It had rained during the night, and the Ensenada streets were muddy and slick as we looked for coffee the next morning. Just as we were about to head for the car, we ran into Dirk from Laguna Beach, a thin twitchy man who quickly regaled us with his tale of woe. Apparently Dirk had traveled to Mexico with his wife, young son and a five-year-old Chevron card that his mother had given him. He had no idea they didn’t have Chevron stations in Mexico. Not surprisingly, the tourist office wouldn’t help him. They told him to find someone who spoke English and ask them for assistance. So he found us. I didn’t really believe Dirk’s story, but I also didn’t not believe it enough to walk away. I handed him 100 pesos and wished him luck as he disappeared into the mist.
We got in the car and headed to the highway that would take us to La Bufadora, the biggest blowhole in the world (insert really bad joke here.) At La Bufadora, we bought churros, and while a little bastard of a seagull kept buzzing my head to try to get his nasty little beak around one, I watched in repeated amazement as low rumbles starting deep within an underground cave were followed by a huge spray of water that sometimes shot over our heads.
The walk back to the car was lined with little shops, and every shopkeeper tried to lure us in with promises of beautiful goods and low prices.
There was road construction on the highway south of La Bufadora. What should have been an hour drive stretched into three as Mark slowly navigated the unmarked detours, huge rocks and piles of red dirt. Commercial trucks were also lumbering through the mess as well, and every few seconds someone would speed by to try to get around them, throwing sprays of rocks and nearly causing the oncoming traffic to run off the dirt path. There are only two descriptive words I can think of for road work in Mexico: Complete Clusterfuck.
We continued to meander down Highway 1, stopping for tacos and walks around tiny town plazas until we got to our first military check point. We had heard all the scare stories about them – how they empty your car and search all your bags, steal your valuables while pointing guns and barking loudly at you, so I was a little nervous as we pulled up to two uniformed men and I rolled down my window.
“Where do you come from?” the first man asked. “Where are you going?” When I told him California and Bahia de Los Angeles, he merely nodded, then pointed at the second man who was holding a small dog. He said something in Spanish that I couldn’t understand and pointed at the dog. “Yes, cute dog!” I said nervously. He said something else I couldn’t understand and continued to point at the dog. I figured that he must want me to pet the dog. I didn’t want to offend, so I smiled what I thought was the friendliest smile I could muster and shook my head up and down. “Yes! I’d love to pet the dog.” Mark knows a lot more Spanish than me, and I looked over at him proud of myself. See? I’m making friends! It was then that I noticed his face was red and he was shaking his head back and forth. “No!” he said firmly. “No…we don’t want to buy your dog.”
Fortunately, they seemed to find the whole thing amusing and waved us on.
Our stop for that evening was a little town called San Quintin, unremarkable except for an ice cream parlor with a huge Humboldt Creamery sign above the counter.
To be continued….