We had heard a lot about Cabo San Lucas before reaching the famous bay, most of the comments were negative… From complains on Navionics that the anchorage was rolley – in part due to all the wakes of the water traffic of jetskis, fishing and tourist boats in the bay, in part from the swells that could enter the bay under certain weather conditions – to criticism of the overexploited area by tourism for wealthy, mostly American tourists. The place had been compared to Las Vegas, Disneyland and to be honest we arrived with a rather bad a priori. The marinas in the harbor had outrageous prices (one of them was called Marina Del Rey, like the one we had issues with in LA: no coincidence!) and the fact that the anchorage was described as so uncomfortable that some people recommended to skip Cabo all together was a big deal for us. But as we entered the bay under a long awaited warm sun, passing the famous rocks and arch, which were indeed swarming with boat traffic, we felt excited to be in a busy place to celebrate our accomplishment of having reached the tip of the peninsula. Tired and stressed about the anchoring situation (the slope of the bottom is rather steep, so particular attention is required about where to anchor), it took us some time to agree on the strategy to adopt. Once the hook was dropped and set though, we left it there for 4 days and 5 nights, our longest time anchored in one place so far.
It wouldn’t be honest to say we hated Cabo. Let’s say we were able to enjoy the good parts and mostly dodge the ugliness as we were staying away from the resorts. “It’s like seeing a modern art movie“, Yalçın said when I asked for his impression on our last day. “You don’t really understand what’s going on around you and you are like these art critics which make interpretations without having any clue on what the artist really intended.”
That’s so true. How to understand a place where people address you in English instead of their national language? How to understand a place where ATMs deliver American dollars and not the local money? How to understand a place where you see fireworks in plain daylight or where you hear several songs at the same time on top of the voice of a showman from one of the resorts in the background? The white sandy beach was so crowded in the middle of the day: taxi boats unloading passengers in channels organized in between the swimming areas, women taking advantageous pictures for Instagram while middle age men would sip a beer, halfway in the water, oblivious of their own appearance. Mexican vendors in the middle of all that would try to sell you anything ranging from bracelets, candies to wooden painted dishes… Not a place to enjoy peacefully the stunning natural beauty of the bay, and definitely not the most enjoyable part of “civilization” in our opinions.
We didn’t even take the dip that we had came for, having enjoyed the beach more peacefully on evenings when the crowds move to the American-priced restaurants or the night-club boats that cruise the bay and pass by Tire-Bouchon. Instead we took a side street away from the beach where places that feel more like the Mexico we know can be found again. Not quite the remote Pacific-Baja-kind of Mexico that we experienced in the past weeks, with very few stores or dining places, but the Ensenada-like Mexico that offered tacos shacks, cafés (like the Cabo Café which would have become our HQ if we had stayed for longer) or regular stores.
We did our big provisioning mission in a big supermarket that felt like Costco – as far as you can get from a typical Mexican store though I guess – but even though quantities were not very appropriate for storage on a little boat, the experience was fun and we were able to get bacon, several weeks supply of Serrano ham and fresh produce! A question remained though: who buys fruit yogurt by the gallon!?! Even Turkish guy, who rightfully calls himself a yogurt-eating-monster, was intimidated!!
Cabo also rewarded us with high speed internet, a way to finally call and update our friends and families (you guys!). Our first morning was literally spent with each of us on the phone with our loved ones, until we dinghied to town to actually use a little more internet to work on less fun things and eventually Zoomed our Berkeley friends on the little Siesta Hotel rooftop with margheritas. It felt good to catch up with everyone given that we had run after internet for quite a while along the coast! Despite being in a vacation/entertainment paradise, internet also meant dealing with administrative things and work stuff. But working (even on administrative stuff) and being able to jump in the water right isn’t that bad of an experience!
Our time in Cabo also put Bouchon, our dinghy, to a test. We dinghied back and forth to town several times, once with a load full of groceries and another time with two jugs of five gallons of water to top up our tanks. The repairs made in Ensenada seemed to hold: the rides weren’t entirely dry, impossible with that many wakes and splashes anyway, but the bottom held good and we were happy about it! The final test came the last evening when we decided to go to the Arch area after doing the provisioning. The sunset on the Pacific ocean-facing beach all to ourselves and the ride by the arch and rocks (still very busy with tourist boats) was priceless. Bouchon even surfed the wakes at impressive speeds that would make a JY (one of the Cal Sailing Club boats) proud! All in all, we didn’t regret to have gathered our last bits of motivation to go on that one. But it wasn’t the last bits quite yet! The occasion of a home made diner (we hadn’t cooked much on the boat partially because the anchorage was indeed rolley and uncomfortable but also because we were happy to enjoy the large offer of local food on land) gave us another bit of motivation to dinghy to shore once last time in order to (1) get rid of the groceries packages (you always need to be on top of accumulating trash on the boat), (2) get the orange juice that we had forgotten and (3) enjoy the town life one more time. And who knows, (4?) maybe have one last ice cream…
Ice cream is our ultimate treat as we don’t have a freezer onboard, and the pricey but delicious Hagen-Das scoops were our main sin on the mainstream “Americanised” stores on the marina walkways. We were pretty full from our nice dinner though and opted for a night walk on the beach instead. The beach had returned to almost peaceful compared to its afternoon frenzy and we just walked and chatted in the sand. We looked up the dimensions of the bay to compare it to my childhood vacation place, the bay of Saint-Jean de Luz, that I was inevitably reminded due to the warmth and the carefree feeling that had prevailed when we had sailed in (at that point, I just felt like diving in the water and go for the Nutella waffle that my grandparents would always grant us after the swim). The Bay of Saint-Jean de Luz was three time smaller it turns out and the mood was overall quite different anyway (or at least had been when I used to go). Back on the beach in Cabo, fisherman pangas, with no tourist aboard and no bimini, had taken over the scene for their fishing night ballet, they seemed out of our memories from the rest of Baja, untouched by the crazy tourism industry. Looking at our boat’s anchorlight reflection in the water was the sweetest goodbye to a place that had treated us, despite it’s superficial feel. Staying on the boat, we had been able to flee the entertainment-at-all coast philosophy of the resorts and only minimally support the built-up economy that didn’t seem to benefit the locals very much (the marina was part of a chain whose head quarters are in New York and back streets passed the marina walkways didn’t seem in better shape than the bitten-up streets we’d seen in Mexico so far). Or at least, this is the excuse we had found for ourselves to not feel too guilty to have enjoyed our stay in this post-modern non-sense American/Mexican Las Vegas-entertainement park that is Cabo San Lucas.