Mexican waves LIke a big blue watery road

One thing Helen and I have always agreed on is that on her birthday we should go on a boat trip, in a place starting with M, ending with the sound "co", having flown BA first class two days prior. That's why we find ourselves in Mexico this year, having ticked off Moscow in 2015.

But of course, birthdays start with presents. Since we're still not fully jetlag free, we were both awake from around 6am meaning she got hers nice and early: a 30 minute flight simulator experience. Yes, this is a present for her and not me (though I'll buy a companion ticket that lets me in, just not at the controls).

8am means breakfast. It's in the front room of the restaurant attached to the hotel, and for the first two days is "American", meaning we get coffee, fruit, and eggs. Apparently on/from the third day we'll be upgraded and allowed Mexican food. I'm dying for some huevos ranchos(?). There's European football on the TV and that makes me excited for Monday morning.

On the way to breakfast, Paco the parrot says "¡Hola!", and the budgies wolf whistle at Helen. On the way back, the twin cats are saying happy birthday.

It's early still - 9am - which means the heat isn't yet unbearable. Supposedly, it being Saturday, there's an organic market which might be worth a visit. What's more, San José del Cabo is full of art galleries and installations which are also meant to be great. So we step out, turn right and go up to the main square.

Everywhere is deserted.

Jose Antonio Mijares died in the battle of San José del Cabo, fighting off the Americans.

Seriously, deserted. We see about 8 people the whole time we're out.

There's a sculpture portraying the path of venus in the solar system, or something. It's hard to photo and looks better than this in real life.

Also, there's the Baja Brewery. This is around 500 metres from our hotel.

We did, on a side street, find a somewhat dilapidated looking building with Mercardo Organico written on its side, which I surmised might mean "organic market". It was shut, and anyway we'd been expecting street stalls and stuff. Maybe nothing happens in off season?

So, we return empty handed. Back at the hotel, one of the cats gets seriously rowdy, miaowing constantly and following us into our room while we get changed. It's up and down, on both beds, howling when Helen goes to the loo, attacking my headphones, etc. It's just like being at home getting hassled by Buster.

Outside, lounging by the pool, the cat continues to join in. He shuts his noise, but steals a sun lounger, then decides he wants to perch beneath my arched legs, then alongside me, etc. He's my my best friend for a good hour or so and numerous other hotel patrons come by to say hello.

A man appears, walking a slow circuit of the pool with Paco the parrot on his arm. As he comes past us we have a brief chat; he says he's a semi-regular customer here, being flight crew along with two of his friends. Paco apparently likes him, but even some of the staff are scared, so no-one else is allowed to take him for a walk. Shame.

A couple of hours lounging and we decide it's time to get some light lunch, and arrange some transport. We have to be somewhere at 3.50pm at the latest; according to Google it's a 35 minute walk, but through an unknown town in 30+ celsius temperatures? No, I don't think so. So we request a cab from reception, for 3.30pm. Supposedly it's only a 5 minute drive, but we'd prefer to be safe than sorry.

Electricity is running low so we go out to get food without taking either phone. This is a bad move, since we end up eating in a (deserted, obviously) rooftop terrace restaurant, having beer and cocktails and giant plates of nachos and strawberry salad. There are no other customers, and the only people on street level are a group of kids in the bandstand seemingly putting on their own breakdancing show.

As we finish and ask for the bill, magically a three man roaming mariachi band appear. Reckon the waiter phoned his mates: quick, get your instruments, there's a foreign couple here! They are friendly blokes with good skills ("Like Carlos Santana!") and voices. The song earns its tip.

Back to the room and we chill, for want of a better word, indoors. It's so hot. There's fuck all to do before showing and getting into our evening wear for the main - only - booked activity of our stay here. We are going on a romantic sailing cruise, watching the sun set over the pacific ocean.

The excursion starts with a few minutes panicking about the taxi. Nothing shows up at 3.30pm, and at 3.35pm Helen pops to reception where a man makes a "oh, maybe we didn't order it..." face and promises one is on its way. At 3.39pm we're about to bail and try to get one from the rank we've seen up by the square, when a big A-Team van turns up.

This man drives us slower than any cab has ever driven me, along the road through the Zona Hotelera. This is our first viewing of the sea; looks alright I suppose. The hotels look cookie cutter and the shops and venues look like they could be any moderately upscale seafront resort town in the world. Meh.

$8 later - which we pay for with a 20, and get back a mixture of USD and pesos - at the Cabo Dolphins office we register, get wristbands, and wait for our driver to tell us it's time to go. In a van with a group of 6 Spanish speaking late teens/early twentysomethings we head off to Cabo San Lucas via one stop at a supremely posh gated resort community called Palmilla, which may single handledly support Mexico's golf buggy industry.

