Looking back at the pictures, Southern Baja seems like a dreamscape in a faraway land. We had so much fun I can’t even begin to tell you. After spending a fair amount of time in Northern Baja, and thoroughly enjoying it, the reputation of southern Baja precedes itself. A line dropped here and there. Have you been to southern Baja yet? Wait till you get to Southern Baja, that’s real Baja. Well we were perfectly happy and satisfied with northern Baja, so if only gets better, bring it on. Well, truth is, it did.
We reluctantly left The Wall, practically had to drag our asses out of there, and made our way to Abreojos. May I remind you, all we had to go on for the most part was hearsay and the map in the ‘Surfer’s Guide to Baja’, which is a must have if you plan on making the trek. Especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Luckily we have Ingrid, who is a key figure on the trip, holding the group together and making all the necessary and vital translations to keep things running smooth. Not to mention she is an amazing photographer, computer specialist, artist, surfer, communicator, blogger, and 5 star vegan chef. To sum it up, we would be nobody in the middle of nowhere without her. We meaning Ingrid, Malwina, and myself.
Abreojos is one of the few distant points that actually has a paved road leading to it. This is a major benefit because unpaved roads in Baja, which most of them are, will most certainly lead to the destruction of your vehicle. It’s not if, it’s when. And the landscape, though deceptively beautiful, is most entirely inhospitable. In short, you wouldn’t want to get stuck out there with a flat tire let alone a broken tie-rod end, if you know what I mean. Now don’t get the wrong idea, this paved road was not an easy ride. In fact, the paved roads are more dangerous than the unpaved roads because if you get too comfortable and start moving too fast, and hit one of the numerous pot holes, and by pothole I mean gaping craters that look like a bomb went off or sections of the road completely washed out by some invisible raging river, you are sure to destroy your front end and the trip will be over for the time being. In my 20+ years of surfing I have found that swell waits for no one.
Anyway, we took this road to the end where it becomes dirt again, but it’s fine because your entering the dusty little town of Abreojos. And it’s beautiful. There's an airport, believe it or not, but it’s really just a great flat hard packed sandy field, like a flood plain. Dry as a bone, you have to drive across it to get to the waves. It so happened that there was a late season hurricane, thanks to El Niño, (thanks El Niño) and we timed our arrival just before the swell hit. Not much surf to speak of when we got there, we set up camp right on the point, standard practice, hardly a soul around. The next morning, there still wasn’t much surf so we went for breakfast and wi-fi across the field of sand and checked the surf report. Well the surf report said it was pumping and sure enough, when we got back to the point, it was.
Malwina and I paddle out and were catching these crazy bombs breaking over razor sharp reef and it was sucking out dry. We were freaking each other out on every take off, I swear I saw Malwina get such an epic wave, almost barreled in front of dry reef. Nobody out but us. Crazy spot, we also surfed up near the town where they launch the boats, sandy beach break, fun waves, kind of wedging off the nearby reef as they got squeezed into the corner. Surfed with two young local rippers, nice kids. All the local surfers we met for the most part, down the length of Baja, were like this. At dusk we saw the boats going out through a peaking hurricane swell, and upon questioning the local surfers they responded saying they’re going out to protect their fishing spots and lobster traps from poachers. I thought to myself, damn, these guys are out all day working in the heat of the sun, then right back out there all night to guard their spots, in pumping surf. Brutal. Poachers be damned. We even met a vigilante in San Juanico who when watching all night from shore for poachers, has access to military grade night-vision googles and a gun to shoot at the boats, just in case. This is daily life in Baja. We left after the swell, but not before finding out the truth about what happened to Adam and Dean, our Australian friends who crossed to mainland never to return. God bless them. This is daily life on mainland apparently. Shook up but still feeling confident in our travels, we moved on further south to the famed and fabled surf spot, most commonly referred to as Scorpion Bay.
There are three ways to get to Scorpion Bay from the north. The first is the shortest and most direct, but also the most risky, involving a long stretch of unmarked and unpaved roads. The second, longer but a little less risky, has you driving through the mountains as the Transpenisular highway runs along the Gulf of California at this point. The third is the longest, has you driving well south of Scorpion Bay, where you pick up a road that runs north back up to the point, paved the whole way. We took this route since we were with our friend Malwina who was driving a Toyota Previa, and decided against the risk of the unknown and unfamiliar track across the mountains. The Previa turns out to be an ultimate Baja vehicle, equipped with all-wheel drive, but with a questionable amount of clearance. Never was an issue though, Malwina was able to go everywhere we went. A little scrapey-scrapey here and there, but no problems. Well after I don’t know how many hours of grueling miles, we were finally within range of the legendary point.
Point would be an understatement. It’s a series of 7-8 points, each one a surf spot of it’s own. Depending on the wind and the swell angle, they all have their day. The first 3 are what dreams are made out of, though we never saw them in full regal. 4 and 6 were working, so we got right to it. Epic surf, mind boggling experience. Crystal clear water, sea life everywhere. This is where we started seeing whales jumping offshore so often that it became an inside joke. Ho hum, there’s another whale jumping. Apparently they’re are looking to land in order to find their bearings, as they make their way to Guerrero Negro or the various bays along the coast of Baja to birth their calves. They like to have their babies in the shallow water of the bays so predators can’t sneak up on them from beneath. If a shark was to try and go for one, they could smother it with their great bulk. Ingenious.
We stayed for 17 days in total, we tried to leave once but turned around right before the first river crossing to stay for 3-4 more days. It’s all a blur to me now, but one of my greatest memories and all time experiences to date. We met so many locals, partied with them, they would come where we were free-camping on the beach, we would make merry and have a blast.
