Monday, July 28, 2008

Baja Tuesday's... A Journey Through Hilarity

Horse power, Horsepower and The Secret in the Sand
A Photographic Odyssey
Part II

When traveling, it is important to remain flexible. One must try to remember that all things are an adventure...even when others are looking at you as if you've lost what little good sense you previously possessed. It was this epiphany that motivated me to join Dave and Ryan on their 4-wheeled adventure trip when I could otherwise have been shopping and lounging by the pool with a rum laden beverage in hand. And seeing Ryan's innate ability to maneuver and handle the bike was pretty impressive, too, bringing him back into good standing after The Great Muffin Conflict.
We began the day with breakfast by the pool, the now usual routine. Dave orders me coffee and we stare past the veranda to the marina and beyond, to the sea. Our trip is halfway over and we're all a little regretful. It's gone by too fast. The slow pace of this town has infected us and we're all moving on what is known as 'Mexico Time'. Eileen has decided to stay at the resort today. She's intent on doing a little shopping in the mall near our hotel and picking up the standard 'grandkid gifts'. I have a moment when I consider skipping out on this ATV thing, but it passes. I'm trying to relax and have an adventure but this persistent will to live is perpetually requesting that I rethink my plans.
Eileen bids us a fond farewell and more or less waves over her shoulder as she trots out of the lobby on her way to the mall. I can hear her singing a little song about Pina Coladas as she skips out the door and into the Mexican sunshine. Hm, I think to myself. There goes my last chance out of this. I suppose I could have my own shopping day...or just sit with Francisco, the bartender, at the pool...
Just then the van pulls up to the portico in front of the lobby. The name of a local ranch is painted on the side and there's a driver getting out. Too late now.
"Here he is. This is us." Dave starts walking and hands the driver the voucher we received from the lovely Violet. Ryan is practically giddy, he's so excited. He dances his way into the van like a two year old who's been promised a pony ride, pulling me along with him.
We all climb in and zoom from the parking lot. I'm wishing these commuter vans came equipped with a 5 point harness and will be grateful if we even make it to our destination. The ride to the ranch is long. We see the same construction and cacti that we saw coming into Cabo. I look over at Ryan occasionally and he grins at me, wide and toothy. He's beyond reason.
We eventually arrive at a lean-to with the ranches name above it and 15 or 20 ATV's parked in front. It's swelteringly hot and dusty. We're surrounded by a cacti forest on all sides with deeply rutted roads leading in and out. Is this a tour or a mugging, I ask myself? Dave and Ryan sign their lives away on a waver and I'm asked to do the same. I don't even look, just point and sign. I don't want to know what could happen to me on these dusty roads in Mexico. I'm taking a chance. It's an adventure.
Ryan and Dave are given their bikes. Ryan and I are riding together, so I climb on behind him and adjust the goggles and bandanna we've been given. The bikes roar to life and our guide, Thomas, leads the way past the cacti and through an exceedingly low-ceilinged tunnel that passes beneath the highway. We emerge into the sun on the other side and suddenly Thomas is out of sight. He's hit the accelerator and is streaking up the hill, a hill that is pitted and full of holes, littered with stones and rubble. 'Shaking like a belly dancer' does not begin to describe what was happening to us on that bike as we ascended the hill and realized we had so far to go. Dusty, pitted roads spread out before us through the desert with no end in sight. I didn't have time to ask questions. Ryan hit the throttle and I was literally hanging on for dear life, sliding inch by inch off the back of the speeding ATV.
Ryan was laughing behind his goggles and bandanna and I was screaming in abject terror. We eventually came out at the top of a steep ravine where we stopped to breathe and where Ryan slowly untangled my limbs from around his waste and neck. From this vantage we could see where we were headed, down the ravine on a winding trail and through a dry riverbed to the beach. We took a moment to enjoy the view and then I heard Ryan whisper, 'Dunes', before we careened over the edge of the world and into the canyon.


Yep. That's Dave. We're racing. I think we lost.

Group photo. None too clear, but trust me, that's us.

