For a couple of weeks we had known that our friends Pablo and Anna (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) were scheduled to give a presentation at a kiteboarding camp in La Ventana, a town 150 kilometers north of the San Jose del Cabo/East Cape area. We were a little torn about the option of tracking down the traveling Spaniards. On one hand, we really enjoy Pablo and Anna's company, we love hearing their stories, and time spent with them usually produces valuable lessons. On the other hand, we had already been to La Ventana, it wasn't on our planned route back, and we wanted to head to Todos Santos, which was on the opposite side of the peninsula. After some hemming and hawing, we decided to track down our favorite heroes and go support them at their talk.
We spent a night at a campground while en route to the presentation, and made time for a little Sunday morning Bible study before continuing on to our destination. Arriving in La Ventana, we still didn't know how we would find our heroes in the town, as it was mostly made of winding back roads and beach encampments that resembled refugee camps for surfers. We were parked, using some free wifi, when out of nowhere the bedraggled purr of a Japanese turbo diesel alerted us to their presence. We didn't need to find them, they found us! There are many benefits to owning a highly recognizable vehicle.
We followed Pablo and Anna to Baja Joe's, a multi-service, multi-purpose beach resort in downtown La Ventana. Baja Joe's is part hotel, part cafe, part bar, part kite school, and most importantly, part community meeting place. Pablo and Anna had met and subsequently been adopted by Kevin, a Canadian who blurs the lines of gringo and local, and he set up the lecture with the folks at Baja Joe's. Kevin's connection with Pablo and Anna? He's a Mitsubishi Delica owner as well. Remember what I said about highly recognizable rigs?
Pablo and Anna packed the open air cafe and bar with their lecture/talk/slideshow. They presented 17 years of excellent pictures, and talked the audience through the successes, failures, and adventures of their life on the road. Folks were engaged, and many questions were asked and they were all answered. We felt like the event was part lecture and part stage show, as Pablo and Anna have an amazing rapport, especially considering the talk was given in their second language. We assumed they had given talks very similar to this in the past, as a some of their dialogue was so quick it felt practiced, but they told us later that it was the first of this kind that they had delivered. I suppose their stage presence is a byproduct of travel, produced in the white-hot cruicble of the cockpit of La Cucuracha.
The next day we spent the morning looking for a mechanic's garage to perform an oil change on Little Foot. We had the filter, and we had the oil, and we had the wrenches, but we needed the bucket! We don't carry an oil pan with us because oil pans are dirty and oily, so we had to search one out, as well as some uninhabited dirt upon which to do the work. My timing on the oil change was a little early, but I had been unable to find an SAE30 oil in Baja, and Little Foot likes to burn and leak a little oil, so we were running low. Most stores carry 20w50, and Little Foot is happy with that, so a preemptive oil change let me relax knowing that surplus oil is available at nearly every corner store.
After the oil change we went for a walk on a short trail that boasted interpretive and educational signs describing the local desert flora. Rumor has it that the very American upgrades to the town, including this nature walk and the local maze of mountain biking trails, were products of generosity from Alice Walton, Sam Walton's daughter. Possible!
The nature/interpretive trail was fantastic. Usually the desert brush surrounding the large cacti is so dense and unforgiving that folks don't get a chance to walk through the dry forests. In La Ventana, the trail winds through a stark, beautiful grove of cacti, some over 20 feet tall. Small signs gave us a little information about the local plants, their flowering and fruiting seasons, and common uses.
Kevin, the Canadian local/gringo that was hosting Pablo and Anna, extended his hospitality to us as well, and we spent a couple nights camped out in his driveway. He's an avid kite surfer, and loves to instruct and talk shop about the sport, although he'll tell you he doesn't know how to teach someone to ride. We had a chance to head out to a local beach while the wind was up to learn how to fly a trainer kite, the first step to kite surfing.
We watched some folks launch from the beach, and got a general idea of the basic maneuvers of the sport. The kites, which vary in size from 6 meters to 13 meters, are super powerful - there is a lot of air being caught by the kite structure, and a 10 meter wing can easily pull a human through the water. Kevin taught us how to lay our lines for a kite, go through a pre-flight check, and prepare the inflatable structures of the kite's wing. It was a real day of learning! Eventually he launched for a ride, and we got to play around with the tiny-by-comparison trainer kite.
Generally it took two people to launch the trainer kite, and one to fly. Once up, the rainbow wing required constant attention, needing to be powered and de-powered to maintain a stable rhythm of arcs through the air. Too much turn one way, or too little power at the wrong moment sent the nylon wing plummeting to the sand, and the helpers sprinting out to the beach to relaunch.
The whole experience was fantastic - just flying a kite is great fun, and Kevin's friend had developed a two part control bar that made flying a small kite more difficult. You'll see it in some photos - the bar furthest from the harness is the standard bar, and bar closest to the harness was added later as an auxiliary bar, and interacts with the main control bar through two rubber bands. Essentially, the auxiliary control bar adds a degree of lag to flying the trainer kite. Its like driving a car with lots of play in the steering wheel.
In addition to flying the kite, Chelsea and I got to ride in La Cucuracha on the way to the beach! And we got use the van's best party piece - the stand-through expedition-worthy sun roof! It was excellent.
We celebrated our successful day of beach flying with some fish frying! There was one shop in town with fresh-ish fish, and Kevin bought a bunch of sea bass to batter and pan fry for the whole family. His hospitality was absolutely incredible, and he just wouldn't let us leave the next day without putting us on his paddle boards for a morning ride. The wind had kicked up by the time we launched and we barely had to paddle as we were pushed downwind to our destination.
By the end of the few days in La Ventana, we were quite happy that we had chosen to track down Pablo and Anna once again. The town, while gringo-heavy, is a fantastic destination in Baja, and definetly worth the attention of anyone remotely insterested in wind sports.