Todos Santos, BCS

Home: The Wave AirBNB

Day 2

We woke to our fledgling owl still hanging out on his own in his palm tree. The forecast high was 75 deg F, and that was the forecast for the next week or so. We’ve been living for so long with the idea that it gets hot as soon as the sun gets a few degrees above the horizon, that I’ve been trying for days (and somewhat failing) to get Rett to believe/understand that we’ve truly hit a different environment here on the Pacific coast. No need for heat-beating early-alarms anymore!

Trying to sleep, but the stupid rising sun is making that difficult.
Wondering how the giant single eye of my camera lens is bigger than his eyes.

Today was our day to check out the town of Todos Santos, so we walked back across the valley along the road, at one point with a horse walking ahead of us on the sidewalk. The town-proper had a lot to see, and we spent much of the day attempting to see most of the streets in the grid.

I don’t know what this incredible building was in its previous life, it’s currently an upscale oyster restaurant, but more-importantly, an archetypal example of “beauty in decay“.
Gold Benito Juarez keeps an eye on Todos Santos.

For second-breakfast, Rett picked out a cup full of mango and coconut slices from a fruit-vendor’s stand, but then nearly declined to have it freshly-spiced. What a mistake that would have been, because the chili/salt/whatever to go with the sweetness of the fruit made it a perfect snack to share on the bench in a park.

A residential street typical of any residential street in Baja, with care and abandonment living side-by-side.

Third-breakfast came not long after, when I finally indulged Rett’s excitement at the 2-for-1 margarita signs (noted in Mexico as “2×1”). As I was putting my mask on in the doorway of the bar, the bartender said (in English), “don’t worry about that, masks are over!” Oh, really? Has the government changed the rules recently? “oh, no, but everyone is vaccinated, so there is no need anymore”. Huh, wow, that’s the first time we’ve heard anything like this in Mexico. Yes, Mexico (and especially Baja) is well-vaccinated, but one theory we’ve heard for the continued masking (beyond just “we actually care about each other, and vaccines don’t stop infections”) is based in the fact that most of the vaccines used in Mexico have not been the highly-effective mRNA vaccines used in the United States. We still put on masks any time we enter an indoor establishment, as does everyone else, and even right here a block away we had just noticed an ice cream shop where the sign said “masks required, adults AND children!” I wonder if this bar is somewhat bending over for newly-arrived American tourists, fearful of backlash if they asked them to inhibit their particle-spew?

2×1 margaritas, maskless, now that we’re in their open-air courtyard.

Next was a somewhat more-concerted effort at shopping, with Rett hoping to finally get a woven belt that she’s been wanting for weeks. Unfortunately most of the shops are just filled with the same mass-produced tourist crap as their neighbors, so it’s not a particularly-fruitful search.

Worse, the shops are also filled with maskless Americans. I know it’s probably totally normal in the U.S. now, but it’s something we’ve never seen in Baja. Which says my theory from the bar was correct, and that makes me REALLY uncomfortable. Not because I’m concerned about catching COVID (well, a little, but mostly, these are well-ventilated shops), but because it reveals utter cultural disrespect from these Americans. We’re all guests in Mexicans’ homeland. Whether you agree with it or not, the Mexican culture (currently) says “wear a mask inside shops”. And these people are essentially saying “eh, fuck you and your culture, I’m doing it my way”. Neither Rett nor I come from a “take your shoes off before coming in the front door” culture, but whenever we go to someone’s house where such a thing was requested (or even just implied by observation), we obviously would take our fucking shoes off! To not grant your host that respect is appalling!

I suppose I can’t entirely blame these particular tourists, since they might just be ignorant rather than culturally-malicious. They all almost surely are recently-arrived via air to Los Cabos, and are coming north on a day-trip. And it’s likely that any business they might have encountered in this isolated tourist tip of Baja, since they got off their plane, had long ago bent over under the pressure of American dollars, saying through a rictus-grin: “please, stomp your dirty shoes all over my carpets, and breathe your virus directly into my face, I love it so much! And also ‘good morning’, because I know that even the ‘buenos días’ of Sesame Street Spanish would be too ‘foreign’ for you!” (oh, and the fact that these tourists represent the most “open minded”, “adventurous” subset of Cabo-dwellers willing to even leave their resorts, makes me shudder at our upcoming resort stay there).

But realizing that I can’t even fully-blame these tourists for their individual assholery makes me feel even worse, knowing that there’s no point to even fighting the battle; the local businesspeople have just accepted that they’ve completely lost the cultural war and ceded this territory to U.S. like other parts of California long gone.

One of the activities where Rett most feels her mom’s absence is clothes-shopping, since it’s something they loved to do together. Even in the best of circumstances, I’m an extremely-poor shopping-partner-substitute for Rett, and given how much this gross cultural dominance was souring my mood, I was worse than nothing as a fill-in.

