For almost 20 hours, we trudged through the night’s dark sea. We left the brown desert of Southern Baja and arrived in Mazatlán, Mexico, the only gringos aboard a ship filled with drunken truckers who stood beside their rigs.
We felt comfortable aboard the vessel alongside the truckers; they were mostly old timers and family men. Colorful pictures faded from the desert sun–religious figures, naked women, photos of loved ones–plastered the walls inside their rigs. The ship’s diesel burned through the night while the stars made their way across a clear sky, the air cool against our skin. Exposed to outer space that shone from above, knocked out in a tequila-induced slumber, we slept through the night. The song of burning diesel was soothing while we were in our little tent on the roof of our truck.
After we were dropped off by the ship deep on the Mexico coast, we began heading south in our truck. No specific destination and no timeline; the feeling of total freedom was as distracting as it was overwhelming. There was always a cloud of smoke as we blazed down the camino–fires burned constantly on the sides of the road, filling the air with a cloudy familiar smell. It was the smell of chicken being cooked, fueled by burning wood in an old oil drum cut in half on the side of the road in Mexico. It was the smell of life on the road. It was the smell of being free.
An offshore breeze blew through the tent. It was hard to sleep because the ground was rumbling. Close by, heavy waves crashed the Mexican sandbar until dawn. The chilly morning quickly warmed us up. Like a piece of steak marinating before it gets cooked, we embraced the cool morning before getting roasted. The mid-day heat forces shady naps. It is a dry heat; it hasn’t rained in months.
The military and police presence was strong on the major highways, but in some of the villages and more remote spots we were on our own. On the flip side, there are the other guys. They’re the guys wearing nice street clothes with neatly combed hair. Bullet proof vests, hand guns wedged in their belt, shotguns casually leaned on their shoulders. Several clean cut men just relaxed in their truck or strolled down the beach. While the afternoon scorch melted the sand, they also liked to sip a cerveza in the shade, watching the waves crash on the shore. I walked past their truck after a session, board under my arm, and they spoke to me in Spanish. “How are the waves,” they asked. I told them they were good.”Buenas olas.” They were not cops, nor were they military. They left us alone, and we tried not to stare.
Three months in Mexico and we camped every night. Countless waves satisfied, just like the cheap street food. Young kids wandered through camp selling freshly picked papayas. We were invited to a Christmas Eve dinner at a local place in the village. The party was filled with just as many surfers as locals–perfect strangers breaking bread and sharing the familiarity of a holiday dinner. The clock struck midnight and time suddenly stopped; everyone embraced one an other with open arms. Fisherman, farmers, surfers, children, drunks, degenerates, Europeans, Americans, and travelers all tipped their mugs and wished a “feliz navidad.” A stout older gent, a complete stranger, hugged me and smiled. His face told a story, nostalgic of another year passing by. So far from home, I felt right at home.
The palm trees danced from the afternoon wind as I scoured the ground for fallen coconuts. With some help from my trusty machete, I learned how to drink the water from the shell. Coconut water quenches your thirst, like a swing from a machete just feels good to do. I drank the sweet water and remembered how much coconut water costs back in the States.
Siesta time beachside. As I enjoyed a rest between sessions, a middle-aged Texan, as loud as he was irritating, tried to sell me ecstasy in the desolate grassy camp. I brushed off this madcap and resumed my catnap. My dog did not like him and let out a low growl. He threatened my dog’s life and disappeared into the heat. One day, the jaded Texas tourist will get his. So I simply watched the ocean and waited for the breeze.
The life of a traveler is a simple life. It’s a good life. While moving from place to place, you have few priorities: keep your things safe, spend your money frugally, see how long you can go, and surf as much as you can. Live an interesting life while owning as little as possible. Some may say its the easy life, but it’s not the life for everyone.