A Brotherhood in the Baja
Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? Whosoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
-- Luke 9:23-26
I was looking out the of the window below at the Sea of Cortez and the tiny strip of runway coming up fast at Loreto's International Airport.
A half an hour later we were all piled into an old jeep, heading north on a crusty highway running north along the waters of Baja, Mexico.
The Sonoran Desert was much the same here as my home, minus all the development that is the usual cookie cutter sprawl and strip malls. Mostly, there was pristine desert stretching as far as the eye could see, broken only occasionally by modest homes and businesses huddled together, although they often seemed to be housed out of the same structure.
Every 10 - 20 miles, there also appeared some colorfully decorated roadside shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe, providing a small glimpse into faith of the local residents.
The top of the jeep and windows were down, so it was difficult to follow much of the conversation over the roar of wind and engine.
My traveling companions were soaking up the sun and scenery, much like me. Ron and Harry were up front, catching up on all the latest concerning their oceanfront land development that they were partnered in. Two of their friends, Steve and Tom, were making the trip to check out the project, both of them prospective home owners at the development as far as I could gather. A long time business associate of Ron's, I was along for the ride as a favor to lend my expertise to some of the sales and marketing initiatives.
45 minutes into the roadtrip, I caught my first sight of the Bay of Concepcion and it nearly took my breath away. Stretching out to the Sea of Cortez for 20 glorious miles, the Bay of Concepcion featured impossible shades of clear blue waters and was cradled by some of the most dramatic white beaches and desert shoreline I've ever layed eyes on. By the look of it, my traveling companions were every bit as awestruck, including the two who had already seen it on numerous occasions.
A half hour later, we passed through Mulege, a quaint hidden outpost, famous to sport aficionados the world over. We continued to wind our way down a maze of primitive roads that consisting of nothing more than packed beach sand, massive potholes and the periodic washed out stretch, each requiring expert navigation. Somehow we managed to reach our final destination, a virtually undeveloped stretch of beachfront, unscathed except for two modest villas.
Far off in the distance to the north was Punta Chivato, jutting out into the Gulf with it's boutique hotel. Back to the south was even more unspoiled coastline stretching into the faded blue distance. For a guy looking to get away from it all, if even for a brief 5 days, it looked like a little slice of heaven.
After settling in, we made a trip to the Supermercado for provisions and grabbed some late dinner at Hotel Serenidad in Mulege.
Almost from the moment we came into contact with the locals, we became painfully aware of how inadequate our Spanish was. With the exception of Harvey, the best that we could muster were simple words and phrases, with everything else spoken in English and packaged in a ridiculous Mexican accent. I don't remember what prompted the accent, but I suppose we just sort of kept it up amongst ourselves for levity sake, rather than dwell on our obvious lack of preparation for the trip.
It also didn't take long to determine that I was the only Catholic in the group. Upon learning that the other guys were practicing Christians of various other denominations, I was initially tempted to let that habitual divide stand, but thankful that my traveling companions proved to be bigger men than me.
From the first night in Mulege, we talked about matters of faith simply and comfortably for the most part, which was something I hadn't done with other guys in a long time. I was a bit on the guarded side at first, until I discovered that one of the guys was coming off a recent and painful divorce. He was even more guarded and reserved, understandably, from wounds that were still too fresh.
Since I was Catholic, Ron figured that I might want to see the Mulege Mission, so that was a nice gesture. It was the kind of simple thoughfulness that truly gets the job done without a ton of heavy chatter. It was a good lesson from the outset, one that I endeavored to put into practice for the remainder of the trip, especially when it came to the wounded soul in our group.