When I was about 10 years old, I was hiking with my dad and brothers in Sedona when we decided to duck a fence to find a shortcut to some Indian ruins. A few minutes later a strung out crazy person jumped out from behind a bush wielding a sawed off shotgun. He had a string of shotgun shells around his neck and he kept the gun aimed directly at us. He had crazy in his eyes. After a half an hour of pleading, he let us go. I had this in mind as I ducked the fence and started walking into the bushes at the property that we assumed belonged to a friend of a friend in La Ribera near Baja’s southern tip.
We left La Paz on Sunday morning and headed south. We didn’t know where we were going, only that there was a couple from the states trying to build some kind of permaculture farm near La Ribera. A bit of Google stalking led us to Biosfera Buena Fortuna, where we figured we’d find someone who knew them. We drove there and found a young American guy pruning a tree, so we asked him where we might find Tiffanie.
“I think she lives toward town a little. Look for a gate with a Buddhist symbol on it.”
“What do you mean by ‘Buddhist symbol’”, I asked.
“I’m not really sure.” he said. He was like Yoda, except less helpful.
Back in Nacho, we headed toward town and found a gate with a strange symbol on it. Buddhism probably has strange symbols, so we figured we must be in the right place. Bingo bango. The gate was locked and there was no house in sight, just trees, shrubs, and a dirt track winding into the foliage.
After squeezing through the barbed wire fence I walked down the track past banana and mesquite trees. I noticed a child’s bare footprints in the dust. After a while I came across a huge thatched palapa, under which two men and two women were building a deck, while two little girls played. No guns, no crazy people.
We spent two days in La Ribera with these folks; Tiffanie and Troy moved here a week ago with their 3 year old daughter Anjali from Corvallis, Oregon. They brought along their friends Tiffany and Josh, with their 3 year old daughter Stella, to help get the property ready for living. Due to computer issues we didn’t tell them we were coming, but they all welcomed our arrival – and my trespassing – with open arms. It was as if we’d known each other for years.
Tiffanie runs a food blog and was generous enough to cook for us all weekend in her open-air kitchen. We contributed cornbread cooked in our Dutch oven in the campfire, and passed around a bottle of Nate’s home brewed quadrupel. Each night we ate dinner under the palapa, and then sat around the campfire. Outdoor living: it doesn’t suck like you might think it would.
On our second day we made our way to the beach for a bit of recreation. I still hadn’t caught a fish, and was determined to finally satisfy my primordial predatory desires by landing The Big One. They say to visualize yourself succeeding to find success, so I tried. I imagined casting my bait 300 yards into the dark undergrowth of a fish infested kelp forest. I imagined a 60 pound roosterfish taking my hook, and myself bravely fighting until the fish became tired enough for me to haul it ashore, where I would plunge my dive knife into its head like a Spartan warrior. I wouldn’t even show any emotion, even though it would be very emotional for even the hardest of war hardened killers. I would wipe my bloody hands on a whole bunch of Kleenex tissues and then take a photo with my kill. I would leave the bloody Kleenex tissues right there on the beach so that future beachgoers would wonder what kind of terror must have happened in that spot. It would be a story they would pass on to their grandchildren. “I tell you, grandchildren, there was more blood on that tissue than on all of Normandy’s beaches. It must have been one hell of a nosebleed.”
Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to cast more than 40 yards. I stood there on the shore for what seemed like an hour, my pale white torso turning a splotchy red from the sun. I didn’t have a fishing rod holder, so I held it with my hand. Slouched over, burning, holding onto a fishing pole. An obnoxious retired American guy walked over, beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and the bulbous potbelly of a malnourished famine child protruding from his frail body.
“I like your fishing pole holder! Ha! You know what your problem is? You have too much bait! Ha Ha! I knew it when I saw you casting! Ha! ” Great, I thought, I can’t run away or else I’ll dislodge my bait from the fish infested kelp forest. The man was yelling every word in my ear. Must be drunk. Or senile.
“You know what else you’re doing wrong!? You’re standing there in your shorts with those f***ing Hanes underwear! Ha! You need to jerk those f***ing pants off and put a f***ing beer in one hand. HA! You know what else you’re doing wrong!? You need to taaaake ooooooffff thaaaat f***********ing waaaaaatch! HA HA HA!” Damn it all, and here I forgot my tazer and my pepper spray back in Nacho. I’d just have to wait until he got bored and left.
In the end I didn’t catch any fish. Turned out I wasn’t casting into a fish infested kelp forest after all. My later paddle boarding expedition proved that in fact I was casting into 5 feet of water with a smooth sandy bottom. Thank goodness we’re near civilization or we’d have starved to death long ago.
On Tuesday morning we loaded up Nacho and said farewell to our new friends. Josh and Troy, both ER doctors, found it hard to believe that we were traveling without a first aid kit, so Josh unloaded all of his supplies on us. Now we’re basically a traveling medical clinic; we have an EpiPen, antibiotics, splints, various pills, and a flesh stapler. Yes, a flesh stapler. The way Josh put it, “I love these things. In the amount of time it takes for the patient to evacuate their lungs in a blood curdling scream, you can have the whole wound closed up.” He said it with such nonchalance, so matter of fact, and with a hint of crazy in his eyes.