Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cabo Pulmo trip, part four

It was getting late so we decided to put JH down before we grown-ups had dinner. As we were getting ready for bed, I noticed the namesake of my astrological sign on the table. It was small, maybe two inches long, and nearly transparent.

"A scorpion!" I exclaimed. "What do I do?"

"Kill it," replied Sara. I smashed it with the half-full water bottle and it shattered -- scorpion bits flew several feet across the floor. Although later I found out that Sara and others wanted to inspect the scorpion carcass, I thought it would be a good idea to get the (possibly pokey and venomous) scorpion bits off the floor so I picked them up with a paper towel.

Dinner was excellent. Sara made spanish rice and used tequila to marinate tempe for the vegans and steak for the meat eaters. We convinced Bob to be the grill master and he did a great job cooking the steaks.

After dinner, we sat on a second floor deck above our hut and ate cake and talked. I think we went to bed around 11 pm.

The huts at Cabo Pulmo Resort get their electricity from solar panels mounted on some of their roofs. In Cabo Pulmo, it was so hot that we needed to sleep with the fans pointed directly at us. Because Sara had been in the house most of the day, cooking dinner with the fans on, the batteries had not fully charged when the sun was out. At about 1 in the morning, the battery ran out in our hut and our fans stopped. JH started fussing immediately when it happened. It was uncomfortably hot and we were worried that JH might get heat exhaustion from the extreme temperature and humidity.

Sara went out to find out if the other huts were affected or if the outage only affected us. After a few minutes, she came back and told me that there was power in another hut -- they all had unlocked screen doors and we could get right in. But they didn't have fans there. We'd have to bring the fans from our hut. So we carried JH, the Pack and Play, an extra sheet, our pillows, and our fans over to a different hut. In order to not wake up our friends who were sleeping next door to the new hut, we had to go around the back and carry everything over a three foot high beam. We set up the Pack and Play and the fans, put the sheet over the bedspread, replaced the new hut's pillows the our own, and went to back to sleep with one fan pointed at JH and another pointed at our bed. When we woke up in the morning, we left no trace.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Cabo Pulmo trip, part three

It was really hot Friday night and JH woke up around three in the morning. After that, I had a hard time getting back to sleep. Sara was kind enough to get up with JH Saturday morning so I slept in till around 8 AM. I was feeling kind of down on the trip after that interrupted night's sleep -- it's too hot, why did we go for only two days, et cetera. However, after breakfast and a cup of coffee, I started feeling really good. Sara and I had a great conversation over coffee during JH's first nap. He napped till almost noon; we discussed going to Nancy's for lunch but decided on Restaurant Caballero instead. We made the right choice.

Restaurant Caballero is the most "Mexican" of the three Cabo Pulmo restaurants we visited. It has a kind of family feel. An adult and a child were watching music videos at the bar. We were really pleased to see and hear a rooster crowing in the yard next to the patio where we ate. I held JH up to see the rooster and recited the line from his book, "The rooster says, 'Cock-a-doodle-doo!'" Sara got a fish burrito sin queso and I got one regular. JH had rice and beans and this time they weren't too hot. The woman who took our order explained to us that the beans were made right there, at the restaurant. We all enjoyed our meals.

U.S. residents often have gastrointestinal difficulties when they visit Mexico. Inspired by Carl Franz, I now take the attitude that I'll eat what's put in front of me, enjoy it, and accept the consequences. Fortunately, there was no need for that kind of compromise in Cabo Pulmo. Some of our friends were a little worried about eating local produce uncooked; we all cleaned our plates at Restaurant Caballero, including the salad. I think we could drink water straight from the tap in Cabo Pulmo without fear.

Unlike the other two places in Cabo Pulmo, Restaurant Caballero printed its prices in pesos, which we liked. Cabo Pulmo prices are inflated compared to most of Mexico but still quite reasonable by U.S. standards. I think our dinner on Friday night was 320 pesos plus tip.

After lunch, our friends told us they were going snorkeling and swimming at the "Mermaid Beach," which they said was lovely. Sara wanted to cook the Saturday night dinner and JH needed his nap. This dinner, a vegan meal for Lisa and steak for Pete, was her gift to the couple for their bachelor/bachelorette party, which was the occasion for this trip. After about half an hour, I decided to follow our friends over to Mermaid Beach. They told us that there had been a sign but that it was now replaced by a plastic bag. "Look for the plastic bag," they said. "You can't miss it. It's a clear plastic bag."

I set off on my own to Mermaid Beach. It was nice driving down a dirt road in Mexico, all by myself. I finally saw the plastic bag -- it was a very sturdy looking bag on a stick -- after driving about 8 km. I parked near some cattle, right beside to our friends' rented minivan. There were a few people on the beach and in the water. I didn't see our friends but I decided they must be snorkeling somewhere where I couldn't see them. Later, I found out that this wasn't Mermaid Beach after all -- that one was a fifteen minute hike from the place we parked our cars. Nonetheless, Parking Beach was quite pleasant. I stripped down to my swimming trunks and waded in. The bottom at this beach doesn't go down gradually -- rather, it drops suddenly from about 10 inches to three or four feet. Although this dropoff doesn't work for little kids like JH, it's fine for adults and it means you don't spend a long time wading into the water.

