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~ Chapter Six ~
Bahia Tortugas to Punta Abreojos
I left all of the drapes open in the room to let the early morning light wake me up at the break of dawn. If I would have known about all of the roosters in town I could have left the drapes closed. I took a heavenly shower, put on my cleanest dirty clothes, and strapped on my backpack. I slowly headed downhill to the pier where the Vaka Viti was quietly sleeping next to another panga. I carefully climbed down the rusty ladder and pulled in the boat with the damp tie down line. After securing the deck I started the motor and slowly headed out to sea. I was looking forward to visiting a Baja location that I have eyed on the map for many years...Punta Abreojos. Abreojos was known in Baja circles as a fun destination for surfers and windsurfers, and for those who just wanted to get away from it all. And it had a small fleet of fishing pangas, which meant it was a designated gas stop for my thirsty panga!
The Gods had provided another great day for cruising. The sun was out, the seas were only about two feet, and there was only a slight wind. I was beginning to realize what great weather I had experienced on this trip so far, and how fortunate I was not to have to fight big waves, strong winds and foggy seas. I would have done the trip in whatever type of weather I was dealt with, but having nice weather made the voyage much more enjoyable.
South of Tortugas the mountains were high and dramatic, leaving no room for beaches as they reached down to rub elbows with the ocean. About an hour south of Tortugas I spotted an extremely picturesque fishing village snug in a steep valley at the base of a hill. Unlike most fish camps this remote pueblo called Puerto Nuevo seemed to offer a sense of community, and I could see a small church behind the small houses. I thought how simple life must be in a little village so far removed from civilization! They probably had a generator for lights and television, but the desolate location put them very much in touch with life's basics, nature and the sea. Another great destination for a future road trip!
The coastline south continued to be inaccessible, although occasionally beaches appeared between the low lying bluffs. I knew that behind these bluffs there were hundreds of square miles of Baja's most stark desert, the Vizciano. This was the type of desert terrain that epitomizes many of the deserts in southwestern North America...never-ending miles of sand and barren desert. The main town connecting this desolate area to the rest of the world was the small town of Vizciano, slung haphazardly along Highway One like an afterthought. And one of my most memorable Peninsula moments just happened to take shape on the outskirts of town of town about 7 years earlier.
I was making my way to San Juanico Bay via Baja Highway One in a smokey 3/4 ton stake-bed truck. My buddy John Rellos had just finished building a house in San Juanico and I had volunteered to take a load full of furniture to the new residence, affectionately know as Casa Volando. John provided me with the truck, gas and cervesa money and his trusted employee Estaban to share the driving. Just south of Vizciano we noticed what appeared to be a mirage standing next to the blazing hot asphalt. But it was no mirage...it was Sylvia. There she stood proud as a peacock in red high heals, a low cut red blouse, bright red lips and a full head of hair blowing in the dry desert wind. And her thumb was out. I knew there was an adventure here and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to pick her up.
I had picked up hitch-hikers many times before in Baja and always enjoyed giving a lift to an amigo or amiga in need. That was the Baja way. I had even picked up working ladies before with amusing consequences. But Sylvia was no regular working lady. Indeed, as Estaban jumped in the back seat and Sylvia crawled into the front seat, it took about two seconds for me to figure out that Sylvia was a man. And a fairly good-sized man at that. She gently shook my hand with her island-sized paw and smiled flirtingly at Estaban in the back seat. Estaban didn't know what to think and quite frankly neither did I. She was already in the truck and we were committed. So off we went down Highway One looking a lot like the three stooges.
Sylvia was a chatter box and made it clear from the git-go that she was working. She said she worked the Highway, mainly truckers, and was headed south to San Ignacio for a job she had lined up. She said she would be happy to make some money while she was going down (no pun intended). Even though we weren't looking to buy I always enjoyed window shopping so I asked Sylvia how much she charged for her services. She quoted a price in pesos that calculated out to be about $8.00 U.S. Estaban and I looked at each other and nodded in agreement that Sylvia seemed to have her services competitively priced. But I wanted her to understand that we were just giving her a ride and that her favors would have to wait for her client in San Ignacio. She seemed to take the news in stride...I'm sure it wasn't the first time her services had been declined, it just goes with the job. After another hour of talking we dropped her off at the gas station in San Ignacio and she was on her way. I can no longer drive through Visciano without thinking about the road-side mirage that turned out to be Sylvia.
As I motored the Vaka Viti south the beaches soon became more prevalent. I knew I was closing in on Abreojos. I rounded the final point and the bay and the small village of Abreojos came into view. It was easy to spot my best chance for gasoline...a row of pangas lined the beach mid-town with fishermen behind the boats getting their lines ready for the next morning. Not wanting to get in their way I slowly motored a bit northwest of the boats, heading towards a calm beach which was protected by a small reef. Once past the reef I decided to drop anchor about 20 feet from shore and then walk with my gas containers in waist high water to shore. But before I reached the area where I wanted to stop I heard a high pitched whistle from a fisherman on shore. He was trying to warn me of a second reef that was submerged behind the first reef. Too late. As I spotted the second reef I immediately tried to throw the motor in reverse, but the forward momentum of the boat pushed it directly into the reef and the sound of my prop hitting it made me cringe. After negotiating 600 miles of open coastline with dozens of jagged reefs I finally hit my prop on a rock 20 feet from shore while trying to park!
The boat finally started it's reverse motion and I quickly whipped the steering to the left to avoid hitting the reef a second time as I backed out. Luck was with me as I slipped into deeper water to catch my breath. Maybe pulling up on the main panga beach wasn't such a bad idea after all. I could always motor the Vaka further from shore after I filled up with gas. A quick inspection of the prop revealed only minor damage and even though I had brought along a spare prop I felt very relieved that I would not have to use it...yet.
Gasoline was easy to find just a block up the beach and a block back from the shore. The old man who sold the gas kept large drums in a shed next to his house, and he seemed particularly happy to fill up my 4 empty containers. Maybe it was his birthday. Soon I had my gas cans back on the boat and then I headed back to shore to find a place to eat. I was getting quite used to this one-meal-a-day routine.
As my wet feet hit the main dirt street I saw a newer white Ford pick-up slowly headed my way. I had been to Mexico enough times to know that this was no Mexican vehicle, and that the Gringo driver could probably steer me towards a good place to tie on a tasty feed bag. I had no reservations about walking up and talking to the driver as it is common practice in Baja to stop and chat with fellow travelers. He seemed happy to help out a fellow norte-Americano and directed me to a small restaurant up the street that he highly recommended. As his pretty blonde girlfriend looked on he mentioned that he was building a house just south of town and that he had been coming to Abreojos for several years to surf and enjoy the quiet life. If he wanted to 'drop out' of society he certainly found the right place to do it. I thanked him for his time and headed up the street towards the restaurant he recommended.
No surprise...the restaurant was closed. As were the other two restaurants in town that were recommended by the local people. Although I was enjoying the view trotting around town looking for a bite to eat it was starting to get dark and I wanted to get back on the boat before it got too late. I finally found another restaurant with two tables and 5 chairs on a side street and they were open and ready to serve. After a home-made Mexican meal I felt great and trucked on back to the boat. The tide had come in during my quest for food and I had to swim the last 20 feet to the boat with my backpack balanced on my head. But the air was still warm and the air was still so I didn't worry about getting wet before going to sleep. I made my bed, put on a pair of dry Levi's and a sweatshirt and went to sleep knowing that tomorrow I would be seeing old friends in the beautiful bay of San Juanico 90 miles to the south.