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.