Only Those Who Can Leave Everything Behind Can Hope To Escape


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Published: July 23rd 2013
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Baja at DawnBaja at DawnBaja at Dawn

This picture captures the very soul of the Baja
That particular William S. Burroughs quote sticks into me like a thorn. I'm at a crossroads in my life, and I don't know what to do.

Weird dreams plague me as of late, vivid I picture a withered man sitting alone in the shadows of a Tangiers cafe in the sweltering stink of the midday. His playful old eyes gleam as I approach. For some reason, he's privy to my destiny.

This causes me strong intrigue, so I ask if I can join him and we spend the afternoon chatting about this and that, mesmerized am I by the swirl of his brilliance as it pours from the top of his head like smoke off a corncob pipe. I sip burnt espresso from my minuscule cup with pleasure. Behind him, veiled women drift down the cool cobblestone passages seemingly undetected.

Our conversation stays friendly but vague, so impatience gets the better of me and I rudely interrupt. “William, you were going to tell me what I’m supposed to do with my life.” He squirms like a little boy trying to cover up a fib.

I’m becoming increasingly aware that this is all just a dream...so I fight
Two great beachesTwo great beachesTwo great beaches

Those whom are lost are found
to stay in it, when William hard leans over our bistro table. I lean too. The hit of immaculate junk pulses through his veins as he struggles to unlock my fate from the incarceration of his brilliant brain. And then, poof, he's gone.

I'm no dream analyst, but I'm thinking this might mean I’m not supposed to know my destiny. Either that or those four macadamia cookies I ate while reading ‘Inter Zone’ in bed last night, a poor decision.

Escapism is an interesting notion isn't it? Who out there doesn’t daydream of being elsewhere when slogging through the daily grind of a mundane life?

Then there are those that take it to an entirely other level...yes you Travel Bloggers...a collection of dreamers that meet in this virtual gathering place with the serious infliction called Columbusitis - better known as the longing to explore brave new lands disease.

If not kept in check, it metastasises into a strong desire to throw up two middle fingers and give a big FTW before chucking it all. That’s why that Burroughs quote (although shortened) strikes me the best.

Only those who can leave everything behind can hope to escape.

My job is dangerous and I accept that. I’m a prison guard. I see the worst of humanity on a daily basis and that is not easy. As the rest of the world goes about their life, I become the proverbial gladiator, thrown into a ring to fight off lions wearing stripy pyjamas, without any weaponry.

Twenty-one years in and I am in a constant state of hyper vigilance.

This is bad for my health, but also my social skills. I’m highly suspicious of everyone I meet and their personal stories I scrutinize like I’m investigating a crime.

I can identify a murderer or pedophile or gangster or drug addict from a stadium crowd.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my confidence in humanity. I want it back.

While trying to figure out my own destiny, I came to realize there are a lot of unhappy people in this world.

My co-workers attempt to fill their empty voids by paying extravagant amounts of money to feel something, anything. The latest fad sees them crawling through muddy trenches, voluntarily being electrocuted, and hurled into pits of ice cubes with teams of
Mexican Navy takes a breakMexican Navy takes a breakMexican Navy takes a break

Not sure why my Dad always referred to the pelicans as the Mexican Navy....
bored housewives and paunchy middle-aged accountants all for a coveted orange headband and a few exuberant high fives.

I watch as my close friends and family primordially hunt and gather at shopping outlets for the latest unnecessary gadgets or big screen TV's for some kind of fulfillment, and then moan about having terrible money problems.

My own father is unable to reflect upon his infinite accomplishments because he’s too busy trying to complete his bucket list before he, well, kicks the bucket.

Then there are the breeders. If you are going to have kids, then you should do just that. Embrace your twenty year commitment and do it proficiently...and don’t go giving me the ol’ stink-eye because I get to sleep in at regular intervals or go on fabulous travel adventures.

You may think I’m a bit of an asshole. You might be right. But I believe I’m just beginning to see things for what they really are.