There was one thing however, that was shockingly clear from the minute we got there. How despicably rude the gringos were to us, who had ‘purchased’ land there, and then ‘assumed’ local status. What a joke. Not only that, these supposedly purist surfers who had arrived here ‘decades’ ago, camped on the point and enjoyed the freedom of the land, have now ‘bought’ up the points, built large, ugly, and completely non-progressive structures and somehow convinced the town to make camping illegal on the point. Tragic. There’s a special place in hell for these guys I’m sure of it. I never really heard of or had encountered true surf snobbery up until this ‘point’. We couldn’t give a rats ass for any of them, save a precious few.
Ron, with the dogs and the broken foot, (bummer dude! still surfed like a champ) and the Hickles: Matt and Jordan, who turned out to be some of the finest and most honorable gringo surfers we’ve met to date. Gracious and overwhelmingly considerate, took us in like family and gave us access to all they had. Food, clothing, showers, wi-fi, kitchen, beers, surfboards, you name it. I mean these guys had it all, and with style! We even washed our vehicles upon Matt’s persuasion, on a dusty, windy, surf-less day. Their place was so cool, I’ll never forget how well they treated us and how much fun we had with them. We miss you guys, see you in Ventura one day, or God willing, good old San Juanico. I’d like to take this moment to shout out, Chepe, Cheque, Miguel, Junior, Jesus, Nando, Alejandro and Samael. Que onda chingones!
When we left San Juanico, not surprisingly, a great depression set in. How could it possibly get any better? Well, it didn’t last long. After a night of r+r in Constitution, we restocked and made our way to Punta Conejo. As we rolled up on the point, we were greeted with long peeling left-hand breaking waves. A rare find in Baja, most of the waves are right handers. Moral jumped to an all time high for the goofy footers, (Ingrid and I) and we wasted no time in making our way out to the line-up. Epic first session, but it never really got good again. Oh well, I long boarded the whole time with practically no one out so I wasn’t complaining.
We re-united with the Baja tribe, the kiwis and the Canadians, Louie showed up with his friends, and we had Christmas at Conejo. An all time experience, couldn’t have planned it better if we tried. We built a drift-wood Christmas tree, and had a huge bonfire in the arroyo. Totally epic. We saw our first scorpion at Conejo, and formidable it was. It was under my board bag in the morning and it seemed to like us and stuck around for the evening festivities. Hospitable little fellow, after all we were on his turf. I would have loved to stay at Conejo for the next 6 months but alas, all good things must come to an end and we continued on to our ultimate destination, which was Todos Santos. Malwina has connections there and was planning on staying there for an undetermined amount of time. We were trying to convince her to come with us to mainland, but we have yet to see her again since we left Todos.
Ah Todos Santos. I immediately felt a kinship with this town, something special about this place. The feeling in the air, the layout of the town, the brand spanking new roads they had just finished upon our arrival, everything seemed so inviting. We went to check Cerritos just before dark, met some cool kids, and ended up staying where we parked for the night. Woke up in the morning, surfed, then went to check it all out.
We ended up staying for a month and a half, New Years at San Pedrito with the Baja tribe, (yew!!! epic party) and spent the majority of our time camping at La Pastora. What a beautiful place. All of Todos Santos is really, there’s magic in the air. People know it, and there’s developers desperately trying to exploit it. I related to this because it’s very much the same where I come from on the east end of Long Island. In fact, wouldn’t you know that one of the main consultants was someone I know from summers in Montauk who is directly connected to a very controversial venue there. Fancy that! Now this guy I know, I don’t have a problem with, in fact is seemingly a very nice person face to face, but track records speak for themselves. Oh well, I hope they don’t destroy the small town charm in the process. Regardless, life goes on and so did we all the way to ‘El fin de la Tierra’, or Land’s End.
Possibly the most beautiful spot in all of Baja, Land’s end is located in Cabo San Lucas, party capitol of Baja. The high rise hotels are a deplorable sight after all those miles of nothing but nature, but after a 10 minute boat ride you arrive at the southern tip of Baja, and stunning it is. There is the most beautiful beach located in a space between two giant cliffs. Lover’s beach, has a shoreline on both the Pacific and the Gulf side of Baja. One is open ocean and sparsely populated. The other, more protected from the relentless surf, is where the people tend to hang out. It’s also a bit more shady, compliments of the mountainous terrain. We spent an unforgettable half an hour there, and vowed to go back for a full day. We have yet to do this, but it’s a good excuse to go back. Excellent snorkeling, an array of sea life surrounds this majestic point. This is where I found myself swimming with a sea lion in an enormous school of fish. My camera ran out of battery right at this time. C’est la vie! Still an incredible experience. The water and air temp. were perfect.
Cabo San Lucas is home to the famous bar Cabo Wabo. I’d heard of this bar long ago and planned on visiting ever since we set out on this trip. I didn’t however, plan on getting as rip-roaring drunk as we did. After a few too many drinks at the upstairs bar, we moved downstairs to the outside bar where there was live music, and met an American couple with whom we got into an in depth discussion on American politics and the individual presidential candidates that we endorse, respectively. They bought us frozen Margaritas till we were blue in the face, and we stumbled out of there, somehow still on good terms, completely out of our minds. Found somewhere serving vegetable soup, and dunked our heads in it. We have not been that blitzed since. I can’t remember their names, but I do remember how much I liked them despite our differences, and how much I related to their approach, way of life, style, and thought process, even though we were coming from two opposite ends of the spectrum. We made it back to the van, and slept until the burning sun and the parking attendant forced us out.
As we rounded the cape, we spent some nights on a beach between Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San Jose. I forget the name, but it’s the only one you can free camp on. The sun was now setting over the mountains and rising over the Sea of Cortez, officially marking our arrival to the East Cape.