Obviously we made the descent well enough. Ryan and Dave were having the time of their lives, and if I'm honest, I have to admit that hanging on to Ryan while we raced around like irresponsible maniacs was pretty fun for me, too.
We spent the day racing, exploring and riding along the surf. It was at the end of this amazing afternoon that our guide, Thomas, began talking about the island that lay off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. A tiny spit of land, really, yet home to many ex-Cabo residents. Apparently, the Mexican authorities thought Australia and Alcatraz were pretty good ideas, and have been sending criminals (and their families) to make it or break it on this island for years. The numero uno offense that lands people on Prison Bar (like my little play on words there??) ? Disturbing the colony of Sea Turtles that yearly make their nests in the sands near Cabo San Lucas.
"They ask no questions." Says Thomas. "You touch the eggs without a license, they take you and your whole family out to La Isla and you don't come back. Fortunately, all the guides for these tours are licensed to protect. We mark nests and keep people away."
I am impressed and wary at the same time. We've taken a break to get some water and to sit in the shade. I am COVERED in the dust that we've kicked up in our fun. Ryan is clean as a whistle since my body shielded him. I might have ruined one of my favorite shirts, but the cute criss cross straps have made a pretty neat dirt mosaic on my back which I suspect may never wash off. I ponder the variety of methods I might employ to scrape the grime off of my body while simultaneously listening to Thomas and thinking about the buffet that will be spread out later. I'm nothing if not a multi-tasker.
" you see those logs in the sand right there?" Thomas points a short distance from where we are standing. We nod.
"There's a nest right there. Almost ready to hatch. Two, three days maybe."
We are all amazed now and I am no longer thinking about food or showers. "Right there?? Sea turtle eggs???"
"Yeah, come on. I'll show you."
Thomas walks to the logs and kneels down. He begins scooping fistfuls out and making a pile. I am kneeling at the edge next to him, caught up in wonder. And then I see them, a literal PILE of perfectly round, golf-ball sized eggs. He picks one up and hands it to me.
"They hatch maybe tomorrow. You can feel them moving."
And I could. The shell was surprisingly papery and thin and beneath it I could feel the tiny turtle wiggle in my fingers. The couple who is biking with us wants a turn and I hand over the egg with regret. Our camera malfunctions at that moment and my photo op is lost. I am disappointed to lose the picture, but feel as if the whole experience was somehow a quiet personal secret, a once in a lifetime experience, and at that moment I am undeniably glad that I came.

In the end, joining in on the fun with Ryan and Dave was absolutely the right choice. A minor sunburn, total filth, absolute exhaustion- but a day that turned out to be adventurous, exhilarating and even magical at times, teaching me to keep an open mind and to look for wonder every moment, like finding the turtle nest or seeing the small herd of wild donkeys grazing in the desert on our way back. Wonder is kind of a hard thing to pull off when raising three children and being stuck in the peanut butter and jelly rut.

The trip back goes twice as quickly as the ride there. My mouth is full of sand and I'm reluctant to smile at anyone. We climb back into the waiting van and my stomach reminds me that our buffet fantasies were interrupted earlier and I resume them where I left off. Ryan's grin is plastered in place. His arm hangs around my shoulders. He's happy and relaxed.
We head back to the hotel and I am looking at Ryan in a totally different light as we bump along through the construction zones. Dave is in the front seat telling the Pepelina story to the 4th shuttle driver since this trip began. It's still funny to us and we know the whole thing word for word in spanish now. The driver is laughing so hard I wonder if he's able to drive, then rethink that. He's not such a great driver stone cold sober, a little laughter can't make it worse. He might be more careful with us now that he knows how gifted we are in the humor department. One never knows.
I am content as I watch the fleeting sun go down over the sea beyond the van window. A step outside of the comfort zone certainly, but this adventure ranks very high on my list of Great Day's for the unusual experiences hidden in a simple ATV tour.
We join Eileen for dinner by the pool later that night, the lights from the marina reflecting in the water and the sounds of laughter and conversation adrift around us. She has had a relaxing day of her own, wandering through town and talking with the locals. We tell her about the trip and the turtles and the view and she is amazed and only half sorry to have missed it all.
Tomorrow is another day. Dave and Eileen will have been married 36 years and we're celebrating their anniversary with a romantic dinner cruise at sunset. Only God and the fates know what tomorrow holds- but I assure you, it wasn't what any of us had planned. All we can do is wait and see...

Please stay tuned for next weeks episode of Baja Tuesday's...
"I think we might be on the wrong boat..."


Jessica said...

Wow, that sounds so wonderful. What a beautiful day!
You got the real goods when they were passin' out in-laws, too, babe.

Anonymous said...

my darling brother gets that same (alarmingly?) dopey grin of satisfaction upon riding like hell for no reason. i'd be willing to call it a genetic defect, but i'm half-seriously shopping for a bike myself at the moment.

more! more more!! encore!

klyn said...

I still have half a decade to go before my list "Things to do before I am forty" needs to be completed, but the last thing I plan to do to celebrate my 40th is get my motorcycle license! My youngest will turn 17 that year, so we are planning to do that together! Maybe I will have the same goofy smile...
The oldest K son always told the "How do you know if someone rides a motorcycle? By the bugs in his teeth" joke (okay, I paraphrased - I must have forgotten the extact wording despite the repeated tellings).
Glad you went on the adventure and I hope you have already booked a couple other advetures!