On top of the rock

On top of the rock
Our Cliff

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Do we move everything we own or none of it? Do we par down and only bring things that are irreplaceable, like heirlooms? Does Maurice need all his tools?? Do I need all my white pottery??

We went back and forth and forth and back on these questions. Rent a U-Haul and drive it to San Diego and than have it transferred to a moving company in San Diego to be driven down? Have it moved from Toronto. EXPENSIVE!! We considered every possibility over the 3 ½ years until we decided. Well, it was Maurice who decided. He wanted to put our things, on a ship, in a container. This way it is only loaded once and not moved from truck to truck. Once in the container our stuff will not be disturbed until it reaches us, or Mexican customs decides to tear through it all.

World Class Transport was the company he found. They pack you up (if you want insurance it is the only way, which is fine by me!) they load up the container and off they go. When they gave us an estimate through the internet, they were not sure from the form we had filled out if we would need more than a 20 foot container. The problem is there is only 20 or 40 feet. I told Hercules, honest to God, the guys name is Hercules, he needed to come and see our stuff instead of trying to figure out what to do with our things on the day they moved us and we could not fit everything into the 20 foot container. Hercules and his partner Dimitri arrive at our house after we had been stood up three times but this company. Can you see the confidence flying out the window? Hercules and Dimitri themselves drove the 5 hours from Montreal to our house since “they could not rely on anyone”, referring to the guy who stood us up. We tour the house, the basement, the workshop, the garden shed, under the boat port. Why under the boat port?? Because Maurice made a 30 x 40 canopy, out of PVC pipe (septic pipe) that we set up for parties in our yard. He wants this in Mexico. He envisions the workers dining under it, or some such thing, so if we “are doing this container thing” he wants his pipe, ropes, and tarpaulin that creates this “tent”.

So Hercules and Dimitri, write and talk and calculate deciding we will need more than a 20 foot container. The cost is not much different they explain. If they had a 24 foot one they say that would probably be perfect. They don’t. What they can do iS create a false end for the 40 foot container and after it is loaded they will seal it off to make sure everything is secure and stays in place. Hercules also says casually that people normally have more than they think. I tell him he has seen everything we own. This is it.

Negotiate and we have a deal. Our house closes on December 4th, which is a Friday. They said it will take two or three days to pack and load the truck. We decide that Tuesday they should start the packing, which give us three full days and we can go into Friday, if we need to. Maurice thinks Monday would be better....we decide on Tuesday.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT???? On Monday I get a phone call at work at 11am and it is Hercules. “Hey Shelby! Where are you guys? The movers have been there since 9am.” I say, no, they are to come on Tuesday. He says, no Maurice wanted Monday. He wants someone to let them in. Of course, if we were ready, we could have had our neighbor Kate let them in. We are not ready!!! The place is a mess and we have to be organized for them to pack us up. The issue is this. Some of our stuff will be used right away when it gets there. These are the things we will use in the bodega. All the rest will be in storage for probably a year. We have been sorting dishes, crystal, clothes, towels, everything, into groups...we were not ready!! “Sorry Hercules, they can not get in. They have them come back tomorrow”..he says we will have to pay them for Monday..I think WHO CARES! This is the LEAST of my worries...thus begins our 4 nights of zero sleep. When I say zero, pretty seriously I mean zero.

I am going to fast forward to Thursday…
past Monday night when I start getting really sick;
past Tuesday when three workers were not enough;
past Wednesday when they brought two more guys to help pack;
past the boxes that I found where they just threw things inside, unwrapped, antique things, irreplaceable things;
past my trying-to-be-polite-ranting;
past my drive into Toronto cause I needed to go to CHFI to get my office things to move and I am so sick I can hardly talk (Maurice‘s dream was total laryngitis);
past my friends, Susana, Jeannine and Karen getting me boxes, feeding me tea, loading my car and putting much of my office in the garbage cause I just could not deal with it;
past all this to Thursday when they start to load the container.

