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East Cape’s Crossroads Country Club: More Baja Country than Club

By Dawn Pier

The owners of the Crossroads Country Club clearly have a sense of humor. While it is located at the crossroads of the Coast and Palo Escopeta Roads, smack dab in the middle of the East Cape and about as far from “civilization” as you can get, it is by no means a country club. Don’t worry about donning your whites, ties or polo shirts, just come as you are and bring your appetite.

The view from Crossroads' outdoor seating

The restaurant is located on a large beachfront lot with commanding views of the expansive beach and desertscape. Large sliding glass doors are typically left open to give the place an indoor/outdoor feel with seating available both inside and out of the large contemporary building. In winter, you can watch humpback whales breaching and cavorting from your table in the shade while you sip an icy margarita prepared by Hector, one of the friendly chefs. Not into tequila? They have an extensive selection of drinks including some nice Mexican cabernets and merlots.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 8a.m.-9 p.m. every day. For breakfast they have the usual selection of eggs how you like them with tortillas, bacon or ham, pancakes, and omelets. They also have an egg and ham burrito that comes with black beans and rice that is an excellent way to fill the tank. The lunch and dinner menu covers a wide range of dishes from fish or shrimp tacos, burger and fries, to excellent pasta dishes like spicy shrimp pasta, pasta puttanesca or pasta with pesto. “Pasta puttanesca” literally mean “whore’s pasta” because it traditionally was considered a poor man’s pasta, incorporating whatever was on hand in the kitchen.  It’s a vegetarian favorite that has tomatoes, garlic, black olives, onions and parmesan cheese. One of my favorites is the halibut with white wine, garlic and capers. It comes with rice and vegetables or a salad.

Most importantly, don’t forget to leave room for dessert. They make their own ice cream at the Crossroads (because it’s too difficult to get it back from the store without completely melting).  There are different flavors at different times of year, but cookies and cream, sour cherry, and mango are some of my favorites. Be sure to ask for extra spoons so you can share because they dish up three big scoops with lots of whipped cream.

Wednesday is pizza night at the Crossroads, when Hector whips together a mean crust and Joan, the Italian

Crossroads' bar, serving up margaritas and more!

American owner, provides an excellent tomato sauce to become the backbone for a selection of combinations – margarita and pepperoni are standard offerings with other combos depending on what is fresh and readily available at the market. Thursdays are barbecue chicken night when you get a quarter chicken with coleslaw and either potato or pasta salad. It’s a popular event, so be sure to arrive early before they’re all gone.

Saturday night during the high season (October to late May) is music night at the Crossroads, when the locals and ex-pats alike turn up en masse to cut a rug and party with their friends and neighbors. When popular local bands like Pura Vida, Black Maria, Tim Lang and Friends, Ben and Men and David Raitt (Bonnie’s very talented brother) aren’t playing, local musicians perform in an open mike forum.

It’s the only restaurant for 20 miles in any direction, so if you find yourself out that way, be sure to drop in. If you’re lucky you might get to hang out with Jesse “The Body” Ventura, surfers Gerry Lopez and Mike Doyle, or Lance Armstrong among other celebs who have passed through the Crossroads over the years.

Have you danced or dined at Crossroads? Share your experience with us below.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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Morning Miracle on the East Cape

by Dawn Pier

Yesterday,  as I walked back from my morning ritual on the beach, I was treated to a bit of a miracle. There, in a small depression on the sand sat two pint-sized, grey-skinned turtle hatchlings.

A baby turtle heads for the sea

I knew that there was a good chance that if I didn’t intervene, the nest would be discovered by local dogs, sand crabs and sea birds, so I set to work gently digging down into the sand to see if there were any more hatchlings making their way to the surface. As I dug down I first encountered the empty shells of eggs that had been vacated earlier. I looked up and saw hundreds of tiny flipper prints in the sand leading towards the water’s edge. Most of the hatchlings appeared to have left the nest overnight. Several inches below surface though I felt something hard with a tiny point on the end. As I scooped the sand out of the hole,  a wee black head was revealed. I carefully removed the sand from around the miniscule body. His mini flippers flapped about as I lifted and placed him next to his two clutch mates. Gradually, I uncovered more and more of the little guys.

