Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 8: Don’t Worry About the Government

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It's all happening in Santa Rosalillita. (image property of voyageofkiri.blogspot.com)
It’s all happening in Santa Rosalillita.
(image property of voyageofkiri.blogspot.com)

Day 04

Punta Santa Rosaliita, BC > Guerrero Negro, BCS

Monday, August 29th:

How pleasantly surprised am I to crawl out of my tent, just after sunrise, to behold… the ocean! I mean, like- right there in front of me, not a hundred yards away! This shouldn’t be such news to me, seeing as how I deliberately set off westward from the highway late last night, specifically seeking for the ocean, which I knew was not even 15 miles away; but somehow it is. That’s on me.

I crawl out and stand on a wide curving beach, rubbing my eyes with the palms of sandy hands, and ponder on just how we could have possibly not noticed the ocean- of all things- when we settled in to go to sleep just a handful of hours ago. We just figured we’d stumbled upon a little village amid the dunes; but we had no idea that we’d actually reached a bona fide coastal community, nestled peacefully along the shore of a calm, quiet, well-sheltered bay.

Not so much as a lapping wave can be heard, though I can now smell the ocean, faintly. Looking out across the glass-smooth placidity of Bahia Santa Rosalillita, I find myself contemplating the weather, and this leads me to wondering what happened with that massive hurricane everyone had been raving about for the past several days. The last time I heard a news report- yesterday morning at that grocery store in Ensenada- the storm’s arrival on the Gulf Coast was imminent. It was supposed to be a big one, too.

As I turn my gaze back inland, I am startled to see, several hundred yards away, and coming from the direction of the little village, two men, and about eight or nine dogs, making their way towards our slapped-together beach camp.

Chalk frantically stuffs his shit into his pack, intent on making a quick escape out from under the hovering hand of doom, while I mill about taking pictures. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Chalk frantically stuffs his shit into his pack, intent on making a quick escape out from under the hovering hand of doom, while I mill about taking pictures.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Dog Day Morning

Oh what the fuck is this? I speak Chalk’s name to see if he is awake. He is. I give him the news, and he emerges from his tent to see for himself.

Yep- no doubt about it, they’re coming this way. Shit. Are we trespassing or something? Or even worse, have we wandered outside the boundaries of “civilized” Mexico, into the lawless hinterlands? 

But of course we have! First of all, that has been our goal all along- to escape the world of the American experience; and second of all, that’s what Baja Mexico is– lawless hinterlands, whether it suits our agenda or not.

Chalk demands that we grab our tents, throw them in the car, and peel out of here before we’re made into human piñatas, or re-purposed as morning grist for the sport of rogue and pitiless hounds, and their bloodless, sociopathic human handlers. I don’t exactly disagree. I throw my shit in the car.

This guy gets it. (image property of www.lbknews.com)
This guy gets it.
(image property of www.lbknews.com)

I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke

Hi buddies! Good boys! 

The friendly dogs dance enthusiastic jigs around my legs as if their common goal is to tie me up with invisible twine. But somehow I manage to wriggle out of it. My body is assailed by furiously wagging tails; they swat and hammer their message of goodwill all over my legs. Then a shrill whistle pierces the salty air, and the dogs are gone- all tearing off back towards the two men, who I can now see are holding fishing gear. The men wave a morning hello which is utterly devoid of any negative energy, and continue on towards their fishing spot. I wave back and say “Hola!”, as my mental images of being callously shot to death on a remote foreign playa are flushed from my brain like water down a drain, and replaced with reckless optimism for the future of mankind, and the boundless brotherhood that this must engender.

I feel like a chump for initially assuming that every person we encounter is bad news. On the other hand, I do know that such folk are actually out there. But maybe the horror stories you hear are exaggerated? I don’t know- all I know is, every single person we’ve encountered so far who wasn’t wearing a uniform of some kind has been more than amiable. So if there are any bad vibes out here, maybe we’re the ones bringing them in.

This joke makes itself. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This joke makes itself.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

¿Qué Coño, Hombre?

