Mexico, Part 15: Awaiting our part in Loreto

Waiting for Parts

After limping our way back to Loreto, stopping only for red lights and refusing to pull over to let traffic pass (sorry!), we strategically approached the RV park that would provide our safe haven for nearly a week as we awaited our part. Christian slipped Little Foot into low gear and  rolled slowly through a u-turn on a dead-end street as I hopped out and ran to the entrance, hastily explaining our situation before Christian arrived. Luckily, we knew the owner from our previous time spent there and she let us have the first spot available, which meant Christian could literally pull straight in.

We heaved a huge sigh of relief once we arrived, knowing we were settled until morning, when we rallied enough man-power to push Little Foot to the back where we’d be out of the way as a caravan of big-rigs arrived to take over the rest of the lot.

One of our favorite things about the Loreto RV park is that there is a beautiful common area, complete with a grill. During our time there we grilled out often, feeding not only ourselves but an array of fellow travelers, usually bicyclists and motorcyclists who would gather around to hang out as the food cooked. It was always a pleasure to entertain and it gave a sort of wonderful purpose to our nights there.

Our front and center spot when we first arrived. We quickly moved to the back of the lot, only to be parked in by a caravan of 19  big  rigs.

Our front and center spot when we first arrived. We quickly moved to the back of the lot, only to be parked in by a caravan of 19 big rigs.

Sitting in the common area at the RV park, enjoying the wait while our laundry hangs to dry.

Sitting in the common area at the RV park, enjoying the wait while our laundry hangs to dry.

Enjoying one of many beautiful sunsets while tucked away in the back.

Enjoying one of many beautiful sunsets while tucked away in the back.

Can't be upset about being stuck somewhere when there's a hotdog stand nearby!

Can't be upset about being stuck somewhere when there's a hotdog stand nearby!

One of many communal dinners at the RV park.

One of many communal dinners at the RV park.

Loreto's beautiful downtown church.

Loreto's beautiful downtown church.

Christian kept his mustache for a while.

Christian kept his mustache for a while.

Enjoying some very non-exceptional sushi in an exceptional location.

Enjoying some very non-exceptional sushi in an exceptional location.

Killing time in Loreto

About every other day, I would walk to the house of Antonio, the local “healer” that had provided me with relief from my back pain. It was on the other side of town in the local area, where gringos aren’t usually seen walking around. I was taken by surprise one day by a gentleman yelling “Hola!! HOLA!!!” at me and running towards me as I walked. Preparing to apologize profusely for not being able to speak very good Spanish, the man quickly interrupted me saying, “Don’t worry! I speak English!” Relieved, I asked him if everything was ok. He then looked at me and said, “I came over here to ask YOU if everything was ok!” (I guess the sight of a limping American girl wandering the local side of town got him worried. After I explained that I was headed to my friend’s house and was in fact totally fine and not lost, he begged me to let him buy me a soda. If I hadn’t just split one with Christian shortly before the walk, I would’ve taken him up on the offer.

I wanted to share that story because so many people have expressed concern for our safety while in Mexico. In my lifetime, I’ve had two attempted muggings, had my car broken into and my iPod stolen, and found my car on cinderblocks with all four tires gone…ALL WHILE LIVING IN THE USA.

Here’s the thing: there are bad people everywhere. There is not a higher concentration of bad people in Mexico. However, there is a higher concentration of bad press about Mexico. No one is going to write a news article that gets circulated around Facebook about a random Mexican offering help and a soda to an American girl walking around his neighborhood. I am in fact more comfortable here than I have been in several cities we’ve traveled through in the US, and for good reason. The majority of the folks down here are grateful for the tourism industry and the revenue that brings to their towns. We’ve had countless people ask us if we’re enjoying ourselves and if we feel safe and how they can help. The locals are more helpful than most people we’ve encountered in the US because they’re genuinely happy we’re here.

Ok, rant over.

At Antonio's place, getting ready to get healed.

At Antonio's place, getting ready to get healed.

Antonio is a very gifted and self taught therapist, but at this point he was just treating pain, not the cause of the pain.

