Cabo cures my fear
12.12.2008 - 14.12.2008
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A week ago, I hated Mexico.
I probably wouldn't have told you I hate Mexico if you had asked, because I wouldn't have wanted my dislike of the place to infect anyone else without them having a chance to make up their own mind. After all, lots of people go to Mexico every year, and really like it, so who am I to rain on anyone's parade. So if you had asked, I would have said something about it being a place with lots of interesting things to see, and a good place to party, but it isn't really my cup of tea.
Deep down, though, I would have been loathing the place. And the reason that I hated Mexico was because I was afraid of it.
Now, that might be a surprising admission given some of the places that I have travelled without any apparent care for my own safety, but Mexico always scared me. In my mind, Mexico was up there with Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan as scary places. There's a number of reasons for that.
First, I've been to Mexico. Twice, actually, which is pretty surprising for a place that I said I hated, but I have travelled twice to the country. Both times I got sick. Montezuma's revenge, they call it. Montezuma was the Aztec emperor of Mexico from 1502 until 1520, right at the time when the Spanish were conquering the land that would become known at Mexico. We all know that didn't go well for the locals. Now the emperor apparently gets his revenge by giving Gringo visitors to Mexico traveller's diarrhoea.
Given that we come to their country and then dress like this, no wonder they hate us...
The first trip to Mexico, in 2000, was the worst. After avoiding the illness for the whole week, my last night there I woke up with a sharp pain in my stomach. I spent hours in the bathroom, suffering immensely. My second trip to Mexico in 2005 I got hit again, not as badly as the first time, but still not great.
So a week ago, the first reason I would have cited for hating Mexico was that it makes me sick.
Secondly, living in North America, I got lots of news coverage on events in Mexico. Most of it was bad. Sinaloa drug wars, tourists killed, corrupt police and politicians and illegal immigrants flooding across the border into the USA. Mexico seemed like a dangerous place from all the coverage.
Of course, I know that media outlets tend to only cover stories that are bad, and even then they often make things seem worse than it really is. I have been places that only gets negative news coverage, and saw that there are a lot more good stories to overcome the bad. I was in Toronto during the SARS crisis, and watched CNN talk about it being a ghost town while I watched a city that seemed to be moving along for the most part as before.
Finally, my past two trips to Mexico were to all-inclusive resorts. The kind of places that make money by arranging group tours, so have an agenda to make it seem a little scary to leave the resort without proper guidance.
For all these reasons, that's why it was surprising that I found myself booking a weekend trip from Phoenix to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I am not sure why I booked it, and I fretted over it afterwards. Looking at my airline itinerary and hotel booking, I kept asking myself what I was getting myself into. Travelling Mexico by myself. Would I be scammed? Would I be mugged? Would I be killed in my hotel room by banditos? I almost think that if I hadn't booked a non-refundable airfare, I might have chickened out. Luckily I'm cheap, so I took the flight.
Cabo San Lucas is on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, that bit of Mexico that runs down south from California, USA, surrounding by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Gulf of California on the east, though locals call the Gulf of California the Sea of Cortez.
Cabo San Lucas, as well as the corridor from San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas along the water is well developed with tourist infrastructure, and the development continues today. Tourists come for the sunny weather, sand beaches, fishes and other earthly delights.
These are the other earthly delights I was talking about
The town was all decked out for two reasons. Firstly, the upcoming Christmas holiday. Secondly, December 12th, the day I arrived, was the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. On December 12, 1531, Juan Diego saw the Virgin, who then became imprinted on Diego's blanket. Folks paraded through the streets in colourful costumes and carrying religious icons.
My hotel was right by the Marina. The marina has a nice walkway along the water, but there are a ton of touts along there. They all seem to have a very diverse portfolio of products.
"Hey man, you want to go fishing? Ready for jet ski? How about I give you $150 to see a timeshare presentation? No, how about these silver bracelets? What about some weed? Some blow? You want to get high?"
Now, these touts are exactly the kind of folks that scare me. People whose sole goal is to rip me off. But I quickly discovered that while they may be persistent, they do take no for an answer once you have responded to all their offers.
Other than that, I wasn't mugged once. In fact, most of the people I meet seemed very nice and interested in my rather convoluted personal situation.
"Where are you from?" A bartender asked me.
"I was born in Canada, but I live in London, England. Right now, though, I am working in Phoenix, Arizona. So I am a Canadian-born, English-resident, American-worker visiting Mexico."
"Wow. I have never travelled outside of Mexico."
Nice people chatting with me, instead of folks trying to rip me off or kill me. Surprises from Mexico, a country I was sure would leave me beat up on the side of the road.
While many of the people I talked to haven't travelled outside of Mexico, they have travelled. Like many places that are growing quickly, most of the people working there seemed to come from other places. Cabo and the jobs is a draw from across the country.
One of the places that those people end up working is Cabo Wabo. It's a bar owned by Sammy Hagar, the replacement lead singer for Van Halen and the man who sang "I Can't Drive 55!" That's Sammy's photo on the wall on the left. On the right you see Bono, lead singer of U2. I can only assume that he was in the bar trying to abolish 3rd world debt by personally spending money on beer. The beer there is expensive. $USD 4. Most places, beer was only $USD 2 or $USD 3, with lots of deals like buy 6 beers in a bucket of ice for $10.
Though it may not seem it from the first two stories I told, but I did not spend the entire time in a bar. I went to the beach on Saturday, and spend the day swimming. Beautiful beach with warm, calm water. The drop off is very steep, so you walk into the water and only have to walk out about 10 feet before the water is up to your neck. Very cool.
Unfortunately I don't have a photo of me getting out of the water, as I left my camera in my hotel room when I went swimming. I didn't want to bring too much stuff to the beach, lest someone steal it while I was in the water. I can provide this replica photo of me walking out of the water.
No one did steal my stuff on the beach while I was in the water, despite the fact it was left alone and there was ample opportunity. Yet more surprises from the country I hated.
As Cabo San Lucas is known as a fishing village and sport fishing paradise, I decided to eat seafood. I ended up eating both nights at a place called The Crazy Lobster on Manuel Hidalgo. Excellent food, and the best part, it didn't make me sick once. Perhaps Montezuma had enough revenge on me my past two trips.
I flew back this afternoon, sad to be leaving so soon. Cabo San Lucas changed my mind. I don't hate Mexico, and it doesn't scare me anymore.