My room felt pretty empty after Bev flew back to Calgary but I stayed put for a couple days – there was rain in the forecast. And, in this case, the forecast was correct. Loreto’s streets are not designed to accommodate much rain so a couple of inches of water collected on the roads. Most of it had gone by the following day.

A String Of Bad Stuff

Shit happens in threes, doesn’t it? Or so the superstition goes.

A couple of days after Christmas, I saw a post on Facebook from one of my daughter Andrea’s close friends. It was a ‘we’ll miss you forever’ post. I asked Bev whether Andrea had a friend called Clara: yes, that is who she stays with when she goes to Banff; Clara was part of the group of three young women who joined Andrea for a summer of exploring and adventuring in Iceland when Andrea was studying in Reykjavik. A tight-knit group of friends who skied, climbed, biked, hiked, did just about everything, together. I never met her.

She was from an established Banff family. She drove to Saskatchewan to spend Christmas with her boyfriend and his family. On the way home, a couple of days later, a vehicle in the oncoming lane slid into her path and Clara was killed in the collision. 700 people attended her funeral. It’s a huge loss for Clara’s family and boyfriend, for Andrea and her friends.

Then, at the end of the first week in January, there was another ‘we’ll miss you forever’ post on Facebook, from my friend Vara Prasad. But the post wasn’t from him but about him. Vara was in a traffic accident in Kerala, southern India; a furniture van collided with the car Vara was driving and he died on the way to hospital.

I met Vara in Tabo, in the Spiti valley. We were both waiting for wifi access, eventually a fruitless exercise. Vara was also cycling, on a cheap bike with fairly crap gear: homemade panniers, a sleeping bag too thin for the altitude – and he was sleeping out much of the time – really winging it but enthusiastically and adventurously. A graduate student in cosmology in Chennai, he was working towards his Ph.D. Our paths crossed a few times more and we kept in touch. At the time of his death, he was, or had been, a research assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

Vortex and me, in Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, 2014

Facebook notified me about a change of profile picture by the partner of a friend of mine called Vortex. I messaged the partner: How is that man of yours? She apologised for bearing bad news but ‘Vortex is gone.’ I hung out with Vortex for a couple of weeks in Darjeeling, West Bengal, in 2012. He then came to visit me in Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, for a few days in 2014. He had quite the life, growing up in central Africa, South Africa, Russian and Poland as his parents, outspoken activists for human rights, were shunted around the world. As a young adult, he was stateless and passport-less so he joined the French Foreign Legion. After that, he was a commercial diver of the type that stays at depth for long periods, working for long hours before getting into a pressurised tank to sleep so he would not have to come, too slowly, to the surface. He was at depth for days at a time, vitals continually monitored by a doctor on the surface. He was part of the team that set charges to cap the oil flow after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig catastrophe. Returning to his home in Cape Town after diving contract in Australia, he was met at the airport and told that his wife and young daughter had been killed in a car crash a couple of weeks before. It was a few months after this that I met him in Darjeeling. The last time I heard from him was in November:

I’m struggeling with melanoma. but I don’t give up!

I am fucking tired but it’s a “normal” stage of my body. Permanent pain and “full metal hot dog” in the throat… fuck… sorry Man. You have always trubble with me (to listen my shit life story)

Anyway. I am good, could be worst

this way of treatment was fully aware choice, and I think was the best for me.

and very succesfull

Vortex, November 2018

Truck Work (1)

I visited Fili’s garage on the highway, a little south of Loreto. Fili came highly recommended by Orlando but was booked solid for a week. Then, Fili himself came out of the workshop area and asked what I needed. A new rim, I said. Let me see, he said. He had a look: leave it with me, he said. Come back on Saturday morning. And, yes, he would give me an oil change and replace filters.

El Juncalito

With four days to fill, I headed to the beach at El Juncalito, a village 30 kilometres south of Loreto. There were two other parties camped out but 150 metres away, at the far end of the beach. I parked up and settled in. There was cell coverage so I could keep up on the news, alternately fretting over Trump and Brexit. Or escape from the news into a couple of books on my Kindle. I kept the food simple: bagels and cheese for brunch, noodles or Sidekicks for dinner, a beer or two in the evening. The big sky and distant horizon were great therapy.

I unrolled my sleeping bag in the back of the truck and slept out under the stars each night. Lots of bright stars with the moon setting early. Good sleeps, despite lazy days!

There were day visitors to the beach and some overnighters. The water was cold and I didn’t go in, but a couple of small, Canadian children spent hours in the water, having a wonderful time. Their family was staying with Brian Garvin, from south-eastern British Columbia (Creston, if I remember correctly) but has a house in Ligui; I had been recommended to search Brian Garvin out by Brian Neill, a cyclist from Dauphin, Manitoba. (I had cycled with Brian Neill for a week in India.) A group of three ladies from Victoria, BC, arrived for a night in three separate vehicles: a medium-sized RV, a camperised van and a VW van. Western Canadians are everywhere in the Baja.