Near the bottom of the nest I uncovered what always makes my stomach lurch – dead, but fully developed, hatchlings being eaten by maggots. Now a smell emanated from the nest that made my nose try to squeeze shut and I did my best not to breath it in. Felipe, my caretaker, dug a hole where I could dispose of the writhing miniature corpses. Even though most of the eggs I encountered at that depth contained dead turtles, I continued to find the odd hatchling that was alive and thriving.

We counted 19 in all as they scooted around knocking with their sharp little beaks the sides of the plastic bucket I placed them in – beaks perfectly designed to let them scrape open their eggshells when the time was right. We walked them closer to the water’s edge and I began to place them, one at a time, on the damp sand. As though prompted by a starting gun, they began to scramble towards the water immediately, their flippers flapping in a mad frenzy, their bodies rocking to and fro. We stood vigil over them as they made their way to the sea, keeping an eye on a lone seagull standing just down the beach, watching for sand crabs that might in a flash pull one down their hole. We lifted and righted them as they were caught in deep foot prints or flipped over by uneven terrain.

One by one, they were swept out to sea by the shorebreak; one by one, the cool life-giving water embraced their bodies. Watching their tiny black heads poke up to gasp for air between the crashing of waves, I prayed the fish and pelicans would not find them, that they would make it out into the deep sea to drift, surviving on algae and zooplankton, until one day, their long journey may bring them back here to my home on this isolated East Cape beach.

Dawn Pier worked in sea turtle conservation for three years while directing Amigos para la Conservacion de Cabo Pulmo.  Find out more about our East Cape Amiga.

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The Fate of Cabo Pulmo National Park Remains Uncertain

By Dawn Pier

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about Cabo Pulmo, the Jewel of Mexico. The reef and marine animals living inside Cabo Pulmo National Park may be protected from direct impacts like fishing, aquarium collectors and boat anchors, and it may be the most successful marine park on the planet, but in 2008 a potentially devastating impact to the reef and its inhabitants began to gain momentum.

2.5 tons of manure dropped in protest against the Cabo Cortes development. Image courtesy of Greenpeace/Prometeo Rodríguez

That impact is a massive resort complex that Spanish-based developer  Hansa Baja planned to build directly north of the park.  The proposed development would create a sprawling new city on a scale comparable to Cancún that covers 9,800 acres and includes 29,000 hotel rooms and residential housing units, at least two golf courses, a 490-boat marina and a private jet port. A development of this type and scale would include the operation of a desalination plant to produce fresh water, application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to the golf courses and grounds, anti-fouling paints and other chemicals used in the marina and the city’s own creation of pollution (gas, oil, sediment and domestic garbage) which would flow south on ocean coastal currents toward the reef.

Upon learning of the developer’s intentions, WildCoast, Greenpeace Mexico, World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) and a consortium called Cabo Pulmo Vivo that consists of Baja-based conservation organizations like Amigos para la Conservacion de Cabo Pulmo (Friends for the Conservation of Cabo Pulmo), came together to fight the megadevelopment. The campaign against Cabo Cortes has been gaining momentum over the past year with articles almost universally condemning the project appearing in CBS News Online, the San Francisco Chronicle and National Geographic. Jean-Michel Cousteau, oldest son of biologist and explorer Jacques Cousteau, publicly criticized the project in March, and in April of last year, the Los Angeles Times published an Op Ed penned by none other than Robert Kennedy Jr. of the NRDC and Mexican poet laureate and founder of the environmental group Grupo los Cien, Homero Aridjis.

In the end, the economy dealt the developer a greater blow, with parent company Hansa Urbana forced to declare bankruptcy in 2011. The company’s assets, including the land and development plans for Cabo Cortes were acquired by regional Spanish bank, Banco Sabadell. At present it is not clear if the bank will sell the project or develop it.

