Do Babies Like Mexico? HELL YES! Babies ENCANTA (love) Mexico!
I knew the area and planned to show my family one of my favorite places on earth: the East Cape of Baja California, Mexico. Unable to get a hold of some old friends who live in Zacatitos, a small village on the East Cape, we resorted to AirBnB. The East Cape is a remote desert area to the east of San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. The roads are dusty and rough (but constantly being improved) and there is no ice within 45 minutes of where we wanted to surf. Ice is a big deal in the desert, not only to keep the beer cold but also to preserve food and milk for our baby. Anyway, we booked a palapa (basically a gazebo with a palm-frond thatched roof and open sides) on AirBnB that overlooked the surf break, Shipwrecks. Check out Elena’s place here.
Our Palapa Home at Shipwrecks on the East Cape of Baja California Sur, Mexico
Per my imprudent modus operandi de rigueur (translation: my customary bobo-headness), we arrived at night after a day of driving from La Paz and stopping at multiple Super Ley grocery stores! We got tried to follow the intricate directions on the reservation but with no phone service and no signs, we got lost. When we finally pulled up and cut the headlights of our rental Barbie Jeep Laredo 4×4, no less than 20 barking dogs raged in the dark desert around us. We tried to alert out host but no doubt she already saw our headlights a mile away. Elena eventually lead us to our space. She seemed a bit gruff, which is to be expected from these original ex-pat Baja warrior types but we later shared meals with her and found out that she and her husband were some of the first people to buy land down there. She even showed us these beautiful balsa wood surfboards that her husband built. That night, under the light of the moon, we assembled our Phil and Ted’s portacot, made up some organic formula and went to bed. Our airport stresses and yuppie baby gear was engulfed by the desert dust and the smash of the waves below us.
The next few days were all about surfing… We absolutely scored! We surfed the first day at one of my favorite waves in the world called Shipwrecks. Then the swell filled in and it was too big so we went and surfed Nine Palms for the next few days. We even ran into some old friends from La Jolla who we hung out with all weekend!
BAJA BABY SURVIVAL GUIDE:
1. RENT A 4×4
Before we left, we hummed and hawed about renting a Jeep 4X4 because it was much, much more expensive than the other cars. And guess what? When we landed in La Paz, they decided that it was even more expensive than we expected. My Spanish is functional to find waves and order tacos but I am not quick enough to haggle daily rental car rates, mileage and insurance. But in the end, it was worth whatever astronomical price we paid after the conversion rate. We could drive anywhere, check any spot and we got to take off the top and park it right next to our other gringo mates at the surf break. Priceless.
2. CREATE A MOBILE KITCHEN
It only took us one trip to Baja and one trip to New Zealand to learn to come prepared to build a mobile kitchen, even if you are arriving by airplane. This time we checked an empty cooler, a cutting board, a couple of knives and cutlery. We were ready to go when we landed rather than spending all day fixing up our cocina at Mexi Wal-Mart. Since we could only keep ice for 1 to 1 1/2 days we only bought perishables for those days. We ate a lot of sandwiches and cold tacos with avocado, mayo, cheese and salami. Normally, we were just so damn hungry after surfing it didn’t matter as long as it was washed down with a cold Tecate! Baby Valle was eating limited solids at this point and mostly chugged a lot of air-warmed bottles of formula we brought from home. But we also could cut up fresh fruit and veggies for her to gnaw on as needed.
3. ERRBODY IN HEAD-TO-TOE RASHIES ALL DAY
Baby Valle has several full body rashies. Unfortunately, such items are not exactly en vogue for the rest of us. I bought some sun shirts to wear and basically wore them all day – wet & dry, surfing & on land. It goes without saying but you have to stay on the sunscreen and covering up because you are in the desert after all.
4. LEARN SOME SPANISH
My very Australian counterpart was an apt student and was able to pick up the basics from me and put them to use when ordering food or getting gas. As I mentioned before, I speak functional Spanish which makes it possible for me to ask about the surf or have a joke with the gasolineras (gas station attendants). I would absolutely suggest getting familiar with the basic greetings, how to ask for food and maybe learn some surf terms like olas (waves), high tide (marea alta), low tide (marea baja), grande (big), pequena (small), rocas (rocks) or areana (sand). Also, learn how to say how old you baby is when people ask “cuanto meses tiene el bebe?” or “How many months old is the baby.” Valentina tiene nueve meses (Valentina is nine months).
5. MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE LOCALS
Strangely enough, this part of Baja is mainly inhabited by gringos (white people) who come for surfing and/or retirement. You’ll be sweet with language but you may encounter the salty/angry old ex-pat or two, the I’m-local-in-a-country-where-its-impossible-for-me-to-be-local type. I usually just smile and try not to burn them. Wide berth. The fact of the matter is that many of these people are isolated and would love to chat once you break down the initial get-off-my-wave barrier, these guys almost always have a story to tell. You’ll find you see the same people day-after-day, doing the same surf check circuit you are doing. Give them a wave! Share a beer! Flash your baby, because even real assholes tend to smile at babies.
6. GET OUT OF THE SUN & SPOIL YOURSELF
We were on a hardcore surf trip with a nine month old. When one of us came in, the other went out and we’d repeat the process until we were exhausted. Valentina played on the beach, napped in the Jeep with all the doors open and swimming from 6 AM onward. When the wind picked up around 12, we’d come in and make lunch. Then we’d GET OUT OF THE SUN until around 5 PM. Most days we drove into town for supplies and went to the Cabo Surf Hotel and drank a cocktail in the pool or laid in the shade. Babies can do surf trips but you have to take breaks and make sure they get out of the sun a large portion of the day. We also liked going to the San Jose Del Cabo fancy super markets and buying baby outfits. Some super cute stuff for not so many pesos.
7. DON’T LET DAD GET TOO DRUNK & LOSE YOUR STUFF
Finally, an always applicable rule, don’t let dad get too drunk and lose your stuff aka keep your foreign country guard up. I went out for my fourth surf during the evening glass off at Shipwrecks. We’d been at it all day but there were only a few guys out and my partner seemed content to play with Baby Valle and drink beers with the boys. I left him with my Canon G1X to try and get a good pic of me. When I came back, packed up the family and drove us back to our palapa it was night time. The next day, the camera was nowhere to be found. We combed the beach but never found it. I am not sure what happened but my theory was drunk dad left it on the sand and it either got covered up by sand blown in the wind at night or picked up by a lucky person. Either way, you are in a remote place. Keep you wits up and remember if you leave your camera on any beach, it will probably be gone by morning.