Cabo San Lucas is bloody miles away. Every time I think we're on the outskirts, we aren't. Until we are, of course. It also doesn't look very nice. We knew about its reputation as a party town for frat boys and sorority girls to come get shitfaced and this seems accurate. But we're driven through it, and to the marina on the far side, then dumped in a waiting area. We're there for about 50 minutes while loads of other people turn up, and I get bored and antsy and trepidatious because I don't really have sea legs, though I am somewhat cheered by the dolphins.

Like this one.

Eventually we're given a briefing, sorted into two groups of 19 (there are two boats going out tonight) and led to our vessel. All looks a bit yachty around here.

Thankfully we are not on the JUNGLE BOOZE CRUISE boat, nor the SEX MACHINE TOO boat. No, it's a 52ft luxury yacht. The romance of the occasion is somewhat lessened by the fact there's 19 people fairly crammed in, and they play loud music (though not pumping disco as numerous other boats are, complete with loud MCs shouting LET'S HAVE FUN AND LET'S GET DRUNK! to a chorus of whoops and cheers).

Ice is broken by everyone being given free mimosas once we're out, and then there's some tourism to do.

We start by hugging the rocky peninsula.

Past Lover's Beach.

These outcrops lie between us, in the Sea of Cortez, and the pacific ocean.

There's a cool arch, and some preening sea lions.

We are kept very well oiled by a constant flow of free cocktails. I'm on the margharitas, Helen is on the mai tai. They aren't weak. Once we're as far offshore as we're going to get, food is served. It's basically a Mexican version of a bento box, with tortillas and guacamole and nachos and refried beans and tuna pasta and salad. It's lovely and I have tons of it.

The captain photobombs us beautifully, in landscape mode.

The motors go off and sails come up. We are, finally, actually sailing. Helen is enjoying herself every bit as much as she knew she would, and I'm enjoying myself more than I had feared. I don't have to clamber around the edge of the boat, or in fact do anything but just sit, eat and drink as we sail. My balance is not called into question at any point.

We turn back and head towards shore. Along the way we're greeted with numerous shows of manta rays breaching, performing jumps and somersaults in what we're told is a mating ritual. None of them are particularly close to our boat but they're happening all around us and it's mesmerising. Closer in, we see a few sea lions poping up above water to see what the fuss is about, then diving again.

We also go past some more loud party boats with synchronised dancing, drinking, whooping. Also a $250 million yacht with a helicopter on the back and a water slide. Being virtualy unable to see, I take a random shot as a bird goes past hoping to capture it.

It's only now, as we're approaching Cabo San Lucas's ugly shoreline, that we realise something. This sunset cruise ... the sun sets OVER THE FUCKING LAND. I mean, it does set over the pacific ocean, but we're not in the pacific. We're in the sea of Cortez, with a strip of land between us and the ocean. Damn it!

In fact, as excellent a thing to do as this was, it's really not what they advertise. The website describes and even shows:

  • sun setting over the sea
  • couples allowed to take the steering wheel
  • romance

In reality there's 19 people crammed in, a huge emphasis on drinking and eating a LOT, and it's completely forbidden to go anywhere near the wheels. But like I said, it's fun nonetheless.

Back on shore we're invited to donate into the "retirement hat" beind held out as we disembark, given our shoes back, and directed towards the office where photos will be available for selection and purchase. Since we'd been at the back of the boat we're first off, and after the loo we have a browse of the photos taken by the onboard snapper. With apologies to her, they ... weren't very good. Not just the ones of us, we had a very cursory swipe through and weren't taken by any of them. What's more, they wanted $35 - that's USD, not MXN (even pesos use the dollar sign) - to get any. $35!!

Also, there's no transport back to San José del Cabo, or any of the hotels. The transport for this trip is one way, and you're left to your own devices on the way home. I'd feared this was the case because some website had mentioned it, but Helen was convinced it couldn't possibly be true.. until we were told it was.

Worse yet, because we'd been to the loo first, and done a runner from the photos, we totally failed to find out where the cabs or buses - we'd been told there was a bus - leave from. So we wander around the marina front towards town, fending off countless attempted interactions from people trying to sell us stuff or convince us to do stuff we don't want to do.

At the corner, we nip up to street leve and pick a direction. A bus stop is spotted, some urbano transporte with destinations daubed on the window with white paint. Helen says "San José del Cabo?" to the driver who shakes his head apologetically; a passenger tells us where to go, but we both think the other one has heard and understood him correctly when in reality neither of us did.

So, we walk a bit further. Cabo San Lucas is pretty horrible, just a nasty drunken frat boy town and soon we've stumbled, almost literally, into the red light district. "Hey, rich Americans (sic), come see show girls. It's couples night tonight" and so on. I'm not hugely impressed with this turn of events. We're stranded somewhere a good 40+ minutes away from where we're staying, with seemingly no cabs around and anyway they'd probably cost a fortune, and no idea how or where to get a bus from.

