I had the idea that it would be really fun to learn to kiteboard. While still in the Bay Area my friend Paul got me started on the basics, but I didn’t have time to delve deeper and really learn the sport. It always seemed like a two-person sport and I always seem to be alone. When I hit El Sargento/La Ventana and watched everyone out there on the water, some just learning, it looked pretty awesome but after a couple days of living in a fiberglass can with the wind blowing most of the day I was beginning to have second thoughts. Then, when I rolled into the other mecca, Los Barriles, got stuck in the sand, was towed out by the kiteboarding instructor, and in the process discovered the price of lessons and equipment, I decided that maybe I ought to stick with snorkeling until I win the lottery.
On the map, the trip to Cabo Pulmo looked like it would be pretty simple. I found the secret cut-off so I didn’t have to drive all the way north to La Paz to catch the Mexico Highway 1 south to the East Cape. The road was freshly paved and the scenery was beautiful. A plus side of traveling to the southern tip of Baja, tourism has grown dramatically in the region and the Mexican tourism authority is seeing dollar signs. They spending money on infrastructure and the major roads are beautifully paved and have wide shoulders.
I hit La Ribera looking for basic supplies: cold beer, a big bag of Tostitos, a few avocados, and a dozen eggs before commencing the final leg of journey to the East Cape. The trip from La Ribera to Cabo Pulmo is only 17 miles, but the road is paved only part of the way. The first 11 miles are crappy pavement with lots of potholes, the next seven miles are unpaved gravel. If I decided to continue on to Los Frailes the final five miles would be more of the same. Those distances might seem like nothing, but unless that road has been recently graded the washboards are ferocious, these roads are not frequently graded. If I drive more than 10 mph my whole fiberglass home begins to vibrate, clatter and shake, everything in my cupboards shifts then falls out, my plates and glasses tremble and knock against each other, and I feel like my teeth are going to be rattled right out of my head. A little quick math tells me that 20 miles down a secondary road is going to be a bone-jarring, two-hour adventure! But photos I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard suggest that it is absolutely worth it.
I had one other spot of concern. My rig was getting a bit hit and miss about starting when I turned the key in the ignition. My battery is new so I figured I must be having problems with my starter, that or something had worked its way loose with all my crazy, off-road driving adventures. Oh well. I was sure it would all be just fine, the Ford E-350 is a reliable workhorse. And yes, that is how I roll.
The approach is Cabo Pulmo is breathtaking! You crest a hill, round the bend, then the road falls away and the turquoise blue ocean with white and ice blue waves crashing on sandy beaches greets you. I just wanted to put the car on autopilot and take it all in, but the descent is steep, the turns nearly corkscrew, and there are no guardrails for protection. I had to content myself with slowing down to five mph and catching surreptitious glances when I could. Jokingly, a friend once told me, “I might be a Cat. 3 on the bike, but I’m a Cat. 1 behind the wheel.” Once, that was my mantra. Happily, I have become a Cat. 5 behind the wheel.
Cabo Pulmo is s sweet little town that has created a community around eco-tourism, mainly snorkeling, and scuba diving. The entire East Cape region was being rapidly over-fished by both sport and commercial fishermen, so the local communityorganized and the region was declared a Parque Nacional in 1995. The reef is one of only three coral reefs on the west coast of North America and it is estimated to be home to more than 800 species of marine animals. In 2005, it became part of the larger Gulf of California UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2012, the Mexican government withdrew their approval for a tourism development that would eventually include 30,000 hotel rooms, two golf courses, and a marina. In essence, the area was slated to become another Cabo San Lucas.
I was in Cabo Pulmo only briefly. It had been a long day on the road and what I really wanted was to find the campground and take Luna for a nice swim in the beautiful turquoise waters. I left the car running and wandered up to one of the dive shops. When I asked about the Cabo Pulmo campground he sent me down the road to Los Frailes. He must have seen the disappointment in my face. “It is only nine kilometers down the road and it is much nicer.”
Nine kilometers = 5.59 miles = 35 minutes. Ugh. OK. Fine. I can handle that.