Luckily, when you get even just a block off the main tourist strip, the feeling becomes much closer to the Baja we’ve come to know and love. Rett eventually found a shop with a hand-powered loom, and there, one of the woven belts she’d been looking for (an actual belt finally, not just one of the hundreds of “maybe-a-belt, no-actually-a-dog-collars”). But as she leaned to look at it, she bumped her favorite eyeglasses into the unfinished steel rod of the rack, cutting a deep scratch across the middle of the lens. We’re having bad luck with vision correction these days, but this had a much deeper emotional impact than my lost contact lens, because 1) they’re Rett’s favorite fashion glasses, and 2) they’re one of the last fashion things she picked out with her mom’s help. So an already emotional day just took a sharp turn for the worse. With Rett feeling bereft and unanchored, I escorted her back to our margarita bar to sit down with another drink, and I made the mile run back and forth to our AirBNB for another pair of her glasses, just to get the loss out of her direct field-of-view.

Rett temporarily happy with her new belt.

On my return we walked over to Todos Santos Brewing, where the mood turned up a bit. Finally we’d found a brewery in Baja that had some Rett-beers! And some Neil-beers too. Unlike La Paz though, it was back to being an entirely-gringo establishment, even more-extreme than most previous breweries, with not a word of Spanish to be found. Though I don’t know, maybe that’s being honest, and better than the expat-run breweries giving their beers Spanish names and iconography?

A relatively-quiet Todos Santos street.
Rett, beautifully framed.
Even the public art gets a translation here (which is nice, we would have missed the message otherwise!)
An evocative stone wall near our AirBNB.
The hobbit-hole entrance to La Esquina, the breakfast place we would visit the next two mornings.

In the late afternoon, after we returned to our AirBNB, a neighbor from the farm field across the fence from Elfi came up to investigate the owl family (which was technically on his property). That’s when we learned that both he and Elfi had been concerned about the fledgling, because he had been sitting alone in the palm tree for days, with no apparent attention from his parents, who were living with a second owlet one tree over. In retrospect it seemed a little strange that we never saw him leave his tree in a 24-hour period, but what did I know about owls? It turns out Elfi had been in touch with a rescue in La Paz, and it sounds like they agreed that this poor owl was in trouble!

A short time later, the fire department appeared. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a fireman rescue a cat from a tree (except in cartoons), but now, we’d witness firemen in Mexico rescuing a baby owl from a tree. I don’t know if they could see the little guy’s giant claws and well-formed beak from their vantage point some 25 feet below as well as I could with my telephoto lens, but it seems that the older guys at least knew enough about birds of prey, because they clearly put the two young, inexperienced guys on the task of actually climbing up and performing a ladder-top capture.

Our clear-eyed owlet, seconds before the firemen flushed him out of his tree.

But, luckily, there was no rending of flesh. Before they could even get the ladder in place (which, to my eye, wasn’t even particularly possible on a palm tree), the aluminum legs waving around near his face finally frightened the fledgling into attempting perhaps his first-ever flight. It was reasonably successful, he managed a controlled downward glide, and even better for all involved, headed over to the middle of a cleared field (especially since “a cleared field” is not frequently a thing in Baja!) Whether due to weakness or his young age, the firemen then had no difficulty scooping him up unharmed. Or at least no-more-harmed than he was by his days and nights of solitude.

Mom or dad, bothered to be flushed out of her home tree by all of the human activity, but not so bothered as to be taking any interest in the fate of her offspring.
The firemen and the neighbors with the owl (wrapped in the blanket in the fireman’s hands).

That was way more excitement than we ever could have hoped for in this AirBNB without a TV, so we wound the night up by both squeezing in to the outdoor concrete tub for a relaxing soak together.

Feeling lost without mom…a sad tragedy for owls and humans alike, and although replacing her is impossible, hopefully us other humans can at least help a little to let life carry on in some fashion.

Day 3

We’d had thoughts of using our between-the-town-and-the-water location to walk the opposite direction today, and explore a dirt road through the palms down to the beach. But we instead spent most of the day planning our the final stages of our Mexican adventure, and, worn out from that (biking 50 miles: easy, booking hotels: brutal!), just decided to stay put. After all, we’re already in a wonderful place to relax.

Given what we’d heard about Todos Santos (“it’s like the Santa Fe of Baja”) and how much expats (and by extension, how much we would) like it, I’m pleasantly surprised how at least this out-of-town side of it is less gringo-dominated than I expected. Yes, our host is an American expat, and the lush yoga compound smacks of Santa Fe-ism, and the gorgeous open-air brick-courtyard breakfast restaurant of La Esquina with its fancy coffee drinks has an obvious Western influence. But the sushi place was wholly Mexican, the staff at La Esquina prefers to conduct transactions in Spanish, and the modern wood-fired taco bar that we got dinner at was entirely Spanish as well.

The area is ridiculously-expensive compared to what we’ve become used to in Baja; Elfi reports that’s a relatively new thing, and that wages have been going up with real-estate and the price of everything else. So it makes me feel a little bit better that, at least on this side of the valley, the local culture has found a way to both assert itself and participate in the economic growth.

We went to sleep to the sound of the owl family hooting once again. Elfi said one of the things that made her concerned about the fledgling was that the communication had ceased amongst the family. And yes, in retrospect, it seemed like they must have gone to radio-silence as part of their freeze-out, because now with the their offspring gone, we suddenly heard sounds we hadn’t heard the first night. But that normally-peaceful sound was a bit unsettling in the wider context; ascribing human meaning to wild behavior, I guess the best we can hope is that all the family members are happier now than they were a day ago? Finding the best in a bad situation: similarly, we are happy that Rett was wearing protective glasses yesterday to prevent her eyeball from being gouged by a steel rod!


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