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Published: June 10th 2006
Back where it all started
Rip Curl, San Clemente 09/06/2006
I first heard of “the green flash” in the Northern Territory where watching the sun set at East Point was a bit of a hippie tradition in the old days. Just as the sun sinks below the horizon you will see a green flash…. if you’re lucky?…… enhanced?
Tonight I’m watching the ever-spectacular sunset from my balcony at the Hotel La Siesta in Mazatlan, Mexico, still one of my favourite places, even after all the rest.
The sun sets through a low layer of glowing red coals clouds then breaks clear for the last free plunge into the Pacific. My third time here and still magic.
A line of 7 pelicans drifts effortlessly across the bay, half a mile offshore the twin rocky outcrops reflect the last light, skateboarders and roller-bladers cruise the boardwalk, a chain of quad bikes cruises the malecon, battling it out with bikes, taxis, cars and buses, just at sunset there’s a rush of traffic, seeing and wanting to be seen, then it all calms down again, very tranquil.
A few swimmers catching waves in the twilight, kids screaming as they play chicken with the incoming tide waves, fitness freaks power walking, jogging and cycling, the gringos
Back when it all started
Rip Curl, San Clemente 01/07/2005
with iPods or cell phones, the locals with style and grace. The retirees trying to outrun geriatricity.
I’ve put in a couple of long days getting thru’ from Puerto Escondido, some 1,700 kms, much of it like a constant Great Ocean Road, but no cops!..the only laws here to be obeyed are gravity, Newton’s third and supply and demand.
The asphalt is thick and rich, like a giant licorice strap laid out around the hills, clinging to the cliffs over the rocky shoreline below.
Then out along the flats, little surfwave bays lined with coco palms and shacks, then up onto the cliff tops and twists and turns again.
The roadside shrines, testament to both the dangerousness of the curves and the idiocy of the drivers, lots of little canvas roofed utes with cattle guard rails and up to 20 people standing in the back, if one of these went down it would be ugly.
Unlike Tarot cards, donkeys are nearly always right side up, they are very sociable animals, side by side, not exactly hoof in hoof but often neck to neck…this morning I saw a bunch of white ones, quite rare, I thought of calling out to the
gaucho “get your white ass over here” but didn’t.
But I took it as a good omen, I really didn’t have a choice, everything was going well and I didn’t want to change.
And Chevrolets, when I was very young, chevs were always great monsters, the original Yank tanks, now I see the logo on tiny tin-can cars....something has gone missing.
I see on one sharp corner a huge pile of white powder, is this where one of the cartel’s coke road trains went astray? No time to check.
From time to time I come up behind a huge traffic block, hundreds of vehicles stopped in line, I take the plunge and slip past hundreds of vehicles, such a fantastic feeling, but I see it as small compensation for all the times they sit in comfort while I battle rain, cold and danger!
I met a girl who works in a photo shop, I went to see her after work and she accused me of playing with her emulsions, the day I had to leave she was an emulsional wreck.
Down on the malecon for breakast, the regular group of older local guys, drinking dripolator coffee in big mugs, US
style, acknowledge me this morning, I order an espresso and get a nano-coffee, one teaspoonful in a tiny cup, I add half a teaspoon of sugar and it absorbs all the coffee! But the fruit salad makes up for it, big plate with watermelon, papaya, orange, banana, pineapple and melon, sliced and diced with Japanese dexterity.
As soon as I entered Mexico from the US the latino culture was all-enveloping, overwhelming, permeating the pores, filling the senses…on the return, the gringo influence is apparent as soon as I get back to centroamerica, Panama with its US currency and the gringo development at dead frog, Bocas, Costa Rico, always has been, Nicaragua, and so on.
Here in the southern tip of Baja, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and all around the cape, huge developments, condos, private mega-mansions, real estate is the culture, very difficult to find anything remotely real, all a bit of a culture shock. So I flee to Cabo Pulmo, down the dirt road, way out in the sticks, suddenly the coast again, the colour of the sea is intense, partly in comparison to the deathly dry, dusty terrain on the way in, I find the little
sleepy-hollow settlement, 3 dive places, quite a large housing estate of rental places, all v cute, Baliesque flower gardens, quite a little oasis and very tranquilo.
Back a step, the ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz in Baja. The ‘new’ ferry didn’t run on Saturday and Conrado, touting for business at the weighbridge, convinced me to go on his ferry. Cheaper, and loaded with huge truckloads of whatever, and a thousand promises, the Santa Rita (the name gave me some hope) is a big old rustbucket not really designed for the passenger as most of the truckies ended up in their sleeper-cabs.
Quite a thorough search getting on, the sniffer dog was all over one guy like he’s been smeared in PAL, of course I’m clean.
