As I write this, Hurricane Patricia recently finished barreling down on the Pacific Coast of Mexico not far from where we plan to make our new home in Chacala, Nayarit. Initial reports from people on the ground say that the storm passed through Chacala and the rest of Nayarit with minimal impact. Hardest hit were southern Jalisco and Colima, the two states south of Nayarit. The storm also pounded the central mountains with rain. We have been glued to NOAA, Facebook and news sites these past few days, fearing the worst and hoping for the best for all of Mexico and its residents. Thankfully, the media are reporting no deaths so far.
We are currently in La Paz in Southern Baja – safely far away from the hurricane. Before we knew Patricia was coming, we had bought tickets to travel by ferry from La Paz to the mainland on Oct. 24 – right when the hurricane was thrashing the coast. Luckily, we were able to change our travel dates. Now we plan to cross over on Oct. 31, and arrive in Chacala on Nov. 3. Hopefully, the journey will be smooth sailing.
I’ve fallen behind on blogging and have several weeks to catch up on before writing about La Paz. My last blog post was on Loreto. That was a full month ago we were there! Sorry for being such a slacker blogger. 😦
On Sept. 18 we left Loreto for Pescadero on the Pacific side of southern Baja. At the time, there had been several storms hitting the southwest coast of Baja. We timed our departure from Loreto hoping to arrive in Pescadero before the next rain storm hit. We didn’t want to take any chances. We had already seen first hand how devastating rain can be to Baja roads, having already traversed a multitude of diversions and washouts on our way down Baja, mostly remnants of last year’s Hurricane Odile.
We arrived in Pescadero just in time. About an hour after we got there, the skies opened up a torrent of rain that lasted all afternoon. We were staying in a beautiful, three-story home (more on that below) with a zillion windows, that had all been left open to let in the (normally) lovely ocean breeze. Water poured into the house through the windows, which we hurried to close and mop up the mess. The one mile dirt road that connects the house to the main highway turned into a small river. Later that evening after the rain stopped, we tried to drive in 4×4 to town for dinner, but the road was so full of potholes and mud, we turned around only a few hundred meters from the house. Later, we learned that the caretakers who live on the property barely made it back from town that night. We had made a good call staying in and eating our last package of ramen. 🙂
The next day, there was more heavy rain on and off. But we made it to town to buy food and water during a break in the storm, thanks to a local farmer who found us idling on the road, contemplating our approach to a steep washout. He led us down a different dirt road that was easier to navigate, yet still doused our 4Runner up to the hood with muddy water. Later that day, we learned that a section of the main highway from Loreto to Pescadero was totally washed out. If we hadn’t left Loreto when we did, we would not have made it to Pescadero at all.
Here’s a video of us navigating a tough section of the road.
Pescadero is a small village just a few miles south of the more populated and touristy Todos Santos. It’s a quiet little town with a few taco stands and bars, small grocery stores, a bakery, primary school and only one small hotel/motel set among farmland and rolling green hills. The town is located near San Pedrito beach, a wide, 3-mile stretch of wild sandy coastline with strong riptides. It is a beautiful beach, but best for walking, running and shell collecting, not swimming. Only expert surfers were brave enough to ride the waves when we were there.
The house we stayed in – a modern, three-story villa straight out of a luxury vacation home magazine – was just a short walk to the beach. It is the part-time residence of our friend’s cousin who graciously allowed us to stay there for free (although we had never met!). We had the entire second floor to ourselves, complete with gourmet kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a deck with an amazing view of the beach and sunsets. There was also a killer pool with a swim up bar, three yoga platforms, hot tub and water fountains that lit up at night!
The owner, Mary, was there for part of our stay, so we got the opportunity to meet her and some of her local friends who were all incredibly welcoming. By the end of our stay, we felt like locals ourselves, already buddies with the owners of a local bar, The Little Lebowski Lounge – a Big Lebowski film-inspired watering hole. Owners Jim and Jen and bartender Janet serve up mean and delicious margaritas!
Our first week in Pescadero we embarked on one of our greatest adventures yet – becoming legal residents of Mexico! We had already started the process in the United States months ago, but the final application must be filed in person. There are only two (that we know of) immigration offices in Baja capable of processing residency applications – Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas. We had 30 days from the time we crossed the border to file our paperwork, and we were told it could take up to 5 weeks and multiple trips to the immigration office to finalize everything. Since we didn’t want to spend 5 weeks near Tijuana, we opted to explore as much of Baja as we could, and then wind up near Cabo before the 30-day deadline. Fortunately, Pescadero is only an hour’s drive away from Cabo. Our first week in town was spent driving into Cabo just about every other day to sort out our application. It involved numerous trips to the Immigration Office (6 in total), plus running around town collecting all the photocopies, photos, official letters, and bank receipts we needed to submit with our application. Once we finally got our paperwork in, all we could do was wait for final approval and our green cards, which was going to take a few more weeks, so we started to have fun and explore the area around Pescadero.
We spent a couple afternoons in Todos Santos, checking out art galleries, the plaza, and having the obligatory margarita at Hotel California. The town was pretty torn up – all the roads were being redone – and many shops and restaurants were still closed for the season, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see and do. In season, Todos Santos is bustling with festivals, shoppers and classy restaurants, but we were told it’s also overrun with gringos. We much preferred Pescadero, which was more of a locals’ town with only a smattering of gringos who have made it their home as well.
The top highlight of our time in Pescadero, by far, was SURFING at Cerritos Beach! Cerritos is just the next beach south of San Pedrito, and one of the best-rated surf breaks on the Pacific, especially for beginner and intermediate surfers. No rocks, no reefs, just a long, smooth sandy bottom beach. There are multiple, nice long right and left breaking waves. When conditions are really good, there is apparently a super long right-breaking wave that you can ride nearly the length of the beach! Conditions were excellent when we were there, with 2-6 foot swells, evenly spaced with multiple right and left breaks for all levels of surfers to play. We hired an instructor from Mario’s Surf School and spent five days riding the waves. Brian is a true surfer now – he regularly catches his own waves and rides them with style. I’m starting to get the hang of it too, but still grateful for a push into the wave from an instructor! We both rode more waves with more confidence and control in those five days than we have ever done in previous surfing trips.
Maya, too, is gaining more confidence in the water every day. While one of us surfed, the other would play with her in the waves on the far end of the beach where they were the most calm. Prior trips to the beach, she would be too scared to get in the water. Not this time. She charged right in and loved to be held as we jumped the little waves that rolled in. I’m sure it helps that we are having some sort of ocean experience every place we visit in Baja – from riding in kayaks and motor boats to bobbing in the sea with whale sharks and sea lions, she’s on or in the water every few days. Plus, with access to a pool in Pescadero, she’s now in the water every day. She’s not swimming yet, but my hope for her is that she will be before our adventure is over. Once, when we were bobbing together in the ocean, I told her she’s becoming a little fish. She corrected me and said, “No, mama. I’m a mermaid princess.” 🙂
Even Kubu the mountain dog is getting more comfortable in the water. She is normally not a swimmer. She merely wades in the water up to her chest. But one of the days we were at Cerritos, when we were all jumping the waves together, she wanted to be with us so badly, she actually swam to us! It was only one of two times we’ve ever seen her swim in her 10 years of life. 🙂
We loved our time in Pescadero and Cerritos Beach and are already talking about when we might return for another surfing trip in the future.
Next stop: Los Cabos!