Beach Camping Outside La Paz

So, I will be the first to admit that I am not much of an outdoorsman. That moniker was always more reserved for my brother Jason, who had asked our parents to take us camping from a fairly young age. I always went along begrudgingly, angry that I may miss a Yankee game. Mind you, this was when the Yankees had guys like Mel Hall, Alvaro Espinoza and Kevin Maas. Clearly, I did not like camping. However, in the last few years it has grown on me and I have really begun to enjoy the outdoors more – hence this trip. Well, I think I may have jumped into the deep end without the requisite lessons.

After indulging in spring break, Cabo San Lucas style, we headed north to La Paz in order to catch the ferry to mainland Mexico.  After picking up a battery box that we will need to install our auxiliary battery, we headed north from La Paz to find the ferry landing. If anyone else is considering this type of trip, the first place you should go for a caja de la bateria is a marine store. It is just a plastic box, and cheap too (~$10), but no autostore seems to have them. Anyway, we were told that the landing was just at the end of the boardwalk, north of town.  So we headed that way. Nothing. It was a nice drive, so I figured we might as well go a little further. We started gaining some elevation, but still, no sign of the ferry.  Kiel was enjoying driving so much (the Astro can really corner!) that we kept moving along. Finally, 18 kilometers north of the end of the boardwalk, we caught sight of the ferry landing in Pichilingue. So we knew where the ferry was, but it was too late to catch it that day (the ferry to Topolobampo on Baja Ferries leaves once a day at 3 pm), so we needed to find a place to crash for the evening. Seemed the perfect opportunity for some beach camping.

Along the drive to the ferry, I had started googling beach camp spots in the area on my phone (Droid!), racking up the roaming charges, and discovered Playa Tecolote. There were some vague reviews available, so we decided to check it out.  It was only another 8 kilometers past the ferry landing, so it would be convenient for the next days “events”.  We arrived, and the place looked a little rundown, with a couple of kayaking and surf rental shops and some sort of abarrote/taco shop. But the beach was expansive and there were only a few cars belonging to day trippers.

It was the end of the road (not to be confused with the Boyz II Men song) so we headed to the left, which seemed far more secluded. We pulled up to one of the last dunes and made our way onto the beach. On a side note, I should mention that the Astro was quite nimble on the sand and handled deftly by Kiel. Anyway, it appeared we had the beach to ourselves and completely for free!

No one as far as the eye can see

I began setting up shop beneath one of the palapas and Kiel joined, studying a map in preparation for our adventure into Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre). It was all quite peaceful.

Prepping camp

After finishing, I decided to take a walk down down the beach to what looked to be some sort of residence. I asked Kiel to join me, but he mysteriously declined.  But no red flags there as he appeared busy preparing his sleeping quarters in the Astro.  So I walked down to check it out and as I approached I was greeted by some dogs. Good start – anyone with dogs is usually friendly. I should make it clear now that my Spanish is pretty horrible – it sounds ok in my head, but once I need to actually speak with someone, I get nervous and it comes out a jumbled, incoherent mess. So, with that on the table, I hear someone on the far side of the building and I round the corner to greet them. “Que onda, amigo?” To my surprise, a man of at least 70 swings around and comes forward to greet me. I cannot understand a word he is saying.  As he gets closer, I note that he has one tooth. And he is wearing dolphin shorts. Kiel must have known something before I left. I take a breath, refocus, and ask him to speak slowly, “Puedes hablar mas despacio?” I don’t think he heard me/understood, as he kept going, much too fast for my brain. I tried to explain that we were camping for the evening and that we were from California, on our way to Argentina. He seemed to understand and I was able to gather that he had lived here a long time, alone. I thanked, him and wished him a buenos noches, to which he presented for a high five and fist bump. It was then I realized that he had five fingers on each hand. I’m not talking four fingers and a thumb, I mean, five fingers, no thumb! I had never seen anything like it before.

I headed back to camp to relay my story to Kiel, who only then told me he had seen the man and thought him a little odd. He also then told me he was glad he was sleeping in the Astro and that I would likely be brutally murdered by him and then torn to pieces by his pack of wild dogs. This kicked my over active imagination into gear and I started picturing a Mexican version of a Rob Zombie horror movie, complete with deformed and depraved individuals massacring me in the middle of my tent. Think House of 1000 Corpses meets the Hills Have Eyes.

Great, I should have no problem sleeping. It is dark by 8 pm and Kiel heads into the van. Before getting any further, Kiel had ran up to the abarrote/taco shop to see if they had any food.  Apparently, they had closed, but were able to put together some shrimp and chicken ceviche with tortillas for us to munch on, which was really nice of them. So, Kiel is locked up safely in the Astro and I head into the Hubba Hubba. Its a pretty chilly night and the wind is whipping on shore, flapping the fly on my tent at a prodigious rate.  The waves are crashing about 20 feet from where I’m lying and there are dogs yelping in the background.

My view from the tent

I’ll be asleep in no time, right? Nope. Every noise sends me twitching, reaching for my  3″ pocket knife. I should be able to fight off an army of the undead with that as my sole weapon.  I begin thinking how much I would much rather be getting ripped to shreds by Judge Taylor for not having the correct whole punches than laying there on this “”peaceful” beach. About an hour into this I hear footsteps around the tent. I cease all movement, suppressing even my breathing.  I start planning my escape route, realizing full well that I am on an empty beach in the dark and I am blind as a bat without my contacts. But the footsteps pass. I keep listening (I can listen to Jimmy, but I can’t hear him) if they are circling around, but the wind is drowning out all other noises now.  Seconds, minutes, hours pass, but I have no concept of time (why didn’t I wear a watch?) Eventually, I fall asleep, exhausted from my uber-alertness.  Suddenly, I jolt upright, feeling hands around my neck and begin flailing wildly, only to realize I was dreaming. I should have stayed home and watched the Yankees.

When I wake in the morning, unrested, I am relieved I am alive. Then I realize I’m more dramatic than a teenage girl, get up and start cooking some oatmeal. Soon after, my friend from down the beach walks over and asks how I slept. “Muy bueno!” is all I can muster.


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