This spring found me on the southern tip of the Baja, and quite honestly I couldn't wish to be anywhere else in this world. I often ask myself, why am I making extravagant travel plans to go
Burro AlertBurro AlertBurro Alert

These cheeky little buggers were looking for handouts and settled on licking the salt off the car
elsewhere when I've already found my paradise?

The plan was simple. Pitch a tent and live on the beach for a week and see what happens. No cell phones, no iPads, no media, no nada....a self-imposed segregation from our frivolous world to deal with my alertness issues.

Despite what the US media would have you believe, a single woman camping on a Mexican beach by herself is not a bad idea.

Spoiler alert: Nothing happens to me.

Early afternoon, I arrive at Balandra Bay and there is absolutely no one around. Not surprising, it is now the end of April and all the caravans of Snowbirds have packed up their camping paraphernalia and are now headed north.

The landscape is something out of the film Barbarella with a moonscape of burnt ochre, the colour so insulting to your senses it feels like you've got a sneeze coming on.

I've already been in Mexico for over a month, but the tourist chaos of Los Cabos has me begging for this kind of solitude. I set up camp before the sun plunges into the sea and as the swarms of bo-bos descend, I sip my wine from a coffee mug and try to prepare dinner, which becomes a bit of a safety-dance as I swat millions of bugs that resettle on my arms like a black blanket. I finally make a hasty swan dive retreat into the safety of the tent and sleep like a baby.

The next morning, I zip the tent open and peer out. A lone sandpiper coos as he zigs and zags defensively at a surf that barely ebbs the shore. I take my shit tickets and go for a morning walk. There is something really liberating about having your constitutional outdoors, not to mention looking out onto a beautiful view whilst doing your business, the sky is painted mellow rimmed with neon purple as the day wakes up. Charming sailboats bob off in the distance. I suddenly realize they all could have binoculars. I wave just in case. What can I say, I’m Canadian.

Tourist season is long over, but an array of opportunistic vendors still sporadically peddle their wares. As they make their way down the beach, I kayak over to greet them. On offer today is pork rind with hot sauce and mangos on sticks with chili-lime
Worth the climbWorth the climbWorth the climb

To look upon the beautiful bays of Baja, worth every step
sprinkles, gaudy silver jewellery, and those Sammy Hagar straw hats. I need none of the above. Instead, we chat about life.

They all tell a similar story. Born and raised in farm villages strewn throughout the Sinaloa state, they’ll take the ferry back to the mainland to work on the farms as soon as they have enough money for passage. $108 is quite expensive when you only make $4 a day, if that.

And so goes my week. I’m an oddity, I don’t know very many people who can just sit quietly all day and not get bored silly of themselves. I brought a real book for contingency, but so far I’ve had no need. I go hiking in the hills, take photos, kayak as far as I can, and talk with anyone I come across. Besides, this trip isn't supposed to be an exercise in isolation...all I want is to reclaim my love for people again.

Various American yachties float by and anchor before coming to shore, we socialize.

A Canadian couple my age, John and Lea are self-retired doctors from Toronto that invite me aboard for cervasas and a get to know ya chat.
Long Way from ParisLong Way from ParisLong Way from Paris

The french couple I met wade out for a snorkel
Apparently forty years of coming to this area makes me worth my weight in gold. Lea serves up fresh tuna ceviche and we whil away the sticky afternoon. Just as I'm about to bid adieu and paddle back to shore, Lea shrieks with excitement. A juvenile whale shark has surfaced nearby, and she bails over the side to swim with it.

It makes me smile wide, seeing her enjoyment for an obvious bucket moment.

My snorkelling sorties reveal there are tasty fish everywhere, but none show interest in my bait. I end up going through my camp trying to come up with something more tempting. Fish apparently like cookies, but the glob on the end of my hook is nibbled on until it disintegrates. If only I could catch for my hook one of those cicadas that serenade me all the day long, I’d have dinner. But that seems like too much work really.