The waves were very calm and I swam for a while, thinking to myself that this was one of the most pleasant experiences I could remember. The water was warm and everything was just great. Suddenly, I felt a burning sensation on the underside of my left arm. A jellyfish! I shook my arm vigorously, got out of the water and looked at my arm: it was all red from the stings. Clearly it wasn't a very bad sting because I kept on thinking to myself, Does this mean I have to stop swimming? I decided I could keep wading as long as I kept an eye out for more jellyfish. A (gringo) snorkeler had been stung as well. He caught a jellyfish on his goggles and was showing it to people on the beach. I kept wading for another half an hour or so. After swimming in the salty water, I felt cool for the first time since we arrived in Mexico. Although I didn't see any more jellyfish, I did see what I think was a needlefish. It was about 18 inches long, silvery-blue, and moved very fast. I also saw some smaller fish, maybe four or five inches long, darting around in shallow water.

Cabo Pulmo trip, part two

About 60 kilometers north of San Jose del Cabo, we cut over to the coast on a smaller paved road. Between Las Cuevas and La Ribera, we saw the "Taste" sign that I had seen on Flickr. At La Ribera, we drove south along the coast, first on a small paved road, then on a dirt road for 10K until we came to Cabo Pulmo.

We met Bob, Lisa, Pete, Phil, Shannon, and Syndee at Cabo Pulmo Resort, where we stayed. They were staying in a large beachside unit. We stayed in a smaller "village casita." We thought we were getting a place with two rooms and air conditioning. As it turned out, we had one room and fans -- if we had read the website carefully, we would have learned that there was only one unit with AC and two rooms. Someone else was lucky enough to book that place.

It was dinner time so we thought we'd try Nancy's, one of four restaurants in Cabo Pulmo. Nancy's is supposed to be the gourmet one so we thought we'd have a good chance of getting vegan fare there. Once we sat down, however, we realized that there wasn't much for the vegans except for salad and that wouldn't do. So we left and ate at the Coral Reef, which is above the office at Cabo Pulmo Resort. We got rice and beans for JH but the beans were too spicy so he just ate rice. I had shrimp, which was pretty good. Unfortunately, there were a lot of flies buzzing around us as we ate our dinner and drank Negra Modelo.

During dinner, we tried to get JH to say, "Mexico," by chanting it to him over and over again (pronouncing the "xi" part like "hee"). We did succeed in getting him to say, "Meh meh meh," but he wouldn't go past "Meh."

I got some nice photos of the sunset over the hills.


After dinner, we set up the baby monitor in our casita, put JH in his Pack and Play (it has a tarp with mosquito netting, which was great) and sat with our friends for a while. Although it was hot, the beach and sea were lovely. I prepared myself for a day of doing almost nothing.

Cabo Pulmo trip, part one.

We just got back from a whirlwind two and a half day trip to Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Our flight from Oakland was at 6 AM so we left home at 3:30 in the morning -- our friend Emily, who was visiting from out of town, drove us there in our car. Although we didn't buy a seat for fourteen month old JH, we brought the car seat with us and we were lucky enough to get an extra seat for him on the first two legs of the trip. I have become quite fast at strapping the car seat into a coach class airline seat. We flew US Airways, which is in the process of merging with America West: the flight to San Jose del Cabo was uneventful. As we were descending over the southern Baja peninsula, I was surprised by how lush the vegetation looked. Although the ground was quite light colored and looked rather arid, there was a lot of bright green ground cover, along with large cacti. The San Jose del Cabo airport did not have an enclosed jetway -- rather, we walked down metal stairs, on to the tarmac, where it was very hot, and right into a long line of gringos waiting to go through Mexican customs.

In Mexico they love babies so a nice immigration official waved us over to a line for Mexicans and we got to go right past the long line of tourists. There was only one person ahead of us. We were a little nervous about getting through customs because Sara had packed some vegan food to make dinner on Saturday night (Lisa is vegan, as is another of the guests, and Sara doesn't eat dairy, egg, or terrestrial meat). I teased Sara about bringing chili powder to Mexico. A porter helped us get our bags to the rental car shuttle; they don't have smarte cartes at the S. J. del C. airport. We tipped him in dollars.

We rented a car from Alamo -- a Nissan Tsuru, which looks like a Sentra from the early 90s. Although it cost nine dollars a day, we opted for the $30/day full coverage insurance because our credit card doesn't cover rental cars more than 50 miles south of the border. Someone from Alamo helped us get our bags in the trunk (everyone wanted to help us with our bags) and we put JH's car seat in the back. Then we set off for the Soriana supermarket. However, we noticed that the car wasn't getting any cooler and it was quite hot outside. We turned around and then thought it might be getting better. Then we turned back towards the highway and then we decided it wasn't getting any better so we turned around once more.

We told the people from Alamo and someone came out to verify that the AC wasn't working. Then a more senior member of the staff came out to verify that the AC wasn't working. They decided to give us an identical Tsuru whose AC functioned properly. So we were off. Our first stop was the giant Soriana supermarket in San Jose del Cabo.


I was quite impressed by this Wal-Mart-sized market. Since my only previous experience of Mexico was a few days in the city of Chihuahua in 1997, I had expected everything to seem a bit more . . . well, Mexican. This place clearly had a strong Californian influence. Sara went to a bank in the same shopping center and exchanged our dollars for pesos. The exchange rate right now is roughly ten to one, which is easy to remember. She got a slightly better rate at the bank, however, close to eleven to one. Since most restaurants and stores that take dollars use the short hand of "ten to one," we avoided paying a de facto gringo premium by using pesos.

We left San Jose del Cabo, driving north on highway One, a well-maintained two-lane highway that I'm told connects with its namesake in California, U.S.A. I took a few pictures of the lush roadside vegetation.