Phew, I was starting to wonder if we would ever make it off that bus! After 3 flat tires and 8 hours of delays, we have finally arrived. But, uh...where exactly are we anyway? Who¹s idea was this?
When we announced our travel route, south from San Francisco through Baja to Mexico City, a friend of mine told me we HAD to visit her friend Nate in Baja. And when a friend tells you "you just HAVE TO..." you do it, right?
So, armed with nothing but a hand-drawn map, we hopped off the bus at "Rancho El Coyote". Well, as it turns out, 'Rancho El Coyote' is nothing but a bend in the highway, a single restaurant and a handful of houses along the coast. By asking around, we learned that Nate had just left for San Diego and that the next bus back to town wasn't due until tomorrow morning! (Did I mention that there wasn't a hotel in sight, or a single telephone?)
Lucky for us, "Rancho El Coyote" is also the home of the Mexican branch of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). NOLS is a non-profit organization that offers courses in outdoor education like mountaineering, sea kayaking, sailing, and climbing. They have branches all over the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Baja, Patagonia, The Himalayas, and East Africa. So there we were, at the mercy of strangers.
NOLS people are good people, we soon found out. After telling them all about the World Trek, they took us in. And let me tell you, this place was as close to paradise as it gets. Honoring NOLS¹ mission to be ecologically friendly and locally sensitive, the NOLS facility is a handful of houses and sailboats docked by Coyote Bay¹s palm tree laden beaches. Amazingly, the NOLS compound is 'off the grid,' which means it is not connected to any electricity lines! They use solar panels for power and to heat water for showers. They even make use of a gray water system, which recycles shower water and sink drains for use in the gardens. This enables them to grow plants and trees that otherwise could not grow in desert conditions. Because they use biodegradable soaps, the water runoff from their sinks and showers is filled only with nutrients that the plants need and love! Imagine how much water could be saved if everyone used gray-water' for sprinkling lawns and gardens!
NOLS enjoys a special relationship with its local community in Baja. To show their gratitude to their neighbors, NOLS offers programs, free of charge, to the local Mexicans so they can experience the challenges and rewards of outdoor education. As the beautiful regions of Mexico become more popular for hiking and water sports, it becomes more important for people to learn how to enjoy them without harming their natural beauty.
"It's not that we have the answers, but we do have money that gives us greater access to needed resources, " says Leslie van Barselaar, Co-Director of NOLS-Mexico, who has enjoyed working with groups like PROFAUNA. "There is a strong grassroots eco-movement here in Mexico, but they have no money. It's amazing what they can accomplish on so little, there is so much commitment and dedication."
Leticia (see photo with Leslie) was a student on one of NOLS's Spanish Programs. Her family is from mainland Mexico; she had never done anything like sea kayaking or sailing before. She is currently interning at NOLS, learning everything from equipment to English, so that one day she too can be an instructor. "I love it here, it is so beautiful and rewarding!"
Well, the sun went down a few hours ago, and now the smooth surface of the bay is a perfect reflection of the million stars above. I can't believe how quiet it is; I've grown used to so much noise after living in San Francisco for so long. I'm headed to the beach to roll out my sleeping bag and make my bed for the night. Abeja and I have to get up early to try to find a ride back to town. It¹s funny to think this day started as a mistake, a problem to be solved. Now I dread leaving this beautiful nothing town with no hotels and no telephones.
Our Favorite 44-Hour Bus Ride Ever!
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