In 2006, during the same trip on which I proposed to Sheena, we visited the Greek island of Santorini. We had heard that the most amazing sunset in the world could be seen from the town of Oia, high on the edge of the caldera of the island’s blown out volcanic center. We made our way to Oia one evening and took our place on the cliff’s edge. As the sun plunged slowly into the sea, we kept waiting for the sky to ignite in the most beautiful sunset we’d ever seen. It never happened, and the sunset from Oia went down in history as the 128th best sunset I’d ever seen.
A couple of days ago when we finally left Arizona, we reached the Mexican border at Sonoyta just as the sun reached the horizon. We crossed over, and a few minutes later the sky exploded into flames like a cheap polyester suit, creating a rainbow of color that filled the sky. There’s really nothing like a desert sunset, and hardly a better visual display to welcome us into our new vagabonding life.
In crossing the border so late in the day, we violated our first self-imposed rule of Mexican travel: no driving after dark. Given the delays in our trip thus far, and the relative safety of the road to Puerto Penasco, we decided that it was okay just this once. Don’t get me wrong, when I say “safety” I’m not talking about banditos and narcotraficantes with guns. I’m talking about cows. As soon as the sun goes down, the country’s livestock takes to the roads.
Sheena napped in the passenger seat, and when she awoke at the outskirts of Puerto Penasco, she was wielding some fierce hunger-induced anger; a term we’ve come to call “hanger”. We stopped at the first sign of a street side taco stand for fear that she would get any hangrier.
If there were to be an embodiment of heaven on Earth, it would be the Mexican taco stand. The one we found was fronted by a piece of plywood with the words Tacos al Pastor spray painted on it. We sat in the ubiquitous plastic lawn furniture that graces every taco stand in Mexico, and ordered several tacos and quesadillas. From a rotating spit of meat and pineapple and the well practiced hands of the taco guru, our dinner was crafted; fresh flour tortillas filled with roasted pork, cilantro, onions, and fresh guacamole, a plate of limes and grilled and salted green onions, an assortment of salsas, and bowls of radishes and cucumbers. We washed it down with a bottle of sangria flavored soda called Topo Chico, paid our $10 bill, and were on our way. The Mexican taco stand. Pretty much the best thing ever.
Puerto Penasco, or “Rocky Point” to Americans, is a small resort town at the northern end of the Sea of Cortez. As the closest bit of ocean to Arizona, it is quite popular with the college crowd during Spring Break. January isn’t a hopping time of year here, as evidenced by beachfront resorts all along the water front with empty parking lots. We drove Nacho northward past all of the resorts along Bahia de la Cholla until the road turned to dirt. We continued on until we came to Puerto Penasco’s northern outpost; a small bar and restaurant called Wrecked at the Reef. For $5 per night we could camp on the beach in peace, a good distance from the concrete resort jungle.
Reaching the Sea filled us with an overwhelming sense of joy, and we’ve been riding a wave of endorphins ever since. When we arrived, I went down to the water’s edge and sat for a while. This is your new life. No matter how often I remind myself, I still can’t believe that we’re doing this. We opted to simplify our lives to save money, and our lives got so much better. Now we’re on this adventure and our lives have gotten magnitudes better. Can it get any better than this? I guess time will tell.
Yesterday I put on the snorkeling gear and headed out with the spear gun to see if I could catch us dinner. My visualizations of being an underwater fish-dominating Rambo went unrealized, as I only spotted a couple of small fish hanging out by the reef. Next time you dirty rats, next time. This morning before leaving Puerto Penasco for Baja’s Pacific coast, Sheena headed out on the paddleboard. After scooting around Bahia de la Cholla, her streak of never having fallen off the thing remains intact.
As I write this, the sound of crashing waves fills Nacho’s interior. In the morning we’ll wake up without aid of an alarm clock when the sun warms our little home. We’ll roll out of bed to the sight of enormous waves crashing on the Baja coast. We’ll sip our coffee and eat breakfast outdoors before going snorkeling. Or fishing. Or surfing. This is your new life. Holy shit, this is our new life.