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Hitch hiking Baja Mexico and the search for surf


My next ride was with a POLICIA. Before I got in the car he flipped me his badge and I noticed the gun swinging from his holster. As we drove inland I started getting paranoid recalling all the horror stories I had heard about the corrupt institution that was the Mexican police force. I started thinking, “why did he flip me his badge? Am I…surely not…am I…under arrest?” He was speeding and overtaking on blind corners, I tried to focus on the beautiful countryside winding up into the hills as I gripped the door. I would ask questions but received no answer; just stony faced nods and grunts as he sped along. He dropped me to the side of the road with a smile though and wished me luck, so apparently I wasn’t under arrest as I had feared. I caught a ride to the legendary San Miguel, the best right point on the peninsula according to most. However, when I got there it was completely flat so I sat on a rock pissed off because of the mission I had been on to get here. I continued on to Ensenada with hopes of making it to Punta San Isidro after collecting my tourist visa (which I was meant to collect at the border but the general confusion that ensued during border crossing meant that this was impossible). I rode in the tray of a few trucks to the immigration office which was, to my horror closed until the next day. I couldn’t afford to risk going visa free the whole trip so I had no choice but to stay in Ensenada to collect my visa first thing in the morning. Even though it had only been a few days, It felt amazing to be at a backpackers with a shower, bed, internet…I felt a little guilty at being so happy to have all these comforts, wasn’t the whole point of this trip to be completely cut off and to rough it to the highest extremes? Ah Well, perhaps I must ease myself into complete isolation. I strolled through the streets of Ensenada and ploughed through 4 quesadillas and a few sols. I decided to climb a mountain overlooking the city which offered an incredible sight: the gigantic flag of Mexico flapping over the city. I climbed on until I was deterred by kids snorting coke, a homeless man shitting and psycho killer dogs. I half jogged back down the hill to the fish markets and wandered the streets into the night before hitting the sack.

I woke early and after collecting my visa through a torrent of lies at the immigration office the owner of the backpacker gave me a lift to the bus estacion. After Ensenada it all changes. The tourists have stopped at the comfort of Ensenada and what lies beyond is the endless desert, lost towns and a lot of surf. I had a plan to head out to Erendira, Punta San Isidro and Punta Cabras which were a series of reef and beach breaks somewhat off the main road. But first I wanted to check out Punta San Jose which held some great right reef breaks. According to the surf guide the turn off from the main road towards the coast was around the tiny town in a wine growing valley up in the hills by the name of Santo Tomas. It was incredibly hot and everything, including myself seemed to be covered in a thing veil of red dirt. Old wrinkled ladies sat outside shops fanning themselves. I attempted the hitch to Punta San Jose but after a while it seemed clear that no cars were interested in going there so I made a rash decision to head on to Erendira. I got picked up and drove through the beautiful desert hills and was dropped at the off road to Erendira. My friend waved me good luck and drove off in a cloud of dust.


I have said before that as you head south of Ensenada conditions become more difficult and it’s harder to reach or even find the breaks. After the dust clouds settled and the noise of the car had died to nothing I fully realised where I was. Desert as far as the eye could see stretched off in every direction. The ground was scorched and the sun was high in the sky. Heat waves rose from the ground and I was soaking wet. I decided to walk as I hitched. I put my head phones in and sang out at the top of my lungs to Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Ray Charles, the cacti as my audience. I walked on. My board bag straps were grating against my shoulders and I had already gone through one of my waters bottles. It must have been forty minutes. I walked on, I could tell my voice was getting hoarse and I had begun talking to myself. I had to laugh, looking out at the road, a snake of red dirt winding off over the hills to the coast. I began looking at my feet, one after the other, one after the other, sweat dripping from my nose. An hour and a half. Two hours. I sat down and laughed in desperation. What an idiot to think I could hitch my way around the place, what an idiot to camp, to bring this outrageous board bag. And then the sound of a car. I stood up and squinted in the direction of the sound, dust rose in the distance, it was coming my way! I adjusted my shirt and wiped my brow as I saw this tiny red car racing around the bend. I took off my straw hat and waved it down. He pulled to a halt.

“Playa?” I rasped

“Ci senor!” he smiled and began clearing the back seat.

