Thursday, January 15, 1998
HUERFANITO, BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE -- Amazing as it seemed, Tony and Ed, who have been coming to the Baja for eight years, had never had a fish taco. So I cooked them up a few. Nothing fancy—strips of exceedingly fresh triggerfish, dipped in egg, breaded with crushed soda crackers, deep-fried, rolled up in heated flour tortillas spread with perfectly ripe avocado, seasoned with a hot sauce of choice. That, with a rice/carrots/pepper side dish, we celebrated Tony’s birthday. Tony was 52. Ed, ten years his junior.
Tony bought the little house from a work acquaintance, who bought it from Leonard—a former next door neighbor, who bought it from one of the members of the Nacho family, who many years before, built the house. It was the first house on the beach, the beach now called, "Nachos Landing" or "Campo Nacho." The house next to it, now the last structure on the beach, (or the first, depending on your approach,) was once a cantina, run by a member of the familia Nacho . The road running down the length of the beach was then the preferred route from Cabo San Lucas north to the border. The cantina serviced the traffic. In its day it was rumored to have been quite the rowdy highway roadhouse. Now a newly improved dirt road bellies around the beach, isolating to an even greater extent, the little community which calls itself, Huerfanito, taken from the dominant mountaintop rising from the water a half-mile from shore, El Huerfanito (the little orphan.)
There’s an airstrip between the main dirt road and the buildings. Among the residents are a number of pilots. Currently only one flies. Jeff, who owns the house directly in back of Tony’s is a "Good Samaritan"—he regularly flies doctors into remote areas and patients to clinics. Pete, who lives down the beach near Leonard, used to be a Good Samaritan. One time the Mexican military dug trenches across all the little rural airfields in the Baja, in an effort to stem the drug trade. A while later they returned and filled in the trenches. Ed told me of a Mexican officer who at one time used one of the Islas Encantadas as his personal cocaine depository, flying a military helicopter to and from the island, loading and sending ships to the U.S. He was eventually caught.
Despite the brutal winter winds and the suffocating summer sun,
Huerfanito is a small piece of real estate where people come to escape. The Baja is good for that.
This morning finished off the filleted sierra mackerel, fried in garlic butter with rice and veggies. Smoking Popes on the stereo and an ice-cold breakfast Modelo. Packing up to move on down the road. Hopefully find a place to launch the kayak where I won’t be blown to Guaymas.
Stopped ten minutes later at a group of buildings on the beach searching for ice, beer, a few supplies. Nothing. Started talking with this old guy, Leonard. He’s been coming here 30 years. Asked about the area. He suggested I talk with the guys next door. They have detailed maps. Eddie and Tony. Ended up staying with them for a couple days. They were great hosts. Since I was almost out of food they fed me. And gave me beer. I cooked them up fish tacos and some rice one night, pretty much finished off my food.
We did some fishing but most of all just shot the shit. Both these guys loved to explore the mountains, one of my favorite things to do. One day, Ed and I took off with the three-wheelers, (Tony graciously offered to stay behind) up into the Miramar Arroyo. Just getting on off-the-road vehicles is a gas. We drove up into the hills until we couldn’t go any farther and then we hiked. After a mile of so there began to appear water. Then there was flowing water. A waterfall. Nice fresh-water pools. If it had been hotter, I would have jumped in. We walked a couple hours. Along the way was evidence of past gold mining. At the end, we climbed up this little mountain. The view was fine. We took a different way down where I found a bucket with a handle. I had been looking for one. It was a great day. We had a smorgasbord of canned herring, kippers, clams, crackers, sausage, cheese, beer, a little Wild Turkey. Smoked an after-dinner Swisher Sweet. Retired to my van to read while they watched The Milagro Beanfield War on the VR. All in all the time I spent with them in Huerfanito was very enjoyable. We spent our time in lively conversation and animated discussion. They were gracious and generous hosts to this supply-less vagabond.
It was great being around other humans eating. Peter never feeds me while he’s eating. But other people do. I’ve got this getting-humans-to-feed-me thing down.
I casually lie down not too far away from them with my head resting on my paws. I let them know that I’m here just in case they want to give me some food. I’m not asking for food, but I’m here, just in case. Every now and then I give them the look. I’ve got these big brown eyes and when I look up with them, you can tell humans dig it. Some humans give me food all the time, some don’t at all. Either way, after dinner, I know there will be food. Whatever is left over. These guys love to feed me.
I’m just hanging out. Peter comes and goes. I stay here. No big deal. Peter always comes back. The other day he and this other human left for a long time. I just hung out with this other human. He lay around. He went to sleep. He went outside. I followed. We walked around. He fed me some food. Peter and this other human came home. It was getting dark. They ate some food. I ate some of their food. It was a great day.