Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 21: Beware: The Under-Toad!

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Day 06

Cabo San Lucas, BCS

Wednesday, August 31st:

Where the Hop-Heads Flop in the Snow

We both wake up around 9 AM, chipper, well-rested, and fully ready to face the new day. It’s as if we didn’t just sleep a mere three and a half hours apiece after a nine-hour coke bender.

By 10 AM we’re on the road to Todos Santos, surfing Mecca of southwestern Baja; and by 11:15, we are struggling for our very lives against the power of the Pacific Ocean.

TIP: When the angle of the beach sand is so steep that you can’t even stand on it without slipping into the ocean, it’s probably best to plan for there not being a nice, level, friendly expanse of wadeable beach sand just beneath the surface of the water.

If you play it that way, you lessen the chances of doing what we did.

(image by

The problem was, in Cabo it was practically impossible to find a place to go swimming in salt water, thanks to the over-the-top pervasiveness of private resorts in the area. So when we left Cabo, we were kinda jonesing for an opportunity to pounce in some proper tropical ocean water. Perhaps the magnitude of this jones is what got in the way of our ability to make sound decisions when we arrived at the beach in Todos Santos.

Yo! Bum-rush the Beach!

We interpret the empty parking lot of Tortuga Beach as a gift to us from the universe, and then and there cease to consider any further why such a pristine run of tropical playa, in a touristy town known for epic surfing, might be wholly abandoned on a late summer Wednesday morning such as this.

Oh well… goody for us!! No need to give it another thought.

It’s at least a couple hundred yards from the edge of the parking lot to the water. Huge six-foot waves crash against the sand in the distance. We park the car and storm the beach like a Walmart on Black Friday. By the time we make it to the water’s edge, we’re both so exhausted from sprinting across deep sand under an angry sun that, rather than taking a moment to assess the wrath of the sea, we just hurl ourselves into the pounding surf with gleeful violence.

Gonna do just what I please. Gonna wear no socks and shoes.
(image by REUTERS/Nacho Doce)

Violence In / Violence Out

Upon our entering the water, however, the gleeful component disappears immediately, and is instantly replaced by a desperate struggle to save ourselves from the most voracious undertow either of us has ever encountered. The land drops off so abruptly that as soon as your feet are in the water, you’re pretty much in over your head- both literally and figuratively.

The ocean picks us up and smashes us back down as if it was trying to beat the moisture out of a waterlogged sock; and after each blow, the next is upon us before we even get a chance to right our inner gyroscopes, or get our bearings in any way, or catch our breath. The slope of the sand, both on the beach and beneath the water, is such that climbing out of the water is nearly impossible to execute under such conditions. As soon as a wave crashes against the beach, its probing tendrils are promptly withdrawn, instantly receding down the steep sand and then yanked violently still further downwards to fill the underwater void where most beachgoers would have expected to find solid ground. Then follows its successor, immediately, and without respite. In this way, the ocean water- and whatever hapless revelers have been unlucky (or dumb) enough to find themselves in it- are perpetually reclaimed by the tumultuous sea, who is giving up nothing without a fight.

Come on, man- I’d been drinking beer all night; it was almost all water. Honest.
(image by

Poseidon’s Bane

What the hell is Poseidon so incensed about anyway? Is this about me pissing in his bathtub yesterday? Because I’ll be honest, it felt like a non-event at the time. Did he prick his finger on one of the reverse-hooks of his trident? Did some sea-nymph leave him with blue-balls after grinding him all night up in the clüb?

Whatever it was, we are severely outmatched by the undertow; and make no mistake: there is nothing fun about what we are doing; we are straight-up trying to survive this ill-advised sortie into a livid ocean.

Beware: The Under-Toad!

Chalk and I are each too consumed with our own personal strife for survival to help each other- or even worry about each other; we’re beyond each other’s help at the moment.

The strength is quickly being sapped from my body. Between the violent body-slams against the sand, the repeated bouts of being held underwater without having first been able to hold my breath, and the mad terror of not knowing which way is up, I know I’m fucked if I don’t get off this merry-go-round at once. It’s a desperate situation.

You callous bitch- don’t you know you’re playing with people’s lives here?
(image by

I don’t so much as decide to try swimming sideways- along the shoreline and parallel to the waves, rather than directly into and against them- as do it instinctively. This proves effective, and soon I am out of the worst of it, as the land assumes a more shallow slope not more than ten or twenty yards down-beach from the roiling vortex in which I have been mired for the past 90 seconds. Chalk, having apparently had the same instinct to laterally flee the ocean’s pitiless beat-down, is hot on my heels, and moments later the two of us are splayed out prostrate on the sand, a safe distance from the crashing surf, huffing and puffing and spitting out salt water.

Trampled by Tortugas

We’re both fairly well shaken by the experience. We recognize that we’ve just gotten incredibly lucky, and that we quite likely won’t catch any more breaks if we test fate like that again; so after resting for a minute or two, we sit up, face the ocean, and smoke a butt- a kind of peace offering to the angry sea god whose domain we have so hubristically infiltrated. After that we collect ourselves and return to the car, our swimming jones completely neutralized.

Some of it is happening in La Paz.
(image by Travelettes)

La Paz

By mid-afternoon we’ve gotten past the trauma of our near-death experience at the hands of the angry sea gods, and we’re back in La Paz, having just finished food shopping for the evening’s camp at a beach a few miles outside of town. After loading our groceries into the car, it is finally time to leave La Paz behind for good. But first we have to go around the block to get back to the main road. How complicated could that possibly be?

(to be continued)


Previous: Chapter 20: Down on Squid Roe

Next: Chapter 22 (coming soon)