Our accommodations at the whale camp were serviceable but Spartan. We were provided with cots and sleeping bags in small tents on the beach. Because it was a desert—and February—the temperature dropped sharply when the sun went down and how the wind howled! Each night I waited for our tent to break free of its moorings and roll down the sand like a giant beach ball. One staff member had the unenviable job of all night sentry duty, checking tent stakes to make sure we were still firmly planted. Because we were miles from nowhere, electricity was produced by a generator and there was no running water. We relied on “sun showers” which are gallon-sized, black plastic bags filled with water, then laid out on the ground during the day to warm in the heat of the sun. To shower, you simply hang them up and let gravity provide the pressure for a (very) quick clean-up.
Nights were fun. The camp cook did a marvelous job with the catch of the day and a few staples brought from town. After dinner, our guide, Ernesto who everyone called “Sextos,” entertained us with guitar and voice. One night we entertained the staff with our game of Indian Sweat poker. They seemed to find five gringos with cards stuck to their foreheads hilarious.
On the 7th day of our trip, my niece, Kim, had to leave us to return to work but the rest of us caught a bus to Mulege on the Sea of Cortez. This village was once home to a state prison that had the distinction of having no bars. I was the only one in our group who spoke any Spanish and the driver absolutely refused to stop where I requested, insisting there was nothing there. After arguing with him for about 5 miles, I finally resorted to screaming “Alto!”—and he did. We piled out of the bus and he drove away shaking his head. I was beginning to fear maybe he was right and my instructions were wrong because we didn’t see a sign of life in any direction. Then my husband, Mike, decided it was time for action and strode off over a hill. Although his Spanish is limited to the basics (cerveza, la cuenta por favor), he reappeared in about 10 minutes riding in the back of a truck. I’ll never know how he persuaded the driver to take us to Eco Mundo but we were all glad to see him.
Eco Mundo was an encampment built of straw bale huts. I chose it because Buddy, my nephew, is an architect who specializes in straw bale and other sustainable construction and I thought he’d find it interesting. We had no way to get to a restaurant that night but we’d packed a few things—a couple of cans of tuna, some cheese, a package of crackers, limes, water and, of course, a bottle of tequila. Buddy liberated a ripe tomato from the camp caretaker’s vine and we had the makings of a fine dinner. The repast was followed by another game of poker using seashells for chips. When Buddy’s stake was depleted, he disappeared outside and soon returned with a fresh supply. He apparently picked them up too close to the water, though, because his chips kept crawling off the table. When it grew too dark to continue, we stood outside for awhile to watch the waves break against the shore. Phosphorescent plankton created a one-of-a kind light show.
After exploring Mulege, we separated. Buddy and his wife went north and Mike and I continued south. When we reached our hotel in LaPaz, we had been camping for two weeks. We dropped our packs and headed straight for a hot shower. Pure bliss! Then we dressed in something other than jeans and boots and went out for dinner. It was February 14 and there’s no place more romantic than Mexico. We both agree it was our best Valentine’s Day ever.
The next day we took a boat to Los Ilotes, a tiny rock island with a large sea lion community. We gingerly lowered ourselves into the icy sea and the sea lion pups immediately dove into the water to greet us. They frolicked and cavorted all around us and poked curious noses right into our masks. It was clear they were having a ball with their new human playthings. Meanwhile, the adults on the rocks tolerated our presence and would give a warning bark if someone ventured too close. I could have happily stayed there all afternoon but the frigid water soon grew unbearable and we had to return to the boat.
We spent several more days in beautiful LaPaz, enjoying the people, the culture and wonderful seafood. Then we drove to Cabo San Lucas, stopping off at the Hotel California in Todos Santos, rumored be the basis for the song by the Eagles. We had been gone three weeks when we flew home from Cabo, bringing an abundance of memories and a few souvenirs—but leaving a big part of our hearts behind.