Maurice has 46 boxes of things, weighed, boxed and measured in his workshop to be loaded. This is where he has spent all of his time. Making boxes from wood, itemizing each box etc. The “why” of this organization on his part will come later. Anyway at noon they tell us the semi driver who dropped off the container (and TOTALLY destroyed the new owners driveway and yard tryng to back it up our 200 yard curved driveway ) is picking up the container at 4 pm because if it does not leave at 4 it will not make the train to Halifax where it gets on the ship. It is impossible to finish in 4 hours. Maurice has not even begun to organize his office, which he allowed no one into. I AM FREAKING OUT! I MEAN FREAKING OUT!!! No sleep since Sunday, I am unbelievably sick, and the place is a mess. THERE IS NO WAY they are going to be pulling out of driveway at 4...but they do. They do not care that we still have things to put inside. They do not care that I have not vacuumed yet so I can not load and move our vacuum...WHY?? CAUSE THE FRICKING CONTAINER IS FULL!!! FULL!! TO THE BRIM. It is packed tightly. We did not even take our riding lawn mower, which we had planned and it is full. OH MY GOD!!! What are we going to do with all this stuff in Mexico!!! Where are we going to store it for a year!!!

That question still remains. We rented a storage unit. A 10 x 10...that will be a huge help!!!! NOT!

We are procrastinators. We had a wonderful last couple of weeks in Toronto. We had a memorable, albeit sad, early Christmas with the kids and grandkids. We spent a weekend with friends, we dined and said our goodbyes. It’s not like we just sat around doing nothing! We had 3 ½ years to get ready for this week and believe it or not I really thought we were!! I truly did!! We had taken car loads upon car loads full of stuff to Goodwill. We had an auction. We had a yard sale. I took boxes and bags of clothes to Maurice’s kids and family. I took boxes and bags of things to Wisconsin for my family. We went to the dump endless times. We put stuff on the road in front of our house and guessed how long it would take for someone to stop and pick it up. It was always picked up.

We just did not realize what is is like to move 17 years of your life in 4 days. Devastating is an understatement.

On that Thursday, when the container was gone and the new owners were already delivering things to make their move easier, we still had an office to deal with. There was also crap left from the movers, packing materials etc. It was 6 o’clock and MY vision of having a nice dinner with our neighbors, Rick and Kate, followed by a hot tub and a good nights sleep at our hotel that was waiting for us downtown Toronto was absolutely not going to happen. What did happen, was these same neighbors saved us. Rick kicked me out of Maurice’s office so he and Maurice could deal with it without having to listen to me and my raspy, infected sceamming! We moved everything we had not dealt with into their basement. In May, when we return for Vanessa, Maurice’s oldest daughter’s, wedding we will put some of these things in an auction. Some will be driven to Wisconsin and the rest will be sold - hopefully - at Kate and Rick’s rummage sale.

So at 9 pm we are eating our last meal in our kitchen. Pizza, with our friends who saved us. As we pulled out of our driveway, me for the last time, to make the 90 minute drive into Toronto, we planned our Friday. Maurice and I would go to the 9am closing of our house to sign the papers after which Maurice would drop me at work and head back to our house to FINISH PACKING UP!!!!! Seriously. To finish packing up and to make one last trip to the dump!

Pretty much everything we own, except of course the stuff in Kate and Rick’s basement, as well as all the stuff we had previously put in Rudi and Edwina’s basement for that same auction, is now somewhere on the Atlantic. It has been through Kingston in the Bahamas’ and is now heading towards Vera Cruz, Mexico. At this point it will either clear customs, or be taken apart, inspected and held up. We got all our paperwork, signed, stamped and approved by the Mexican Consul in Toronto. This occurs AFTER your entire packing list, the 429 items on our list (the most the movers have ever had they said) have been translated into Spanish, including serial numbers and models for anything electronic, or electric for that matter, and submitted for approval.

If it clears, or when it clears, it will than be trucked across Mexico to the Sea of Cortez and than put on a ferry to Cabo. Then it is put on another truck to be delivered to us. Stay tuned for the chapter that will read, “Now what do we do with all this shit!”

This is the story of why I have no sequins for New Year’s Eve.

Dec 30th

The day before New Year’s Eve

The last few days have been pretty uneventful. We did get an invite to eat left over turkey with mole sauce (that’s molay’ sauce, not sauce from moles) from a squatter by our land. We said, no thank you. Left over turkey from people who have no refrigerator. No thank you. Maurice has eaten with them before. He ate fresh tortilla’s out of the “oven” mixed with mystery meat and vegetables prepared over an open fire. He raved about the food. This interests me. I think we will have this chance another day.

