One-half mile down a rutted dirt road, and a world away, Playa Escondida is definitely a little lost. My guidebook told me it might be a bit hard to navigate that one-half mile in a bigger rig, but I’m not one to be deterred, and my rig isn’t very big, so down the road I went. Yet another paradise was found.
It is the one beach on Bahia Concepcion that is off the Highway 1, and generally free of traffic noise. The water is constantly changing color from midnight blue to turquoise to sea green to stormy gray to pearlescent sky blue. Seated in my palapa I have a view of three small islands in the foreground and the ring of mountains far in the distance. I was fortunate because when I arrived, a family of four was just vacating the perfect palapa, the one on the northernmost end of the row of palapas, Was the perfect size to hang my hamaca, and had two walls that afforded both privacy and protection from the sun, wind, and rain. It felt so right to finally pull out my swimsuits, sarongs, hamaca, and snorkeling gear. The water was divine and the beach is peaceful and tranquil.
After a traumatic St. Patrick’s Day party in San Lucas Cove, I was happy to be back amongst the freaks and misfits. My new neighbors were definitely not your typical snowbirds. Michael and George are both from Humboldt County. By chance they both ended up at the same Baja beach at the same time. The are like siblings. They quibble when they are together. They talk smack about each other behind each other’s back, but don’t say an unkind word to one about the other!
Michael is deeply tanned, rail thin, has a slightly shorter version of the ZZ top beard, and a kayak that can be pedaled or paddled. He also has a mania for Oaxacan rugs, he bought at least nine of them during his stay at Escondida.
George, a woman, is traveling in an ancient VW Campervan. She doesn’t have a solar panel or a refrigerator so every other day she is driving off to the tienda in Playa El Coyote for another bag of ice. I’ve only seen her in her battered Mexican cowboy hat, faded SF Mime Troupe tee shirt, and baggy khaki shorts. Often, you can hear her practicing her fiddle.
Steven came late to the party, but apparently he is a regular here at Playa Escondida. He travels with his cat, Margarita, a kayak, and his guitar. Rumor has it he is a complete loner who frequently talks to himself. I thought he was singing, but I suppose singing and talking to oneself are interchangeable.
People always surprise me. The night we had a potluck around the fire, Steven invited himself to our gathering. We learned that he sings and plays guitar in an old-time Irish band. It was too bad we weren’t all here for St. Patrick’s Day, between George and Steven we could have had some great Irish tunes for the day.
The youngster of the group was Ofer from Berkeley, by way of New Jersey, by way of Israel. He rolled up on his BMW motorcycle with all his worldly possessions stuffed into two panniers. Last year, he attempted to ride his moto down to the tip of South America. He broke down in Guatamala, so he spent three months in Xela studying Spanish. He then returned to the USA to earn more money, buy a better moto, and prepare for his second attempt. He moved his life up to the absent caretakers deluxe palapa on the hill in preparation for a nice trip on mushrooms, but was foiled because that night I baked and shared a delicious piece of my yellowtail. He had wanted to take his trip on an empty stomach, but instead he gorged himself on fish. In the morning he headed to La Paz to catch the ferry to Mazatlan, and continue his Panamerican Highway Odyssey.
As long as it isn’t my birthday, I love surprises. When I travel I fly by the seat of my pants, doing very little research before departing. As a result, I am constantly delighted by what I discover. One of the sweet things I discovered about the campgrounds of Bahia Concepcion is that there is a stream of vendors who roll in with their goods like clockwork. There is a family from Oaxaca with rugs, backpacks, clothes, and other knick-knacks. One man arrives each day with a minivan loaded with hamacas, blankets, tee shirts, and other touristy caca. These people don’t excite me like the food people. There is one woman and her husband who bring the most delicious empanadas, tamales, and baby pies of pineapple and apple. One man arrives with the sun, and in addition to tamales and greasy empanadas, he has fruit and vegetables ~ sometimes they are fresh and beautiful! Just when I was starting to run out of water, the water man arrived to fill my tank. I’m not sure just how potable the water is, so I take the extra step to filter the water with my CamelBak UV filter. I wished someone could call the propane truck out for a special delivery, my tank was getting a bit low.
It would appear that the Oregon weather of my childhood has followed me all the way down to Baja. First, we had the crazy rainstorm in Bahia de Los Angeles. Next, the sky spit on me in San Ignacio. Finally, the night I arrived here at Bahia Concepcion the clouds grew thicker and more dramatic, they opened up and the rain beat down. The following morning the clouds built up again and unleashed another torrent, this time complete with thunder and lightening. We all ran for our respective hideouts and hunkered down until the sun shone once more. The upshot of all the rain is the incredible desert blooms.
Yesterday afternoon, we won the race against the storm that never arrived. We watched the rain fall on the adjacent beach and we had a few good bolts of lightning and rumbles of thunder. When it looked like rain was imminent, I raced out and rallied my new friends to get the potluck rolling. We had to build a fire to cook the oysters I bought in San Lucas Cove. Everyone pitched in and we feasted on local delights, fried potatoes, jicama salad with lime and chili powder, salsa of tomato, avocado, lime, and onions, totopos (tortilla chips), and fresh scallops. For desert we had cacahuates (peanuts) and Hershey’s milk chocolate. Halfway through the meal Marcelo arrived, only to leave and return a short while later with Modelo Especiale for all.
Marcelo is the local Caballero who leads backcountry horseback adventures. He is a tall, thin, handsome man of 40. Every time he arrives he is neatly dressed in clean Levi jeans, a white and blue plaid button-down shirt, cowboy boots and hat, and a belt-buckle that could be confused with a tombstone for a dead soldier. He has a swagger that is the envy of any wanna-be rodeo star. Each time he arrives, his overnight tour has become a little less expensive. It is so tempting. The night of the impromptu potluck I finally succumbed.
“Do you want to go?” Asked Marcelo.
“Sure.” I replied.
“Sunday, 10:00 a.m., Mulege Pemex. If you don’t show up I will come looking for you.”
“Are you are sure Luna has to come? I value my huevos.” *
“OK. Fine, Luna can come.”
* Luna has an uncanny sense of the most vulnerable part of a man, and uses it to keep them in line.