The campaign against the development reached fever pitch on March 28th when, in an unprecedented move, the minister of the Mexican Environmental Protection Agency (SEMARNAT), Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, stood before the Mexican Senate to answer charges that permits for Cabo Cortes were obtained illegally, through the use of bribery and fraud. Greenpeace Mexico was there representing concerned citizens and activists all over Mexico. The event was covered by a wide array of national media. On April 25th, frustrated with SEMARNAT’s recalcitrance to charge Elvira with fraud, Greenpeace Mexico dumped 2.5 tons of manure in front of the SEMARNAT office buildings in Mexico City and hung banners emblazoned with the words “Algo Huele Mal,” something smells bad in SEMARNAT.

Whether Elvira is charged or not, the larger question that remains to be answered is who will end up with ownership of the large expanse of land and development plans? Will the Mexican government step up to the plate and purchase the development from the Spanish bank owner in order to protect its conservation success story? Will the community of Cabo Pulmo be given a say in what kind of development is created on its Northern border? Or will it be sold off to the highest bidder? The fate of Cabo Pulmo National Park remains in the balance.

What about you? Do you think that the benefits of a development on the scale of Cabo Cortes outweigh the costs to the environment? We’d love to hear your comments!

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¡Que Milagro! ¡Va a lluver!

By Dawn Pier

Literally translated as, “What a miracle! It’s going to rain!” ¡Que Milagro! ¡Va a lluver! is a saying in Mexico employed when someone who has been away a long time reappears. In an area that receives as little rainfall as the peninsula, suggesting that a person’s appearance is just as rare as rain makes it a truly regional expression.

After a year's absence, the graders return!

I was reminded of this expression yesterday as I drove my ATV the four miles from my house to an area known as Santa Elena and discovered that the grader had finally arrived on the Coast Road to repair it of large wash outs, erosion channels and never-ending washboard.

It’s only been a year since they last graded it. Yes, we’ve waited a year, two (albeit meager) rainfalls, several road races and immeasurable coastal traffic for the grader to return after it was here at the same time last year. The maddening thing is that it won’t last. They are repairing the roads just in time for the hoards of people who flock to the beach during Semana Santa to tear it up.  Semana Santa is the “holy week” before Easter—and in Mexico, Easter is a bigger deal than Christmas. Children are let out of school and adults are given anywhere from four to ten days off work. And they all head for the beach. Over the next two weeks, the roads will be crowded with a flow of vehicles loaded with people, dogs, beach toys and camping gear.  All this on a road that sees minimal traffic throughout the rest of the year.

It’s already begun – two days ago on my way home from the beach in Santa Elena, I witnessed a veritable traffic jam near a spot we call The Fig Tree.  Five, maybe six, large SUVs were all pulled over to one side of the narrow road, hazard lights flashing in the dim light of dusk. It was a strange sight to behold on our normally quiet little Coast Road.

For now, I am enjoying the improved quality of the ride to and from town and  the beach. It’s hard to believe it, but my drive time to town has been reduced by 20 minutes. For now. Of course, if I’m driving faster, then others are as well. The downside of an improved road is the risk of running into someone going even faster, pushing the boundaries of safety and control. Between the speed demons and the much-prayed-for spring rains, the improved road conditions won’t last. So I relish it while I can.

Heck, I might make an extra trip to town, just for the fun of it.

 

 

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Surviving a Drive on the East Cape

By Dawn Pier

My previous post described some of the challenges of driving the dirt roads on the East Cape. This post provides some tips that will get you from Point A to Point B without any major hassles.

What to do when driving in the East Cape

Bring a tire pressure gauge from home.

A flat tire isn't the only thing you might encounter when driving on the East Cape...

Check to make sure your rental car has a spare tire, jack and lug wrench. Then make sure the spare actually has air in it.

Lower the pressure in your front tires to 20 pounds, rear to 18.

Drive slowly and with care. Not only are there plenty of obstacles to avoid, now that the pressure is lower, you can pop a tire right off the rim if you take corners too quickly.

Arrive at your destination before sunset.

Be aware that a left turn signal in Mexico is interpreted as a signal to cars following behind to PASS. When making a left turn, to avoid getting broadsided, slow down, extend your left arm out the window palm facing backwards to signal to the driver behind you not to pass.

