that may demand the same amount, or who knows even more money paying more bribes to the station cops too. Once the officer saw the 400 pesos he put his hand in the window and told us "it's ok" and and handed Dennis' license back once he was paid. He thanked us with a big toothy smile and another handshake and went on his way.
I was initially really angry as we drove off and called this cop every derogatory name I had even been called, and worse, but then I thought about how little he is probably paid, and what risk he may face with cartel violence against he and his family. My opinion softened a bit and in no time we were laughing about what happened. I later read about different techniques such as carrying a spare or photocopied and laminated license that you just let them keep (brilliant) or just argue and demand to speak with a supervisor
the mythical arch of brochures we hoped to find
(possibly disastrous). I felt better hearing that the average amount paid by gringos is about $100 usd, so I felt that he somewhat got off with a deal.
We got into Cabo San Lucas at about 1300 and we checked into our beautiful Pacific beachfront resort, the Sandos Finisterra. I found a great deal online for $100/night with all inclusive drinks and meals here in exchange for the dreaded 90 minute timeshare presentation that I have become an expert at. We quickly hit the swim up pool bar and hammered a few drinks while we got cornered by the saddest and most obnoxious couple from Illinois. Dennis listened to the husband drone on about housing bubbles and double recessions and I got stuck with his 49 year old "trophy wife" retired cheerleader and aging partygirl who was so drunk she repeated everything she said every few minutes and threatened to expose her breasts to the bartender to get some quicker drink service. We managed to make our escape away from exactly the type of people we seek to avoid anywhere on the globe and headed directly to the beach.
The surf was a bit gnarly with large waves breaking directly on the beach with a wicked looking undertow. It appeared as though we were close to the end of the peninsula that has the famous iconic Arch, so we began walking towards a huge rock wall about 10 stories high at the end of the beach. We saw a set of footprints in the sand that led up to the rocks and disappeared so we decided to see if we could scale up and over ourselves. I remembered reading someone else's trip blog where they said that they went to Divorce beach after walking through some rocks on the other side of the arch and famous Lovers beach. I was wearing a skirt and sandals and Dennis was barefoot. We were hardly dressed for a bouldering adventure, but we thought it would be a quick scramble up and over. We made it to the top of the first set of rocks, past an ominous memorial with a cross, and noticed that it dropped into a hidden beach between towering rock walls. We excitedly made it down and thought the arch must be close by. We looked for a route to climb over the other side and had to wait out several large waves and time it in between sets to make it up. We continued to climb for another 20 minutes, finding ourselves in more and more precarious spots where the surge and crashing of waves could be heard almost underneath us. We wondered how high the tide came up and hoped that we were at a safe height. We eventually made it to the end of the rocks and overlooked a beautiful beach with a few beach goers on it. The route we came out on ended with a 12 foot drop onto the beach, which again needed to be timed in between sets. Dennis went first and yelled to me "Bon chance, mademoiselle!!!" as he leapt and did a roll in the sand that looked terrifying. By the way, Dennis has been speaking a little high school learned french randomly ever since we met a few Frenchmen during this trip. Luckily he found an easier way down to the beach and we both were relieved once we were down and out of harms way of the rocks and incoming tide.
I discovered that we had made it to Divorce beach and we walked to the other side of Lovers beach, anxiously awaiting our first glimpse of the arch and the beach that we imagined we could walk back on. Much to our surprise there were no other beaches, nor were there any arches to see, but rather a few water taxis offering boat rides out in the ocean to see the arch, and rides back to the main marina for $15!! We came to learn the hard way that all the postcards and photographs you see of couples walking hand in hand through the arch are done during freak weather events, like hurricanes, once every few years where the tide recedes and exposes a beach. Every other normal day the arch is surrounded by treacherous water that is 10-15 ft. deep. We later spoke to an employee at the resort who has lived here 27 years and has only seen it exposed only four times.
We made our way back up and over the rocks again, slightly dejected, sore and scraped up. Once safely back at the hotel we spoke with an employee who asked how we were enjoying our stay. We informed him that we had just returned from over the rocks, and his jaw dropped as he pointed and asked "those rocks?" He proceeded to tell us firstly it was illegal to cross the rocks and that the marine patrol looks for climbers and arrests them and heavily fines them for doing so. Secondly, just last year a family of four, and a young couple died trying the same, hence the hefty penalties to discourage climbers. I asked why the area isn't marked with signs and he said there usually is but that the most recent hurricane this winter must have ripped them down. Ooops. As Dennis said, "no trip of ours is complete without some sort of narrow escape misadventure."
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