Antonio is a very gifted and self taught therapist, but at this point he was just treating pain, not the cause of the pain.

We spent our hours and days finding ways to fill the time, reading books from the RV park book exchange, visiting Antonio for pain treatment, making trips back and forth to the grocery store, etc. Even though Loreto is a highly walkable town, we had to limit our time wandering because of my ever persisting pain. It was becoming apparent that treating the pain was a very temporary solution and that we would soon need to address the bigger problem (though we still didn't know exactly what that was.)

In our time spent waiting for the part, we met a bunch of fellow travelers with cool rigs and stories. One was an ambulance, which is close to our heart since the Campbulance was our first conversion. Since Little Foot is often the most unique rig in a group, we're used to giving tours to everyone that wanders our direction with a curious look on their face. This means that we get to ask for tours in return and see how everyone's setups function differently and get ideas for how we want to change and adapt our own setup for the future. Nothing helps you brainstorm quite like seeing someone else's camper and picking their brain about their likes and dislikes.

Admiring a homemade sun shelter awning on a fellow traveler's rig.

Admiring a homemade sun shelter awning on a fellow traveler's rig.

We're  always  interested in an ambulance!

We're always interested in an ambulance!

There were all sorts of rigs, and we gave many tours of Little Foot, so in turn we were given many tours of other rigs! It was fantastic.

There were all sorts of rigs, and we gave many tours of Little Foot, so in turn we were given many tours of other rigs! It was fantastic.

Installing the part and hitting the road!

We had our part shipped down Baja using a service called Baja Pack. It's a delivery service that utilizes the bus system, saving both time and money because of its efficiency. Waiting on the part was only slightly frustrating, as it was scheduled to arrive either Saturday night or Sunday morning. The buses run seven days a week, but the office closed on Sundays. As our luck would have it, the part didn't arrive Saturday, so we spent another day sitting around waiting, knowing the part was behind the closed doors of the office.

Christian walked over first thing Monday morning to retrieve the package, determined to get the part installed and hit the road by the end of the day. Lucky us, it was there and as expected, the install was straight-forward and fairly quick. By the afternoon, we were hugging our new friends goodbye and crossing our fingers as we started Little Foot for the first time in a week.

Waiting for the part at Baja Pack. This parcel office was clear across town, but the walk was enjoyable everyday.

Waiting for the part at Baja Pack. This parcel office was clear across town, but the walk was enjoyable everyday.

So... where is my part?

So... where is my part?

It arrived!

It arrived!

Clutch Master cylinder in hand!

Clutch Master cylinder in hand!

The install of our new part was super fast.

The install of our new part was super fast.

Old parts out, new parts in.

Old parts out, new parts in.

Little Foot fired on the first try and as Christian depressed the clutch for the first time, he shouted with glee when we didn't hear brake fluid immediately rushing back into the master cylinder. The part had fixed the problem and we were clear to hit the road! We started driving north, skipping all the places we would've loved to stop and enjoy one last time. Our timeline was starting to get a little tight with the delay from our breakdown and we didn't want to risk not having plenty of time to spend in Ensenada before crossing the border. So, with a sigh, we kept driving, only stopping to camp and gas up, knowing we'll be back to enjoy Baja again someday.

So  excited to be driving again.

So excited to be driving again.

Every bend in the road taunted and teased us. Every ebach deserved a week or two of camping.

Every bend in the road taunted and teased us. Every ebach deserved a week or two of camping.

We stopped at beaches we had been to before, knowing that we could camp easily and freely.

We stopped at beaches we had been to before, knowing that we could camp easily and freely.

Putting the Sea of Cortez behind us.

Putting the Sea of Cortez behind us.

Onwards, to Baja Norte.

Onwards, to Baja Norte.

Mexico, Part 7: Loreto, Cockfights and Respecting the Chicken at Rattlesnake Beach

Loreto

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.

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Cockfights!

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.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

Rattlesnake Beach

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!

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Rattlesnake beach views.

Rattlesnake beach views.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

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.

I got to ride in  THE  La Cucuracha!

I got to ride in THE La Cucuracha!

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

Climbing up the canyon.

Climbing up the canyon.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.