Home: Playa Estucasa beachside palapa
For the first time on the beach, there were some light clouds at sunrise, which not only gave the sky a fighting chance to compete with the beauty of the water, it also meant that the scorching heat that begins radiating from the east at 8:30am was a bit moderated this morning. So I took the opportunity to scramble up a rough path on the sun-facing desert hill behind our palapa and was surprised to discover a network of well-designed and rock-marked trails. The main path quickly rose to the ridge and a view down to the next beach, and a spur went out to the high point dividing the two beaches, giving an expansive view of the turquoise waters, as well as the length of our own beach.
The trail then followed the ridge line back north, paralleling the beach and coming down at a shallower angle that Rett would be able to manage, so after breakfast we did it again, together.
But then we continued on north to the community of Posada, which we could walk to without returning to the highway. We made another half-hearted and failed effort to find the hot spring, but then had today’s episode of “The Small-World of Baja/Bahia Concepción”. Yesterday morning a guy in a red Geo Tracker pulled onto the beach as I was leaving the toilet, and asked if there was a “Michelle” there. I said “no, sorry, I haven’t met a Michelle here”, and he thanked me and drove off before I could tell him that, hey, I don’t know everyone at the beach! Then last night when we returned to our palapa, we had a new neighbor on our south end who introduced herself as Michelle. Maybe red Tracker guy was just too early in his “no way to talk to you without seeing you” search? So then today at a beach-front house in Posada, we suddenly ran into both Michelle, and Bryan, the guy who had come looking for her yesterday! She was at work, painting a mer-people mural inside someone’s house, and he was finishing up a pickleball match and, after talking with us for two minutes, he was giving us the key-code to his house a few beaches down and making a serious invitation to stop by and take out his kayak to look for the whale shark that had been at his beach. I swear, Bahia Concepción is the most-unlikely friendliest small-town in America.
We wandered the few streets of really-cute and well-kept houses, not too upset that we couldn’t find the restaurant we were looking for (the only commercial establishment in Posada), until we were stopped by a friendly resident who not only directed us, but gave us some details about the community. Including the behind-schedule but in-the-works community-scale solar project being built, which would allow the community electricity to stay on outside the current generator-fueled hours of 10am to 10pm. There were several places for sale, including a relatively-large 2-level unit for US$69k (though we later learned you only own the building, and there is an additional lease for the land). It would certainly be an idyllic place to live, but not without its off-grid complications.
The Posada restaurant was a bike-touring beach-camper’s dream, with electricity to give our stuff some charge (though honestly my phone, with limited stuff to do, can apparently make it nearly 4 days), WiFi we didn’t even use, nice bathrooms with running water and flush toilets, food, and even a spigot in the wall for agua purificada. For the last one, we unfortunately hadn’t brought our water bladder with us, and while the proprietor was nice enough to offer to loan us a container, that led to a fairly lengthy debate about how to provision ourselves for the next couple days (i.e., could we make do with limited stuff just from this restaurant, or would another trip be necessary, and how much water did we need anyway, etc. blah blah blah). In the end we just paid for our lunch and walked back with nothing else but a plan for me to ride out again to Bertha’s if/when we needed a resupply.
The afternoon heat was a bit of a surprise walking out of the shady restaurant, and so then the timing could not have been more perfect when Dave and Mike, in a car heading out from our beach as we trudged back in, stopped and said they were going to Bertha’s for a beer run, and asked if we needed anything. Or even better, hop in and come along. Yes please! Thanks to their Canadian kindness, we returned to our palapa with eggs, beer, ice, and two gallons of fresh water, a grocery list that would have been impossible even if I had mustered the energy for the 5-mile round-trip Highway 1 bike ride. Thanks guys!
Then it was time for the pot-luck! Ken, the organizer, was another long-term resident, but unusually, relatively-young, and still working (he had satellite Internet at his well-equipped palapa/converted-ambulance). Originally he’d come up with a head-count of a dozen or so, but he’d been able to acquire a larger-than-expected box of chicken to grill up, so nearly the whole beach ended up in a giant circle of camp chairs in front of his place. The food was excellent, featuring such novelties (to us!) as deviled eggs, pasta salad, and even brownies, with our chips-and-salsa contribution feeling underwhelming, though at least a necessary item that was within our capabilities.
But better than the food was of course the people. There was another unusually-young family of six, the Surprises, on the beach today, and I learned from Josh that his dad Jim had been wintering at this beach for years, and, working with the former caretaker Manuel (who had turned up for this pot-luck), had built several of the palapas. Including our own, I believe! The younger Surprises were staying in Mulege, and for the first time visiting the area that had understandably sucked in dad/grandpa. It was great to learn some more history of the place that I hadn’t heard yet, including a better understanding of how it worked: while the palapas didn’t precisely have “owners”, there was an understanding that if the pseudo-owners arrived at the beach and you were in their palapa, you wouldn’t exactly get kicked out, but they would have dibs on it when you left.
Since the first day we had arrived in this place, I had noticed a shrine painted in a small cave near the top of the hill at the north and of the beach. There was a trail up to it, but it looked stupidly steep and slippery, so nothing I’d been interested in hiking. But today, in an effort to get a good photo of the pot-luck group, whoops, I somehow made it to the top wearing wet sandals and with my camera in one hand. Just like everything else here, close-up, it echoed the love and care people have for this place, no matter how long they call it home.
The shrine, the presence of Manuel, and the arrival of Ken’s girlfriend Diane (a Mexican who did a wonderful job of helping and encouraging all of us gringos to use/improve our Spanish) all helped me feel slightly-less like a colonizer occupying this Mexican land. As comfortable as it has been to share this place with people who share our native language and other cultural defaults, it has nagged me a bit to be living in this non-Mexican bubble in Mexico. So it was good to feel at least a few cross-cultural links piercing through that bubble.
Around the fire we got more musical entertainment from George and Penny, with Michelle now adding her drum to fill out the sound, and Rett adding vocals on a couple songs (though not yet up to taking a turn on the ukulele!)
I’ve written before how I learned about “creating community” from an older-and-wiser bike tourer in Oregon years ago: buying some firewood and inviting the others in the hiker-biker area to join you will instantly create an ad-hoc, temporary, but valuable community of fellow travelers who are in that place for that night. Ken’s effort to “create community” on this beach went far beyond that, but the basic feeling is similar: providing a reprieve from an isolation that most of us voluntarily signed-up for, but one that remains a bit at odds with our human natures.
And more personally for us, it was exactly the sort of thing that inspired this full-time nomad life that we’re living. On previous bike tours, if we’d rolled into a town and found out that the “Fuzzy Caterpillar and Roses Festival” was happening the next day, we wished we’d be able to stay, but strict timelines would prevent that. We’d hoped that eliminating timelines would open up more of that flexibility for us, and that’s exactly what happened here. We’d considered moving on after only two days at this beach, but when we heard there’d be a pot-luck in just two more days, we said “well, what a wonderful excuse to stay a couple more days!” And we’re so glad that we did, for reasons that go way beyond this one wonderful night!