Be aware that stop signs are often ignored by locals. Stop lights seem to garner slightly more respect.

Obtain and bring clear directions to your destination. There are few road signs and many of the roads are in such poor condition that it is easy to quickly feel lost.

Pack extra drinking water and a sunhat, especially in summer.

Top off with gas. There are no gas stations on the Coast Road.

Give yourself extra time to stop and enjoy the incredible scenery!

What not to do when driving in the East Cape

Driving at night: There are more fatalities on Mexican roadways at night than any other time of day. Remember that roads are unmarked and unlit. It is not uncommon to meet cars without tail and /or headlights. Livestock (think black cows) that roam freely throughout the Cape can suddenly run in front of your vehicle. My 1993 Nissan pickup truck was ultimately retired because of a run-in with a young bull – I was lucky I didn’t get retired along with it.

Driving on Sundays: There are more roadway fatalities in Mexico on Sundays than any other day of the week. While MADD advertisements in developed nations have reduced drunk driving considerably, it’s still a big problem here. Monday mornings are a little sketchy too. Avoid driving in the wee hours of the morning.

What do you do to make driving the roads of Baja safer or more enjoyable? We’d love to hear your suggestions. Or how about sharing your personal Baja road warrior story?

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Driving East Cape Roads: The Good, the bad, the ugly

By Dawn Pier

The unpaved roads in Baja are nothing like those you are used to if you live in the States, southern Canada or most parts of Europe. They are narrow, pot-hole and washboard-riddled tracks of earth that snake through the desert, up and over rocky mountains and down through washed out seasonal riverbeds. They are poorly and infrequently maintained.

Rough road

Maintenance consists of running a grader over the rough surface to break up the washboard and fill the holes, but the effects are short-lived, lasting only a few days depending on levels of traffic. With each pass of the grader, the road is cut a little deeper into the desert’s fragile surface and the dirt piles a little higher along the sides. No one applies gravel or removes large, sharp rocks that are uncovered by the grader.

Occasionally the local ranchers will fill in a particularly large sink hole that appears in the middle of the road or a washout that makes it impossible to proceed, but these are rare events indeed. The roads are so narrow in places and often bordered by severe drops on either side that you have to yield to oncoming traffic.

Most of us who choose to live here on the East Cape, however, recognize that a blessing accompanies the cursed road conditions – they keep the maddening crowds at bay.

Most of the folks on the East Cape have a solitary disposition or at least aren’t interested in the type of nightlife Los Cabos is famous for. Stargazing and fires on the beach are more our style.

The roads do however wreak havoc on our vehicles and make us keep trips to town to a bare minimum.

Boca de las Vinoramas, where I live, is located at the end of the road. It sits at the crossroads of the Coast Road and the Palo Escopeta Road, which traverses the desert from San Bernabe near the San Jose International Airport out to the coast. From Vinorama, it’s a little over 20 miles North, East, and South to the pavement. But that is no ordinary 20 miles—it’s a dusty, bone-jarring, filling-loosening, neck-wrenching stretch of road, no matter what direction you go.

So we go to great lengths to reduce the number of trips we make to town. We bought a second fridge to have greater storage capacity. I store all our produce in special “green” bags that preserve them longer. I eat broccoli for several nights in a row so it gets eaten before it goes bad. And we keep a large supply of gasoline in jerry cans in the garage.

The East Cape requires adaptation. It challenges one’s resourcefulness and ability to tolerate what has to be one of the bumpiest roads on the planet. I need a chiropractic adjustment after I make the trip to town, but what’s the point of getting one while I’m there if I’m just going to get all shook up on the ride home?

Nevertheless, when I get home, shake the dust off and walk out onto the patio as the sun sets behind our house, I am greeted by the spectacular view of the sky and Sea of Cortez turning various shades of pink, coral, turquoise and indigo, and I am reminded why I choose to live here.

How about you? Have you got a good Baja back roads driving story? We’d love to hear it! Post them in the comments section below.

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