Overwhelmed with joy I crammed my board and myself into my saviour’s wagon and raced on, Mexican music blaring as we wound up into the hills and drove the remaining 12 miles to Coyote Cals hostel. Coyote Cals was exactly what I was after, it was an old wooden and clay house with games room, wooden picnic tables outside around the fire pit and surfboards hanging from the ceiling. I pitched my tent outside by the tepee overlooking the surf break. I drank about forty litres of water and sat outside with a beer to plan my next move. Peter, an aged stoner offered me a beer so together with a Mexican guy my age Rodolfo and a few other travellers we drank long into the night.

The next few days were spent at Coyote Cals where I had assumed the role of chef which suited me fine as everyone provided the ingredients and I cooked. My days were spent surfing, collecting mussels, fishing for dinner and nights were spent around the fire pit drinking and storytelling. Rodolpho told me stories of various ways in which his family would try to cross the border and how he and his friends would paddle on their surfboards from Tijuana to San Diego at night for surf trips. A group of English girls had arrived with a van and they were keen to check out the surrounding surf breaks so I had transport as well. I had a great session at Punta Cabras with a pod of dolphins, me and Rodolfo the only ones out. It was a silent grey day and the dolphins swam around our legs without a sound. It was a beautiful picturesque coast line and there were many surf sessions off deserted beaches looking back from the waves at the sprawling desert tundra.


As difficult as it was, I had to pull myself from the throngs of Coyote Cals and make some ground, with the rest of Baja looming ahead. I had met Anna, a lovely girl from Munich who was embarking on roughly the same trip as I and who would become my travel buddy for much of the rest of it. Some other Coyote Cals residents were heading south so we grabbed a lift and after farewells to the rest of the crew we continued on our way. We drove on through the desert down a bumpy as hell road to Quatros Casas a great right reef/point. I paddled through the tendrils of swaying sea kelp and caught some excellent rides. We decided to set up camp on the bluff overlooking the surf. I had another long sunset surf session as the swell picked up and the water turned glassy. Apart from the Rottweiler guard dogs going ape shit I slept like a log under the millions of stars.

We woke early and had to break camp in five minutes in order to catch a lift to the main road with the hostel owners’ pregnant Vietnamese wife. You have to take rides when you can in these parts; you never know how long the wait will be until the next one. We caught a bus all the way past San Quintin to Lazaro Cardenas where there was the turnoff to Cabo San Quintin, Volcanoes and El Playon, which were the next few spots down the coast I had pencilled in. I smiled to myself as I got my marker and followed the road down the map, highlighting spots I had surfed. I was doing well.

We caught a ride with a big Mexican family, I don’t know why they even stopped as the car was so full with kids, coolers, food and fishing gear. My surf guide said “If you have a sand-worthy 4-wheel drive you are hereby invited to venture out to this great, uncrowded, right, sand-bottom, wrap-around point break”. This was to be the bumpiest ride yet. We held on for dear life as the truck bumped and lurched in and out of potholes the size of hot tubs, both Anna and I had one arm acting as a seatbelt for one or more of the kids who simply couldn’t hold on themselves; they were being thrown around like little Mexican jumping beans. We drove for miles and miles deep into the desert my arse already numb. I can’t really accentuate how bumpy it was, except to say that while showing off that he could remain in the tray of the truck without holding on, one guy was thrown meters down the road by a particularly large pothole. He scrambled back in with a bleeding nose and with a thick Mexican accent smiled “superrrman!”

We drove on to the coast and bumped past some amazing breaks and small fishing villages until we reached a small series of huts known as El Playon or West Medano Beach which was where the drivers brother lived. We slathered on the mozzie spray to repel the tennis ball sized flies and head out to find some waves. Again as I paddled out I found myself alone. We head back, somewhat knackered and burnt to find that the family had cooked us an absolute feast…I lie, miniscule tacos, but insanely delicious. And it seemed like a feast after the lengthy journey and reasonable surf. We walked around to volcanoes which delivered some sizey swell but was kind of closing out and had a mean undertow so after a while of being thrashed I paddled in. We had adopted a mangy dog somewhere along the way. The afternoon was spent climbing the volcano on no discernable trail for a glorious sunset. I have to admit I was overcome with emotion as we sat on the rim of the enormous crater, gazing out to sea while everything turned orange. The islands scattered out to sea like spilt coffee beans. There was a warm breeze and I fully realised where I was. After a blind tumble back down the volcano batting away the monster flies we caught a ride to a little sand dune to set up camp. We made some taco wraps with avocado and tomato (soon to be a staple) And I sat outside with the full moon casting a river of light across the water to my feet.

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