Camping on the East Cape
After leaving Santiago and Miraflores, we were a short drive from San Jose del Cabo. The greater Cabo area is where the Baja Peninsula ends - from here it's east to the East Cape or west to Cabo San Lucas and Todo Santos and then back up north. We had planned on some more beach camping, and the East Cape looked to be prime with public access arroyos and sand beaches.
We resupplied in San Jose del Cabo at the fantastic Mega supermarket…home of everything any American could ever want while in Mexico. While there we dined on some legit Chinese food. Chelsea and I were starved, and for $7USD we ate a lot of rice, egg rolls, fried pork, etc. (I lived in China for two years, and the food there is beyond amazing. Chinese food in the states isn't the same, primarily because OSHA won't let the cooks get their woks hot enough. Down in Mexico, however, folks are allowed to turn the propane way up, and darn near real Chinese food is the result.)
After the resupply we hit the road for the East Cape. The pavement soon ran out, and we slowly motored our way to an empty arroyo. Whales were swimming and breaching in the near distance, the view was fantastic, and the price was right. After setting up camp we began to diagnose what seemed to be a failing water pump in our camper - our water pressure was unusually weak and the pump was making far too much noise while in operation. Everything had to come out from under the bed to access the pump, and I had to get inverted in the small crawl space. We lowered the pump to help it access water, but to no avail. Stumped, we piled our gear back into the rig, assuming we'd be purchasing a new water pump in the near future.
We were joined that evening by Riley and his dogs Stinker and Stevie, three individuals that make quite a rag tag team of beach-dwelling travelers. Riley is a surfer and has about a million stories that all needed to be written down and published. Stevie the German shepherd is a dropout from police dog school - she's smart and she knows it and she doesn't care what you think. Stinker the Boston terrier is an intrepid adventurer who is unaware she lives with cerebral palsy. She goes anywhere Stevie goes, but a little slower, and at slightly more of a diagonal angle, because walking forward is tough.
That night Chelsea and I made bread, a large chunk of which we delivered to Riley. His appreciation was palpable, and we spent the next day snorkeling for lobsters, of which we found one. Riley added some steaks and we added some veggies for a proper beachside meal. Over drinks and meats we discussed the coming swell, and Riley convinced us to meet him at 9 Palms, a local beach down the road, to learn how to surf. He had a longboard that he had left in San Jose del Cabo, and he was willing to pick it up if I was willing learn to surf. This sounded like a great plan, so we headed back to the city to re-resupply and then back to the beach to settle in for a few days of surf and sun.
Teach a Man to Surf...
After the re-resupply we moved to 9 Palms, a known surf spot on the northern edge of a string of surf spots that dot the East Cape. We pulled into our spot near Riley, and set up camp. We put up a shade tarp, moved some unnecessary items to the front seats, and partially unpacked our storage compartments, freeing up access to the wetsuits and snorkels. In the process, I wanted to check the feed tubes for the water pump - I had a suspicion that one of the tubes was sealing around a wall of our water tank, creating a vacuum and placing undue strain on the pump. I wasn't too far from correct; while the tube was free and clear of the wall, it was the inline filter that was degrading and being sucked up into the tubes when the pump was pulling water. We flipped it around, reversing the flow of water through the filter, and got our pressure back! Thankfully, it meant we didn't need to order a new pump.
When we arrived, it was just Riley, Chris the full-time hermit/local, and ourselves, but that would change. The swell was one of the first of the season, and the greater Baja surfing community was well aware of its imminent arrival, so the beach blew up. First, Riley's close friend Mac showed up and camped with us, and then eventually the beach was lined with a few dozen trucks, vans, and rigs, many of which were jumping back and forth between the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez to chase the waves.
Riley graciously ran into town to fetch his longboard, an accessory of his trip that he'd chosen to ditch because he wasn't using it, as he mostly road his short board. He started with some lessons on the sand, specifically teaching me that the paddling position on the board was a key to standing up in the right spot, and that standing up didn't mean standing up - a crouched position to keep mass low was preferable.
As a trade, I taught Riley how to make and bake simple white bread. My ingredients are flour, sugar, salt, water, and instant yeast, and I do not measure anything, other than the yeast which is in a single use packet. While kneading, flour is added by feel until the right texture is achieved, then the dough is left to rise, then shaped and placed in a deep steel pan we use as a dutch oven. To bake, we pile coals between some rocks, then set the steel pan on the rocks, and cover the lid with coals. Coals are added as needed, and when the bread smells ready, looks ready, and feels ready, we eat it. We rarely have any left over, because bread should be eaten fresh.
The surf picked up over the next few days, although to me it seemed inconsistent. Sometimes the swell would arrive a little more from the south, causing predictable waves to break over the reef. In these instances, a deep paddle channel existed that allowed surfers to paddle back into position. I would try to catch waves right on the shoulder of the deep water channel, mostly because I was afraid of eating a face full of rocks and sea urchins in the case of a fall. My plan worked great, until the swell decided to come in a little bit more from the east, and then the deep paddle channel turned into wave-break city, and my poor tired body would get tossed and buried in 5 foot waves. It was great. I temporarily quit after 3 days of trying.
All the while Chels was reading and lounging, Loulou was sleeping, Riley was coaching, and Stevie and Stinker were running around the beach like captains of their own paradise. I didn't feel bad for Stinker, she's got a great life and an owner that loves her and a big sister dog to watch out for her, but I couldn't help but feel something for the poor thing as she'd cut diagonally across the beach, looking forward but walking sideways, sand flying everywhere as her legs kicked with every step. She'd suffer through 7 or 8 seizures a day while we were on the beach, each one more heartbreaking than the last. She'd fall over, seize, then wrestle to get back up and limp out of sight trying as hard as she could to keep up with the other dogs, all the while our hearts breaking for her - then she'd come back, a big slice of white bread clutched in her mouth, a smile ear to ear after just raiding some neighbor's beach camp kitchen. Stinker, aptly named, needed no one to feel bad for her. I'll bet she's happier than you, and probably nearly as happy as Coco.
The swell came and the crowds came, and despite my initial worries that I would get in someone's way or spoil someone's wave, everyone was real nice and mostly left me alone. I was very thankful for the use of Riley's board, because a similar experience at a surf camp would have cost us a lot of money. In the end, it was great to get out on the water and try surfing once more. I had caught a baby wave or two while in Bali, but that barely counted as I had someone lining me up and pushing the board forward for me. In the end, I was beat, but I was happy I was beat and satisfied at my attempt. Surfing another day? Probably, but probably not on this trip, specifically.