Not even a week and I fucked up already. I’m so sorry Chichona, I didn’t mean it.
I reached Ensenada by the end of the day and looked for a spot to park. There was a big party on one end of the beach. Reggaeton was blasting off the cars, a smoking barbecue, and enough beer to fill up an entire swimming pool. I joined the crowd and parked next to the other cars. Despite the ruckus, I felt lonely.
The party went on until dawn. My sleep was restless, rocked by wind gusts and the overpowered speakers. The wind had ruined the surf as well. I had no reason for staying longer. Besides, it was President’s day in the US. I could take advantage of the day off to travel further south. A friend in California had told me about a little town south of Baja California called La Ventana. She said it was a special place, and the kite-surfing Mecca of the continent.
The drive from Ensenada to La Ventana is about 1400km long through the peninsula of Baja California. The road crosses the desert, gas stations are 300km apart, and there is no cellular reception. The locals told me I would need an extra tank of gas, a reliable vehicle, and good luck. I’d never driven 1400km through a desert, let alone in these conditions. I stocked on supplies, shook off my blues with System of a Down and departed for La Ventana.
The valley of Los Cirios, immense and immutable, marked the beginning of the journey. The road weaved around the hills like a snake through the sand. Millions of cacti stretched to the horizon, tall, proud, and unmoved. On my right side, giant white dunes overlooked the ocean. There the wind whispered to the sand, and the desert laughed at the unimportant and ephemeral forms of life.
The desert gives an infinite dimension to boredom. You drive for hundreds of km and it seems like nothing has changed. In the end, boredom catches up. The first half of the road, Baja California Norte, was dangerous and abandoned. Potholes competed in numbers with cacti, and driving became a test of patience. How to remain focused at a frustrating low speed. One pothole taken too fast could lead you to serious trouble. The desert shows no mercy.
My priority was to get out of the no-reception zone. So I drove as far as I could, rested, and kept going. Time meant nothing anymore. I had to push through fatigue and sleepiness to reach the next rest stop. After a dozen hours of driving alone in no man’s land, I’d become a zombie holding the wheel.
I was advised not to drive at night. "It is dangerous" they said, but I did not listen. The danger was not what I expected, it came from animals! The warm concrete attracted all sort of species through the night. I saw cows, sheeps, goats, dogs, wild pigs and a fox! La Chichona and I advanced even slowlier under the stars. I pulled out on the side of the road, took a short nap, and kept going.
On the second day, I saw a tiny gas station and went in for a break. I was exhausted and dirty, with no proper meal in three days. I parked at the gas station when I heard CCCCCRRRRRRRRR. I walked out and grasped the magnitude of my stupidity. I had driven la Chichona into the gas station extended roof, smashing the metal top against concrete. I pulled back and heard la Chichona cry again. The damage was done.
La Chichona and I had shared so much hardship. She wasn’t just a car, she was my partner, with a personality and soul of her own. She had carried me through thick and thin, and was my sole companion in those lonely nights. I sat in front of her, head down, and digested my inadequacy. I’m sorry girl. I fucked up.
After what seemed enough for a silent apology, I went to the gas station bathroom and saw my reflection in the mirror. I looked like I had not slept nor showered in three days. I asked the restaurant next door if I could use their shower. The waitress pitied me at first, then accepted.
The cold water was rejuvenating. I washed off all my guilt and enjoyed a delicious plate of fajitas al pollo. After a short nap, I fueled up on coffee and pushed on the last 300km. La Ventana was pitch black and quiet. I parked on the side of the street and turned off the engine.
My head fell on the wheel. I hugged it and whispered, “we made it.”