After a mid-morning low-tide surf at Sunset Cliffs with smooth small conditions and an uncrowded lineup, we packed up the truck, took our time enjoying a lunch and motored south of the border stopping just north of Ensenada. My companions had once before spent time at the The Motel California, a cute little place with five oceanfront rooms and a well manicured grassy yard leading down to the beach. Arriving, we were pleasantly surprised with ocean conditions and although the wind was on the verge of howling, the surf looked good, the air was warm and the sky was clear. It was promising that tomorrow morning would present us with fun surf to start the day with. We settled into the rooms and instantly began the relaxation process. For me, this quick trip to Baja was all about surfing, eating, practicing spanish and having fun with friends.
|In the distance, Punta Banda straight ahead, Todos Santos on the right side of the horizon|
Relaxing on the patio that evening, we looked south across the windcapped Bahia Todos Los Santos and saw fishing boats chugging back to port. Cruise ships were returning to sea, sneaking through the 7 nm gap between the mainland and Isla Todos Santos to the Southwest. Punta Banda, a prominent peninsula making up the southern border of Todos Santos Bay, was looming 8 nautical miles due south. Jutting out nearly 5 miles and rising almost 2000 ft to its peak, the Punta Banda area possesses some of the finest ocean rock gardening I've ever played in and got me daydreaming of past trips I've made with sea kayaks. Steep cliffs and an expanse of scattered rocks makes it very picturesque and fun to explore. Add a touch of vibrant Mexican culture and powerful pacific swell and you've got an incredible paradise for sea kayakers just hours from the United States and easily accessible. South of Punta Banda the rock gardens stretch for another 8 miles and are chock full of caves, pourovers, slots, stacks, surf breaks and extreme fun. Dotted with fish camps and pocket beaches perfect for siestas and lunch breaks, the remote stretch is doable for beginners and experts alike, long boats or short. Although easily accessible, preparations must be perfect since there is no coast guard, cell service or paved roads. Help is not easily available and paddlers should be prepared to sort themselves if an incident occurs. Charts are limited as is tidal and current data. The fish tacos, tequila and fun, however, are truly unlimited.
Later that afternoon we stocked up on Mexican snacks and fruit and took the scenic route east towards Tecate. The weekend plan was executed perfectly until we got into the border crossing line. What can normally be a long 2-3 hour wait morphed into a tamale-infused haze, hot Mexican sun-drenched 7-hour-long border crossing from hell! Within that half-day of suffering each of exhibited various traits of the 6 stages of border crossing syndrome previously unknown to us. If you're not familiar with BCS (border crossing syndrome), it's like a helpless form of road rage that lasts twenty times longer and typically goes undiagnosed. Being essentially helpless, one may lose control of their bodies and minds, shaking uncontrollably, swearing at kids, honking, crying, laughing, screaming and acting like a honey badger. When one hits the final stage, the only option is to open the mustard Atun y vegetables soaked in vinegar and hope for the best. Surely an inside joke, had it come to that, the words I'm writing would be much, much different. Luckily, we snapped out of it around 9:30pm when we were miraculously transported into the United States and were allowed to shift out of first gear. The confusion still apparent in our glassed-over eyes could be smelled on our clothes and in our hair. As the air finally cooled off and the sugar from Mexican Coke slowly absorbed, we reached the comforts of Ocean Beach and shook off the awful stress of the border mayhem. Sharing smiles and cocktails before sleeping, we had already begun reminiscing and cracking jokes at the expense of the holiday. Nice trip.