We left the Bahía de Concepción and drove to Loreto, the next big town down the east coast of the peninsula. For some reason, we were fatigued, and the prospect of a night in a hotel was intoxicating. Sabrina and Henning (of Trail Gypsies fame) directed us towards a cheap-ish hotel in Loreto, citing its price, WiFi, hot showers, complimentary breakfast, secure parking, and pet friendliness as a list of luxuries. While they were not wrong, our stay was decidedly uncomfortable, but by no fault of the hotel's! We learned that night that we didn't want hotels anymore; Little Foot is our home, certainly our bedroom at least, and we have built him up to our idea of comfort, and anything else on the road is alien. We love hot showers and WiFi, but we don't need hotels anymore, especially in temperate-to-tropical Baja. It was a good lesson to learn, especially at the $35 USD price tag - we could have paid A LOT more to learn the same lesson in the states!
Parking in the hotel's secure lot did allow us to freely wander Loreto's downtown. The community is cute, and it has just enough gringo influence to create an interesting mix of cultures, but not enough to overpower. The town square is beautiful, and boasts a small tourist district, as well as an old church and, surprisingly, a very American microbrewery.
While wandering around town we spotted none other but Pablo and Anna (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) in their beloved van, La Cucuracha! Chelsea had just been wondering aloud about when we might see them again, and then, speak of the devil, they appeared. We exchanged pleasantries, and Pablo mentioned that he wanted to attend a cock fight in town that night. He had, by chance, spied a billboard advertising that tonight was the monthly cock fight, but Anna didn't want to go. He offered to one or both of us to join him - perhaps if Chelsea wasn't interested she could walk back to downtown with Anna? I was tentatively interested, the ladies less so, but all four of us walked to the event, hemming and hawing about the situation. Upon arriving at the town's purpose built cock fighting arena, and upon paying the small entrance fee ($150 MEX for each couple), we decided to give the event a chance. The night turned out to be excellent, and it was probably the best cultural experience we've had in Baja yet!
The cock fighting arena in Loreto is not a multi-purpose venue. It is bespoke and purpose-built for the sport, and I hope that helps to impress upon you the importance of this pastime to the locals. It's like seeing rodeo grounds in the western US - when you see one, you know the community has a rich background in herding and managing cattle. Loreto has a deep agricultural background, and the cock fighting arena is a testament to that.
The compound is a walled structure, maybe 50 meters square, complete with stalls for food vendors, two sets of gendered bathrooms, and a large holding area for competing birds. The arena itself is open air, but set in an excavated pit, lined with red and white concrete stadium seating, and covered by a concrete roof to protect from sun and heat. The ring is dirt, with a series of starting lines delineating different starting points for different rounds of the fight. An MC directed traffic from a worn, wooden ringside table, and toddlers climbed around the stadiums stairs while their mothers sat together and gossiped. This was very much a family affair, and we felt at home, welcomed, and safe.
The fights themselves were fast affairs, usually less than a few minutes, and were mostly a flurry of feathers, although here and there a minute amount of blood was visible. Make no mistake, these were fights to the death, and each fight caused at least one, but usually two, rooster deaths, as the winner was often killed out of mercy. This part of the event caused hesitation in Chelsea and I (and perhaps Anna). We didn't love the idea of the birds dying, but I realized a few things. First, there was an appreciable amount of beauty surrounding the fights, from the dances of the birds to accouterments carried by the bird's handlers. Second, this night was a good chance for the handlers to win some big money, with the victor receiving $70,000 MEX ($3500 USD). And third, there is almost nothing cute about roosters, and when watching them fight you realize they are essentially feathered dinosaurs, and that nature, with no help of the farmers or ranchers, has designed the creature kill other roosters. In the end, I really don't mind watching dinosaurs kill other dinosaurs, especially while eating hotdogs and crushing cold drinks.
We directed Pablo and Anna to Rattlesnake beach, the hideout of Mr. Rod Davis, a senior boatman at our summer employment, Timberline Tours in Eagle, Colorado. Rod has it all figured out - he spends his summers in Colorado boating on the rivers, and then escapes to sunny Baja for the winters, where he continues boating, but on the waves instead. We pushed the Viajeros towards him, and stayed an extra day in Loreto doing laundry and running errands.
Rattlesnake beach is like an ad hoc RV park, full of part time and full time snow birds from the US and Canada. The beach is lined with secluded camp spots full of truck campers, fifth wheels, tow behinds, Airstreams - you name it and it is there. The residents pay a little to the federal government to stay there, and everyone is happy. There are no hookups, no dumps, no power, no water - each camper figures that out. They have a nice little community going, a camp ground without a camp ground. It was a nice place to stop for a night or a season. There is a spring a few kilometers away from the beach at the mouth of a canyon where water tanks can be filled, a town is about 7 kilometers away for most of everyone's daily needs, and Loreto is just up the road for anything a city can offer.
The next day we headed south to Rattlesnake beach ourselves, and found Pablo and Anna pulling into a nice camp spot on the beach. Anna beckoned for us to park next to them at the spot as Pablo beckoned for us to continue down the beach to another spot. As per usual, I deferred to the advice of the lady, and we camped next to them. That night, however, I was all ears and a willing student as Pablo taught me how to grill in his Argentinian style. Pablo is both a Spaniard and an Argentinian, and it is easy to see both sides of the man if you spend any time with him, especially if there is a fire and some meat nearby. I, in true American form, had moved the meat on the grill around too much and too soon, earning a dose of Argentinian scorn.
Pablo told me, "You cannot just just move the chicken around where you want to. You cannot just move it and do what you want... You must, respect the chicken!" He went on to explain that you must respect the chicken and LOVE the chicken and it will love you back. That quickly became the phrase of the night, and then of the next few adventures as well. I'm very grateful to Pablo for infinitely helping my grilling skills!
Chelsea had been battling with back pains for months, and it had gotten a little more serious in the past weeks, so we set about finding a cure. Some campers at Rattlesnake assured us that Antonio, a local "witch doctor" in Loreto, could help her out. The next day some folks were going into town, so I loaded Chelsea into their truck, and headed out for a hike with the Viajeros up to a view point (complete with a cross) and then up the Tabor canyon in search of a fresh water spring.
The hike was outstanding, the spring cool and clear. Pablo, Anna, and myself scrambled up and over enormous rocks, and the whole setting seemed like something out of a Jurassic park movie. We enjoyed the views of the sea and the dips in the spring water as Chelsea got adjusted by Antonio, who is very much not a which doctor, but a self-taught physical therapist. She found great relief there, and not wanting to be left out of the fresh-water fun, insisted that we take showers in the spring water the next day before leaving for the next adventure.