Friday, October 9, 2009

Cabo San Lucas Vieja

In June 1974 my boyfriend and I took a bus to Tijuana. We got off the bus and walked across the border. My plan was to hitchhike down the Baja California and then back up the mainland of Mexico. After putting myself through college I figured I deserved a nice long vacation because I was the first in my family to graduate from college. The trip seemed feasible to me because I had read the road to the tip of Baja was just completed and Mexico was encouraging American tourists to travel the road. At the time a visa was all that was required to travel there.

Before I left I purchased a lightweight aluminum backpack and had the frame specially welded to fit my back. I also chose light weight items to carry since I'd be carrying the weight on my back. My pack had a sleeping bag, a foam pad, an aluminum pot, dish, fork, spoon, knife, a small propane burner, a Swiss army knife, a couple of changes of clothes, a tooth brush, a first aid kit, some dehydrated food, a Spanish/English dictionary and a 35 mm camera. I recall having saved about $400 dollars for the trip and I think my boyfriend had the same.

We set out to explore the country of Mexico without any particular time frame in mind. We camped on beaches along the way and hitched rides from mostly Mexican tourists or 5 ton trucks carrying supplies from city to city along the way. I remember ordering the fish, pescado, of the day for lunch in one restaurant and having this huge fish served on a plate. The fish had a light cornmeal coating and must have been nine inches in length and width. Another day I ordered shrimp, camarón, soup and for about forty cents I had soup with at least 20 unpeeled but cooked shrimp swimming in a clear broth.

When we rode in the five ton trucks we stopped wherever the drivers had deliveries along the way. Since it was summer the weather was blisteringly hot and the shop owners always offered us a Coca-Cola and a place to sit under a terraza in the shade while the drivers unloaded their deliveries. Most terraza had several woven rope mattresses strung between hand-hewn wood legs. There were colorful cotton blankets on top of the rope mattress. In the afternoons the drivers weren't in a hurry to leave, so we lounged in the shade. We communicated as best as we could with the help of our dictionary and gestures.

After several weeks covering more than 1000 miles through deserts and over mountains, we eventually made it to La Paz hitchhiking the whole way. After we'd been in La Paz for a while, we debated whether to go on to Cabo San Lucas. We hated to break our hitchhiking record, but we were told there wasn't much traffic going that way. We decided to take a bus to Cabo San Lucas. This time we stepped off the bus we saw we had made a step back in time to a little fishing village with little commercialization. We walked out of town and made a camp on the beach, staying there for almost three weeks.

Eventually we ran out of supplies and were down to canned soup and a couple of hard boiled eggs. We went into town and explored the city. A Mexican fisherman offered to take us in his small aluminum boat out to the arch, so we took him up on it. I remember peering over the edge and seeing huge fish swimming in the water probably 30 feet down, the water was so clear and was bright aqua. When we returned to shore the fisherman directed us to a bakery, panadería, in someones back yard. We went in and picked out some pastries and bread and paid for them. We figured this would hold us for a few more days.

Back at our lean-to camp outside of town on the other side of the bay, we ate sea snails, caracol de mar, and tried to catch black crab, congrejo negro, which were plentiful on the beach. We didn't have much luck catching the crab. One day a Mexican boy came along and showed us how to sharpen a stick and poke the crab in the back to catch them as they hid between the crevices in the rocks. With a little more food to eat, we were able to camp on the Cabo beach for a few more days.

Back then the ferry came from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas. We hated to leave Cabo, but we had to push on, so we arranged to take the ferry to the mainland. Most of the town came down to the dock to wait for the ferry because it was a big town event. Some of the Mexican people in town were enamored with my blue eyes and my long blond-streaked hair. They asked me to speak English slowly so they could hear my language. I wanted to show you a photo of the local Federales which was taken while we waited on the dock waiting for the ferry, but Gary has already packed our photo albums. I remember the Federales was so proud of his pearl-handled pistol. He posed for a photo with one arm around my shoulders and the other hand holding the pearl handle out so it would show.

Since that time I've had numerous opportunities to go back to Cabo San Lucas, but I've never ventured that far South again. I prefer to remember old Cabo San Lucas, Cabo San Lucas Vieja, the way it was back then, a virtually untouched fishing village where I wish time would have stood still 35 years ago.

Photos I took in Baja over the years were digitally manipulated. Of course I have many more stories about my travels in Mexico but I'll save those for another time. Up next are a couple of teapots. Hope you'll come back again.


  1. What a wonderful way to see a country, and lovely to have all those memories to treasure! It is an exciting time for you now too as you count down the days to your next adventure. Best Wishes, P.

  2. traveling is in your blood- adventure and what is new waits for you again.
    Loved the story- days of innocents and wonderment.

  3. What a wonderful story and you were so lucky to just "go." Today with all the crazies out there, it might be hard to do.
    It is something I would have loved to have done, just wonder if I would have had the courage.
    That is a memory that a 9 to 5 just won't buy.

  4. Linda, Wonderful adventure story... how happy you must be to have acted on the dream and not have iust put it aside as we often do...

    Thanks for the before memories of Cabo. Joan T

  5. wow, i'm envious of that trip and story especially staying at cabo for 3 weeks back then. i was hoping to scroll down and see a picture of you during that time... surely your 35mm must have taken a few.

  6. Hi Peter, thanks, hopefully we will be out of here soon and then can relax, it has been one thing after another here getting ready and packing up.

    Hi Meredith, thanks, yes I do love traveling, but I need a home base too nowadays and this move has got it's problems previous times did not.

    Hi Patti, thanks, yes I've been thinking of going back to Baja, but am scared to do so with all the drug problems and unrest, we shall see.

    Hi Joan, thanks, yes I am truly lucky to have the memories and I am so glad I went.

    Hi Jim, thanks, last time Gary and Ie went to the Baja about two years ago, we went as far as 10 miles before Cabo and turned around. I have photos of my first trip but they are packed in our moving van at the back and when you hear about that story you'll know why I can't get to them right now. I didn't save my negatives back then so I'll have to take a photo of a photo. Once we get moved and unpacked I'll post a few of those. There are actually very few photos of me from my first Mexico trip because all we did was take photos of the people and places, and my boyfriend probably has most of them and is long since disappeared to who knows where. I wish I had some more photos, but I know I have that one of me and the Federale in Cabo and I think a couple of me on the Cabo beach. I asked Gary about them last night and he said the albums are buried in the boxes and he can't unpack them.

  7. I put a picture of yours on my blog of faces and hands that I love. If you don't want it there, I will take it off. Once again, I was right about looking at a face and seeing the depth there.

    I love your blog and what you do!

  8. dbradbury, thanks so much for posting my photo and for liking my blog. Stay tuned for more depth about the trials and tribulations of having to move. I hope others will get a glimmer of hope and see the beauty around them from some of my posts. And thanks for recognizing so many others on your blog - the many beautiful faces and hands in the world around us.

  9. This story reminds me of trips Gerry and I took to St John in the USVI. It too has changed, but we had some great times there 20 years ago!

  10. Hi Tracey, thanks, those were the days weren't they! footloose and fancy free.

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