An hour down the highway we reach Guerrero Negro (“Black Soldier”, in the local parlance). Gro Negro (as it is abbreviated on highway distance signs) sits on the state line between Baja California and Baja California Sur. This means we get to deal with the authorities again- sweet. I roll up to the checkpoint. A tired old crotchety-looking uniformed government bullshit-jockey ambles up to the window and addresses me in Spanish, but switches to English when he hears me speak.

The policeman (or whatever the fuck he is) stands at my window criticizing my travel paperwork, shaking his head and muttering “No, no, no”, and looking back at his co-gro for encouragement, validation, laughter- who knows. The other guy sits there in a booth looking about as animated as Bernie. He might already be dead of boredom, I can’t quite tell for sure.

Our paperwork isn’t in order. Our visas are illegitimate. Our auto insurance policy is void. The guy’s just shamelessly tossing everything at the wall to see if any of it will stick. I respond firmly, but with a measure of deference (strictly self-preservation-motivated), and assert my surety that all of our paperwork is most definamente in order, though I have no idea whether or not it actually is- or even what that concept means in these parts.

The man is not the least bit swayed or intimidated by my flimsy, tissue-paper-thin veneer of faux-confidence. He steps back for a moment while he tries to come up with some new farce to perpetrate upon us in the name of national security. ¿Qué coño, hombre?

The port of entry for Baja California Sur, at Guerrero Negro. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The port of entry for Baja California Sur, at Guerrero Negro.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

A Weasel-Named Fee

Ah but then…wait! There is a way this can be fixed right here and now, the man says! If we pay him the requisite “processing fee”, he offers, he will do us the “favor” of correcting our paperwork to bring it into compliance (with his wallet).

Jesucristo. I roll my eyes- but only in my mind. Fine, I’ll fucking play.

“Okay, what is the fee?” The guy teeters forward, peering intently into the car, but makes no answer to my query. I issue my pregunta a second time. “How much is the fee?”

I’m playing a game here. We both are. He’s trying to see how much money I have in my wallet; and I’m trying to pretend it’s not blatantly obvious that he is doing so. In truth, the “fee” is equal to whatever amount of money he thinks he can extort from me; and so knowing this, though I only have a few dollars in my wallet, I shield it from his view. Finally he seems to accept that he’s not getting a glimpse into my wallet, so instead he just demands 25 pesos. 25 pesos! Nooo!!

25 pesos is only like two and a half bucks, so I don’t bother going toe-to-toe with the guy any longer. Shit, I mean, if that’s all it takes to pass through Mexico unmolested by government authorities, I will gladly pay off every official from Tijuana to Guatemala City, and smile while I’m doing it.

Anyhoo, Chalk and I are both ravenous, and this government checkpoint is beat. I hand the the man his dirty dinero, and he promptly waves us through, all the while exuding an air of one who has been profoundly, utterly, and unnecessarily put out by our intrusion into his cozy little port of entry government playhouse.

I'm just fuckin' witchoo- this is a total red herring. If you really want to see this sign, all you have to do is drive I-95 across the border between the Carolinas. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I’m just fuckin’ witchoo- this is a total red herring. If you really want to see this sign, all you have to do is drive I-95 across the border between the Carolinas.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We are now south of the border south of the border. We have come slightly more than halfway down the peninsula; and all that stands between us and Cabo is 575 miles of… well, how the hell would we know?

 

Previous: Chapter 7: Foaming at the Mouth

Next: Chapter 9: Madmen Across the Desert

Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 7: Foaming at the Mouth

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Cataviña, BC > Punta Santa Rosalillita, BC

Sunday, August 28th:

On the dunes Homicide, on the dunes (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
On the dunes
Homicide, on the dunes
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Change is Permanent

The bill for our hearty, delicious, and hilariously inexpensive dinner of beans, rice, and steak fajitas- plus two beers apiece- is only 75 pesos. That’s like seven bucks in U.S. currency. We slap down a $10 bill and I say “Mantén el cambio” (that’s “Keep the change”). I’m getting more linguistically daring with each encounter.