In the bright midday sun, the temperature has shot up past 40 Celsius so I am officially drained. Instead, I prepare for siesta. Beautiful Balandra Bay has taken on a shade of turquoise even I haven't seen before, and my shitty camera is
HOT as hell!HOT as hell!HOT as hell!

Selfie in over 40c and no shade, camera about to give up the ghost.
about to run out of batteries.

As I recline back onto the hot white sand and brush dismissively at the crusted salt forming on my arms, I hear the lilting dialect of French as it drifts across the bay. In the distance a handholding couple cross the shallows towards me with snorkel gear. I greet them in my ugly Canadian French. Normally I’d be snubbed if I attempted this on the Iles de la Madeleine, but here in the middle of nowhere they humour me. We talk about the obscure magazine article in France that sparked their interest to try to find this gem of a place. After a lovely chat they go off and leave me to ponder, do you tell people about this place or not?

I remember back when I was a child, my brother and I spent hours in this very spot digging for clams, scavenging gigantic conch shells, poking purple jellyfish, and chasing the array of tropical fish that were always just that little bit out of reach.

It was a teeming ecosystem of lagoons with mangroves to shelter the various sea creatures. Now it is nothing more than an empty skeleton
Endless KayakingEndless KayakingEndless Kayaking

Every corner you come around is more beautiful than the last
beach, void of any significant life.

It’s tragically beautiful and by me coming here, I am further contributing to the death of this place. Writing about it....I am damning it to all eternity.

So, this becomes my predicament. Those clams I dug up with my family and ate forty years ago are now coming back up on me like a bad bout of indigestion. There isn't a single clam left in these shallows. I contributed to that. I killed this place.

This is what happens when you sit on a beach for days by yourself.

As the tide wanders in, I am faced with my most daunting dilemma of the day, should I go swimming or have a siesta?

Float. I've decided to have a float. I levitate in the thick salty bathtub for hours...my only company are the skittering baby stingrays that startle as I drift over them in the three feet of water.

This is nothing short of bliss.

Random strangers come in and out of my life, giving me this rejuvenating force.

There's Cathy and Dean who offer me a freshwater shower on their sailboat on day 3...priceless.
Pork Rinds and MangosPork Rinds and MangosPork Rinds and Mangos

Do you need any other food group. Peddling wares

Guermo who hands me some of his bait and shows me how to catch a reef fish, to which I do, a sad little parrotfish that made my dinner place, yum!

Two Rastafarian surfer dudes Rob and Rob who agree to join me for a hike into the hills to find the cave paintings I saw a few years earlier, and a bunch of local fishermen at Tecolote that wave me over for a shot of homemade tequila and a chat, before sending me off with a gift bag of freshly caught prawns.

On my sixth day, I awake to find I’ve got neighbours.

A family of eight have set up camp at the other end of the beach. Old style Mexican music crackles from a transistor radio as the pungent smell of grilled meat wafts in my direction. The multitude of kids play in the surf with brightly coloured floaty devices. I welcome the entertainment value. It isn't long before they shyly approach for use of my kayak, and I am then officially adopted.

We play in the surf and I become a kid again, splashing around like I’m at summer camp, running all over
El Hongo hangs in thereEl Hongo hangs in thereEl Hongo hangs in there

A rock formation that shows off Mother Nature's balancing act
like a maniac. Then I realize I’m 45. Exhausted, I flake into my beach chair. I am now craving a cold shower, cold beer and pizza so badly I am forgetting my overall objective.

What was my objective? Oh yah, to trust people again.

Cesar, head of familia, comes over to invite me for comida and while I help Maria make pots of beans and rice over her campfire, Grandma takes out blobs of dough and expertly flattens them, before throwing them on a skittle. This little family have nothing more than the clothes on their backs, but are extremely joyful.

