Friday, June 24, 2016

Cabo San Lucas

On nearly every vacation, trip or excursion I've ever taken, I am the one that plans things out. I'm the one with the map, the guidebook, the train schedule, and the annotated to-do list. It's me who carries around the giant purse laden with extra tissues, band-aids, a water bottle, two cameras, a charger, Advil, and an extra map just in case that first one flies away. I can't help this Type-A preparedness of mine. I blame it on being a Girl Scout, but it's also partly because the one with the map is the one in control (or so I tell myself).

In preparation for a work trip to Mexico last May, I did much less than my usual obsessive level of pre-departure research. Outside of flipping through one brochure I picked up at last year's NYT Travel Show, I didn't read up on the best restaurants or the must-see attractions, and I didn't endlessly scroll through Instagram trying to plan out photo ops before I even got there. A business trip is entirely different than a for-pleasure vacation, and I was to be at the ready at all times to attend to my boss' and the client's needs. Sight-seeing was not on the schedule. I simply got on a plane, sped through the airport in Mexico City in an attempt to make my connecting flight (spoiler alert: I did, but barely), and followed a vaguely-worded email to find a guy named Mush who would drive me in a sketchy white van through the backroads of the Baja Peninsula to a hotel on the ocean.

From there, I followed an equally vague daily schedule that gave me and the other production assistant ample time to wander the gardens of a renowned organic farm. We contemplated the origin of tropical fruits and vegetables (omigod mangoes grow on trees!), picked up random Spanish vocab words (muneca = doll; mantel = tablecloth), watched our lunch get cooked over a giant open roasting pit, and ate some of the best crew meals we've ever tasted. But our hours were long - early morning to well after sun down each day, and after working ten hours under the hot Mexican sun the only thing I wanted to do each night was shower and collapse into bed.

The event went extremely well. The client was pleased, my bosses were pleased, and I executed my task of monitoring a dozen mini-projectors way more smoothly than I did the previous month at a similar event in Hawaii. But there was still no down time. We needed to be back at the farm by 6am the morning after the event in order to load up the trucks and shut down our production tent and watch the empty truck get stuck coming up the dirt road and wait for a machine to come to clear the road so the truck could get unstuck and then finally for reals load up the truck and say our goodbyes and have one last delicious meal at the most captivating farm-to-table restaurant I've ever had the pleasure of patronizing.

It was around 1pm when we made it back to our hotel. We were officially off the clock and the rest of the evening was our to do as we pleased. I looked at two of my coworkers. "Should we see the arches?" I asked. "What are those?" they asked. "They're these natural stone formation in the ocean. I saw a picture. They looked cool." I said. "Sure." They said. "We can take the rental car." said David.

After a quick nap, the three of us were on our way to the end of the Baja Peninsula, or as the locals tourists call it, Land's End. But we still didn't have a plan. We weren't really sure where exactly these arches were or how to see them, but we were at least heading in the right direction (south). After a couple wrong turns down trashy and spring-break-bar laden Cabo streets, we found a parking lot with open spots. As soon as we got out of the car, a man approached us. "Want to see El Arco?" he asked. "Si!" we replied. "The boat leaves in two minutes! We must hurry!" he said.

I soon found myself once again following a strange man into a sketchy vehicle, although this one was accompanied by a $15 "boat fee" and a separate $1 "dock fee." We were granted permission to board the water taxi and immediately set sail for the choppy waters of the Cabo San Lucas Marina.

It was an utterly delightful ride. We somehow timed it out so that we were on the boat at golden hour, which is really the best time to do or see anything. The captain didn't speak any English, and when I asked him what caused the arch to form (earthquake? tetonic plate shift? global warming?) he gave a giant grin, pointed at a giant seal sunbathing on a rock and said "Si! Sello!!" and then arched his neck back and let out a eerily accurate seal bark. Our seal friend threw us a sideways glance and responded with an annoyed "arf."

45 minutes later and we were back on dry land. Then a walk around the marina, some nachos and guac, a giant margarita, and a Yelp consultation that led us to an Asian-fusion restaurant for wine and ceviche and ramen and coulis-covered sherbet. An evening full of good food and wonderful company fueled entirely by uncharacteristically spur-of-the-moment decisions. While I am in no way going to stop planning and researching and measuring distances between sights in anticipation of upcoming vacations, my evening in Cabo reminded me that spontaneity is a virtue worth having. Sometimes the unplanned moments make for the best adventures.

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