Puertecitos

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax
  |  Gorp.com

The beauty of Puertecitos lies in the eye of the beholder, though one's mode of transport plays a large role as well. If you arrive by car or plane, the town looks dirty and forlorn; a graveyard of rusted-out car bodies, stolen street signs, and old tires. If you arrive by kayak, however, after nearly a week of paddling, Puertecitos has a gritty, rustic appeal. On my first trip to Baja, I found it to be a bizarre and charming place, full of interesting characters — both Mexican and American — friendly, albeit mangy, camp dogs, and a welcome supply of tacos, cold drinks, and camaraderie.

Americans and Mexicans coexist in Puertecitos. The Americans stick to the bluffs running along both sides of town; the Mexicans live mainly in shacks and converted trailer and bus homes along the town's flat, central strip. The Palapa, a rotunda-shape bar on the south beach, serves a limited stock of drinks (Coke and beer, usually) to both groups and comes to life with heated games of pool (on a sloping table) or the occasional cantina-style scrap. A small motel with surprisingly pretty rooms, a gift shop, and a minimal-menu restaurant (with sporadic hours and no beverages — bring your own from the bar) are next door. A PEMEX is just behind this complex; its supply of fuel is unreliable.

Further north of this"Zone Turmstica," along a handful of dusty roads, is the Alfabeta, a grocery store, stocked with canned goods, staples, fruits, vegetables, and snack foods. Letters can be left in a phone booth turned post office behind the Palapa; local residents transport them to the border for mailing. Water and tortillas are sold from houses or trailers in town; ask at the grocery store for directions. The town darkens quite suddenly at 10 p.m. when the generator gets cut. Be prepared with a flashlight if you're not safely tucked away in your tent.

Other Options
A shorter trip could easily be planned by launching at Punta Estrella and arranging for pickup or shuttle at one of the camps farther south, though be sure to choose a camp with reliable landmarks. From Punta Estrella to Campo El Vergel (site of a lighthouse), for instance, is 17 miles.


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