Baja

Dusty Roads, Organic Farms, and $15 Pizzas

February 20, 2014

Today I walked. And walked. And walked some more. It really wasn’t that far but it felt that way since: a) I didn’t really know where I was going; b) the temperature was over 85 degrees; and c) I was walking alone in a desert.

It all began when, this morning, feeling grumpy because things weren’t going my way at the hotel (wifi issues, noisy cars & buses, bug bites covering my ankles), rather than pausing, making some breakfast, and maybe even meditating for a few minutes, I stormed out, my destination Los Tamarindos, an organic, farm-to-table restaurant I had seen advertised on a poster in a downtown store window some days before.

Unfortunately, in my irritation and frustration, I left with no water, no food, and no map.

After only a few minutes of walking down the seemingly endless dirt roads of the tiny town, the intense sun and heat began began to take their toll. I kept stopping at cinderblock shacks masquerading as stores, attempting to locate and purchase a small bottle of water. Apparently, however, there was no water to be had, although there were plenty of bottles of Fanta, punch, and the ubiquitous Coca-Cola, none of which I had a hankering for. Despondently, I kept my eyes peeled for something to eat and drink as I asked every passerby for directions to the cement factory, which someone had told me was along the route to the restaurant. (This method of reaching a location in a foreign land is not new to me…it reminds me of an adventure I had in Japan using the same technique to find a Zen Buddhist temple…[INSERT LINK to biking to temple when it’s been written]

Dapper gentleman

As I reached the outskirts of the dusty town, I passed by a food stand, where a dapper gentleman in a fedora standing behind the steel counter of the dirt-floored “restaurant” began to wave. I waved back and called out, “Usted tiene botellas de agua?” 

Si! Por supuesto” he replied and beckoned me over.

As I neared him, I furrowed my brow, unable to believe my eyes…coincidentally, I had met this gentleman, Eduardo, the night before through friends of friends in a completely unrelated, though nearby, location. I couldn’t believe it. I had to laugh. Life is frequently throwing situations like this my way, some more astonishing than others…[INSERT LINK to post about Guatemala/Mill Valley connection when it’s written]

After I had been officially introduced to Eduardo’s sister-in-law, Carmelita, and had guzzled a small bottle of water, Eduardo handed me a homemade burrito, filled with what, I have no idea…I was so hungry I told him I would eat whatever he recommended. The condiments were the best part; pickled onions and queso fresco. It was so delicious and I was so hungry, I asked for another one, which I devoured as he talked to me about his elaborate organic gardening system. (Which I am not at liberty to describe as he is currently seeking to patent the system.)

Headed to the cement factory

About an hour later, I payed my tab and listened carefully to Eduardo’s directions: “At the end of this street, turned right on the paved road. Walk up the road until you reach the cement factory, where you will turn left onto a dirt road leading up into the hills. When you reach the top of the mountain, you will have a view of the valley below where you will see an organic farm called “Flora”, which also has a restaurant. Head toward that, then continue past it until you find Los Tamarindos.” After expressing my gratitude and paying my bill, I headed out.

 
 

By the time I reached the crest of the hill, the heat and sun were at their height, at least in my opinion! I thought I could see the farm Eduardo had described in the valley below and began to descend (after a quick mistaken detour up a driveway). 

Oasis

Finally, I reached the valley and what could only be described as an oasis. There were beautifully-appointed modern straw-bale buildings with a rustic flair surrounded by lush grass, trees, flowers, and rows of vegetables. Attractive, well-dressed people wandered around, some clearly customers and others clearly employees. I could easily have been in Napa or Sonoma. 

Soon after arriving, I was approached by a stylishly dressed woman in charcoal gray tank top, beige shorts and cute cowboy boots who introduced herself as the hostess. She explained that Flora Farm was a dream realized by the owners, Patrick and Gloria Greene from Sonoma, California. Ha! No wonder it looked and felt so gentrified and familiar! (That night I did a little more research and discovered that the ten lovely “Culinary Cottages” are available to rent…at only $1495.00 per night “in season”, not including tax and service fees. Yes, the decimal point is in the correct place and yes, that is in U.S. dollars. Interestingly, in a brief search of luxury rentals in Sonoma, the only ones I was able to find in the same nightly price range were villas with 5 or more bedrooms. What do I know though? Clearly they’re all out of my range!) 
 
I was rather disconcerted being in a place that could easily have been in Napa or Sonoma since both are about an hour’s drive from where I live. In one part of the restaurant, I felt like I was in an upscale version of La Boulange. Although the lunches and dinners were out of my price range, I noted that the breakfast buffet was not, and decided I would return the next morning (LINK TO POST) to try it out.
 
