For our first “real” trip together, we went to Loreto, a lovely little town close to the South end of the Baja Peninsula. That’s not to say that our previous road trips weren’t real trips… but this was just a longer amount of uninterrupted time together, and in a foreign country to boot.
While boarding the plane, we quickly came to a surprising realization. Row upon row, from the front to the back, the plane was packed with OWPs – Old White People. We were the youngest people on the plane (and Bryan, at 32, was no spring chicken). We took this as a good sign, and figured this probably meant we picked the perfect vacation destination for our lifestyle (e.g., bedtime at 9pm).
Upon arriving in Loreto, we waited in line for at least 1 hour to get our rental car, due to a combination of a few OWPs being really particular and annoying (as they are wont to be), and the car rental desk having only two staff. Then we got on the road, doing something Bryan always promised himself he would never do: driving in a Latin American country. At first it was scary, but very quickly it became just like any other driving experience with Bryan – u-turns, backwards driving, near-misses of stop signs and other sketchy maneuvers.
Despite the help of Google maps, we got pretty confused trying to find our AirBnB. But once we figured out that some of the street numbers on Calle Davis were a bit out of order, and stopped to read through our host’s detailed instructions, we made it.
We were greeted by our friendly AirBnB host, and were delighted to discover that our little casita on her property was very cute and comfortable. However, we soon also discovered that we had one noisy neighbour – a very special rooster. We had previously been under the impression that roosters do their signature cock-a-doodle-doos at dawn, but this guy seemed to have some badly scrambled temporal circuits. He just indiscriminately screeched at all hours of the day, in the most heart-rending way. Like he despaired of life and just wanted everyone around him to share in his misery. Every 15 minutes was a new dawn of suffering.
After getting settled in our accommodations, we headed out to explore the town and find something to eat. We came upon a highly recommended seafood restaurant not too far from our place and got a little overly excited. This is the result:
Lisa and Bryan getting concho’d at Almejas Concho.
We actually managed to eat most of this food, only taking a few fried cheesy chocolate clams as leftovers. We were so full that it hurt (not in the “hurts so good” way but in the “owwwwwwwww” way).
The next day, we decided to go to the beach, but Lisa had forgotten her hat (Bryan suspected that this was not unintentional, as Lisa always resisted wearing hats despite his
motherly fatherly boyfriendly attempts to protect her head from the melanoma-inducing rays of the sun). But the Mexican sun forced Lisa into submission (i.e., admitting she was wrong), and we had to go on a journey through the town to find a hat. Although it sounds simple, this turned out to be an extremely difficult task, as Lisa had certain standards – namely a plain and simple hat. However, all the hats for sale seemed to have flashy rhinestones, embroidery or logos.
We went everywhere looking for a hat. It was like a children’s book: Bryan and Lisa Went Looking for a Hat. Bryan and Lisa went to the grocery store. Bryan and Lisa went to another grocery store. Bryan and Lisa went to the used clothing store. Bryan and Lisa went to the tourist shop. Bryan and Lisa went to another used clothing store. Bryan and Lisa went to a clothing store. Bryan and Lisa searched high and low, but could not find a plain black hat.
Finally, we went to one last tourist shop, and Lisa relented and purchased a black hat with a shark logo and the word Loreto printed on it. Much to Bryan’s surprise, at that point, the world did not in fact end, and everyone was OK. However, Lisa had to spend the rest of the trip looking like the ultimate white tourist. (To be fair, she already looked the part even without the hat).
After a couple of days hanging around town, and Lisa’s first kayak lesson (complete with wet exits and self-rescues), we loaded up the car to head to Laguna San Ignacio.
View of the Sea of Cortez during our kayak lesson.
At 2:45 pm, Bryan made a call to Kuyima Ecotours, the company we were camping with at the lagoon, just to confirm the plan: leave Loreto at 3pm, arrive at the town of San Ignacio at 7pm, take a short drive out to the lagoon camp area and join the rest of the group for supper. When he told the plan to the person on the phone, he learned that he had made a minor boo-boo. Apparently, the drive from Loreto to San Ignacio would take at least 4.5 hours (thanks a lot, Google Maps), and the drive from San Ignacio town site to the lagoon was actually a 2-hour affair, and it was not recommended to be done in the dark.
