The Road to Todos Santos
In my last post on our journey in the life of Cuco’s sandals, my daughter, Johna, and I were on the road to Todos Santos. We had misread the map (which incidentally did not tell us it was not to scale) and what we had naively expected to be a 20 minute ride on a divided highway was stretching closer to an hour on a winding two-lane road along the desert Pacific coast of the Baja peninsula and around the foothills of the Sierra de la Leguna mountain range. Although Baja’s highway 19 had been newly paved in the mid 1980s between Cabo san Lucas and La Paz, I was unnerved from the moment we passed just to the right of the bottom side of a rolled-over semi early in the trip. No matter how hard the tailgaters pushed, I was taking the posted speed limit signs seriously, punctuated regularly as they were with signs warning me of yet another upcoming Curva Peligrosa (Dangerous Curve). I would have pulled over and let them all pass, if only there had been any safe place to pull over; the road had no shoulder! Instead, when we got a clear stretch of straight-away, I would slow and scoot as far right as I dared to allow them all to zip on by.
My jangled nerves were exacerbated by the fact that we were increasingly nearing a quarter tank of gas without a station (or much anything for that matter) anywhere in sight. We had set out with a half tank and our friend Kirk’s casual assurance that we should be just fine for our little day excursion to the Todos Santos artist community. Now I was kicking myself for not taking time to fill up in Cabo San Lucas, where gas was as readily available as back home in Michigan. Never assume that where you are headed is going to have the same amenities as where you have been! At one quarter tank, not knowing what was ahead of us, I would have no choice but to somehow try and find a way to safely turn around and head back to Cabo. In the meantime, cattle crossing signs started popping up regularly. Cattle? In this desert? Where? It was only later that I learned that there are working ranchos hidden along the entire stretch of highway 19 with free range herds, and it is reputed to be one of the most dangerous stretches of road in all North America for vehicle/livestock collisions.
But then we finally turned a curve and were treated with a view of the Pacific, then began to see intermittent signs of life. Scattered residences appeared along the coast to our left, from ramshackle former palapas or cinder block shacks to elaborate residences of various shapes, sizes, or colors. Mind you, the coast was a mile or more from the road we were traveling, and how one would actually get to one of these Pacific waterfront beaches or abodes was not readily apparent. Once in a while there would pop up a gate in some various state of disrepair marking a dirt road heading off into the desert toward the Pacific coast. In our gas-rationed mindset we weren’t exactly in the mood to go exploring!
And then signs of life began to appear along the highway. A roadside blanket weaver. An intriguing sign beckoned, “Art & Beer.” A crossroads leading to the town of Pescadero. And then, blessedly, a modern Pemex gas station appeared before us. Thank goodness I had brought along some pesos as they did not accept credit cards of any kind and of course there was no ATM in sight!
With a full gas tank and assurance that we were on the right track, we were much happier reentering highway 19 for the last few miles of our trip. And suddenly we veered off the highway down a dusty road that led into the heart of the designated Peublo Magico (magic town) of Todos Santos. We pulled to the curb across from a bank (with ATM! Civilization!) and parked the rental car. There we were, at last.
Now what? If this was an artist community, where were all the artists? Where was the magic?
Turns out the real magic of Todos Santos isn’t obvious at first glance; it takes a bit of seeking and prodding. Come explore with me in my next post.