Cesar and his boys go off to try their luck fishing. Success, they bring back several pompano and we all have fish tacos for dinner. A pitcher of that god-awful tamarind drink I call Mexican kool aid is on offer, but instead I sidle back from my camp with the last of my wine for the adults to sip on. As the moon illuminates the sea, the kids put on an impromptu play for us, dinner theatre under the stars is the best. I pull my legs up to my chest and smile wide.

This
Palapa HeavenPalapa HeavenPalapa Heaven

nothing beats a midday sietas underneath a palm frond umbrella
has been a beautiful week.

Our beach gets progressively busier as the weekend traffic from city buses bring out college students, locals, and those like Cesar and Maria who camp until they can afford the passage back to the mainland.

For their hospitality and kindness, I present them with my camping equipment. Cesar's eyes get all misty when he realizes this, and of course he protests expectantly.

I tell him I'm going back to Canada and can't take the tent, cooler, air mattress or camp stove with me. I'd have to throw them out. He finally accepts, and I receive lots of gratitude and hugs from the whole family as
I pack my car and drive off.

Don't tell them, but I accidentally left 2000 pesos in the tent with a thank you note, to be found after I'm long gone. They have no idea what they have done for me.

My love for people has been officially restored.


Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


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Gentle MonstersGentle Monsters
Gentle Monsters

Something you will never forget, snorkeling alongside the gentle giants of the sea
My beachMy beach
My beach

Silence. Nothing but silence and the sandpiper
Fun on TecoloteFun on Tecolote
Fun on Tecolote

After the tourists go away the locals play!


23rd July 2013

William Burroughs
I've not heard that quote before, but now I'll never forget it. What a week - memorable and beautifully written.
23rd July 2013

Thanks Rachael! Can't wait to read about your Sri Lanka adventure :)
23rd July 2013

A very personal blog...
thanks for sharing. And your plans for future travel per your map look great.
23rd July 2013

Hi Bob! I'm really looking forward to my future travel. What's your next?
23rd July 2013

Jobs take a toll
Another lovely story Andrea. It warmed me to read about your rejuvenation. The soul of baja is good for you. You've had a lifelong connection with this location and it always helps you center yourself. I doubt the adventurer Andrea is gone for long. It must be an amazing feeling knowing when you are off track you can go to this wonderfully isolated beach and come back to who you need to be. You have a kind heart. 2000 pesos was generous and yet what they gave you was priceless. Thanks for sharing.
23rd July 2013

Hi Binkleys! Thanks for the kind words and yes jobs do take their toll don't they. Mine will not destroy me, I'm set on that.
23rd July 2013

Heaven and Hell
The contrast between your magical, idyllic, touching week in Baja and your heavy life in Canada was painful to read. I wonder if you can bring some of the Mexican vibe home? Maybe a daily escapes like walks in nature to remind you of the beauty and wonder of life. I've always been a pleasure freak, needing daily doses of magic and laughter; please ignore me if you think me unrealistic. Incidentally, the story of your gifts to the family touched me deeply, and I'm sure the family will be retelling the tale for long years to come.
23rd July 2013

Hi Tara! I loved your advice, and luckily I've been doing just that for years! Laughter and magical moments keep me grounded and sane. All the best!
28th July 2013

The way you convey your story is so entertaining -thank you. I also think you answered your own question by participating in all those activities with strangers -you obviously used your instinct and trusted them. What a magic place you have shared with us . Thank you
12th May 2014

glad you found it!
i don't usually read about south america. that includes mexico in my opinion. but theres nothing more to read in your blogs so now im reading about mexico and the rest of south america later. more like reading about you and that's what makes it a good read. i can only imagine how quickly one gets burned out in a job where you have to be on heightened alert at all times. i hope you have hobbies to de-stress. Cheers!
26th May 2016

This blog resonates beautifully
Loved it...so much to say but...I just loved this blog. Glad you found a way to trust people again x
26th May 2016

thanks Cindy! It was a much needed break from my crazy ass job. I sometimes think I'm not going to make it but then I have little gem moments like this keep me going. Glad it resonated with you!

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