Sunday, January 10, 2010

San Felipe, Baja California

So, yes, I've been electronically quiet lately. After nearly a year without full-time work, I have returned to the reality of it. I'm a preschool teacher these days and despite the challenging nature of the job, I'm enjoying the experience. That said, after a day with the kiddies, I'm absolutely knackered! As a result, little writing is happening.

It is the break from working life that seems to inspire me to share. Our trip to Mexico just after Christmas was a well timed respite from my new job. And the idea was to escape the grey, gloomy winter and get some sunshine. Five years in Brisbane has spoiled me for cold weather.

We started the drive on Boxing Day. Much of the daylight was spent driving through the farmland of central California. Fruit and nut trees, mandarin, orange and lemon groves, row crops and a seemingly endless stretch of freeway carried us to the Mojave Desert.

Even in the dark, the landscape change was evident. The Sierra Nevada now lay to our west and the warmth and water of the coast left on the other side of them. We spent our first night in La Quinta, arriving hours after dark. Exhausted, we fell into the van at a campground located on Lake Cahuilla. The view when we woke up in the morning made the day long drive worth the effort.

We got up early and made a run for the border. Breakfast was a couple of tacos de carnitas at a Mexican restaurant so authentic no one spoke English. We did not dilly dally and found ourselves at the border early in the day. The crossing was uneventful: passports casually glanced at and then we were through. Not even a stamp!

Once in Mexico the streets narrowed and the signs switched to solely the Spanish language and the metric system. We followed the signs through Mexicali to San Felipe. Once out of the city proper, after some farms, the land seemed to give over to miles of desolate sand.

J. Maarten Troot's "Lost in China" on cd continued to entertain as we arrived into San Felipe. To our left aqua waters lapped at white sand beaches and the sun shone down as if upon salvation itself. I could already smell the salt and feel the warmth on my skin as the cold of the last few months drained away.

Unfortunately, by the time we'd set up camp, clouds had emerged from seemingly nowhere and taken over the sky. Any idea of warmth I had was snapped up and carried away by gale force winds. The sparkly water had turned to a grey, roiling mess. Still, we'd arrived at the beach. In Mexico!

Our campsite was pretty cool. We parked our van next to a palapa that overlooked the ocean. When it was sunny, a camping spot right on the ocean seemed ideal. With the weather turn, our spot meant cold wind, cold air, cold. The next day and a half of crummy weather we spent wondering why we'd bothered to drive two days, meanwhile stuffing ourselves with cheap tacos and Tecate.

Oh right, cheap Mexican food and Tecate! Not to mention the fact that because San Felipe is a fishing village, fresh fish can be yours for few pesos. That's reason enough to drive two days, isn't it?! The morning that we awoke to bright sunshine and its warmth, we decided that yes, it was a brilliant idea to drive all that way. It is glorious here!

Because we came during the off season, the town was fairly quiet. A few vendors wandered up and down the boardwalk hawking silver, trinkets from Peru and masks from Oaxaca, fisherman chatted up gringos with the hopes that they would pay to go out on the sea and many of the main bars were closed for the winter. This didn't hurt my feelings. Who wants to spend time in Mexico in a bar called "Rockadiles"?! Sounds too gringo for this gringa.

One night after a beautiful day of sunshine and sun-baking, yep, in bathing suits in winter, we met three Canadians: a geek who reminded me much of my close friend Rob, a musician reminiscent of a moody ex and a Communications Expert who automatically felt like a kindred spirit.

We all had such a good time chatting and drinking together that we agreed to meet the next day, New Years Eve. Many drinks and some fancy-shmancy Mexican food were consumed and we almost made it to midnight together. Unfortunately, the moody musician chucked it and things dispersed from there.

Just after midnight Rohan and I found ourselves sitting on the beach in our chairs, beers in hand recounting the year passed and predicting the year to come. May the ride continue!

Happy New Year to all!