Guest blog by Associate Producer Bri Bruce
I woke at first light, made coffee, and walked to the bluff to find perfect dark lines of swell waves wrapping around the rocky point to the south. A gentle breeze dimpled the surface and I watched the steady strokes of a paddle boarder as they caught a few waves and rode them clear to shore. At the excitement of the conditions, I walked back to the condo to wake JT so he could film.
It was a perfect "Baja morning" by the time I paddled out. It wasn't long before the wind died completely, giving way to the stifling desert heat, the sky yellowing with day, the water becoming a clear blue-green beneath me. As I paddled for the point, I paused to look at the reef beneath me. My shadow was visible; I watched silvery fish glinting as their scales caught the light. Ahead of me, a fin or two broke the glassy surface, and even farther out the misty spout of a whale shot up from the horizon.
I exchanged pleasantries with the paddle boarder, a woman named Tammy who worked as a social worker in Idaho and was currently on sabbatical. She had been coming to the cape for fifteen years with her husband, retired. She motioned toward JT on the shore, filming, and I told her about our project, and before long we were exchanging stories about how much change we've both seen in recent years. I made a remark about how little birds there were in the area, and how everything seemed almost hushed, lacking, as this was something I noticed the day before. She continued, saying the beaches here used to be covered in seabirds, all feasting off of sardines in the wide cove north of the point, but this was something she hadn't seen in years. She and her husband sold their fishing boat because there were just no fish left to catch. We shared sentiments on the current state of the peninsula, broken up by long pauses of contemplation as we waited for the next set to roll through. We took turns riding waves, conversing, and being in the moment.
Eventually, she rode a wave into the shallow waters and continued paddling toward shore and exiting at the beach, done for the morning. Not long after, JT and Papa swam out to meet me, floating as I continued to surf. Still, questions gnawed at me in the wake of my conversation with Tammy, my observations about the lack of birds now amplified the more I paid attention to it. No birds meant no fish, and no fish.... well, what did that mean? Was anything being done about it? What impact does that have on the ecosystem as a whole? Where have all the birds gone, and more importantly, will they ever come back?
We continued south, then west around the cape. I had never been to Cabo San Lucas, and as we crested a small hill on the highway I caught my first glimpse of Land's End. I was shocked. Jet skis and boats of all sizes buzzed around the bay before the rocky point, leaving wakes like jet trails in every direction. Billowing, colorful parasails dotted the horizon, every bit of shoreline covered with sprawling monoliths of resorts and hotels. The opulence was disgusting, everywhere one looked--except on the other side of the highway where there was nothing but desert and dust leading up to the mountains--was sprawling with it. Such a manmade "paradise" at the expense of the natural beauty. I'd sen so many photographs of the granite cliffs falling into the sea, the iconic arch at the southernmost point of Baja, that somehow left out all of this. There was so much that wasn't supposed to be there.
It was with slightly heavy hearts that we passed, mostly in silence, along the highway.
Mex19 took us right to Todos Santos, the highway only slightly veering right and dropping us right into the central part of the town. We wound through narrow, brick-laden streets, past tourists taking photographs in front of the Hotel California (there is some speculation as to whether this is the Hotel California of the famous Eagles song). The old brick buildings in el centro, in the historical district, hold libraries and museums, art galleries and places for tourists to buy souvenirs and curios. Just beyond, the road dips down, through a palm forest, and the pavement ends. We're staying at a newly built complex behind a cafe and an ice cream shop.
Later we watched the sun set from the yard of the mission in town, a herd of goats wandering teh streets with bells around their necks. The clanging could be heard for blocks as they stopped periodically to munch on the plants lining the sidewalks, darting in and out of traffic.
We stopped by the Hotel California for a cold beer, didn't discover whether it was in fact the Hotel California (much to my disappointment) though learned that it had been in operation, originally as a tienda, since 1945 and then was renovated in 2002. For all intents and purposes, to me, it is the real Hotel California. We did eventually leave, and found a place a few streets away from the main road to have some tacos for dinner before heading back.