Been spending a few hours a day at the beach. Hanging around, reading and staring at the waves in awe. One day they are bigger than you could ever imagine! They crash dangerously against the shore, staking claim on their territory, leaving behind a white froth that melts into the sand. The next they are gentle, sweet, rolling softly across the sand. There are also others on the beach these days. The beach by our house remains uninhabited, but if we are close to where we are renting there is always 2 or 3 groups scattered around. You can tell they are tourists. No lawn chairs. No umbrella. No cooler. Just like we used to be. Towels smaller than your body. Small rectangles you sit on. Nothing else.

This week, between holidays, is not very productive.

One day it rained. This is newsworthy. When it rains here it is a result of a hurricane passing somewhere through the Pacific. This happens in October into November, if at all. Two days ago we had 16 hours of non-stop rain. It was pretty phenomenal. We kept thinking it was going to stop. It didn’t. We learned this is called an Equipatta, and happens sometimes in December. The result for us is that our land, on the bottom, where our bodega is and where we need to work, is so flooded we can not access it, other than on foot. On foot means that if you do not judge your step properly you sink in over your ankles. Ah...the voice of experience!! The positive is that I will not have to water those 23 palms for awhile!!

The day of the rain we had a very successful shopping trip in Cabo. Some people we met suggested we shop at the place called Artesans. Even though it is in Cabo, and filled with tourists, it was perfect!! The sign said, NO CREDIT NO DISCOUNT NO NOTHING. The prices were the best we had seen. We bought hand painted tiles for the back splash in our little bodega that are about 10 inches x 3 inches for 26 cents each. No tax. We found so many things there, like pottery, benches, really cool and unique things. Cheap, which is our budget. We will go back to purchase more when we get inside a place we actually own, instead of rent. Hopefully we will be moved in in about three weeks.

We also got things for New Year’s Eve as we are going to someone’s house for pot luck. YES A REAL INVITE THIS TIME! They even called us last night to meet them for dinner. (Fresh red snapper, head on, with butter and garlic…fresh vegetables… everything is organic here, with rice. $12) Anyway, we are ready for our first New Year’s Eve in Mexico, sans sequins for sure** Maurice met the couple who invited us one day while he was eating lunch in a restaurant by where we will be living. They are a mile up the beach from us and seem very nice. Maurice really likes the guy. They both have the same dry sense of humor. As far as the invite goes we already know where and when, so I think we are safe this time!!

** why we have no sequins…not that I would want them anyway but...THE 40 FOOT CONTAINER, COMING TOMORROW....

FELIZ ANO NEUVO 2010 is going to be a great year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A work Day

The day after Christmas...Boxing Day

Right as we were getting up the phone rang. It was Jose. He and Tomas were going to our land to finish a small job and wanted to know if we would be there. No mention of Christmas and the invitation we thought we received. Of course, we did not bring it up. When we saw them they were happy and chatty and, like always, working hard and smiling.

The speculation still lives on.

We, too, did some work today. I watered our palm trees. Work?.. you laugh. Before I tell you what it means to “water our palms”, and to understand the effort we put into it, you need to realize we have/had zero green on our land. Yes, when it rains for a week or two a year, some “grass” may appear for this same amount of time, but the remaing months we have nothing there but cactus and some rather dead looking brush; "sticks", my friend Megan calls our vegetation. Now we have 23 palm trees!!! THIS IS HUGE!!…and extremely exciting for us! Soon we will have a huerta!

Here is how we begin the 2 1/2 hour process of watering our palms. First we have to unroll, by hand, the perfect circle that is in reality a green garden hose. I than drag it 50 meters, or 160 feet across the property, through brush and over a roadway. Next we connect to this green garden hose the fire hose that Maurice has. Yes, a real fire hose. This is also kept curled up and placed neatly inside what will one day be Maurice’s work shop. After these two are laid out, screwed together and stretched to their max, which covers this 50 meters rather well, we attach one end of the fire hose to the gas water pump. This pump was specially purchased in Lapaz, for this job. Attached to this water pump is yet another hose that drops into one of our septic containers, which at this time contain freshly delivered water. (Yes, we have our watered delivered from a large water truck. This is our only source of water. It is about $60 a delivery and we will need one about every 5 or 6 days until our B&B is “up and running“. Than we will have to have deliveries every other day...we figure)

