Visions of paradise danced in my head as I dreamed of my retreat to the Sea of Cortez – during the hottest month of the year, of course. After saying my final goodbye to my beloved Luna, the idea of two days doing nothing but floating in kiddy-pool warm waters, burying my toes in powdered sugar sand, reading, writing, or simply staring at the azure sea, while my two pups exhausted themselves chasing birds and swimming, sounded irresistible. There are few things I love better than camping under the stars, a body of water lapping at my feet, sitting in the door of my tent and sipping freshly brewed coffee as the sun peeks over the hills to the east, and listening to the birds awake.
On Monday I had to drop my wee Pequeña at the vet for ACL surgery, she would be ready for pick-up on Wednesday, so a couple nights camping at the water’s edge seemed perfect. Packing the bare minimum, I loaded my gear and the pups in the car and we trundled off to La Paz, then Playa El Tecolote beyond.
It was mid-morning when we arrived and there was a still a breeze blowing off the water and keeping the temperatures tolerable. First things first, I dropped my drawers, shimmied into my swimsuit, and waded into the water. Yes, it was just as perfect as it was in my dreams. As my skin began to prune, the idea of setting up my tent began to sound tolerable. I pulled the tent out of my car, unzipped the bag and rolled the tent out on the ground, inserted the poles, and popped the tent to standing. Only when the tent was fully upright did I realize that the door was completely ripped from side to side just above the zipper. Crappadoodle. Oh well. The tent has served me well since 1994 and I had plenty of insect repellent. It would be just fine.
Next, I rolled my blow-up mattress on the floor of the tent, hooked up the inflator, and turned it on. I had been charging the unit for the past three days to make sure it was fully charged. I’m not sure that three weeks would have been enough. The inflator began winding down way too soon. I eeked out a few more puffs of air and it seemed mattress the might be firm enough. I hoped it was firm enough. So I covered it in clean sheets, threw in my pillows, and called it good.
That done, I could pull out my beach umbrella and relax in the shade with my book. But not before another long, finger-puckering soak in sea. After numerous attempts, I surrendered, I’m not smarter than a beach umbrella. I tried over and over to screw it into the sand, but no sooner had I had fought with Jalisco for the perfect spot in the shade, the umbrella would up and fly away. The Sea of Cortez side of Baja is seriously devoid of shade, there was no tree to crawl under and I dare you to lean into the welcoming arms and shade of a cacti. Around 4:00 p.m. I gave up, opened all the doors to my car, climbed into the front seat with my book, and read through my eyelids for a while.
As the sun was beginning to set, I fed the pups then reached into my insulated grocery shopping bag, the one I had loaded with cheese, yogurt, sun-dried tomatoes, a bottle of wine, and a bag of ice (hey, I’m on retreat so all my dietary restrictions took a hiatus, except for the 8.5 ounce bag of salt and pepper ruffled potato chips, those are allowed on my eating plan, but I’d just about polished off the entire bag in the six hours that I had been on retreat). The ice had almost completely melted and my cheese was floating in the water, bringing back memories of childhood camping trips. No big deal, I had an emergency ziplock freezer bag and soggy cheese isn’t so bad, especially when accompanied by a glass of wine in a plastic cup consumed in the comfort of the Sea of Cortez while wearing nothing but swimsuit bottoms.
Time for bed, so I changed into my pajamas, tried to brush the sand off my body, then off the bodies of my still damp dogs. Sitting down on what I assumed was my still firm air mattress, my butt hit solid rock. Nope, the inflator had not done its job, and it appeared I had a hole in my mattress. Cacapoopoo. I was barely able to get the dogs into the tent, and when I did they both sprawled their 50+ pound bodies across the entire mattress, leaving little room for their dear mama. It wasn’t too bad, since it was still hot and sleeping with my feet sticking out through the hole in the tent acted as both a/c and a deterrent from the dogs sneaking out of the tent – still wet and sandy dogs who were panting and drooling and breathing hot breath in my face, breath redolent of dead fish and dried up crab shells. Every time I moved it was like an orgy on a half-full waterbed, bumping ground and flailing about at every move. It was only when I was entombed in my now sand-filled bed that I realized I had new sunburn lines, lines that were both a little higher and a little lower than the existing lines. Every time I rolled over my literal sand-fabric sheets reminded me that even after two years of Baja living, I was still a lily-white Irish lass from Oregon. I was pretty ecstatic when the wind picked up and began cooling our sauna down to a tolerable temperature, but the wind also picked up the wave, which now sounded as if they were lapping at my feet, which were still hanging out the hole in the door of my tent.
That blessed wind of the night before became my curse in the pre-dawn hours. My borrowed stove kept blowing out, making it impossible to heat a pot of water. Crapapoopeedoodoo. No steaming hot morning joe to greet the new day. This was just about the last straw. My morning café would have to wait until after our hike to Playa la Balandra and another skin-puckering soak. (Gracias adios, the walk was stunningly spectacular, like it always is.) Surely, one of the restaurants that line the civilized beach so far away would have coffee. I checked in with each and every one, the best they could do was Nescafe, one place I simply cannot go. So although they looked at me like I was crazy, they sold me a pot of boiled water so I could make my own coffee, and by noon I was enjoying my morning cuppa on the shores of the glorious Sea of Cortez.
To Be Continued…