I'm thinking our best bet is to go into a reputable hotel lobby and ask them to get us a cab, but there's nothing reputable in sight and I'd still rather not fork out what will be a huge chunk of cash anyway. Not yet finding this particularly funny, I'm stressing and we fix that by going into an empty Irish pub - no customers, 8 members of staff all - and get two bottles of Dos Equis, for 70 pesos paid with 100 and no change is forthcoming.

Sitting at the bar is the quietest place, so we do, and midway through the beer Helen decides our best bet is, fuck it, ask the barman. I'm sort of onboard with this but also think we're just going to signal ourselves: hey, lost idiot tourists! Don't worry, my friend will drive you, very cheap, very reliable...

I'm a horrible person. The guy tells us exactly where the bus stop is, and the name of the bus. Ruta del desierto, from two blocks away on the right hand side, past Puerto Paradiso and near McDonalds. His directions are perfect, spot on, and just as we approach the stop a bus arrives. The driver struggles to remember the English for "74 pesos", the fare back to San José for the two of us.

We only have 61 pesos. and a bunch of US dollars. For fucks sake! But at least I'm starting to find things funny now.

OK, so this bus is meant to run every ten minutes and I saw some ATMs back near the bar. Walk past the shopping mall called Liverpool. First ATM: US dollars only. Second ATM: broken down, with some odd message about a note being too long. Third and fourth ATM: same as the second. Fifth ATM: US dollars only.

Cabo San Lucas is a US dollar kinda town. No-one comes here for authenticity. Might as well be in fucking Blackpool. But, aha! Over the road back past the Irish pub there's a branch of Santander, with two ATMs in an indoor lobby. In goes my card; there's no option to have this in any language other than Spanish, so let's see what happens.

Entering the PIN is OK. Picking my account is OK. Choosing 600 pesos is OK. Then there's some random question requiring a Si or Non and we pick Si - I think we've just donated 3 quid to some nurses. Then the screen goes largely white. My name is at the top right, and there's some Spanish we can't translate at the top left, and nothing else. It's a good 20 or 30 seconds like this and I'm thinking, OK, I really don't want my cash card nicked by a bank in Cabo San Lucas. I'm vacillating wildly between finding this stressful as hell and hilarious.

We press all the buttons. Nothing happens, but the ATM to our left starts making noises. Eh? I'm thinking it's game over and then, oh! Something comes up on screen! We don't know what it means, but it's asking si.or non again. Fuck it, si.

A receipt comes out. Then, hmm, does it ask us another question? Or just display a message? I can't recall. Either way, a couple of seconds later it seems to be in "OK, you're done, bye now. Next!" mode and my card still hasn't come out.

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. And the card comes back out. Oh thank fuck. Thank fuckity fucking fuck. I mean bloody hell, what an excellent palaver. At least if it had been swallowed it was a branch of Santander and not Dave's Roadside Pesos or whatever.

Aaaanyway. Back, again, to the bus stop. A bus is there waiting, and we hand over 100 pesos and get 26 back. He asks if we want to go to the Megastore in San José. Um, not to our knowledge. We don't actually know where to go, just that this bus is our best best. Seats taken at the back, off we set.

There's a bloke aggressively drinking either a can of lager or some form of hyper caffeine energy drink. When he restlessly moves seats several times, twitches a lot, and spends his entire journey agitated on various phone calls, I guess the latter.

About 20 minute into the journey I realise that despite having no data, I do have cached maps in Google maps on my phone. And it's showing our correct location! This is excellent; we can see the hotel, we can see San José, and we know that if it goes straight on at the big roundabout we're not as confident as if it turns right.

It goes straight on at the big roundabout. A couple of minutes later, a friendly man behind us asks where we're going and says we need the next stop, and to walk a straight line through town. We ask the driver to corroborate, and stop, and he does. A couple of mariachis are walking towards us as we turn left off the bus; turning back to wave thank you to the friendly passenger, he's frantically waving that we should go the other way. Thank you, señor! Muchos gracias!

It is one straight road. We're not anywhere touristy, everything is very sleepy and quiet and there are a few taquerias and other food/drink places open clearly only for locals, each with only around 3 people in. They all look excellent, as our adventure has been, but let's face facts - it's a bit crap that they offer transport in one direction to the boat only, and leave you stranded in CSL afterwards. Helen is particularly unimpressed about this being the case had she been travelling solo.

Anyway, at the far end of the road we turn left, walk about 3 minutes and are back at the hotel. It's been fun, but we are shattered, or at least I am. Even at 10pm it's like 22 celsius or some madness. I'm a sticky hot sweaty mess, and not in a good way, so jump straight in the shower. Then I crack open a beer, and fall asleep before it's even finished.

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