After all these pieces are in place, the pump is primed, the oil is checked, the gas is topped off, and than the cord is pulled and yanked and cursed at until the pump jumps to a start. Next, over a two hour period, I move from tree to tree watering our 23 palm trees that were transplanted just two months ago. This process had to be done three times a week for the first three weeks. Poor Maurice I say, since I was in Canada at the time. Now it is down to once every 5 to 7 days. I drag the hose around the land from tree to tree, getting it caught on dead cactus and other un-recognizable plants that still need to be cleared away. After the process is completed everything is reversed. All the hoses get wrapped back in their circles, by hand, and by now they have gotten wet and so they are muddy and so am I. My feet are splashed and dirty, my legs have dried mud on them, my light blue Liz Claiborne golf shirt has mud on it as well. (My work clothes are still on a ship somewhere in the Atlantic which I will tell you about another day) When I am done and covered in mud at least it APPEARS that I have been working! While I was watering Maurice was doing “real work”, pulling wires and placing electrical plates inside the bodega, getting ready for our move.

After these chores we head to the beach. Today the beach was empty. As far as you can see there is not a soul. No one. There are remnants, still untouched by the surf, of walkers that must have been here earlier in the day, but we see no one. A cooler in one hand, a beach chair in the other, we set up camp. It is a glorious day made more spectacular by my epiphany. THIS IS OUR HOME! WE LIVE HERE! This is our beach and everyday we can be here if we chose. We can stay as long as we want. We can do whatever we want. This is home. Maurice and I laughed in awe at this idea! As if to celebrate our realization, for the first time ever, we saw a school of flying fish going south to the Sea of Cortez. Flying fish really do fly! There were either hundreds of them or a few very busy fish. They were leaping and flying from surf to surf and they glistened in the sun. When we told our soon-to-be-neighbor, Cuco, a local potter who has squatted on this land for 30 years, he said he has never seen this. He could not believe we were lucky enough to have witnessed it.

A rainbow around the sun and a school of fish leaping through the air...Maurice said we are lucky we “turn our eyes”. (Being born and raised in Italy, of course speaking Italian, he also uses expressions like “nap cat” when he snoozes) He said too many people miss things in life because they do not “turn their eyes“.

So my message to you today is, “remember to turn your eyes”. There is too much beauty around us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day

December 25th, Christmas day in The Baja

Wow it is quiet here. Never during any of our trips here has there been absolutely no noise. There are no cars, no workers, even the animals are silent. With the exception of one occasionally barking dog, about 2 miles away, there is quiet. Being very religious people we think the Mexicans are probably at church. We did see some locals on the way into Todos Santos this morning to get our internet connection. We saw immaculately clean people, many men wearing white hats, happy, and waving, as they always do. I actually forgot how happy everyone appears to be here. It is a very warm feeling. One of security and peace.

There is one exception. Maurice and his friend Rocco named him “Chewy” after Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies. He is obviously not “all there’ as they say. He does not talk, he makes a noise like Chewbacca would. A growling sound that is as monotone as it is loud and never ending. He is harmless and his past time is hanging out at Esquina, with a filthy rag rubbing people’s vehicles for “propina“...tips. His rag is dry. It is dusty. It is dirty. You can imagine our already dusty truck being rubbed by Chewy for ten pesos, about a dime. This does not make Maurice, proud owner of his first Toyota Tundra pleased. We either park far away, or try to give him money NOT to clean our car. He is the exception because he does not give us a sense of security and peace. He makes us feel bad for him. He is clean, albeit rumpled. We wonder where he comes from, who washes his clothes and how old he is. 40 or 60?? It is hard to tell but everyone seems to know him and his smiling picture is in Esquina saying he is safe, but we should lock our doors! Oh my!