As little as everything costs in Mexico, the locals will charge you even less for goods and services if you pay them in Mexican money- it’s like they penalize you for using US Currency by adding on a random, tiny ad hoc surcharge. The difference is negligible to us; but it seems to keep them happy. To tell you the truth, I don’t think the folks down here really have any concept of the kind of money that Americans are traveling with when they come through the area. If they did they would surely be bilking us harder than they’ve been doing.

The inland highway looks like this for hundreds of miles between Punta Baja and Guerrero Negro. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The inland highway looks like this for hundreds of miles between Punta Baja and Guerrero Negro.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Campground Ghost

We’re in the middle of poking around the pitch black parking lot looking for signs of a campground when a crazy looking dude steps up to us out of the impenetrable darkness. He’s foaming at the mouth, he’s wasted, and he’s ranting at me with rapid fire questions, none of which I comprehend even remotely. I wonder if even a Spanish speaking person would be able to make any sense of the his ceaseless babblery. Standing there by my driver’s side window, this crazy hombre is the only thing we can see amid the darkness- just a raving, glowing countenance, hovering before me in the night like some phantasm out of an H.G. Wells story.

The fellow then pulls a toothbrush out of his ragged pocket and applies rotation on his teeth and gums.

Peninsula long, desert hot. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Peninsula long, desert hot.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It All Would Be So Crystal Clear If it Wasn’t For the Foam

Okay, just let me say this- whether it’s the foam of the rabid or merely toothpaste- either way it’s still weird to walk up to and greet strangers with a mouth full of white froth- nevermind the particulars of the situation. The dude has no water, and when he tries to spit out the toothpaste so he can make a decent go at basic conversation, he doesn’t have enough saliva on hand to successfully execute the purge, and ends up just sort of blowing stringy tendrils of foam all over his face. With nothing having been achieved beyond that. And in the process of this- I don’t know- he must have swallowed a dollop of toothpaste or something, he erupts into a sudden and violent coughing fit, and stumbles away from the car into the darkness without so much as a nod, a wink, or a wave of goodbye. Seems like a good time to move on out. We have been warned about traveling after dark on the roads of Mexico; but be that as it may, we’re definitely not sleeping in this hard-gravel parking lot with an unhinged lunatic holding down the perimeter; so we decide to ease on down the road just a piece.

Sun rises on the village of Santa Rosiliita. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Sun rises on the village of Santa Rosalillita.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Dark, the Many, the Few

The night is dark, the stars many, the folk few. For the next 90 miles we pass only one other vehicle- a truck on a midnight haul. It comes around a bend, piercing the darkness with its lights, flashes by us in an instant, and is promptly swallowed up in the darkness of our rear-view.

It’s anyone’s guess what the terrain around us looks like; but I’d say “bone-dry desert with sagebrush and cactus from horizon to horizon” seems like a pretty strong guess. Sometime late in the evening I hang a right onto a random dirt road and decide to take it west until we hit the ocean- it’s gotta be out there somewhere.

La Playa de Misterio

Twenty minutes later, the road circumvents a tiny village shrouded in darkness, and then ends abruptly where it meets some sand dunes. We say fuck it and decide to just camp here. We’re beat; and it’s late. And anyway, if we go back to the highway and proceed any further south on the main road, we’ll shortly reach Guerrero Negro, where we cross the state line between Baja California and Baja California Sur (“Baja California South“); and we’re definitely not trying to be having dealings with anybody in the wee hours of the morning- especially government fuckheads.

We throw down our tents in the sand, take a few swigs of tequila, have a last cigarette for good measure, and then call it. Just as I’m zipping my tent to close out the world for the night, a dog starts barking in the village a few hundred yards away, and then a light goes on at one of the houses. Then another light goes on.

But I’m so tired I could sleep on a picket fence; so whatever, kill us if you must- I’m dropping off for a few hours.

Buenas noches.

 

Previous: Chapter 6: Escape From Ensenada

Next: Chapter 8: Don’t Worry About the Government