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Todos Santos

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 48

April 15th (Todos Santos to Ciudad Insurgentes)

It was great to have "the ladies" with us for a week. Heidi, Bri and Jade had a plane to catch and left us to gather and organize all of our stuff.

We were on the road by noon with a bit of sadness, as we had to turn the front tires of our bikes northward. We have completed about 95% of our filming goals while on the southern course. There are a few places and shots that we missed, skipped, or still want to get while on our way north so JT and I tentatively mapped out our return trip.

Our thought was to get through La Paz and camp at a spot we know of that is about 40 miles north of the city. We arrived there at three o'clock, the temperatures in the high 80s. With plenty of daylight, and nothing to film in that area, we pushed on. At one point we rounded a turn in the highway and found ourselves at the beginning of a very long straight and flat section of tarmac in front of us. JT immediately pulled to the side and I knew why. We were staring at an incredible shot of a mirage on the road. With the camera placed in the middle of the road, we captured a vehicle way off in the distance with its headlights on as it approached us. It made for an amazing shot!

Two hundred miles with my butt in the saddle of my bike was about all I could take. We pulled over and secured a room for the night in Ciudad Insurgentes. At $35 it was well worth it. Besides, there is nothing impressive about the terrain between La Paz and Ciudad Insurgentes. Nothing worth filming, that is.

"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.


"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 45

Guest blog by Associate Producer Bri Bruce

Awake before the others, Papa and I decided to go for a drive to see the area. We headed north toward La Pastora, through a sparsely built area, then drove out to a beach where several cars (including a school bus that had been converted to an RV) were parked in the sand. There were several surfers in the water beyond the rocky beach and we stood watching them for a while, noting they were wearing wetsuits in the much cooler water. We returned south, heading for Pescadero, and wound through the hills and dirt roads there, stopping at another beach, this time deserted. ATV tracks scarred the beach, not a person in sight. The beach was not conducive to swimming—or surfing—as the step beach caused the waves to double over and break right on the shore.

Continuing south again, we came to Cerritos, taking a dirt road from Mex19 to the ocean. Between the two large hotels on the stretch of beach, we found a smaller road that dead-ended into a series of tents and umbrellas. There were vendors selling hats and jewelry, tourists lounging about in beach chairs. Several stands of surfboards were propped up, with signs reading “Rentals” and “Lessons.” After doing a quick scan of the boards, and talking to a few of the people offering rentals, I found a stand to come back to tomorrow.

After a late breakfast back at the complex, JT and Papa left to film on the bikes, so Heidi, Jade, and I walked around Todos Santos’s historic district to visit a few museums and galleries. We stopped for some fresh fruit with chili and lime at the mission before heading back to plan the rest of the trip’s filming. 

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 44

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.