by Glenn Hamp
The waves were small but perfectly shaped providing rides hundreds of yards long and after numerous surf sessions during the day and our arms feeling like noodles from paddling, we walked over to John’s campsite a stone’s throw away where he was cooking dinner. We enjoyed his Baja Sur specialty, an exotic treat of sausage, onions, bell peppers and dates all sautéed stir fried together like fajitas. It was an eclectic mix of spices and sweet dates. Stuffed with our wonderful meal, we enjoyed a glass of wine by the fire as the kids roasted marshmallows and made smores.
Day 5 & 6:
After surfing in more perfect waves than we could count and relaxing in this nirvana for surfers, we thought we probably should just sell all our material possessions and just move down to San Juanico and live here surfing Scorpion Bay forever. We explored the little sleepy town of San Juanico watching some of the world cup soccer action at a little restaurant named Burros. This restaurant and bar is a favorite of surfers and one of the few can’t misses in the town of limited night life.
All good things must come to an end and it was a bitter sweet and sad day to break camp, to pack up and to be leaving our beautiful site overlooking the perfect waves that marched flawlessly and relentlessly into the bay. This was a surfer's paradise and would be sorely missed. It was the start of another great adventure though, a repeat and retracing of our trip south and we were eager to be moving north. However, this time we would be driving alone. Lucky for John and family they were able to stay in San Juanico a few more days.
The long journey back from Scorpion Bay started smoothly except for the washboard bumps, rocks and dust. Halfway through the 80 mile stretch of no man’s land on the way back to San Ignacio, the road seemed to become sandier and less familiar. Suddenly, I got this terrible sickening, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as the rear wheels started spinning and our SUV sank into the soft sand. As is very common in Baja, there are frequent forks in the road. Signs are rare, you just make gut decisions based on compass headings, sketchy maps and how well-worn a path looks to guide you. We had taken a path that appeared well traveled, but that became more and more sandy as we powered on. In about a half mile we were in deep sand and the road was in a narrow trough without a chance to stop or turn around.
Prior to getting stuck, I had the Toyota Sequoia floored in an attempt to maintain the momentum and keep plowing through the sand, but it had been in vain. I quickly let up on the gas pedal when she sank in the sand to prevent a deeper resting place on her axles. I knew too well how hard it would be to get out if I continued to let the off road tires dig deeper into the sand. We all got out and made an assessment of the situation. We were out in the middle of nowhere, 50 miles north of San Juanico and about 30 miles south of San Ignacio. It looked like a moonscape, with dust, cactus, scrub brush, sand and rocky mountains many miles away. The sun was hot and the silence was deafening. I told my daughter, Lauren, to take the machete and hack down and gather scrub branches to place under the tires while I took a walk up ahead on the sandy road to see if it became less sandy and wider beyond the small knolls out in front of us. If we were lucky enough to get the vehicle moving again, I wanted to be sure that we didn't get into deeper trouble if we powered on ahead. If we were almost through the worst of it we would attempt to power straight through it. If it looked worse ahead we would attempt to reverse out of our situation. My survey of road looked like the road got worse ahead and that we would have to reverse our way back to the hard pack dirt road.
While I had walked ahead, my wife Lilet, walked to the top of a tiny sand dune about 100 feet from the truck and was amazed to see that she had one to two bars on her iPhone! She must have been picking up the cell towers from San Ignacio or one of the remote fish camps west. She quickly texted a friend in Chandler to get the number of San Ignacio Bed and Breakfast and to ask for help. She texted us the number and surprisingly we were able to call and talk to another traveler at San Ignacio B&B who had made this trip many times before. He told us to reduce the air pressure in our tires and if we had to, use our astro turf carpet under our tires to gain traction. We reduced our tire pressure to 12 psi, dug sand out from under the tires and stuffed branches under and behind the tires in our plan to allow the SUV to gradually climb back onto the sand as we reversed. Everyone jumped in and prayed as I ever so gently applied the gas in reverse. Miraculously, the Sequoia started moving and we all cheered as we accelerated backwards wildly for the next half of mile until we were on the rocky dirt road! There was no way I was going to let that SUV stop once it was moving. After finding our footing we were able to backtrack to the right road and powered north to San Ignacio. After a gas and tire fill up, we were off and from there it was just a long, long drive all day to San Quintin where we arrived by nightfall for at the wonderful, simple but spacious Hotel Mision Santa Maria.
Another early day and the long road ahead beckoned as we started north from San Quintin. We were in Baja Norte now and the stretches of desolate driving were shorter with little towns more frequent as we got closer to Ensenada and the coastal towns. Reaching the border in Tijuana and finding the correct lane to get to the border crossing was confusing and we ended up doing a couple of long loops to get back into the proper lane to get into line to cross into the USA, el Otra lado (the other side). It took two hours of parking and then inching along to get to the border inspection. Jugglers and street vendors of all types of Mexican foods and trinkets wandered around the vehicles.
After crossing the border we headed east on I-8 and eager to get back to Chandler Arizona we kept driving and arrived at 3:00 am on Day 9, exhausted and happy to be home in our own beds. It was the trip of a lifetime, one that will be remembered, retold and embellished through the years. However, the dreaming and planning for the next Baja surfari is already in the works!