Driving into town is a 6 km trek over a washboard, rutted road, that we bump along, and never get used to. Every time Maurice is here he stays in the same place and drives this same road two or 4 times a day. It is dusty and dirty and what is amazing is the number of Canadians and Americans that live in this area, called Los Tunas, adjacent to Todos Santos. They all drive this daily. Challenging shocks and transmissions and new noises seem to be born daily under the hoods of our vehicles. Recently graded, by a rich Canadian with a monstrous villas on the beach, it appears to have held up well for the first few days, but now, with every spinning wheel, the washboards form again. When we reach Esquina, our internet oasis, we make our calls to families; calling Italy, Canada and the US. We feel lonesome and thrilled to hear everyone’s voices, clearly over our SKYPE connection. While we were there, we saw a man, sitting ram-rob straight in his saddle as he rode his horse past our truck in clean jeans, a pressed plaid shirt, and another one of those popular white hats, and.....a cell phone in his hand. If I only had my camera!

Driving back to our place we bring up the fact that we have not heard from Tomas or Jose. Finding that strange we speculate.

Maybe they did not have enough food to include us with their families for Christmas dinner. Maybe their wives did not want gringos at their Christmas. Maybe something had happened. Maybe when Jose told the others he invited us they were not pleased.

Than we realized that knowing these people as well as Maurice does, none of these things made any sense. So we decide we would do what had originally planned to do on our first Christmas in Mexico which was take a cooler and our little grill to the beach.

We still kept the phone close at hand.

Today was very cool here. Yes, I know, we have no snow and I should not complain. I am not complaining. It is just unusual to be at the beach and to have goose bumps. The strangest thing today though, was a result of a haze. It was a very subtle haze, but it was there, over the entire sky. As result there was a perfect circle around the sun. Not close to the sun itself, in fact probably about 30 dimensions of the sun away from the actual orb. But this perfect circle was a rainbow. Not brilliant in color, but a rainbow non-the-less. It was something we had never seen before. Maybe we will see it again, when on the beach one day, but to watch this rainbow for hours, never varying in shape or brightness was quite magical; especially on Christmas day.

We walked, watched more whales and were shocked at the number of people on the beach today. Of all the days we have been on the beach today it was the most packed it had ever been. We counted 12 people. Another group of 5 came as we were leaving so I guess there were 17 people visiting the beach today. I really mean it when I say that was very strange.

Back at our place now I just got out of the shower. Well, not in the way you may think. I stood there, freezing, waiting for the hot water that never came. Maurice figured out the water heater was off for some reason. So instead of becoming clean and shiny I will drink a glass of wine and write to all of you.

Our phone call never came today but we had a memorable first Christmas in Mexico. With a day that began with us opening our stockings, it will end gentle thoughts of all of you, and hopes that you all had a Christmas filled with magical rainbows around your sun.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


December 23, 2009

I realized my life was really changing when I started hyperventilating at the airport in Phoenix. Not gasping for air so others would ask if I was O.K., it was just the sensation of having to breath deeply so I did not throw-up while at gate B 27 before boarding USAIRWAYS flight 932 to Los Cabos. Thinking it may help, I removed my socks and slipped back on my “dress” shoes. I say dress shoes since these partially suede and leather open toed slip-ons were one of the few remaining things I had left from my work wardrobe.

Looking at me no one would have thought I was about to “get off the bridge“, as my dear friend Maxine labeled our transition. Moving from one life; a life of successful employment, a plethora of wonderful friends and family, and three beautiful grandchildren; to one of, I guess the best word would be “unknowns”. Being on the bridge for the last few weeks has been a curious place to be. Crossing from one life to another I tended to protect myself by thinking I could go back when ever I chose. My oldest (by seniority) friend in Toronto, Susana, helped me along with this delusion as we spoke of my Christmas in Wisconsin, after which I will, as I did every year, return to Toronto. Knowing sweet Maurice had spent months setting up our future always pulled me back to the reality that I really would step off this bridge into a new life. One of bare feet, sand, the ocean and many things unknown.

