Friday, November 19, 2010

The Mexican Mishap Hat Trick

By Tanenhaus, Creative Commons
You know the saying that bad things come in threes? Well, apparently travel experiences aren't exempt. I've been pretty lucky in my wanderings to date and I sincerely hope my general pattern of positive travel experiences continues, but my first trip south of the border was an exception.

I was 12, and my parents wanted to take me somewhere I could learn to snorkel during my elementary school's spring break. They'd been to various parts of Mexico with my brother years before and had enjoyed it, so they thought, "Why not Baja?" And, not being the parents of a college student at the time, they decided San José del Cabo, next to Cabo San Lucas, was the perfect spot. I was thrilled. I'd been to Canada, but we'd always driven, so this would be my first international flight.

We took something like Super Shuttle from Los Cabos International Airport to our hotel the morning we arrived. My parents exchanged an uneasy look as the shuttle picked up three college students, probably 18 or 19 years old, each with a beer already in hand, who were also staying in San José del Cabo. I was trying desperately to look older than 12 and more worldly than I was, but I still felt my mom's what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into alarm start to go off in the seat next to mine.

The next day or two passed fairly uneventfully. We drove around the area in our beat-up VW bug rental car, which I loved for its sunroof (without a pane of glass, so it couldn't be closed) and the fact that the backseat didn't have seat belts, so I was free to stretch out across it and read or watch the scenery fly by. My first snorkeling lesson passed without incident. My parents were still uneasy about the fact that they had clearly picked a spring break party destination for college kids, but San José del Cabo was quieter than Cabo San Lucas, so we didn't lose any sleep. I was disappointed that the men in the market wanted my American money more than the pesos I was so eager to spend, but I found a pretty silver and mother-of-pearl bracelet, so I was mostly appeased.

We decided to go out to El Arco de Cabo San Lucas (Lands End), which my dad wanted to see, so we joined a group of fellow tourists on a water taxi and sped across the bay. When the taxi driver ran the boat halfway aground and started yelling "Jump! Jump!" as we arrived at Lands End, I had to stifle a laugh. People "disembarked" over the sides until the waves started carrying us back out to sea, at which point the driver yelled "Stop! Stop!" until he could run the boat aground again and repeat the process.

My parents and I took our turn the second time the driver ran the boat aground. My parents went off one side, one after the other, and I chose to jump off the less crowded bow of the boat. As I landed, I heard my mom cry out and turned to go to her, but my leg was stuck. The bow rope had been hanging loosely from the underside of the bow and I had put my leg straight through one of the loops as I jumped. Struggling to hold the rope still enough in the waves to get my leg out of it, I saw my dad reach my mom and take her pack as he started to help her out of the water - she had twisted her ankle as she landed - neither of them aware that I wasn't already up on the beach.

Still stuck in the rope, I felt myself being dragged further into the water as the boat started to drift away from the beach again. The bow was too high for anyone in the boat to see me, and the steep angle of the rope from the bow to the water was making it difficult to pull my leg free. One of the other passengers, half of a couple on vacation, saw me and ran over to help, shouting at the driver. The driver didn't hear him over the water (but my parents did, and headed toward us), but someone else to hold the rope steady while I pulled my leg out of the loop was all I needed and I was free before the boat drifted much further.

After thanking our fellow passenger, my parents and I made our way up onto the beach, my mom and I hobbling, and sat down on some boulders away from the water's edge. The wind had picked up and was blowing sand into the rope burn on the back of my knee as I tried to inspect it. I heard a shout and looked up just in time to see someone's beach umbrella, freed by the wind, flying toward us. It looked like it would go over our heads, but it hit a pocket of air, bounced and smacked my dad in the face instead. We sat there, staring at each other. In the space of ten minutes, we'd gone from perfectly healthy to having a sprained ankle, a nasty rope burn and a bleeding fat lip, one unpleasant injury for each of us.

There are other places in Mexico I'd like to visit, but I don't think I'll be going back to Cabo anytime in the next 60 years. I'd really rather not give Baja a chance to repeat its hat trick of injuries; I still have the scar from the last one.


Bob Berwyn said...

Nice post, but ouch! Haven't been to Cabo since 1981, but had some good adventures ... we were touring Mexico by bus and on a beach near Manzanillo, a guy offered us a great deal on some weed. For the price, we thought we'd be getting a little baggie, but he came back with a paper grocery bag full of what looked to be the entire top half of a plant. We compacted it as much as we could and spent the next few days being paranoid.

In that era, you could still camp right on the beaches around Baja, and we found a nice spot near Lands End facing the Pacific.

On the second morning, I woke up to see several boats heading straight toward us. As they got closer, I could see uniformed men on the boats.

I pulled that paper bag out of my pack and started digging a hole in the sand, my heart racing. I was sure they were coming for me.

Turned out they were filming, of all things, a shampoo commercial, with a tall blond woman in a white jumpsuit standing in the bow of a boat, a generator-powered electric fan used to send her hair streaming in the "wind."

The Federales were indeed armed, but were only there to guard the photoshoot. They didn't bother us at all.

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Yikes! Great story after the fact, but I'm sure it wasn't quite so amusing at the time. Who knew filming a shampoo commercial required a boat?