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Hitch hiking Baja Mexico and the search for surf


After a few days of surfing and simply hanging out I became restless. I walked around mindlessly mostly just ambling along in the heat. My head was full of lucid dreaming and personal legends from conversations with Carsten. I had started to think maybe it was time I head back…that my journey was done, that I had to move on before I became part of the landscape here. I felt immersed in the moment but also was often distracted by plans forming. It was a strange time. It was one of the only times during my travels in which I felt Adrift in the world. Just a piece of lamb’s wool caught on a fence. I’d go from a mild panic about my empty wallet to a state of great calm in mere moments. I was so tired, my body was skinny and exhausted and so was my mind.

We were back at los Cerritos where days stretched out with lazy surfs, reading, beers and naps. I started having some big nights for loss of any other options, and would walk under the full moon, listening to music in a daze, barefoot into the desert. I was starting to go a bit crazy and so was everything around me. The waves were gnarly and unforgiving, my leg got slashed by my fins and I got stung across my chest by a jellyfish. Some wild dogs attacked me and there was a great storm that destroyed the tent in the middle of the night causing us to make a wild scramble to the closest palapa. There was a wild fight that I got involved in, trying to break it up, between some of the Mexican workers and some Americans. It just seemed like everything was getting churned up and was ready to explode. Anna and I head to La Paz for a day to escape the storm that was brewing and to break up the monotony of the last few days. The tropical storm found us anyway and La Paz turned into a river. We head back to Todos Santos and Carsten’s palace for shelter.

That night I cooked pasta with chorizo which was to be the death of me. In the middle of the night I started getting chronic cramps which would eventuate into full on food poisoning, streaming sweats, shivering then burning, throwing up, my body contorting in wild directions, whimpering in the foetal position praying for sleep or for this demon inside me to pass. I remember scrambling outside into the garden in a semi lucid state, sweating and shivering, collapsing into a tree. Apparently I slept for two days after that only managing to get out of bed to use the toilet. I don’t remember much of it. There are little flickers of Carsten helping me out of bed, the blades of the ceiling fan, Anna with a cool face cloth. But it was all a bit warped and hazy. Anna left for the East coast with some other kiwis we had met in Punta Conejo and had been hanging out with a fair bit at the Pescadero surf camp. I had a bleary half awake good bye hug and she was gone.

As soon as I got better Carsten drove me down to San Pedrito where my board had snapped. It was his 40th birthday so we surfed it in with silence. I had a moment, fully realising this was my last surf in Baja and became overwhelmed by emotion as the sun rose and caught on the offshore spray of the waves. It was the same view that I had taken in that day my board broke, which seemed like years ago. The little burnt out palapa still stood where we had slept.

I was skinny as a rake and had no money. I had to get back to San Diego somehow. Carsten dropped me on the edge of town and gave me a little bit of money. He gave me that “god speed you poor bastard” type of look and he was off. I hitched to Loreto to find Rodolpho my Mexican friend from Coyote Cals. All I had to find him were his phone number (no answer) and trailer number in a town of trailer parks.

After a fruitless search, I slept on the beach with no tent and was held at knife point by a drunken Mexican who soon realised I had nothing worth stealing and spat on me before wavering off into the night. A little bit shaken I chain smoked to keep me awake and to keep my mind off my enormous hunger and the fear of getting more knives in my face. A few hours into the night another figure stumbled my way. His name was Emilio and he promised to be my securidad. I was too tired to argue and if he was really planning to kill me when I fell asleep then so be it. I woke suddenly at sunrise over a calm Loreto Bay, the mountains and isles silhouetted. And there was Emilio drinking a beer standing at the foot of my sleeping bag. He smiled and repeated “securidad”. Amazing. He threw me a beer. I hadn’t eaten for almost two days and the beer was difficult to get down. I gave Emilio three t shirts and thanked him before having a shower in the sea and heading into town to continue my hitch.

I was so incredibly weak and had spent the last of my pesos. On my walk back to town I had to take three breaks to catch my breath and sit down. I was almost delirious as I head to a Banamex Banco ATM cubicle and put in my card knowing it was empty but praying for a miracle. I looked at my bank account and let out a whimper. My eyes watered up, I opened my mouth to say something but nothing would come out. There, in front of me, was a figure telling me I had muchos muchos deneros. My fingers shook as I withdrew money, scared that it could disappear at any moment. But it delivered clean crisp notes so easily that I gasped, then laughed, then cried, then laughed. As it turns out, my final pay check from my job in Hawaii had been sent to my Mum who had banked it “just in case I needed it”. I almost ran to the closest food stall and inhaled a sandwich and some juice, threw it up, and then ordered another. I bought a ticket to Ensenada where I thought I might stay in a hostel and treat myself to a night on the town in celebration. I wandered through the streets of Loreto, buying more food at every corner, my bags safe in storage in the bus terminal. I felt like a real tourist. For once on this trip I wasn’t hauling a giant back, sweating bucket loads trying to get a ride to the next beach. I looked in shops, bought trinkets and complimented paintings in little stalls. I had a beer on the promenade. I felt like an entirely different person. Before long I was sitting on an air conditioned bus on comfortable clean cushioned seats as Shrek played in dubbed Mexican from a little TV by the driver’s seat. It was a bizarre state of affairs as we drove past Santa Roselia and Mulege where I had slept in the truck, through the desert where I had crashed. It was like a little montage of the entire trip. Of someone else’s trip. I imagined all the characters I had met standing on the side of the road as I passed. All the people I had met and lifts I had got. I watched no movie, read no book or wrote any words. I just stared out at the countryside which had hosted me for a while.

I woke in Tijuana. I had slept passed the Ensenada stop and now was at the bustling terminal buying a ticket first thing in the morning to San Diego. I was once more hauling my bags in the early morning chaos trying to get on the right bus. Then, quite suddenly, and without warning I was sitting with a bagel and cream cheese and a large frothy coffee in downtown San Diego, with cops behind me laughing “Just one more day of weekend Frank, it’s all I need” “Mondays are never easy Jerry, never easy.” I was back in the thriving metropolis of downtown San Diego. A security guard even told me to not sit on a seat outside a massive glossy building. I guess I looked homeless.

Pretty soon I was In New York working in a Bar in downtown Manhattan and living with hipsters in Brooklyn. The Baja trip seemed like it was done by a different person in a different world. One evening I went with some friends to a rooftop Mexican bar where a mariachi band wailed out into the night and pitchers of margaritas were flowing freely. We were sitting around a big wooden table laughing and telling stories. One girl drawled “I would looooove to go to Mexico” and before long the table was bubbling with talk of spring break trips to Cabo san Lucas and Tijuana. I sipped my beer and listened to their stories before the conversation was swung in a different direction. I silently slipped out and leant against the balcony with the New York skyline in the distance. I have been to Mexico. I said it out loud to myself just to hear it. It felt like a secret. Was I making it up? I couldn’t begin to tell my story, where would I start? How could I explain a journey of this magnitude? Did I need to? But I had done it, that I knew. And that was enough. Maybe I’ll write about it one day. I smiled to myself as I turned back to the fiesta on this rooftop in Brooklyn.

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