Thursday, November 29, 2007

A tale of 2 Bajas

Heather and I traveled to Baja to find wild chile peppers in collaboration with CIBNOR (a biological research station) and to celebrate thanksgiving with the rest of the Kraft clan. We traveled to the same majestic peninsula that entranced Alexander von Humboldt, John Steinbeck, Edward Abbey and other lesser luminaries.

Unfortunately, the peninsula is no longer as these gentlemen found it. Rather, the southern tip of the peninsula is no longer recognizable as “México” – as it is awash in luxury condominium developments, private golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and row after row of kiosks selling T-shirts that have brilliant witticisms like “save water, drink beer” and “Baja – I came, I saw, I got drunk”. Unlike other parts of Mexico that receive international visitors, Cabo is characterized by a huge gulf between the two worlds – one can live there for years and not meet a Mexican or speak Spanish. The Mexican part of the cape has been subverted and moved further inland, replaced by a more tropical version of Orange County.

It is truly a tale of 2 Bajas, never to meet in the middle.

One Baja has…

• Folks up early on a weekend morning fishing from the beach with a handline for their breakfast

• …and who are happy to show a gringo how to do it and will leave you with a lure and line.

• Simple, earnest fare of machaca (dried shredded beef), tacos of carne asada, camarones o pescado.

• Cardón cactus and mesquite trees dotting rugged mountains that crown the peninsula and descend into an azure sea.

• Empty beaches to camp on with the echoing sound of the surf.

• Cowboys and ranchers rounding up cattle through the brush and thicket astride their horses.

The other baja has… (sorry no pictures -you can look these up on the web)

• Chartered boats starting at $500 a day to hook marlin and sailfish.
• Sales pitches like this – “For $100 a person, we’ll go and kill it!”
• Surf and Turf that starts at 80 dollars, or cheaper fare such as McDonalds, Burger King or Applebee’s
• Impeccably landscaped guarded gated entrances with names like “Rancho del Mar”, “Villa del Mar”, “Vista del Mar” and the surreal glimpses of clover green golf fairways ringed by the brown, dry desert.
• $400 dollar a night resorts with balcony views of the beach.
• Real estate salesmen rounding up the cruise ship tourists through the hawkers and vendors rolling in their Hummers.

Which one would you like to visit?