We meet El Jefe
Having decided that the waves aren't going to cooperate, we pack up slowly thanks to a thick cloud cover that makes for a somewhat bearable morning heat. When the clouds break we fire up the bus and quickly get off the beach.
We decide to drive past the chains in hopes that luck will go our way and the paved route back is open. As we pull up to the (closed) chains we are surprised to see stern guard1 from our last trip at guard2's post. Whats more surprising is that he is smiling widely, excited to see us and flagging us down. As we stop the bus he starts pointing up the paved dirt road and lowering the chains while shouting out greetings and returns to shake our hands and introduce himself. Could this be the friendly twin of the grumpy dude we dealt with just two days ago?
Jen and i look at each other bewildered as he starts calling to his two machete-wielding amigos, who both make their way out of the hut and over to introduce themselves through the safari windows. The three guys take a few moments to compliment the bus, Karma and my tattoo before finally revealing why they are so inexplicably happy to see us- they are looking for a ride. Now it all makes perfect sense- and without so much as a reply from us they are climbing into the back of E. Looks like we'll be picking up our first hitchhikers of the trip...but will also be taking the paved road!
These two are more than happy to talk and we learn about them, their families and their hobbies as we drive. Jen asks about El Jefe (who we are both still thinking is a rich gringo that owns the compound near the chains) and Arturo points to Eddie. Wow...after two weeks of talking about the elusive El Jefe, here he sits in the back of our bus. In addition to managing the security guards, Eddie is apparently a bit of an international coin collector and pulls out a canadian coin to show Jen. They also ask about our trip and decide that we are like los monarchas. We are confused, but they explain that the monarch butterflies travel from canada to mexico...quite poetic for a few machete toting guys that spend their days under a shelter made of plastic draped over a tree.
Once we reach the other side they hop out to rapidly, set out the road closed sign and hang the chains. Jen remembers seeing a few coins that were left in my briefcase when we loaded the bus in BC, searches out the coins and gives Eddie some euro and 500won. He lights up and asks for one of our cards to put next to the coins in his display case back home. Both guards assure us that we now get to travel the paved road (for free) anytime we want... just in time for our departure from baja of course, but a fitting end to the story of El Jefe.
We laugh at our luck and timing, and the number of stories that seem to find us as long as we are open to them. A quick stop at the San Jose public market for a chile rellano from the lonchoria (and to pick up some tortillas, veggies and a huge sahimi tuna steak caught today that cost us a whopping $3) and we head back over the mountains drive north. As we gain in elevation things start looking quite ominous and we wonder whether the storm has gotten worse or turned back over baja while we have been offline. The storm did gain strength and become Hurricane Miriam, but is still heading out to sea. Nothing but passing through a rainstorm for us as we made our way, which is good since we still dont have windshield wipers and we take on water pretty rapidly through the safaris. We mop up the dash with towels and continue on our way.
We head back into Los Barriles, see a friend from the RV park at the super, pass through town and up the mountain road for El Cardonal. Jen read about a great rv park that claims to be the best rated in baja, but as we arrive we see yet another deserted lot. All the right buildings and signs that you are in the right spot, but again nobody around. We walk the grounds to make sure, swing open doors and peek in rooms but once again the bodysnatchers (or maybe the mexican ninjas) have cleaned the place out before our arrival. We consider staying for the night, but remember our need to get online and research the ferry...and drive back down the hill to Los Barriles and our spot next to the pool at the RV park. Jen and I are moderately disappointed as we were excited for unchartered territory, but Karma is always thrilled to pull into somewhere she recognizes...so we'll just say this one's for her.
On top of the hurricane offshore, we apparently missed a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that rumbled baja this afternoon. Pretty big earthquake only 50 miles offshore of LaPaz, but we felt nothing as we floated in the pool and discussed our day.