Monday, August 28, 2006

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.



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