Our very first trip down the Baja included a detour out to the blowhole at La Bufadora, south of Ensenada.
In nearby Punta Banda we stopped at a roadside stand, our eyes fixed on a fresh coconut to drink. Juanita whacked that thing open lickety-split, and another one, and another one. They were so refreshing we gobbled them up. The custardy flesh was scooped out and we ate that, too.
When we finally left, a few days had already passed by! Luis and Juanita let us park our van with rooftop tents in their yard right alongside the bay. We looked out across to Ensenada.
The two families went on a guided nighttime walk along the beach. The kids followed Juanita’s lead wading out into the dark waters to see the phosphorescence glowing around their ankles. On the way back our boys threw stones into the tree just like their son Juanito had done, amazed as the bats fluttered en masse in the moonlight.
From that first visit we became friends with Luis and Juanita, the owners of the kiosk. When we headed north in the spring we stopped in again and Juanita recognized us immediately. We feasted on cocos again, drinking the water and eating the older coconut flesh doused in fresh limon (lime) juice with chile-lime sprinkling. We ate mango on sticks and other delectable treats, happy to support their family business. Luis was out of town on business so we missed him.
We were excited to stop in again this time on our road trip south. But we found the roadside stand empty on this Friday afternoon. We wandered onto their property in hopes of locating them. A lady lead us to a different house they were now living in where we discovered Luis busy inside. He’d spent the morning making ice cream!
Luis didn’t recognize us…its been 5 years. We tried to jog his memory about the time we’d spent together…but it wasn’t until I mentioned the rooftop tents that he remembered. Then he laughed at himself, and invited us inside.
He informed us of the new business they started a year ago, with an outlet up at the blowhole where the tourists flock. They make a special “ice cream” with fresh fruit purees. Its not what we would call ice cream ITALICS! Just ice, but its not at all like a snow cone or shaved ice. Its creamy and quite delicious; actually healthy for you.
When Juanita and their daughter got home from work that day he told them that we were in town. Unlike Luis who needed his memory jogged, both of them immediately remembered us. So the following morning when we were wandering through the market at La Bufadora paying minimal attention to the typical flattery trying to reel us in for a purchase, we heard a woman’s friendly and soft voice calling “Amigos!”
Juanita was calling from her booth. We happily went over where we got to see their now-17 year old grown son Juanito who helps in their business, too.
Sampling all 3 of their flavours (yaca, pitaya, soursop) we purchased an ice cream for each of us in spite of it being a cool, overcast day…it even drizzled a bit while we were there. We chatted, then wandered further amongst the Saturday crowd headed for the blowhole.
Many of the vendors gave us samples of their food such as piña coladas, candied almonds and pastries. This was where we were first introduced to churros 5 years earlier…so we had to buy some…for memory sake
At the far end of the market is where you’ll find the blowhole and some buskers.
On our way back through the tourist-trap of booths we stopped to invite Juanita’s family to our camp for dinner after work that night. We thought they might like to checkout our skoolie, too. So well after nightfall they arrived (minus their son who stayed home to do his homework). We sat around a campfire eating and chatting up a storm, Luis being the natural translator. Lots of laughter bellowed out from the skoolie where the kids hung out. Us adults told stories in the dark, the firelight illuminating our animated and laughing faces.
Luis is a natural teacher who loves to educate people about his native land and his home-turf of Punta Banda. So he told us about a local old man who lives nearby our camp in a cave. About some gorilla rock. And feasting on fish he caught here in especially tight financial times. He told us of their days as a young missionary family in the state of Sonora (on the mainland). About the family issues with ejido (dividing up the land). Of ill health, and hard times, and even 10 days he spent in jail for insufficient paperwork; his truck confiscated; getting into debt to pay his bail and then him and his wife having to take factory jobs to make ends meet.
But things are looking up for Luis and Juanita now. After a year in the factory they were taken under wing by extended family who have been training them not just in making this specialty ice cream and running a business, but in more important things like reliability, accountability, loyalty and perseverance. Although they still live well below what we north-of-the-border expect for ourselves, Luis is very optimistic and excited about the future. Most of all he seems proud to have realized the importance of family working as a team.
Traveling gives us so many opportunities to connect with people we would otherwise never meet. Gives us a little window into their world with their unique struggles and successes. One of the best parts of traveling is knowing that in even small ways we can bless them with moral support, encouragement, ideas, and yes, even money. Most of us in developed countries have so much wealth compared to the majority of Earth’s people. Giving them a “hand up” can make a huge difference in their world.
P.S. We camped on the road out to La Bufadora, at Campo 5 which Luis’ cousin Livia operates. Very basic camping with incredible views. She charges $150 pesos per vehicle, so she charged us $300 per night;$500 for 2 nights
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