Looking at myself I visually saw change. I saw a lovely silver bracelet that read repeatedly, “DREAM A LITTLE DREAM” around its fine silver band. What I could not see, and only sense, was the engraved CHFI XO that sat inside the band. When I received this special gift I had decided this would become a permanent part of my body. This would always sit on my wrist, next to my “GUARDIAN ANGEL WATCH OVER ME” bracelet and my newly purchased thumb ring. Yes, looking at myself these things were the only tangible indication that my life was changing. I do have to tell the givers of my silver bracelet what it actually means “to never take it off”. As I went through security check points in Wisconsin, Chicago and 5 times in Phoenix that lovely silver bracelet would make the alarms scream. When asked to remove it, I would answer, to whomever was challenging my new body part, “Sorry, it can not come off“. Each time I was than isolated in a security room, and wanded, and patted, and touched, until they were certain my bracelet was not a terrorist threat. How easy it would have been to pull it off. How disconnected I would have become from my work life and the friendships I had formed there, if I did that.

On landing in Cabo I still was very very unsettled. I kept thinking, “THIS IS IT!!!” “I LIVE HERE NOW!” Even the warm sunshine could not take away that nervous feeling. When I saw our black Toyota Tundra, the manly man’s truck, come around the bend to get me, my face exploded in joy. There was my Maurice. Breath. He was here. Breath. He greeted me with a brilliant bouquet of flowers, with the words, “welcome home”. Tears. That is what finally came. Tears.

We held hands on the drive through the original town of San Jose Del Cabo. Busy, and very Mexican I started to breath a little more consistently. Than Maurice asked if I was tired or if we could stop at Costco. COSTCO! I said sure, I wanted to buy an ironing board and iron!! OMG!!! You can take the girl out of……

So it went like this. Rip off my clothes in the car and put on shorts, a tee shirt and sandals. Shop at Costco, where they do not sell ironing boards and irons so our next stop is Wal-Mart, sorry Mom. (She will NOT go into a Wal-Mart since they destroy all small local business in every town they go into.) Then we drive to our land.

The funny thing is when you leave Cabo San Lucas, the commercial neighbor of San Jose Del Cabo, the electricity literally disappears. You see all the power lines dive into the earth and never come out again. This is the point where I know we are heading to OUR heaven.

The bodega we built, I guess I can really take zero credit for its construction but I did have matching pillows made for our new couch, looks so cute! While I was gone the workers added a palapa roof. Palapa is the word for those hand tied palm roofs you so often see in Mexico. It hangs our over front “deck” and is adorable. Our newly planted, 23 coconut palm trees, need about 2 years of TLC to be in perfect bloom but I felt excited. Hopefully within a month we will be living here…in our bodega, where we will be spending the next 8 or 9 months while we build our dream.

Day two, which is December 24th. Christmas Eve, 2009. From our rental place, we watched the sun come up over the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. The ocean is on the opposite side and a few whales are making their way south to the Sea of Cortez for the early 2010 birth of their babies. It is breezy and I have a jacket on over my shorts. We set out our Christmas decorations. They consist of two fabulously red stockings purchased at Giant Tiger in Collingwood, Ontario; a Santa figurine with the word MEXICO on its base; a hand blown glass palm tree ornament, which was a gift from my Mom, sister and niece; and a red towel with a cactus on it, again a gift from my Mom. Beautiful.

More beautiful is the invitation we have just received. Two of the guys Maurice has been working with, Jose and Tomas have invited us to eat Christmas dinner with them and their families tomorrow. This was my dream. We are both really excited about this. Our first Christmas in Mexico. What a better way to spend it.

So for now I am saying, Merry Christmas everyone. We are off to walk to the beach, than we are headed to Esquina, a coffee shop where we can get on the internet. The rest of our day will be running errands and trying to figure out what our contribution will be to a dinner with people who live more humbly than any of us can ever begin to imagine. We will spend more money tonight, when we dine at Maurice’s favorite place here, called Tre Gallane, a fabulous Italian restaurant where he has become friends of the owners, than these two families will make next month.

I have a feeling this will be changing too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


To truly understand what we are doing I need to back up about 4 years to how this all began. To those of you who know Maurice and I well you will be re-living things you have heard before. You may want to skip this part, but for posterity, here are the details.

