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Baja peninsula

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 37

April 6th (La Paz)

Today we intended to drive out to a resort community on a spit of land in the La Paz Bay called El Mogote. This place is shrouded in controversy. On the peninsula is a 1,700-acre resort called Paraiso del Mar. It was planned to have 2 golf courses, over 3,000 homes and condominiums, a marina, a town plaza, and other amenities. The developer did not receive the proper clearances and approvals from the government prior to beginning construction, and abandoned the project in order to flee criminal prosecution. So, this "resort" sits with partial occupation and no means of access, except via water taxi. The "road" is notoriously sandy with a depth and texture that will swallow most 4x4 vehicles.

Our attempt to get there was denied about a mile into the section along the dunes. The sand kept getting deeper and the sand patches got longer. I dumped my bike once, which gave JT the chance to film how to right these heavy beasts. Then it was JT's turn. He attempted to turn around and found his bike chain deep in sand with no way to get out. We took this opportunity to film the procedure of getting unstuck. It all went well and we were both pleased to turn a bad situation into a good one. The swim in the bay helped, too, since we were sweating in the heat of the Baja sun after that ordeal.

The El Mogote has another story that needs to be mentioned. There are a number of shark fishing operations and is also a sea turtle nesting site. The turtles come to this peninsula to lay their eggs and the locals have instituted a "Protect and Release" policy. Forty-five days after the eggs have been laid, the babies hatch and the locals help get them to the water.

We met a wonderfully interesting man tonight named David from Alaska. He is riding a bicycle along the Baja Divide trail (the length of the peninsula). We had a beer and several tacos together as we swapped stories. We had seen him several times in multiple places along our route and were glad to get his story and comments on film.

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"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 31

March 31st (Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos)

This small fishing village has a history of changing its name. In 1905 when Nelson and Goldman came through it was know by three names: La Soledad, Matancita, or Santo Domingo Landing. It is here that they boarded a sailing vessel owned by the Chartered Company of Lower California for a trip to Isla Magdelena and Isla Santa Margarita.

Today, it is officially know as Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, named after one of Mexico's former presidents. The town survives on commercial fishing and whale watching. The bay that fronts the village is one of the major breeding and calving grounds for the gray whale. JT and I jumped on a boat with a very nice couple (he is American and she is Australian). They wanted someone to split the cost of the boat and the captain assured us that there were still three mothers with calves in the bay.

We had a good trip and motored alongside one mother and her calf for about an hour. They did not want to engage with us and kept us at a distance the entire time. We were able to get some other footage of coyotes, herons, frigate birds, and fishermen cleaning their catch on the island shores.

Both of us were in bad shape and needed showers in the worst way. When you can't stand yourself, you know you are affecting those around you. So, we secured a room in Ciudad Insurgentes for two nights to charge up all of our devices, download and copy data, and get a shower. We are also spending this time to go through footage and gear and get a feel for what we may need during the next month.

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"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 47

I woke up feeling somewhat somber, knowing that in a few hours I would have to drive to San Jose del Cabo, hop on a plane, and go home.

On asking JT and Papa how they felt the week’s filming went, they said they were pleased with accomplishing what they had hoped to throughout the week. The goal was threefold: ride horses into the Sierra la Laguna, following a similar route taken by Nelson and Goldman; surf some of Baja’s beaches (as it is one of only a few things Baja is known for to the outside world and is an important economic and cultural contributor for some places on the peninsula); and capture the opulence of Cabo San Lucas. I’d say the week was a success.

This did little to uplift my spirits completely. As we veered inland, all I could think about was that blue again. It's no wonder that legendary conservationist, scientist, and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the world's aquarium. And let's not forget his famous quote: "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."

I was leaving it behind again--and already I was planning the next time I’d see it. It is always with some degree of hesitancy or reserve, however. I always fear the state I will find it in when I return. It will never be as it was the time before, and its future is uncertain. 

As the plane rumbled forward, then lifted, I looked out the window and bid the wondrous place a silent farewell. 

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 46

Guest blog by Associate Producer Bri Bruce

Woke to a thick haze in the air, a mixture of fog and smoke—likely burning trash.

JT, Papa and I headed to Cerritos early, where I rented a board from a guy named Juan at one of the stands we had seen the day before. The surf was decent, though somewhat disorganized, more or less an extended beach break that sweeps around a rocky point below a large hotel on the cliff. There were only a few others out, and I enjoyed a handful of fast waves with short rides. 

I did a short interview with JT afterwards, then interviewed Juan who told us all about the changes he’d seen at this beach in the last ten years. The beach used to be relatively unknown, and was unbuilt, “undiscovered.” But now, more than a few large hotels dot the stretch of beach, and people come from all over the world to surf and swim. Juan explained how sad it was, but ultimately it was good for business. He and his brother owned the stand, provided rentals and lessons to beachgoers, and slept right there in the sand most nights.

We spent a few hours in the evening in the central part of Cabo San Lucas, walking the stretch of beach in front of the resorts that gave us a good view of Land’s End, the boats leaving and entering the harbor, and all the people.

We found an out-of-the-way place for some tacos and beer, then roamed around the main streets to film some of the nightlife. Loud music poured from the open entryways of bars and nightclubs. Men stood on the sidewalk handing out flyers, attempting to usher us into their establishments. There were families, and sunburnt couples, gaggles of women in high heels, groups of men yelling and jostling one another. Every so often we’d pass a bachelorette party, colorful tiaras or boas setting them apart.

Once we had our fill of Cabo, we made our way back to Todos Santos. We were silent on the drive home, most of us likely reflecting on the day, and the week, knowing some of us would be leaving in the morning.