Crossing the border from the United States to Mexico is a surreal experience. In a matter of moments everything changes. The road, the sights, the people, the smell, and the feeling inside of you. The stories you’ve heard over the years flow through your head, you are alert and looking for any sign of danger. Those feelings are mixed with the excitement of adventure and the hope of what you came for.
Navigating the highways becomes a priority and not a second thought. It is easy to get lost and a wrong turn can put you in a scenario you’d prefer to avoid. If you make it on the right highway you are on your way out of Tijuana and a few kilometers closer to the first stop of almost every surfers trip to Northern Mexico, Baja Malibu. A beach break that on it’s good days, will surely provide you with visions from inside the barrel.
The waves looked fun but not what you drive to Mexico for. We contemplated getting a safety surf in but decided to take a chance and head for the points further south. On the way down we checked breaks along the way and stopped by Roberto’s Hostel at K-38’s and grabbed the last room available. Chucked our bags in the room, grabbed a carne asada torta and a taco from the local stand and kept driving. We were headed to San Miguel but hit a road block when we reached the part of the toll road where the road had washed out. (picture below)
On the way back we stopped at a spot I had surfed years before. It is in a private community with a guard gate. Last time I came with a friend who owned property there but this time we had no easy in. We approached the gate and I prepped myself to fire off some b/s in spanish to get us through while my friend prepped the bribe money. Luckily for us the post was unattended and without hesitation we charged through.
We created a parking spot down by the beach and watched fun waves peel off the reef with no one out. This is what we came for. We quickly suited up and paddled out. We were joined soon into our session by three local boogie boarders but there were plenty of waves to go around. The weather was perfect we were in our thinner suits and plenty warm, the water was crystal clear and calm as could be. It felt like a tropical surf trip only with wetsuits and booties. The reef was shallow but friendly. Our feet touched it as we sat on our boards. Fish swam in and out of the rocks and seals and sea otters played in the kelp nearby. Later in the session the boogies went in and we had it to ourselves again. Trading off waves until just before dark. Completely satisfied we hurried to Puerto Nuevo to catch the sunset and enjoy a lobster dinner for a very fair price.
As you come down the main street in Puerto Nuevo you are bombarded by guys trying to get you to come eat at their restaurant. We choose the restaurant out on the cliff overlooking the ocean with a perfect view of the sunset. The sun was just getting ready to dip below the horizon when we sat down. We stared at the sun until it disappeared completely. Moments before the sun settled behind the horizon for the night it sent up a green flash. Seeing a green flash is an extreme rarity, one that many people never see.
If you find yourself in Puerto Nuevo there is no need to look at the menu, simply order the lobster special. $15 gets you lobster, tortilla’s, rice, beans, margarita or shot of tequila and more. When you are sitting at your table over the looking the Pacific Ocean with a cliff top view you could easily get confused and think you are dining in Laguna Beach. That is the beauty of it you are getting the amenities of some of the worlds best ocean view dinning at a fraction of the usual price.
Once our plates were cleaned and our belly’s content we headed off back to our accommodations at Roberto’s K’38 surf hostel. Enjoyed a warm shower, connected to wifi to have a quick chat with our ladies we had left at home, and settled in reading a few pages in our books before falling asleep. (Travel Tip – If you are traveling with a sleeping bag use it to sleep in on top of the bed. This is great for hostel’s, motels, your friends pull out, etc. Plus the sleeping bag gives some extra cushion and comfort to a stiff mattress. I’ve peeled back sheets before and seen multiple small insects, numerous hairs, and questionable stains.)
With a good nights rest, we woke at dawn and were a bit disappointed. The swell was expected to peak in the night but out front was only a few feet and the wind was hard offshore. We walked to the point of K’38’s in hopes there was something more but no such luck. We grabbed breakfast and hoped the conditions would improve. After enjoying Huevos Ranchero’s and having a good sweat from the hot sauce we headed back out to check the surf. Not much had improved and the wind had switched onshore, a fog bank was heading in and would only make things worse.
With our hopes low we headed to the same spot as the day before. When we pulled up to check it we were pleasantly surprised to see that the weather was clear and the waves were breaking off of the point. Excited to surf we still had to contain ourselves as we had to get past the guard gate again. We decided on a new plan of attack. Just keep driving, don’t make eye contact, and throw up a little wave. The old “act like you own the place” trick. That is exactly what we did and as luck would have it the guard was not at his post again. With a silent celebration we headed back to the same parking spot we had created for ourselves yesterday. (there is no parking available since it is a private community) We thought everything was cool but as we were getting ready a Mexican man approached us and in a mix of spanish and english told us we couldn’t park there and asked if we have a place in the community. I pointed in a northerly direction and said yea up there but it is too far to walk with our boards so we drive down here to park when we surf. Technically everything I said was true but might have been misleading to him. He then said it would cost $10 to park there. After seeing the surf and being so close we didn’t care to argue and paid the man for what we knew was a useless bribe. We quickly hurried out there in hopes that no one else would come around.