November 2005

Maurice and I had decided that when the magical year of 2009 ended I was going to take early retirement from a successful and fabulously satisfying career selling radio advertising. The only decision we needed to make was “where” this retirement would take place. I had always wanted to have a B&B. Something small that I could take care of myself. A place where people would come, enjoy, relax and feel like they were special. I also wanted to live on the ocean. This part of the dream Maurice also shared, but he was not so keen on cleaning up after people and having to wait on strangers!!!!...but, ah!...The Ocean. There is nothing like the sound of the waves pounding the shore, the smell of the sea, and the vastness of the horizon when you look out over the ocean. San Diego would have been our first choice. We traveled there for years and endlessly dreamt of living there. For us, the escalating cost of buying a place there made this dream one that would not come true. So in November, 2005, after a stay in San Diego, we had decided to rent a car and drive down the Baja to a place called Todos Santos. Neither one of us had ever been there before. In fact the furthest south I had been into the Baja was Ensenada. Since this first time in the Baja, when I was 23, I do not think I have ever been the same.!!!! I spent one afternoon in Hussong’s Cantina, in Ensenada....but as my friend Maria would say when contemplating whether to share a long, detailed story, “that’s a whole nother bottle of wine!”.

Our drive down the Baja would take us three days to get to our destination. The 1600kms had to be driven during the day light so not to risk running over cows that tend to sleep on the highway at night. We learned animals do this, attempting to get the warmth of the tarred road, after the sun sets in the desert.

I have to say that the northern Baja did nothing for us. We did not really talk about it but that first day and ½ I kept thinking there is no way I am living here! The towns we would pass through were small, poor, dirty, and made me feel sad. Our first night we stayed in Guerro Negro, at a wonderful hotel, ate succulent fish and drank cold beer. The fact that the room we had lacked warm water and only had one light bulb was not quite so important after our memorable dinner there. Day two took us to Mulege. I had planned for us to be there on our return trip as well since they have a pig roast on Saturday nights that their web site boasted as “famous”. Driving down the dirt road to take us the our hotel was is really the first time we looked at each other and said, “WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING!!!” Yes this place, too, is old, dusty, dirty and really in need of a huge facelift. Since there were no options for us, we stayed there and headed out the next day to see our first potential place of retirement...not too optimistically.

We had made arrangements to meet a man who was offering in a private sale, an acre lot of land on the ocean. From what we saw on the internet it seemed spectacularly beautiful, albeit out of our price range. There is only one highway descending down the Baja. We ventured off the highway, for about 50 minutes before we got to the property. Our instincts were right about this haven. It was beyond beautiful. We loved it. Loved the owner and for the first time in a couple of days felt a little elated at our options. Of course reality hit as we drove the 50 minutes back to the highway. Do we really want to spend money on a place that took 50 minutes on a wash board road to get to? It was too expensive and reclusive and, we decided, was not what we were looking for. The next morning we had made arrangements to meet with a realtor to show us 12 properties around the Todos Santos area. Maybe there we would feel something??? Maybe not. We ventured on to Todos Santos but since we had spent so much time at this first place we were very delayed and did not enter the city til dark.

Let me tell you there is nothing more fearful than driving for the first time, in the Baja at night. It is dark. There was no moon, no light pollution; nothing. After a three day drive filled with mountain switchbacks and literally 100’s of road side gravesites I could not get into this small town of 5000 people quick enough.. Maurice is a brave confident driver. He did let me share the driving on occasion during our trip down, but even he was nervous.

We entered town, spotted the place we would have dinner, than set out to find the small casita we had reserved for our three nights in town.

Todos Santos at night is quiet. It was dark and not a lot of things were open. Except for the main road thru town nothing is paved. Our rental car, a silver PT Cruiser, already angry with us for the 100 km we took it off-roading earlier in the day, was really rebelling up and down the rutted, pitted roads of Todos Santos trying to find a “green gated house“, which held our casita.

Night morphed into day and before our 10am meeting with the realtor, and while Maurice was showering, I jumped in the car to get a feel of this town called Todos Santos, meaning “All Saints.”

What had attracted me to this location, during my internet investigations, were the facts it was small, untouched by the tourism that had taken over Cabo, and writers of this place described it as “an artists haven for ex-patriots from the US and Canada“. “Casual, fresh and lovely“. What more would you want for your retirement.

During this morning, unlike the night before, I was shocked to see the activity in town. Its claim to fame is “Hotel California” which the Eagles sang of. Around the few streets that border “Hotel California” was construction, with people working, fixing, and restoring this town’s amazing old buildings. Todos Santos excited me so much I could hardly wait to get back to Maurice. I ran into the casitas yelling, “THIS IS GOING TO BE OUR NEW HOME!!!” Not convinced by me, Maurice and I left to meet our realtor, Rick, and his lovely wife Lucy.

