Baja trip #9, Fall 1989
34 days, San Felipe to La Paz
Ray and Jenny Jardine
From Salt Lake City we drove our van to El Centro, then leaving the van at the AM-PM mini-storage, we hired a taxi for the ride to Calexico ($12), and another taxi that took us across the border to the bus station in Mexicali ($15). ABC (Autotransportes de Baja California) then conveyed us to San Felipe in 2-3/4 hours at a cost of only $2.25 each, with no additional charge levied for our 9 ponderous bags.
Arriving San Felipe at 10:45 am, we found the day had already grown hot. Having had our fill of bus and taxi rides, we were now determined to move our gear to a suitable beach-front location by our own efforts. So we started portaging the lot. This proved an hour-and-a-half's undertaking, and it took us on an unprecedented excursion directly through the center of downtown.
Initially we felt rather foolish lugging the oversized bags through town, making a spectacle of ourselves. But no one - browned indigenous or gaudy tourist - took the slightest notice. We weren't gawked at, or even given a single strange look.
Once at the beach, we retreated 50 feet to a sidewalk where a stone wall offered protection from a strong northerly wind. Nearby was a make-shift taco stand, and since the business was closed we used its tables for sorting equipment. Soon we were busy with the construction of the folding kayak. We had paddled this boat literally thousands of miles in the past few years, and had modified it extensively just prior to each excursion. Now we were finding some of our most recent ideas were very good, while others weren't so laudable. The boat went together well, until we began lashing frames to longerons using artificial sinew. The task of binding those 42 joints proved unexpectedly time consuming.
We endured the brunt of much curiosity by passersbys. But largely they left us to our work, save for one muchacho who sat inordinately close at hand for a couple of hours. The kid studied the assembly while from the corners of our eyes we watched him with a certain mistrust. Eventually he grew bored and wandered off.
A fellow parked his car surprisingly close to our outfit and began scrutinizing our operation. Intrigued, he asked a number of questions and in general made conversation, and finally asked if we'd like some coffee. With that, I realized that he might be the owner of the taqueria, the property on which we were working. He admitted the place indeed belonged to him, and kindly granted us permission to continue with what we were doing. However he allowed that in the morning, Saturday, he would reopen for business.
The sun set and we continued to work beneath a street light in the darkness of night. We had hoped for an early departure the following morning, but we had not yet completed our work - still lashing interminable junctures. But fatigue was starting to saturate our bodies and minds. We were unaccustomed to the enervating heat, the strong winds and the radios blaring Mexican polkas close at every hand. In addition we had experienced headaches throughout most of the day from dehydration and the usual "beginning-of-the-trip-itis". So conceding temporary defeat we lugged our outfit down to the beach and bedded down on the warm, compliant sand at the far end of a line of Mexican fishing pangas.
Lying in our sleeping bags we were hoping for seclusion, but instead were treated to a firework show as one small skyrocket after another blazed into the sky and exploded directly overhead. It was a party of Americans camped in the nearby RV park pursuing their callow amusements.
Quiet returned and waves lapping gently at the beach finally lulled us to asleep, with one major awakening by a girl apologizing profusely for thinking we were her friends, and by a few minor awakenings throughout the remainder of the night by assorted packs of dogs, yapping, howling, or gnarling.