There are about 25 passengers, 10 truckies, the usual stocky, muscular little jockey types, 6 nervous young men who I discover on talking with them, are heading (illegally) for the US, they are accompanied by a slick young bloke, all in black, he tells me he has done this run many times, he recruits down south and takes them all the way, across the border into the US, not like some who take
the money and abandon their charges as soon as they get near the frontera. I didn’t ask how much he charges, it had taken some time before he let me into their confidences and I felt that was enough.
The rest of the passengers, a rag tag bunch of private vehicle owners, I’m the only gringo on board. One middle aged couple have a little ute with an extended roofrack braced to the front bumper and loaded so high, with so much stuff it threatened to tip over as it rocked and rolled up the ramp. I was dwarfed by the monster juggernaut trailer trucks and was ordered up on the massive lift to the upper car deck where they found me a hidey-hole and lashed the baby down tight.
There’s a little ‘cafeteria’ that finally opened when we sailed at 4pm. No alcohol! Water it is. Up on the top deck, a group of young blokes and a chica drag a baby coffin esky from their van, it’s full of ice and beer, they proceed in the first half an hour to demonstrate their 2-pot-screamer status then disappear!
Another green-flash-free sunset over the sharp end and I retire to
a little deck down the blunt end, 5 park-bench type seats in wrought iron, absolutely uncomfortable but nada else.
As it gets twilighter the young wetback wannabes are looking more forlorn as Mazatlan fades, framed in the railing of the back deck.
It’s 9pm, dark and starry, everyone has disappeared!, the caf has closed, one guy has rolled his swag out on the deck, no-one else in sight, where am I going to sleep? I stretch out on the bench, feet overhanging, it gets wetter as the sea mist condenses, I retreat below to the car deck and find a sheet of plywood over a bunch of 44 gal drums, perfecto.
I wake at 6 and first light, just dozing in and out until the sun rises and I go to beat the crowd at the single bano.
There’s been a slight, relaxing swell all night and nothing like the horror crossings I’d been warned about and reinforced by the extensive chaining down and lashings of everything moveable in the transport decks.
Then we enter the Sea of Cortez, that stretch of water between Baja and mainland Mexico. The water is like glass, the familiar, soothing throb of the engines,
we glide across clear water and I can see manta rays, flying fish and then a pod of dolphins, maybe 50 or 60, cutting across our bows, riding the bow wave, diving under the hull and coming up, grinning inanely, hurling themselves out of the water, they seem to be having so much fun, we are all watching them from the rails, grinning along with them.
Then La Paz, not much to report, and the long hot run down to the bottom of Baja. It is noticeably hotter, like a flaming furnace, the air is burning any exposed skin, I need to stop and get a drink. I figure I have to get right to the bottom of Baja if this to be a trip of extremes.
Stick it where the sun always shines! I need to remember the sunblock, with only the body armour on I’m getting dark skin ringlets above the glove line and a lattice of brown diamonds thru’ the mesh…looks a bit weird.
So, the aforementioned Cabo San Lucas, the multi storied, multi national, mega developments, and all around the coast, private mansions perched in every viable cleft in the cliffs, an endless perfect beach, some good waves(?) and rocky points, perfect blue/green sea, I can understand the development, just like, ultimately, at every perfect place.
Then to Cabo Pulmo, everyone said it was the best diving in Baja, it was pretty speccy. And then on again, dove in the morning, rode to La Paz, met some uni students from the US, had a great night, then early and off across the wild, boring, deadly dry and hot Baja. Santa Rosalia, had to wait in line for gas at the only servo!…the servos are all government owned//run in Mexico but some towns have 20, others 1, and many run out altogether!…rule-of-thumb in Mexico…never pass a gas station without filling up!
The last leg, I was going to spend a day in Ensenada but sort of missed it and ended up in Tijuana, right on the frontera, and another wild night, interesting town, touristed out but great locals and cheapness just a couple of blocks from the main strip.
Early start and a pretty straightforward crossing, got a new visa and they never looked at the bike or the papers!…then straight up the freeway to San Clemente, Rip Curl and a photo in the same spot where it all started.
I’ve got a cheap (Ha!) motel and need to study the mapa and plan (yes, a plan!) where and when next. I’m going to deviate thru’ Sequoia and Yosemite Parks, cut back to San Fransisco and then up the coast…..maybe…..
It’s sort of strange being out of the latino culture after 49 weeks, 56,000 kms and 16 countries (8 of them twice) ….a bit of reverse culture shock this morning and an overwhelming sense of sadness….and loss…I wanna go baaaack…..
….the only saving grace being the high latino profile in the local culture!….
and…aahhh….Go Dees…..and Go Oz in the world cup….the main plan in my maybe plan is just to have access to coverage of our games….12, 18 and 23 June…(our time)
Hey, what are you up to? I know, you’ve wasted enough time on this rubbish, time to get back to work etc etc ….but hey, c’mon, what’s up?
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