As I said, we had made arrangements to see 12 places with him, the furthest south being in Ellias Calles, about 50 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas, and 20 minutes south of Todos Santos. At each place we went we diligently took notes and listed the pros and cons of the location. Each place was on the ocean, yet each place offered many cons, along with the pros. After 4 stops Rick, whom we quickly grew to trust, showed us the info on a place which was to be our next stop as we edged back north towards Todos Santos. The place actually had a name. It was called “Wuthering Heights”. I had definitely noticed this place on MLS but it was so out of our price range I quickly put it our of my head. When I told him this he said the price had just been lowered to “close” to what we may afford.

As a side bar, you may notice I say “I” a lot, instead of “we”. Maurice is very contemplative and analytical. I am the opposite. All the excitement, the investigating of things that got us this far he has left to me. He would not have the desire to dream or talk about a town that he has not seen. He would not be the type of man to contemplate, “what ifs”; that is my job. So really up until this point Maurice has been a contributor to the list of pros and cons and not much else.

On the drive to “Wuthering Heights” Rick filled us in. “There are problems” he said. There is no road to the property so we will drive as far as we can then we will have to walk to the place. There is no electricity or even options for this since there is no electricity in this part of the Baja. Of course there is no water either. Of course with each of these statements we thought, O.K. This place is not for us.

As we drove up towards “Wuthering Heights” we turned off the main road and pass squatters. There were possibly 4 different squatters. It is hard to tell if the “structures” we passed were actually occupied or not. There were rusty cars, lots of garbage and tar lean-tos. The area is all desert as I said before so driving toward the ocean, which is where this property is, is not that appealing to be honest with you. Dry, lots of dead vegetation etc. The drive back to the property is only about 1 mile. Rick and Lucy had a big pick-up truck that took us up a dangerous steep incline, and from the windshield all we could see was they sky.

So up this path we grind. If we ever thought any road we had seen so far was bad this one was by far the worse we had seen. OMG this place had more problems than Rick even shared with us. Since he and Lucy had driven here before to “check it out for us”, he was well acquainted with this “showing”.

So out of the truck we climb. The “road” we are on is so steep and it is very hard to get out of the truck. We lean on each other and attempt to close the truck doors against the effort of the gravity that is successfully stopping us from shutting them.

Than we hear it. The sound of the surf. After the mile trek to this point we almost forgot we had driven our way back to the ocean. When we climb up the 10 meters, or so, to the top it crested into the most spectacular view we had ever seen. We were perched on top of a cliff that looked to the south, along the ocean and it was magnificent. Maurice and I looked at each other and said silently…..”is this it???” When I started babbling about how amazing this was Rick informed us that we still had not gotten to the land we were to look at. We had to walk there. So across the top of the cliff we gingerly found our footing for about 250 meters, or 1000 feet to “Wuthering Heights”. From this vantage point you not only could see the south beach but the north beach as well. We were standing in the most perfect spot on earth.

In front of us was the ocean, turn our heads to the north and the ocean went on forever, and the same to the south. If we looked towards the road, which is east, you see the vast range of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. Perched on a 65 meter high cliff, was truly a 360 degree view of wonder. We looked at each other and said out loud “THIS IS IT”, “Rick we are buying this”.

“But there is no road. How will you get here? How will you get water, electricity??”, he said. We told him we would work it out. We were going to live here.

This is how it began for us. Four years later, with non-stop effort we now have a road, that is passable and will be properly completed after the work on top is done. We have a septic system, not connected, but in the ground. We have a building permit. We have gone through the environmental impact study, which took almost a year and cost $14,000 and which allowed us to change this cliff that has stood this way for 1000’s of years. Every little cactus that was considered to be endangered was marked and re-located in black plastic bags so the road could be put in. We, too, paid for this relocation. Of course we were not living here so after all the expense and effort no one involved with the “saving of the environment” thought about keeping these little guys alive so they all died anyway…..under a larger cactus, 100’s of them, in their little black bags. They still sit there, waiting to be cleared away.

By the way, we also now have 23 palm trees.