The Road to San Juanico

The road to San Juanico is paved with corpses left behind by this guy.

We packed our bags and prepared to leave for San Juanico.  A Gringo’s surfing paradise.  Home of a mile-long wave that crosses three of seven points over a glorious white beach.  Ace had been a first mate on a cruising ship, Laura, and the cook had told him how wonderful the place was.  To get there we needed to navigate the multitude of criss-crossed “roads” that etched through the salt flat.  Fortunately, we had to Robert drew us a map.  We took our time saying goodbye to the Baja Expeditions staff and interviewed Jerry about his trek while the families set-up a volleyball court.  It was past noon by the time we were ready to leave and were coerced into a game, and then another, and another.  Finally, we were able to shake the chains of comraderie and head out, but not without a quick stop at a market which wasn’t so quick because the owners of both the stores were out to attend a funeral of a young person from a nearby town.

Bad photo. I’m on a bike okay? But it shows Datil.

The salt flats were incredible.  Mirages hung like convex discs of melted silver over the horizon.  Slowly the world came into focus.  “It’s like we’re playing World of Warcraft and waiting for the scene to load,” Ace noted.  The road unpixellated and showed us the many options for our course.  “That way,” Davin called.  “Let’s try this one out.  Is there an arrow marking the way?”  We wound our way through the long desert maze until we found our way to Datil, a small fishing town barely 12 miles south of the laguna.  The sun was setting, casting orange rays onto the wings of the seagulls that chased the boats as they brought in their final catch of the day.  High on the thick scent of splayed fish, cats scurried in and out from under the trucks used for storage.  It’s strange, you see a lot of dogs in Baja, but rarely a cat.  Everybody from the town rose from their porches as we pedalled along the main dirt road.  I don’t think they had ever seen gringo’s on bikes there.  We exited the town through a wasteland of rusty cans, hacked doll parts, and broken shoes.  A large sign read, “No tire basura.”

We rode a sandy road until just about dark before searching for a campsite.  It didn’t take too long for us to find a space near a beautiful patch of mangroves and some bivouac made out of the guts of a shipwrecked fishing boat.  I fetched some firewood and feeling clear of scorpions went to sleep under the stars with a small stack of wood near my bed to fuel the fire throughout the cool night.  I dreamed I was in my room in Portland sitting on my sci-fi mattress of a babe in a space-bikini, spaceships and cosmos, and a long-haired dude with a laser gun.  There was a scratching at the door and I stared at it dumb.  The laser dude popped out of the mattress and fixed his laser at the door in a firing position.  “Whaddaya think, orange or purple?” he said in a robot voice.  “Yellow,” I answered.  The scratchings then came from every wall and the ceiling as light filtered in from the narrow windows.  I felt myself slowly waking and heard a small scratching near my head.  I opened my eyes.  Small stars dazzled in the darkness but down on Earth more sinister things roamed.  I heard the scratching again and this time also felt them on my face.  I quickly rolled down and away from whatever it was crawling on my my face and found a scorpion flailing to right itself on my pillow.  I grabbed one of the sticks near my bed and cast the foul creature onto the dying coals.  Thinking it had come from my pile of sticks I grabbed every last one and threw them on, creating a small, hellish inferno for the scorpion to burn in.
All that night I shuddered awake at the slightest sound listening for formic feet and clicking claws.  The harmless settling of my hairs caused me to pound my arms with my fists, crush my knees together or stomp my heels onto the tops of my ankles to smite imaginary insects.  The moon had not yet risen.  I had a long night of restlessness ahead of me until day would break.
Being the first to finish packing, Davin returned to Datil to get water for the final two days until San Juanico.  While he was gone a truck drove past and asked us if we needed anything.  When we assured we were fine, the driver asked, “Quiero mota?”  We hesitated a moment before responding, “Claro.”  The main pulled out a bag and gave us a healthy handful of premium Mexican Shwag.  “Tienes papeles?” was the man’s next question.  And whaddaya know if I didn’t have two packs of water-sprayed Buglers.  He took three papers and wished us good luck on our travels.  A fine trade if you ask me.  But you should listen to the media.  Drug dealers are nothing but a bunch of murdering scoundrels.
The sandy road tested the limits of our different rides and so spaced us out, leaving me in the front.  We had already passed the limits of the map and so only had Robert’s caution of heading too far inland into the three-feet deep sand-sea left behind by the Baja Mil as our compass.  I came to a fork and picked the route towards the ocean.  Salt water had soaked through the sand and left behind a thick mud highlighted with long and shallow puddles.  I dug in and sprayed the muck behind me, beside me, and into my face.  When I got to another fork I stopped and saw Sir Norte was a pig in the sty.  I ran up the road that went inland but could find nothing that seemed to go in the direction we wanted and so returned to my bike.  The group caught up sans Davin.  Apparently the mud got him and swallowed him into its stinky belly.  When he caught up we saw that he had emerged a little worse for the wear.  Whereas Sir Norte was a pig, Davin was the sty.
The road quickly transformed from a sand road with muddy patches to a full-on mud pit.  The mud stuck up into my fenders and acted as a glue and fastened my tires to the fenders.  We did a slow about face and returned to that road where I found nothing and sure enough it turned into right direction.  Once again the road changed personalities and got even worse.  A super washboard road that grew hemorrhoids like the desert grows cactus.  Our legs tired quickly and we found a high campsite that overlooked a small town.  After camp was set Davin and I climbed the rest of the peak to check out the sunset.  For the last two months I have seen every sunrise and every sunset.  Every night its beauty arrests and the body shuts down to witness the labors of the day fade away into an orange and purple gradient of calm.  Birds stop whistling, insects aren’t yet chirping.  Its as if the whole world is stopping to witness the moment when the life of the sun retreats and allows the madness of night to settle in.

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One response to “The Road to San Juanico

  1. Your scorpion night reminds me of a night in eastern oregon going to Idaho, where there were signs about rattle snakes. We were tent camping and our dog was outside the tent, I kept thinking the rattle snake would come in our tent or at very least “cuddle” up to our dog. I did not sleep a wink that night…

    I am so glad you woke up!

    Sheilagh

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