Saldamando Day Trippin'
Being single in Baja is effortless, if you bring what you need with you, the whole panorama of the beauty of this Peninsula spreads out as your backdrop. But there are times when it would be nice to text message someone to say, hey, I gotta get out of the house wantta go camping?! I found myself in that need-to-go mode. Just south of Bajamar is Saldamando, a perfect spot for an overnighter without the need for extra packing.
It took me fifteen minutes to arrive, ah the Baja life! Right on the Pacific with camp grounds clinging to the volcanic bluffs having a 180 degree view of the horizon. I was particularly lazy this day and chose to rent a small trailer with bathroom, running water, and propane stove. All the comforts of home provided, except for electricity. As I unpacked and set up "camp," a cold dripping fog rolled in so fast my dream of basking in the sunshine was destroyed. Ah, well, I thought, I'll turn it into a story somehow, although nothing was coming to me at the moment. I surrendered to what was, brewed some hot tea and picked up a book, happy that I was in the trailer and not my tent. But you know, Baja has a way with us who venture out, and the story was just about to unfold.
Near me was a trailer grouping around a large patio. A van pulled in. I must admit, I was disappointed that the quiet I'd come for was vanishing like the view of the ocean shrouded in fog. An assortment of women, children and men piled out, just as the second car came in with loud Nortenia music blaring. More people arrived. It was a steady flow and there was no doubt that it was going to be a party.
Later I ventured outside to read. The first hint of magic came in the form of a tiny girl. She stood staring at me with her finger in her mouth. She had probably never seen anyone sitting alone in her life. I could almost hear her thinking, "Where is her family?" Her mother came around the corner and took her hand leading her away. The little one returned over and over until her mother came to find her again and smiling told me her daughter's name was Maya. I silently laughed. Ah, Maya is also a Hindi word meaning "illusion." Maya centers on the fact that we do not experience the environment itself, instead we create our own projection on it.
After dinner, the fog pulled back and the full moon was shining in all its glory. I lit a fire. I listened to the music and laughter. Suddenly from the shadows a tall dark man stepped into the firelight. "Oh, you look like a mermaid sitting there in the moonlight. Why are you alone?" It is a simple question, but has always been impossible for me to answer. He said, reaching for my hand, "It is my sister's birthday, there is so much food, and so you have to come." He pulled me gently from my chair.
As we stepped into the huge group of happy people, I was warmly welcomed, in fact a little too warm as my dark rescuer offered me a bottle of Tequila and helped me drink straight from the bottle. A plate of carne asada was shoved into my hands as introductions began. The birthday was for the matriarch, and oldest sister of seven children, many who were there. Most of them spoke English as a kindness to their new friend. The tequila bottle continued to make its rounds I was feeling pretty good, but I noticed the elder sister motioning to my male companion to cut it out.
This is the magic of Baja. In one moment I was all alone in the fog and the next I am sitting surrounded by warm and open hearted people in the moonlight above a glistening sea. Next came a glass of very good wine. The connoisseur happened to be a published writer, having given a talk at a university in Tijuana that day. A beautiful woman with children crawling on and off her lap told me of her experiences as a commuting school teacher into the U.S. teaching Spanish to the gringo kids.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, a tall slender muchacho pulled out a long sharp knife glinting in the lantern light. He sliced into a fish filet, peeling layers off as thin as paper. I couldn't imagine, but yes, he was a sushi chef! He created beautiful plates of fresh yellowtail wrapped around sticky rice and avocado. Con gusto, I stuffed myself, noting that I started the day in the fog, met Maya who changed my particular illusion about solitude and brought me into her reality with glowing party lights, never ending music and the warmth of a huge family.
Just 2 hours from the border, visit Saldamando for your own experience of the real Baja. See the Saldamando website for directions and reservations.