Early in the morning we arrived in the harbor at our first stop: Cabo San Lucas. Our cruise ship, the Splendor, was too large to pull into the small harbor, so we had to use water shuttles to get to the pier where we were to go on a tour of Cabo (by land and sea). An announcement came over the intercom, telling us to meet at our assigned meeting place at our assigned departure time and we would be taken by small boat to the pier where we would meet our tour.
We looked at the tickets. Departure time: 9:45. Cool. We got dressed andleft the room at 9:40 so we could make it on time. When we got there, they were just dismissing the last of the 9:15 group. The water was choppy so there had been delays in getting folks off the ship. No worries, we thought. Everyone’s delayed so the tour will leave when everyone gets there.
Forty-five minutes later, just as we were boarding the shuttle boat to take us to the pier, my Darling looked at the tickets again and swore.
“I didn’t see this other time,” he explained. “We were supposed to leave the ship at 9:00. The tour left at 9:45.”
I looked at the tickets – right below the name of the excursion it said, Departure Time: 9:45. That’s what I remember seeing as well. I examined it closer. Off to the right of the excursion name, printed across the border of the ticket in smaller print was a second time: Ship Departure Meeting Time, 9:00.
I closed my eyes and sighed. “It’s not your fault. I looked at the tickets too and didn’t see the other time either. Maybe they’re delayed and they’ll still be there.”
It was not to be. By the time we reached the place the tour group was scheduled to meet, over an hour and a half late, it had long since left without us. Even the signs were gone.
But hey, we were in Cabo – our first stop in Mexico – and it was beautiful and sunny. We weren’t going to let a missed shore excursion dampen our spirits. So we let ourselves get talked into hiring a water taxi by a fast-talking young man (who also said he “knew people” who could help us circumvent Mexican immigration when we returned to the area to live – yeah… no). He passed us along to a skinny old mariner by the name of Martin (pronounced Mar-TEEN) to take us on a tour around the harbor. The boat looked a little rickety and we had to sit on opposite sides to keep it from tipping over in the choppy waters, but it was a gorgeous day and the captain of this vessel knew the area like the back of his hand.
We played tourist for about forty minutes, listening to our guide tell us about the local landmarks in extremely fractured English. I was able to pick up perhaps 20% of what he was saying and I’m still fairly certain that I would have grasped more of his monologue had he simply spoken slowly in his native tongue. But the thought was there and he was kind enough to take some decent pictures of Mark and I huddled in the prow of the boat. We fed some over-stuffed fish (who apparently hung around in droves at that spot waiting for us – as did the hungry-looking pelicans who were waiting for us to leave), barked at some bored sea lions (which occasionally woofed back) and sailed past Land’s End – the half-submerged boulder that marked the very tip of Baha California. Once the tour was over, Martin deposited us on the main beach (Playa El Médano) outside of a nice resort and we decided to beat the heat in one of the resort’s several beachfront restaurants – aptly named the “BR” (Beach Restaurant). We were guided to a lovely table overlooking the beach and within minutes had bottled water and a couple of piña coladas to cool us down.
Cabo is at its heart is a fishing town, and no amount of Sammy Hagar-endorsed tequila bars can possibly overshadow the amazing dishes that feature fish. The BR was no exception. We ordered spicy tuna rolls and tuna poke as appetizers along with some street tacos (sea bass for me and a combo for my Darling). We were suitably impressed when the waiter came back with two enormous plates full of appetizers that the kitchen had gone to the trouble of making gluten-free for me (even though the appetizers were intended for my gluten-tolerant Darling). The waiter said they wanted to make sure I could have some as well.
The fish was amazing, and the only downside was that we weren’t even able to finish all of the appetizers before becoming stuffed – and then still had our main course. The tacos were to die for – the sea bass was super fresh and lightly grilled. The tortillas were homemade and the presentation was stunning. My darling had a trio of tacos: sea bass, chicken and carnitas. He said the carnitas was really tender and the chicken delicious.
It was heart-wrenching to have to leave so much food on the plates, but we were absolutely stuffed to the point of it being painful. Since we would be going back to the ship there really was no way to take any of the wonderful food home with us. So with heavy hearts, we left the restaurant.
By now, unfortunately, the heat and humidity had really set in and we found ourselves simultaneously both uncomfortably full and dying of the heat. We decided to forgo our original plan of exploring the town and instead just roll our stuffed selves back to the pier and take the shuttle back to the cool recesses of the ship. This of course was slightly easier said than done.
It wasn’t a matter of distance – my Darling and I walk several miles a day on a daily basis. It really boiled down to the heat – coming from a cooler than normal summer in Portland, the heat and humidity of Cabo was the equivalent to suffering in a sauna full of sweating people. Our pale Oregon complexions were also not prepared for the intensity of the sun on the Mexican Riviera and we had forgotten to bring either hats or sunscreen on this excursion. We walked about six blocks before stumbling into an air-conditioned mall for some much-needed cool relief.
“Amigos, can I help you?”
The friendly offer of assistance came from the guy manning the National car rental booth, who immediately recognized us as lost tourists. After we explained that we came from the cruise ship and were simply trying to beat the heat, he gave us a map and very detailed instructions to help us find our way back to the pier. We ended up talking for about twenty minutes about different areas of Baha California and how to go about moving to Mexico. We traded contact info and business cards with promises to get together upon our return. Now armed with a map and feeling a little cooler, we braved the heat once more.
The mall was at one end of the marina and the pier was at the opposite side. While it was perhaps a five minute walk if you drew a straight line from point A to point B, there was no way (unless we sprouted wings) to do this. So we had to go the long way and follow the waterline around the entire marina to get to the pier. It wasn’t a bad stroll, if you find extended periods in a blast-furnace comfortable.
The marina was stunningly beautiful and we met lots of friendly people – most of whom were trying to entice us into their restaurants with promises of delicacies accompanied by copious amounts of tequila. We passed several bars (including the infamous Señor Frogs and Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo) and lots of local artisans selling jewelry, plates and other assorted bric-a-brac. Every time I looked down in to the clear turquoise water, I saw schools of colorful fish ranging in size from tiny minnows to large enough to make a decent meal. We passed a tiny indigenous man in traditional costume holding a five foot iguana – the latter looking as miserably hot as we felt. Finally we found our way back to the pier and to one of the water shuttles that would take us back to the ship.
It was one of the larger shuttles, so we waited for about twenty minutes while they loaded the boat to capacity. We were among the first few people, so we scored a couple of seats in the shaded lower deck. Unfortunately, because the ship loaded from the upper deck, those with mobility issues had to stay up top in the brutal midday heat. A family of Japanese tourists, wisely armed with umbrellas against the sun, boarded and went downstairs into the shady area, but only after loaning their umbrellas to provide much needed shade to those forced to sit in the sun. It was a lovely and touching act of kindness.
The waters on the return trip were even more choppy than they were when we started. But we were also on a much larger boat, so we almost didn’t feel them. Once we were underway, the breeze cooled us almost to the point where we could enjoy the ride. By the time we got back to the Splendor and tied up alongside her, my Darling and I were feeling almost back to normal. We headed to the bar and got a couple more piña coladas and headed back to the comfortable air-conditioning of our cabin for a much-needed nap.
Next up: Mazatlan