I never tired of the view out to sea but the view in the opposite direction was none too shabby.

I finished reading ‘News From The Red Desert,’ a novel written by Kevin Patterson, with a Canadian focus on the war in Afghanistan. Each conflict generates its own literature: Goodbye To All That from WWI, From Here To Eternity from WWII and Dispatches from the Vietnam War are some of my favourites. I’m not sure that News From The Red Desert is quite up to that standard but a good read nevertheless.

And my Kindle then directed me to ‘Outside the Wire: The War In Afghanistan In The Words Of Its Participants,’ a collection compiled by the same author and Jane Warren. This was published in 2008. Fascinating, disturbing reading. Which left me with a respect and admiration for what motivates the many Canadians, military and otherwise, who worked towards a better future for Afghanistan. It should be required reading in Canada.

A nice little hiking trail south of the beach, towards Puerto Escondido.
I wasn’t the only one appreciating the view.

After four days at El Juncalito, more than ready for a shower, a detour on my way back to Loreto, I took a quick look in at Ligui beach, a consideration for my next beach sojourn. Empty.

Ligui beach approach road.

Truck Work (2)

I went up to Fili’s as agreed at 9:00 am, was told to return at 10:00 am and, again, to return when he had finished what he was working on, after lunch. When I returned at 1:00, he was performing wonders on my damaged rim, bending it back into a circle and welding the cracks. I was to come back later when he’d finished the rim…

Magic performed!

The wheel was balanced but still had a minor wobble, Fili said. He also apologised for putting the tyre on ‘backwards’ with the white lettering no longer visible when installed. Not a concern. We agreed that it was a good idea to install it on the rear. Then he did my oil change. It was Saturday afternoon and he was closing early, at 3:00 pm, his barbecue already burning hard desert wood. I paid up, presented him a nice bottle of tequila (much to his obvious delight) and went for a test drive.

The truck felt fine except when I braked firmly; then, there was a vibration in the steering wheel. I had felt the same, to a lesser extent, occasionally on the interstates in the US and had put it down to uneven sections of concrete highway. It didn’t feel like a huge problem but I wasn’t entirely sure how it would respond to sharp braking at speed so I decided to pop by Fili’s again during the week.

Waiting for something to die.
Ranch wall on the way up to San Javier.
Hospital building on Mex 1, Loreto.

When I described the symptoms to Fili, he immediately thought that my front brake rotors must be warped and it was un-related to my rim mishap. He could fix that (by now, I didn’t doubt it) and I made an appointment for the following Monday morning. Was it time to spend a few days in Ligui? No, I thought Puerto Agua Verde sounded quite interesting. The Moon guidebook promises a stunningly beautiful drive for those with a high-clearance 4-wheel drive and a sense of adventure.

Puerto Agua Verde

The fishing village is at the end of the road, about 40 km from the main Mexican highway. The first dozen kilometres are paved, then it’s well-graded dirt.

Bev says I don’t take enough pictures of myself. That’s me on the left.

I hadn’t left Loreto early, and had stopped off to visit Brian in Ligui, so it was dark by the time I arrived at Puerto Agua Verde. I pulled on to the beach, drove past a couple of other vehicles, parked up reasonably level and lay down under the stars. The moon, getting fuller, provided enough light to see clearly.

On the beach
Village church
Turkey Buzzards hanging out in the village

There were lots of similarly-themed murals. Fish was clearly important to the village.

The end of the road.

An ‘adventurous’ couple from Nelson, BC, had brought their truck and fifth-wheel RV into the village and on to the beach. They were here for a few months, as they had been for the previous six winters. Francisca and Ken were closer to 80 than 70 years old.

I spent four days on the beach, wandering around the village and exploring the adjacent bays. I left in good time for the drive out in the light.

Not quite as deserted as it looks; there are two trucks with campers, hidden around the corner on the right.

Truck Work (3)

My appointment at Fili’s garage was at 10:00 am. Could I come back at noon? Sure. Fili removed the front wheels and took off the discs. Was the truck parked for a while, he asked. Yes. (For a year, summer 2012 to summer 2013.) Do they use salt on the road in winter where I live? Yes. He was used to the salt damage from fishermen backing their trucks into the water.

The worst section, from about 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock is where the brake pads had been for a year or so. It required multiple passes with Fili’s truing machine but they looked pretty good afterwards.

And they felt much better, too!

It’s not the end of January yet but this has been a long post…


  1. Hi Dave, I always enjoy seeing your emails pop up in my inbox….a guarantee of some thoughtful travelogue and excellent photos. My heartfelt condolences over the unfortunate deaths you detail….poignant reading and a reminder of the relevance of all the ‘carpe diem’ type cliches that spring to mind. That’s a lovely portrait of your friend Vara. Best wishes and and safe travels.


Leave a Reply