Nov. 5/6: San José del Cabo and Late Night Beach Rescues

Day 36, Nov. 5th, Danielle and I + MinEssa left the gringo town of La Ventana and headed back along highway 286 to our old friend, Highway 1. We were heading south to complete the lower loop the highways make at the bottom of the peninsula. We drove along the 1 until turning onto the Camino Cabo Este which instead of cutting inland as the 1 does, follows the coast. The road was incredibly rough, almost entirely washboard, and very dusty. As we drove along the bumpy road, we passed a somewhat derelict sign marking the Tropic of Cancer, we stopped to take a few pictures and then drove on until stopping at a beach within Cabo Pulmo National Park where we stayed the night.

While the beach was beautiful, it was very rough with an intense beach break, making swimming a dangerous endeavour we didn't attempt. While before reaching the spot we'd contemplated staying perhaps a few days, we decided we'd only stay the night, and went to bed that night after MinEssa got stuck in the sand a couple of times.

Early the next morning, at around 4:00, Danielle and I awoke to some ruckus and lights shining onto the beach. We looked out the window and saw a group of teenagers laughing and talking as they unloaded a truck and walked onto the beach. At first, when I looked out the window, I didn't realize they'd brought their own truck, but were instead surrounding MinEssa's van. Panicking, I jumped out of bed and into the front seat of Bilbo, ready to ram the perceived assailants to pieces. As I realized the group were in their own truck, my panic subsided, but Danielle and I remained on edge. What were these guys doing out this early in a pretty remote area? While we never figured it out, my guess is they were laying/checking traps of some kind. After a little bit, they left, and we were able to get a bit more sleep before waking up.

After we awoke, MinEssa and Danielle and I left the national park and headed to San José del Cabo where we all worked on our computers in a Starbucks, went grocery shopping, and grabbed some lunch. After spending some time running errands in the city, we drove to a public beach between the Cabos called Playa El Tule where we spent the afternoon surfing and hanging out on the beach. Surfing at the beach was a very interesting experience, as the beach was very different than any we'd experienced in Tofino. Instead of a very gradual, sandy beach with a break far from shore, this beach was rocky with a break very close to shore. Falling on the rocks was a very real fear and all of us took a bit of a beating. Vanessa took the worst of it however, when a jelly stung her repeatedly on the entirety of her leg, leaving her in an antagonizing pain. I too got stung in one small spot on my foot which was surprisingly painful; I can imagine Vanessa's leg must have been brutal.

Given that it was Sunday, the beach was absolutely packed with locals, drinking, swimming, bbqing, and spending time with their families. While we sat on the beach, we saw a plethora of locals get themselves absolutely buried in the deep sand closer to the water than we dared go. Over and over, someone would get incredibly stuck, and a good deal of other people and vehicles would assist in rescuing the vehicle, often breaking something in the process whether it be a vehicle or a towstrap.

We went to bed a bit nervously as the party wore down and a local warned us we might get hit by drag racers; “trust in God, but lock your doors” was his parting advice. Now, before I go on, let me paint a picture of how this beach looked. It was a fairly large, sandy beach several kilometres wide, with hard-packed sand for a few kilometres out until turning to soft/deep sand for, let's say, 500m. After the 500m of soft sand, there was a steep drop off which was about 3-4m high until reaching the water which crashed hard against the slope. Under the water, began the large, scary-to-surf-over rocks. You can actually see a few pictures of the beach by clicking here.

Now that you know the beach layout I can return to the story. At around 00:30, I awoke having to pee, as I looked around before jumping out, I saw two lights shining up to the sky from beyond the slant to the sea. As I hopped out, I thought to myself, “some idiot has taken their vehicle over the slope, tried to drive along the edge, and is now stuck.” I wished them luck mentally, finished what I'd jumped out to do, and hopped back in. I then realized, to my fear, that a figure carrying a flashlight was now running towards Bilbo: “goddammit we'd been spotted.” A young local approached, probably my age or a bit older, frantically trying to communicate in Spanish, I opened the door to the panicked speech and interrupted with “No hablo español” ¿Hables inglés?”.

Switching to English, the guy asked, “are you busy?”

“No, it's 00:30, of course I'm not busy I thought.” Feeling guilty, I answered no. He proceeded to explain that his Jeep and another guy's Toyota had gotten stuck, and the waves were very quickly going to take the vehicles out to sea if they didn't get them back up over the slope. He asked me if Bilbo was 4x4 (it is) and I answered no. Although this was a lie, there was no way I was going to take Bilbo to the slope and get him sucked out to Japan along with the two who'd stupidly driven over the slope on their own free will.

I did say however, that I would help him push, and just as I was saying I would grab my buddy, Min entered the scene. We all jogged to the slope, to find both vehicles absolutely bogged, with the massive waves engulfing the Jeep with each crash to shore. For the next 40 minutes, Min, the two drivers, their two girlfriends, and I pushed the vehicles as we got soaked by the incoming waves. We pushed, and we pushed to no avail. Many times I thought for sure there was no way the Jeep wasn't going to be lost to sea. Finally, Min asked if they'd lowered the tyre pressure. They hadn't so, fumbling around in dark, Min and I riffled through the guy's tool box his trunk and found anything we could to depress the valves and release some air. Finally, after ejecting who knows how much air, and a great deal of pushing, we managed to miraculously get the Jeep over the slope and out of the reach of the waves. We then moved on to the Toyota, and after lowering the pressure, much more quickly got it to safety as well.

After rescuing the two, they thanked us profusely, and shook our hands. The two vehicles, with tyre pressures far below suitable for hard-surface driving, limped their way to the highway and disappeared into the night. With very sore feet and soaked clothes, Min and I reflected with Vanessa and Danielle on what had just transpired, and then went back to sleep.

Perhaps not the most elegant sign, but it gets the point across.

The beach we camped at in Cabo Pulmo National Park.

Lunch in San José del Cabo

Bonus Photo: MinEssa greet two beach donkeys at our camp spot in Cabo Pulmo. Photo Credit: Danielle Seeliger.