Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

I spent 4 days at the southern tip of the
Baja peninsula last week, Cabo San Lucas.

(click on photos to enlarge)

My parents and I stayed in the PlayaGrande Resort , an incredible place. This was one of the nicest resorts I've ever stayed at. We got the closest room to the ocean that the resort offered. Cabo is always warm, it's about 1000 miles south of Los Angeles, on the same latitude as Havana, Cuba. The weather was perfect. Mid 80's day, mid 60's at night, no rain, mostly sunny. Most of the activity around the beach was during the morning and evening with most preferring the shade by the pool during the heat of the day. I liked the mango daiquiris.

The beach was way different than the gulf coast I'm most familiar with. On the Gulf, we have powdery sugar-white sand strewn with shells and seaweed, a beach that's sloped very gradually to the sea, gentle surf, friendly for swimmers. The Pacific coast of Cabo was steep with a more powerful and fast surf breaking close to shore. The sand was light brown and more coarse, made up of a multitude of colorful granules on close inspection. Due to the scouring action of the waves, generally between 5 and 10 feet, the beach was pristine and clean, devoid of large shells and seaweed.

From our room, we could hear the thunderous surf. It was a kaleidoscope of sounds... crash, whooosh, rumble, thunder, etc.... Looking at Cabo on a map, you realize how exposed this place is to the Pacific Ocean. I slept with the door facing the ocean open at night, just so I could hear the sounds, even though I'd get woken up every night. Every hour or so, the surf would generate some mighty waves that would literally shake the building. It was awesome. I could feel the low frequency vibrations and the door frame would rattle.

The whole time I was there, I never saw one person swim on the Pacific side. There were some swimmers on the bay side. I had to try it so I went in between on an isolated beach near the famed arches. Wading in up to my chest, I was knocked off my feet immediately and sucked out toward the sea. This would be a problem for a weak swimmer because it became deep rapidly. I simply treaded water and waited calmly for the next wave to bring me in and when I hit the beach, I dug in with hands and feet in the sand so I wouldn't get sucked out again. I can see the danger. No wonder the riptide warning signs and no one swimming. In the video, notice the slope of the beach and how quickly the waves run out.

This trip was great to spend time with my parents. My dad and I enjoyed some great drinks by the pool and some awesome dinners. I spent some time wandering into the shops in town with my mom. I brought back a few souvenirs. I even sat in with the band at a local restaurant and played a few tunes at another restaurant, borrowing the guitar of the Mexican singer who was playing a gig there.

The beaches were separated by stands of cliffs and boulders. This was a boulder scrambler/ rock climber's paradise. Going from Playa Grande W/NW to the beaches directly below the cliff top mansions of Sylvester Stallone and the elite, one has to climb across some very challenging boulders. It was quite fun but required a great amount of agility, strength, and good judgment. A fall could be serious in this terrain since one had to stay up about 20-30 feet above the crashing waves so as to avoid the slippery slimy rocks. When things get difficult, it kept me going to see 'what was around the bend'... and I wasn't disappointed.

Around the bend, I saw an amazing rock formation. Carved by a millennia of wind and water, it was an arm shaped rock that curved away from the surf and stood about 30' high. It stood above a V-shaped inlet in the rock that magnified the surf. When waves came in, a particularly large swell would cause a large burst of spray, sometimes 30' high. I made a video of the surf.

The final day, Sunday, I was up at daybreak in search of one final adventure, and I found one. Heading southeast toward the mountain that separates the bay side from the Pacific, where the famed Cabo arches are, I started climbing, not knowing if I'd be able to reach the summit.

The terrain was mostly solid, devoid of vegetation save for a few cacti, and provided excellent traction. Most of the climb was what you would call "class 3" - requiring constant use of hands, but near the summit, there were some sections of "class 4". Definitely territory where if you fall, you die, game over. I took my time in the golden morning sunlight. It was less than an hour after sunrise and the weather was perfect. I was climbing shirtless and as I neared the top, I saw a cross planted at the summit. It was an awesome sight, and very 'exposed' ... adding to the thrill. As I climbed higher and became more committed to the summit, the terrain became more difficult and that made me a little nervous but I kept my cool and stopped to take photos as the morning fishing fleet was going out. I pondered climbing down and I reasoned that there must be an easier way to get down. I know it would be even more difficult to climb down the way I came up. I neared the summit ridge and saw one more scary ledge to climb, a nearly vertical fissure in the rocks. I made it no problem because of the abundant hand holds.

On the summit ridge, I scrambled over to the cross and thanked myself for not falling. The view was tremendous. I could see all of Cabo, Playa Grande, and the marina. The back side of the mountain, as I had expected, was an easy descent. It was green with vegetation and there were trails the led down to a dirt road. The only problem was that I was obviously trespassing as noted by the signs. I came out at the end of the road to a compound that housed several vicious sounding dogs that were going crazy and I expected any moment to be attacked by a dog or confronted by security. Fortunately, they must have been still sleeping since it was before 8 am. I quickly hopped the fence and got outta there. It was worth it, another great adventure - boldly going where few have gone before.

The following series of photos follow the progression of my climb at sunrise from the beach.


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