After about a week and a half in Loreto, we felt the call of the southern Sea of Cortez. It was time to pack up and bid farewell to our dear Joe and Julie and their three dogs and to drive south to the fabled Cabo Pulmo, just 50 miles or so north of Cabo San Lucas. La Bahia de Cabo Pulmo holds the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortez and the scuba diving is known as some of the best in the world. Though we had done several dives in Loreto, nearly all of them were from shore, shallow and although great learning experiences, not the best scuba diving to be had. So it was with excitement that we packed up our trailer and all of our scuba gear and made the eight hour drive from Loreto to Cabo Pulmo and finally, Los Frailes.
Unfortunately, within 15 minutes of arriving in the completely off-grid, solar-powered, tiny town, we learned that the RV park we had read about in our guide books was no longer in operation. We also learned that shore diving was strictly prohibited in all of the Cabo Pulmo area which is protected as a very large marine park. Our budget doesn’t allow for us to do guided scuba trips, which typically charge a minimum of $80 per person. Crushed and kidneys sore from the last hour of driving on extreme washboard sand/dirt road, we nearly turned around to head back to Loreto. After taking a deep breath, we drove a couple of miles further down the bumpy path and parked our trailer in a small RV camp in Los Frailes.
This area is sadly on the brink of a massive real estate boom. Because of its proximity to Cabo San Lucas, there is a pack of hungry real estate developers who have snatched up an enormous amount of land all through the area. It’s clear to see the allure. The beaches are a fine, sandy white color, the water is crystal clear and aquamarine and the local flora has a slight tropical feel to it as the Tropic of Cancer passes right below the town of Cabo Pulmo. The only thing saving this area and the extremely fragile coral reefs are the horrendous roads. Truly, they are the worst we have seen in all of Baja.
We ended up staying at the camp we had pulled up to for the full 6 nights we were there. The land is actually privately owned by a local rancher whose family of 20 boys and 2 girls owns thousands of acres which have been passed down from generation to generation. The camping is totally free and all he asks is that people take good care of the land and come up to visit them at their ranch once in a while for company. This social invitation is a high honor and bestowed only to those campers who have been coming to the same site for many years. It is mostly Canadians at that site and we were nearly instantly welcomed into their clan. The average age is probably 67 and each of them has been visiting the same campsites annually for at least 8 years. The campsites are just a short walk from the actual beach and are protected from any wind in a mini Baja style forest (small trees, scrub brush, cacti).
The beach itself is extremely picturesque; drop-dead gorgeous, actually. The water temp was 80°F and we spent the majority of our time in the water. We did a ton of snorkeling and saw a couple of swimming sea turtles (this is prime sea turtle habitat and we saw a dozen or so nests on the beach), a bat ray (gorgeous to watch flying underwater) and dozens of species of fish.
Literally right next to the camp is a large fishing camp. These camps are ubiquitous in Baja and it was a treat to get to spend time so close to one. There were women and children there so there was definitely a family feel to the camp. There was no loud partying or music at all and they were perfect neighbors. I got the feeling that they enjoy their time at the fish camp and that going out in their boats brings much happiness
Camping in this area is truly primitive. There is no power, cell reception, services, gas, and the closest source for propane is over an hour away. We came with our camper tank full of water but we used that frugally. We learned though that there was a ground-well a short drive from the campground so we excitedly took off to get some fresh water from it. Never having taken water from a well before, we documented the process with photos. It was about 25’ down to the water level. We had to bring our own rope to attach to the pulley as well as our own bucket. I have to say it was harder than we ever thought it would be to get a full bucket of water at a time. It wasn’t until our second day that we came up with some tricks and were able to successfully get a full bucket each time. I have a whole new appreciation of fresh water now and hope to always remember the effort in getting just 4-5 gallons when I use water.
Trash was pretty easy and we just took our garbage (not that there was much of it) to the nearby dump station. As far as human waste goes, that’s another thing. The gringos actually all dig holes by their RVs, insert a plastic bucket with bottom cut out and turned upside down and simply dump their black and grey water down there. We were horrified when we saw this. I have to say though that there was absolutely no odor, and that in actuality, the ground acts like a giant sand filter. Our trailer doesn’t have a sewage dump hose. Our sewage waste goes into a storage tank and our grey water (from kitchen sink) simply goes into a 5 gallon bucket via a hose that attaches to the outside of our rig.
A small pick-up truck showed up one evening selling beautiful seafood and the next day a young couple came with their truck full of beautiful vegetables, eggs, fruits, meat and dairy for sale. We were able to shop for local food just 20 feet from our trailer home. So, all in all, we were extremely self-sufficient.
Our bedtime came earlier and earlier each night. By the end of our visit there we were in bed at 7:30pm each night (it was getting dark around 6:00pm) and waking up anywhere from 9-12 hours later. Being disconnected from the cell phone and internet for that time was one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself. Though we’ve hardly been online or on the phone at all in general, to be so detached from the grid was an incredible experience. I feel like each of us came to life from mild comas. My dream time became a wonderland of images and subconscious healing, our patience at least doubled, our appreciation for each other was tender, and we felt like we bonded at a very deep level.