Bryan decided that now was a great time to pull out the “don’t worry” mantra, so he tried to convince himself and Lisa that, indeed, there was nothing to worry about. Worst comes to worst we could stay in San Ignacio town site, or get lost on the road to the lagoon and sleep in the car. Right? No problem.
After about 45 minutes of driving, we came to a military check stop. At this point Bryan got really nervous. Sweating bullets would be an apt metaphor. He rummaged around to check what cash he had and where it was. If this were some kind of Hollywood movie, then surely we were going to be pulled out of the car and searched, and would be lucky to be able to pay a bribe to carry on our way without undue molestation. What a terrible plan this driving was turning out to be!
After waiting in line for a few minutes, we were called forward. Bryan’s mouth was as dry as the surrounding Baja desert. The soldier asked where we were going. Bryan said something like: “San Ignacio. Laguna San Ignacio. Kuyima. Ballenas gris! Queremos visitar Ballenas!” (his Spanish was a bit rusty and the nerves didn’t seem to be helping). The soldier gave us a strange look and waved us on.
Driving across the Baja Peninsula.
As we drove across the Baja Peninsula we learned some interesting facts:
- Mexican speed bumps are very tall and rise out of the ground at a sharp angle. Many are not marked with any signs or paint, and they tend to show up in random and unexpected places.
- Repairing and junking old cars and auto parts seems to be a major economic activity on the Baja peninsula. We drove past one car repair shop after another, each a veritable graveyard of all kinds of clankers and clunkers.
- The state highway system was well-funded, but some town road/highway systems were most definitely not.
- Large Mexican trucks go really fast and like to pass each other on blind corners.
- Convoys of OWPs on bikes taking up the only lane of a single-lane highway are just as annoying in Mexico as they are in Canada or the US.
Our trusty rental car, en route to San Ignacio.
We arrived in San Ignacio close to 8pm, and it was getting dark. The woman at the tour agency told us how to get to the camp, which apparently was about an hour driving on a paved road which had been washed out in a couple of areas, and then an hour driving on a poor quality dirt road. (Fortunately, we were well prepared for these road conditions with our low-to-the-ground VW sedan. And again, she recommended that we wait until the morning). With a morning boat ride to see whales on the line there was only one option in Bryan’s mind: do the road at night. So Bryan strong-armed Lisa into going for it.
Once the paved road gave way to the dirt road, we began to second-guess our decision. Our poor rental car clunked and shuddered its way over rocks and some insane sections of washboarded dirt. On some sections, when we accelerated past about 5 km/hr, the shuddering became so bad that we weren’t sure what would happen first: the car spontaneously falling apart, or our teeth coming loose from our gums and rattling about in our tightly clenched mouths. So there were times where we could go no faster than about 2 km/h. This was not conducive to making it to camp in time for dinner.
To make things worse, we soon started seeing all kinds of small dirt roads criss-crossing our route, and in the confusion we missed a turn-off and ended up in some tiny village that was past our camp. At this point, Bryan used Google Maps to give some kind of approximation of the direction we needed to go. He was so scared about being lost that he could not even muster one “don’t worry”; all he could see in his head was what would happen if he told Lisa that we were not going to find the camp until the morning and would have to sleep in the car.
Fortunately we were able to make our way back onto one of the main roads, and after close to 3 hours from when we left San Ignacio town, we arrived at camp. One of the workers kindly met us and showed us to our tent, which, after our harrowing journey, was like an oasis of comfort. We grabbed a few things out of the car, locked things up and went to brush our teeth and get ready for bed.
After brushing our teeth, we returned to the car. Bryan popped the trunk open with the key fob and Lisa grabbed another bag out of the trunk. Then Lisa tried to close the trunk, but it uselessly flopped down without latching. Bryan laughed at her. So, she tried again with more force, successfully closing the trunk.
At that point, the click of the latch closing triggered something in Bryan’s exhausted mind. Where were the keys? He reached into his right pocket, where he knew the key was. It was not there. He reached into his left pocket, thinking that perhaps he had put it there instead. It was not there. Trying not to show any outward signs of panic, he panicked internally. He patted down all of his pockets, got down on his hands and knees and checked for any key on the ground. Nothing. He ran into the tent and checked around for the key. Nothing.
All he could think in his head was “oh my god I locked the key in the trunk oh my god I locked the key in the trunk oh my god I locked the key in the trunk oh my god we are going to be stuck here forever oh my god…Lisa is going to kill me!!”
To be continued…