Mexico beach Christmas
The trailer was packed, the three kids and the dog were loaded into the van as final preparations were made for the "journey to the end of the earth". For us, Baja truly seemed land's end. Nobody we knew had ever driven there. Nobody we knew could tell us anything about it. Six years ago, there were no maps or guide books readably available in our little coastal B.C. town of Powell River. There was one book in the local library written by the mystery writer, Erle Stanley Gardener, describing his adventures in remote Baja deserts, while exploring for cave sites. BUT I had read Carl Franz's "People's Guide to Mexico," which suggested that a person could have a wildly wonderful adventure holiday exploring the Mexico that few tourists get to see. This Mexico is found away from main tourist centers and busy highways. This Mexico is full of warm, interesting people and new and enriching experiences!
And there was a hook-both literally and figuratively. Rumor had it that fish aplenty could still be caught off of that immense peninsula. This news for a fishing-loving family was a huge lure, indeed!
We took nearly a week to drive to the Mexican-U.S.A. border, visiting relatives, parks and beaches along the way. All of our friends and relatives were quite sure that we would meet with a perilous fate given their pre-conceived notions of life "south of da border". There are indeed hazards to all travel. One prepares as best as one can from guide books and traveller's reports. With the internet, it is now child's play to get the latest information within seconds, but back then, we were dependent upon one book and one map, so two month's of experience proved to be the biggest teacher. Little experiences, like routinely buying gasoline, can prove a cross-cultural study in itself. If you like camping and travelling in general, then the Baja can beckon to you ,too!
As we were travelling with young children, 5, 7 and 9, beach hopping was the travel style of choice. That mid-December, the ocean water was cool at all of the beaches on the north-west side of the Baja coast. So we drove several hundred miles a day until we found a more permanent camp-site just south of the small tropical town, Mulege. Here the warm, protected waters of the Bay of Concepcion begin. Within seconds, the kids and the dog were racing around the beach, crying out with the joy of the discovery. The beach was a treasure chest of foreign and exciting things: shells of every size and color, bleached fish and bird bones, cactus skeletons. The spaniel was running through the sandy desert dunes, excitedly chasing after all manner of scents. Road-runners and jack-rabbits and birds scampered out of her reach. The desert was a tangle of strange and unusual plants that every day brought new and exciting discoveries.
Several satisfying fishing days later, it was nearing Christmas Eve. The only Christmas item that I had thought to pack were the three kid's special stockings. These were to be filled with a few treats from the near-by village. But now the kids were saying that it wouldn't "feel" very much like Christmas, here on the beach in the desert sun. Bob, the only resident snow-bird gringo on this wonderful beach, had decorated a driftwood tree with shells and bits of flotsam and jetsom off of the beach.
Soon, we too had collected enough seashells with tiny holes for hanging on our little "Charlie Brown" of a Christmas tree. It was tricky to find an actual piece of wood that you could handle without getting very prickled. So we settled on a piece of "scorpion wood". This is the dried-out frame-work of a rotted cactus: an interesting shape of a hollow tube carved with hundreds of holes. As we sat by the flickering flames of the beach fire in the deepening Mexican darkness, tiny bits of reflected light bounced off of the sea-shell decorations. The waves lapped gently on the shore and soon visions of sugar-plums were dancing in heads as we settled down for Christmas night in Mexico.
On Christmas Day, we drove the several miles into the village to fill stockings and feast among the people. To our great surprise, every restaurant and eatery, in several hours, was going to serve ---- TURKEY with all the trimmings! Not only was it food that we hadn't expected, it was also necessary to have a reservation, days or weeks in advance. Not a Mexican meal in sight! This gave us motive and opportunity to walk down every street in the village, inquiring at every Inn, like some other road-weary travelers on this day so long ago. A stroll through a village at anytime is a sensory experience; smells of delicious cooking, children playing, cascading flowers, dusty often littered streets, skinny dogs ….
Finally we stopped before a tiny café sandwiched between two homes. Like many such family restaurants, it is as if the owners had just opened their kitchen to the street and set a few more tables for guests. So there, we ordered the speciality of the house; hamburgers! We joined the only other family in the restaurant (Mexican), for this most unusual of Christmas dinners, and both families children played together with the embodiment of the Christmas spirit. Even now, as several Christmases have come and gone, everyone still likes to remember their Mexico beach Christmas.