I finished my last post describing Gina as “unstoppable.” As in she can’t be stopped. On Saturday 6th, this proved a little inaccurate. Karen, our Baja companion, had borrowed her for a wee drive to Cabo Pulmo to enquire about work while G and I snorkelled around a reef. It was the only time we had ever let Gina be driven unsupervised. A few minutes into our fish ogling, there was Karen on the shore, waving hysterically like she was trying to down a plane. “She just stopped on me,” she exclaimed. “No warning, she just stopped.” A kindly local called Eddie drove us to the scene of the crime, a sandy mound about a mile down the track. Gina was there, stricken and alone. And she wouldn’t start. Bonnet open and a few confident pokes into her innards later, she turned over and we were off again, for another mile until exactly the same happened again. Houston (or the Mexican equivalent), we have a problem. Eddie suggested we find the local mechanic Pachi. He described him as very fat. We then spent a good thirty minutes asking locals about the whereabouts of Pachi, who despite his apparent size was very good at hiding. Eventually, we located his brother who coaxed the lumbering Pachi out of his cave like hovel next to a dive school. Pachi heaved his bulk under Gina and declared we needed a new fuel filter. He removed the current one and emptied a considerable amount of brown sludge as evidence. So it was off to the nearby village of La Ribero to get a new one fitted and we were off!
For about ten minutes. Gina cut out again without warning and we were left to drift to a hard shoulder (which are about as common as snowmen in Mexico) and flag down help. A couple from Yukon, Canada stopped shortly and G and the husband talked like men for a while (arms folded, random mechanic anecdotes swapped, a bit of spitting) and it was decided Gina could maybe manage a few ten minute increments to the nearest big town – Los Barriellos, for proper assessment. We staggered into a mechanics there where another large bloke, this time by the name of Aldo, said his brother Paco had the necessary diagnostic equipment to fix our beautiful Gina. But tomorrow was Sunday and we’d have to help wake Paco up if that was ok with us. No problemo we assured him and got on our way to the beach for a spot of camping. Sunday came around and Aldo confirmed our greatest fear that Paco was not to be found, hungover or otherwise and we better return on Monday. So Monday it was and Paco was surely there, electronic equipment in hand. Within ten minutes he had a diagnosis. The sensor on the crankshaft was faulty (I nodded convincingly at this) and was cutting out the engine mistakenly. If we wanted a new one (we kind of did) we’d better get to La Paz (100 km north), buy one and return to his garage pronto. G was about to head to the bus station for this little mission, when a lady by the name of Paige came to the fore.
Paige had overheard our plight the day before and put us up in her friend Chris’s place. Chris’s place was essentially three retro caravans parked round a beautiful outdoor kitchen, variously arranged hammocks and luxury tents with secluded walkways, illuminated with fairy lights and torches. I imagine Woody Harrelson would live somewhere similar. It was marvellous. Upon hearing on our new mission to La Paz, she swiftly offered to drive us herself so we could save time, in Chris’s truck (“oh he won’t mind at all”) which had the unbelievable ability to deliver COLD AIR CONDITIONING. So, sensor bought and returned to Paco, we were finally ready to catch that ferry to Mazatlan! Hooray! So happy with all the generosity at hand to ensure Gina’s return, we took her to her first car-wash and drove her round town like royalty. Gina the Grey was now Gina the White!
G then drove her on to the ferry (after three hours of customs where I had to wait in a separate room – great banter) and just as he approached the first ramp, the ‘Check Engine’ light flickered on the dash. Oh good. I’m now writing this on the top deck of the boat, midway across the Sea of Cortez, hoping that we can get bloody Gina off the bloody boat when we make land. We’re getting a sneaking suspicion it may be buses for us rather soon…
Away from the jeep japes, we had a truly splendid time getting to the bottom of Baja. For one, we got the rather incredible opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks, which feed up the bay from La Paz. They’re the world’s largest fish and spend their days hoovering plankton in titanic gulps near the surface. The biggest one we swam with was a relative minnow at ten metres, but the sheer power in it’s tail, it’s vast gills billowing like fleshy curtains and it’s apparent total serenity at our close proximity were pretty humbling. We swam and swam until the bloke who’d taken us out in his boat got restless and we left, just as a whole fleet of tourists came to take our place. All of a sudden I felt rather sorry for the creature. It’s the great hypocrisy of the tourist to be angry by the presence of other tourists, but it’s only natural I guess. We want experiences to ourselves and we’d like wild animals to be left alone, just as long as we get a look.
Well, the mainland approaches. A big thank you to Karen for keeping us straight on the way down Baja – your Spanish and advice were truly necessary! And to Paige and Chris for being all round modern day saints! We’ve made a new chum on the boat in the shape of a 60 year old guy from Derango, who was rather quick to tell us that he was returning home after a three day fling in a La Paz hotel with an elderly lady called Lulu. God bless Mexico.