Jumping off the rocks and paddling into the lineup we joined a few other young surfers who had been out for sometime. They were a friendly crew from San Diego and great company. They caught a few waves before heading off for the beach break on the other side of the point. One other guy stayed out and we surfed long and well shaped waves all the way into the bay. Paddling back out after a wave you couldn’t help but smile, looking down at the reef below through crystal clear water with a warm sun above. This was what we came for. As the tide rose the waves slowed up at the point and we decided to head to the beach break. We pulled into closeouts and raced down the line to hit or air off the end sections. The waves were consistent, playful and really fun. We tired ourselves out there and then paddled to the reef break we surfed the day before to finish our session. We both caught a couple waves before calling it a day.
Completely satisfied and surfed out. We decided to head for the border to get across before traffic in Tijuana and San Diego. After a multiple hour surf we were both hungry and craving some more authentic Mexican food before crossing the border. We decided we would make a quick stop at Taco Surf the place we had eaten at for lunch the day before. It is a stand where you sit outside on a barstool and your food is cooked less than a foot away from where you eat it. We ordered a carne asada torta each and after devouring that decided to split one more. After a very enjoyable meal we walked the short 15 yards to where our car was parked. That’s when our luck had run out…
Upon arriving at the car I hear my friend cursing I look to see what happened. The passenger rear window had been smashed and our bags stolen. We were in disbelief our car was in sight the whole time and we were well within ear shot. How it happen still baffles us. After quickly accessing the damage we looked around with an investigative eye for some time but came up short. We decided to cut our loss and head for the border as now it would soon be dark and going through Tijuana with no window at dark was something we were hoping to avoid. One of the more important items that was stolen was my passport, my ticket to easy access back into the U.S. We reached Tijuana after dark and were struggling to navigate the border. The highways are very hard to navigate and getting in the wrong lane can take you far from where you want to be. A local noticed our confusion and said “US Border? Follow Me.” He was riding a bicycle and we followed him to where he left his bike and then he hoped in the car with us. Following or letting a stranger in your car in a place like Tijuana is not something I would suggest however we were tired of driving in circles and so furious about being ripped off that had he tried to pull something he would have deeply regretted it. He weaved us through Tijuana to the border crossing where we let him out of the car. Of course before he got out he asked about his “propina” which means tip in Spanish. We paid our last Mexican bribe and were on our way.
Earlier we had talked excitedly about buying churros at the border however after the events that occurred we were no longer in the mood. We approached the window unsure of them letting me through or not and what kind of questioning or process we might be subject to. When he asked for our passports I showed him the broken window and told him it was stolen a few hours ago. I handed him my drivers license he did a quick search in the computer and we were free to go. Back to the familiarity and comfort of America. Our amazing trip had been tainted shortly before it’s finish. Instead of reminiscing on the amazing surfs we had, the great weather and the enjoyment of the search we talked about the one unpleasant event. It’s one of those negative events you want to let go but can’t even now weeks later it still pops in my head. Thoughts of what could I have done differently, how can we find the person(s), the items that were taken, etc. It is a shame that someone’s actions can have that much power.
It is also a shame that crime or scenario’s like this occur. It is the reason why Northern Baja looks like a ghost town. A place which once flourished due to it being an easy and affordable vacation spot for US Citizens and a beautiful place to visit. Along the drive through Northern Baja you see the remnants of an old movie studio where they filmed many movies including the Titanic. Giant hangers and city scape movie sets now sit empty and are covered in rust because it would no longer be safe to bring actors to this area. Hotel Calafia a majestic hotel on top of a cliff overlooking the pacific, has pictures of what it used to be. Now the hotel is nearly empty and slowly breaking down. The potential Northern Baja holds is amazing but as long as there are high numbers of criminals, corrupt cops, and drug cartels this place will not flourish. The honest people who choose to live justly are effected by the poor decision of others. Only time will tell what happens with this region my hope is to see a vast improvement and a resurgence of this area. All in all we had a great trip and despite the many precautions we took we were ripped off in what seemed like the safest scenario. There really wasn’t much we could have done and we just have to be thankful for what we still have and that it wasn’t more. I suppose it’s all part of the adventure it wasn’t the first time and more than likely won’t be the last. Due what you can to prevent it but know that sometimes bad stuff happens. “With great adventures comes great risk and as travelers we live by this.”