There’s a place on the easternmost tip of the Baja peninsula where the pigs and dogs commune unleashed in the streets, the only power comes from the sun, and life gets elevated to it’s highest simplicity. In 1995 after a long campaign by reformed fisherman, Cabo Pulmo became a national park. The impact of this single act is just beginning to reveal itself. A biomass nearly doubled in size now, this special place is home to 12 of the Pacific’s 14 types of coral. No longer able to make a living fishing, the locals have turned, following the family who started the campaign for protection, to Eco tourism. Dive trips to the caves, mountain biking in the hills and canyons surrounding the shore, and simple snorkeling excursions have led the way to a new life, not only for the countless fauna, but for the humans themselves.
After our best friend from college died, our compatriot Liz ventured south to start a new chapter of life aboard an adventure cruise ship. The boat summers in Alaska and winters here, in the Sea of Cortez. This park, little known to most folks from the US, is legendary as a rich retreat locale among adventure guides and Baja locals alike, but remains foreign to the Gringo beachcombers just miles away in Cabo. Liz chose this special place to start our itinerary on my first trip to meet her where she and her soul reside these days.
The streets here are dotted with grass thatched huts. Outdoor kitchens rigged to simple propane tanks, and holes in the walls which never needed glass to protect the contents when a simple nailed wooden screen frame will do. There are no 5 star hotels here, but there is clearly a level of hospitality unmatched in the resort towns of Cabo or Cozumel. If you choose to trek the miles of pocked dirt roads to make it here, you will be treated as a local. Rush hour consists of 6 cars, one of which is the “colectivo,” a pickup with cattle guards, where 15 or more workers with standing-room only pack the back en route to work each morning. That’s it. Six vehicles which arrive in a parade, the balance of the population woke up here this morning.
There are 2 restaurants here, but the locals don’t know why you’d ever go to the Coral Reef; Caballero’s (translation: Cowboy’s) is the only place to be. Liz and I found ourselves there three times yesterday: early morning coffee to start our day, met our host there midday, and closed out our time last night with the best margarita I’d ever had.
As I returned from my sunrise walk this morning, after a now 40 hour complete fast from email, social media, and phones, I found myself wondering if I was just fantasizing about life here or if I could really live it. Homes are pieced together with bits of old RV trailers and leftover sheet goods. Roofs comprised of the palms found dotting the paths to the sea. This is a place where television is an electrical luxury only to be shared in a communal gathering place like Caballero's.
As disconnected as I’ve become here in this paradise, it seems there is a deeper kind of connection to be had here. One we’ve all discovered in the past, but need to remind ourselves of from time to time. Our connection with one another and with the land we live on. It is appropriate, then, for me to begin my Lenten journey here in a place where I can only be connected to reality. Where I talk to the town pigs on my morning walk, stay up late dreaming with my college girlfriend, and never think to wonder what’s going on in the rest of the world. I haven’t heard about Donald Trump or Bernie in the last two days, and I don’t miss them at all.
- if you come here, be sure to allow time to drive here before dark. We were warned of the “catel” on the roads at night before we left. Happily discovering that our friendly advisor was in fact saying “cattle” rather than “cartel” we were slowed more than once by a surprising bovine in the road.
- Eco Adventure Tours is the way to go for dive and snorkel trips. Owned by the family which led the campaign for protection of this natural gem, these folks are small and attentive to the delicate reefs first, and your desires to experience them second. This provides for incredible knowledge of reef life and animal behavior.
- Buy your groceries before you come. The only supplies to be had are contained on 10 feet of shelving provided almost as an afterthought at Caballero’s.
- These simple “bungalows” are a retreat unlike most others you’ve had. For $60/night you will find yourself wondering just how long you can stay the next time you come. We found ours on Air B&B, there are many other ways to book as well.
- Bring your hiking shoes. Many of the remote beaches are accessible only by 45 minute hike. That assures you will find your solitude, but bouldering in your flip flops is not advised.