In a dream, I am gliding along on the glistening waters of the Gulf of California. There is only the soft blowing sounds of the dolphin as it rises to the surface next to me and an occasional gull’s cry overhead. It is warm and wonderful. My gaze takes in the rugged shore. I am alone, but never lonely for the power of nature fills the heart. But suddenly, I am rudely awakened from the dream, and in that moment I vow to return to Mexico. With coffee in hand I reach for the books that have inspired me for years, written by internationally known author, Graham Mackintosh. Graham is known as the iconic Baja traveler. In 2020 he has made five trips to LA Bay three of which he has turned into books on Kindle. He is completing the fourth as of this writing. Into a Desert Place was his first book written in 1988 and it changed my life. Even the title breathes a yearning to return to something vast and untouched. This is the secret call of Baja California.
Since 1988 Graham has made innumerable journeys into the desert, writing 3 other books of his travels with a wily burro, a dog and an island where he ran out of beer. His writing is full of experience and delightful humor in many of the situations he has found himself. Into a Desert Place was reviewed at the time by Coast Book Review, affirming that this first book, “Could well become an enduring classic...Always vastly entertaining...one of the best books on Baja ever published. Don’t miss this title, it’s that good.” Their prediction has come true. While Graham admits to not having “been particularly good at anything except catering to my own comfort and safety,” his life does not substantiate his self-critical claim. He has never stopped returning to the desert place and has made his move to live permanently in Baja.
As the years went by he began to try his hand at kayaking. The new challenges and new adventures have been anything but comfortable. For most of us pitching a tent on a desert island where feral cats roam with snakes and scorpions would hardly be considered comfortable. Could we endure a whole month without our cell phones, TV or internet? Recently he chose ‘social distancing’ Baja style and sheltered in shady caves on the gulf out of the intense mid-summer heat. Graham might be a little difficult catch up with these days. He is completing the fourth as of this writing, Kayaking to La Paz, Stage 1 -4. The book is loaded with old pictures from his earlier treks on foot when visiting fishing villages. These are combined with full color pictures of places most of us will never see. From this 4th and final trip to complete his Kayaking series, Graham wrote, "I enjoy having so much of Baja's lovely rugged coast to myself. Especially the Sea of Cortez. You never know what you're going to find or what's going to happen next. Dolphins, whales, sea lions, turtles, great beachcombing...so often in gorgeous sunshine and warmth...and you may not see a soul for days. It is hard to believe in this overcrowded world that such adventure and isolation is possible. The rewards far outweigh the dangers... and many hazards you can mitigate by being sensible and keeping your wits about you. Rarely do I finish one trip before dreaming of another. I never get bored of it. And the people you do meet are generally so kind and generous. I'm sure, there's no place like it. It is a great privilege to experience...and to write about and share."
Graham has met some incredible people in the three decades of his travels. But none will be as memorable as a surprise encounter on an isolated beach. It was his birthday and he had finished eating his lunch. He got up to resume his hike and caught sight of “huge teddy” captured in a pile of driftwood. “It was a little raggedy...I gazed into his eyes, knowing its fate was in my hands.” Something in its eyes brought back memories. He picked up the sandy bear and brought it back to his camp; where he spruced it up a bit. We never know the twists and turns of fate, but Graham had just responded to the proverbial finger of fate not realizing his rescue would lead him into his next book, Paddy’s Huggy Adventures. On a barren beach in the warmth of late spring, the abandoned bear was given his name. Graham and his brothers were raised in Paddington, a small borough of London, England. Graham recalls how, “My kind and gentle Irish mother would sew eyes and noses on plush bears for sale in nice London stores.” All ages will delight in this newest book from Graham. It gives an insight into the author’s humor and love of life with numerous pictures of Paddy’s travels. Paddy learns how to kayak, wearing a jaunty bandana around his neck, we see him gazing out into the vast horizon and looking overboard at the stingrays in the shallow water.
This book is for all ages for it is filled with wonder through Paddy’s eyes. He loves the glistening dolphin as they swim alongside and is amazed by the daring dives of the brown pelicans. He learns what it is like to hike the rocky places in the hills, but because his legs are so short it was much more expedient to ride perched in his friend’s back pack. The most endearing of shots is taken by time lapse when Paddy and Graham are sitting together on the beach with their backs to the camera, looking out over the water. It’s as if you could almost hear Graham sharing with his pal all the wonderful of Baja California. Paddy particularly likes the local fishermen, who laugh and wave to him as they pass by. Graham writes, “And on shore he had the important job of guarding the paddle clearly happy and very responsible in his work.” This new direction in Graham’s writing has a feel of the Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away.
Fate is not yet finished with our intrepid travelers. Graham stopped to see a friend in San Quintin who introduced him to a sweet girl teddy with fur the color of a lavender rose. Graham won’t say if it was love at first sight, however Baja as been known to create fresh new love in the magic of Baja evenings around a camp fire. Graham admitted as he was packing, “I'm taking the bears on my current trip, might write the island adventure as part of Paddy's Further Adventures. Or possibly another episode in all my trips to Angel de la Guarda, since I wrote Marooned." So, for now we do know that Paddy is having a fine time showing his new friend, Lavender, the sights and how to ride in the kayak without rocking the boat. This is delicious entertainment for all those who love Baja California and for those who have a dream.
For all of Graham’s books and to read about his latest adventures, visit Graham's website.
Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com