San Jose del Cabo in the distance

Sooner rather than later, I took my leave of Flora Farm, for after all, I wasn’t in Mexico to be in Sonoma. I headed up the other side of the valley on the perpetually dusty road, following conveniently posted signs for Los Tamarindos. In fact, sign after sign after sign for Los Tamarindos. Not long after summiting the hill, where there was a panoramic vista of San Jose del Cabo, I found myself wandering through what appeared to be a developing suburb. A cement road was being constructed, as were many new homes. At a typical tiny cinderblock “MiniSuper”, I purchased another bottle of cold water and shortly thereafter came across a newly-built church . For a moment, I thought I lost my way, but then located yet another sign with arrows supposedly pointing to Los Tamarindos. As I descended from the hills into a huge, dry arroyo (also called a

Arroyo road

wash, which is a dry creek or stream bed)

 I passed an elementary school where boys were running around playing in the yard and who began yelling “Mira, una gringa andante!”or “Look, a white lady walking!” (Or something to that effect.) I waved, and continued on my quest. 

As I walked on the sandy road surrounded by shrubs and a few small trees, I was frequently passed by speeding cars and construction trucks. I saw cows in what I will loosely refer to as a field on my left. There was a lot of brush and, in the distance, palm trees on my right. The road pressed forward into more of the same. I began to wonder if I were lost but continued forward until at last, I came across a fence and a gate with a sign that read, “Los Tamarindos”. 
 
Arriving at Los Tamarindos, at last!

I walked up the driveway and made my way toward a large, open, stone veranda where a man was setting wooden tables with napkins and silverware. A woman who looked remarkably like my mother appeared and asked if I were there for the cooking class. I told her that no, I had come because I had heard it was a farm-to-table organic restaurant and wanted to see it for myself, perhaps get a bite to eat. She was there for the cooking class, she told me, but had participated in the event so many times that this time was skipping the tour of the farm and waiting for her classmates to return. She shared with me that she lived in Cabo seven months out of the year. In a burst of inspiration, based upon her clothing, her haircut, her body language, and her manner of speaking, I asked, “Are you by any chance from California?”

“Yes,” she replied.
 
“Northern California?” I queried. 
 
“Yeesss,” she said, quizzically.
 
“Marin or Sonoma?” I asked.
 
“Napa,” she replied, nonplussed. “How did you know?”
 
“Lucky guess.”
 
While we spoke, I was perusing the menu and noticed that an organic margarita pizza was going to cost the same price as one at Tamal Pie, down the street from my home in the States. And why would I do that? Well, I wouldn’t. Saying goodbye, I returned down the driveway and back into the dry riverbed.
 
As I trudged through the sand, I was reminded of the mountain bikinig trip my friend, Steph, and I had taken some twenty years ago with the company I worked for at the time, Backroads, through this part of Baja and of what a nightmare it had been to bike in the sand. At one point, in fact, the sand had been so deep, we carried the bicycles on our shoulders for quite a distance through a ravine. It occurred to me that we may have cycled through this very spot.
 
Reaching a fork in the road, I took the left branch, headed back toward Puerto Los Cabos, which was near my hotel. When cars and trucks passed by, I tended to step off to the side of the road and stop walking as they were traveling very quickly and it was a narrow road. At one point, I heard a vehicle pulling up behind me, so stepped aside, only to hear it stop. I turned to see a police vehicle with two officers in the cab and a mountain biker in the bed of the truck. “Are you lost?” the lady cop asked. Laughing, I said, “No, just exploring and getting exercise.” “Do you want a ride?” What a great offer, I thought to myself, followed closely by, “What a relief it would be to climb into the back of this truck and get a ride back to La Playita, escaping the 90 degree heat, the burning sun.” Then thoughts of the Spanish meseta came to my mind and I realized that this 5 mile walk in Mexico was nothing compared to what I would be experiencing in June. “No thank you,” I replied. “I need to walk.” With some regret, and rather envious of the cyclist, I watched them drive way then continued on my trek.
 
Soon I was walking through a village and then finally back on the main road through Puerto Los Cabos, where buses, SUVs and various other vehicles were whizzing by, emitting copious amounts of exhaust. “If this doesn’t bother me,” I thought, “then neither will the busy roads on the Camino Santiago.” Not long after, I was back in my little Playita, where I stopped for a delicious and refreshing chocolate ice cream cone before buying groceries at the local supermarket and then getting giant clam ceviche take-out from the corner “restaurant”. From there I returned home to eat my delicious meal on the cool, windy veranda by the tiny pool at Palapas.

The rest of the day was spent mainly en casa, uploading photos of the day’s adventures to Facebook, watching “Becoming Jane” (which I thoroughly enjoyed) while lying in a hammock under the palm trees, and finally taking a swim in the nearby Gulf of Mexico at sunset.
ocean and beach in Baja

Dusk. I love the colors.

Sunset on the beach

Sunset on the beach

More pictures from the day:

The author with E and C

IMG_2389

Carmelita and Eduardo in the kitchen of their restaurant

 

greenhouse with plants in plastic containers connected by plastic tubing


Eduardo and Carmelita’s organic garden. They had the most amazing watering system!

View back down the paved road where I came from as I head onto the sandy road into the unknown…

Cresting the first hill

Cresting the first hill

 

Yea! I'm heading in the right direction!

Yea! I’m heading in the right direction!

Photos from Flora Farms (click to view original size in Lightbox):

 Some more views from my walk (click to view original size in Lightbox):

Baja Supermercado

hammock next to orange wall and grass-roofed hut

Time to relax

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