Fear And Loathing In Baja

A sense of excitement and attention takes over as I cross the border from San Diego into Tijuana at 5:30 a.m. At the gas station, I check all of the tires and fill up my 10 gallons of spare gas tanks. My camper is packed with enough food for two weeks of camping and surfing. All engines go.

Driving through Tijuana just before dawn, I focus on the road and the other cars. A flat tire is no longer just a flat tire. The language barrier, quality of roads, crooked cops, lowly bandits and drug cartels complicate any routine automotive problem. I head south on the toll road through Encinitas and on the highway 1, the lone road that connects the thousand-mile-long peninsula.

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The suburbia of Southern California stops promptly at the US/Mexico border. My camper transforms into a time machine as I head south on the 1 out of Ensenada. Any remnants of civilization give way to the occasional cactus farm and small village. The landscape feels like a place time has forgotten, or overlooked, resembling the desolate, undeveloped southwest but with a rugged coastline.

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A series of seasonably navigable dirt roads connect the often-inland 1 with the coast. There’s no cell phone service, so navigating is done with an atlas and directions from locals. A few pickup trucks with makeshift campers mark the arrival at a good surf break. Contact with the fellow travelers is limited but cordial. People come here to get away. With this isolation and distance comes clarity.

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Parking next to a cobble stone fire ring, I rock back and forth, finally settling on a level spot. A breeze from the north keeps temperatures hovering in the mid 60s. Unloading surfboards from the back of my camper, I watch as a lone surfer rides the wave right down along the point. The tide is too full for the wave to really do its thing, but the lone surfer continues doing laps while I set up camp. The tide will be better the next morning I think to myself as I finish dinner and settle in to my sleeping bag.

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When there are waves, I surf all day. Talk of condition circles from campsite to campsite. “A swell is coming new week…” The arrival of trucks from Southern California decked out in surfboards and camping gear is met with mixed feelings. No one likes crowds, but these late night arrivals usually mean that good conditions are imminent.

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A rhythm starts taking shape that closely follows available daylight. The days blend together as the day of week becomes less and less important. Entertainment is limited. In between surfing, fishing and searching the shoreline for firewood take precedent.

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Food supplies start running low, prompting thoughts of civilization. Sun burnt and surfed out, I pack up my camper, bid farewell to other travelers and head north. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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