Wednesday, September 17, 2014


It’s Time to Say Goodbye Cabo.  See Ya Next Year!
A drum roll please. Let’s  salute the Mexican government emergency planners for a job well done.

Many tourists found shelter in hotel stairwells when their room windows were blown out

  They managed to evacuate and/or shelter 30,000 locals and tourists alike in public buildings, schools and hotels. And as of the date of this writing – they did it all without loss of life.  Hurricane Odile was a high category 3 or low 4 hurricane, which should be a wake-up call to those who scoff at Mother Nature.  Odile had wind gusts estimated at 135 mph., the next level  up would be a category 5 where winds could go off the charts at 200mph.

For the moment we will overlook the news that the head of emergency planning was arrested by the feds for looting and the local police either resigned or were fired shortly after. 

 If it was a category 5 – little would be left standing.  Cabo experienced 20’ waves with Odile – a category  5 would submerge the town with 50’ wave surges. Or higher. 
In the aftermath of Odile power poles are lying across roads, cars, homes, businesses and hotels have had their windows blown and the ubiquitous white plastic pool furniture – blown back to China from whence it came.  Your favorite beachside palapa restaurant is likely headed for China as well or possibly Kansas as the storm seems to be tracking in that direction.   
Getting out of Cabo – by planes, trains and automobiles.  Well, not trains anyway..
By Plane: San Jose International Airport is closed to commercial flights until approximately September 22 according to local authorities. However, the Mexican military is using the runway to land chartered commercial and military planes to evacuate stranded tourists.  Check with your hotel, the American Consulate or airport if the telephone lines are working.
The Cabo San Lucas private aviation airport located just outside downtown Cabo a couple of miles northeast of town has  commuter  18 passenger turbo prop Cessnas which fly daily to Mazatlan, Los Mochis, Loreto, Guerrero Negro and maybe Tijuana via stops along the way. Get in line. I crossed the Sea of Cortez on one once.
The flight out of Cabo was memorable.  I was last in and sat in the co-pilots seat.  We took off and headed east toward the hills, climbing slowly (we were fully loaded and then some)  the plane stretching to clear the hills. I held  my breath and wondered if the pilot could set it down on a 75 degree slope if we didn’t make it over the top of the mountain. I looked down. I could count the pebbles on the summit  trails. Several minutes later we cleared the Baja mainland and I observed the pilot refer to his charts in his lap as we headed out to sea.. Old school piloting.
 We were 18 souls onboard, with one life raft and one engine.  And we were over the sea and out of sight of land. I reassured the pilot by telling him that in an emergency I could handle the aircraft having had a pilots license once. I didn’t’ tell him I crashed a plane.  Just a Piper.  A small one.   He was a career bush pilot type – leather jacket, silk scarf and all. despite the Baja heat. Our flight was uneventful, until he banked sharply and hot dogged it into the Los Mochis airport.
The La Paz airport may be down awhile too however it is of a stronger construction than San Jose International and may be offering flights sooner. (as of Sept. 18 commercial flights have resumed in La Paz -ed)
Get out of Cabo by car, bus, bicycle or burro: Forget it. With rain coming down at 11-18 inches per hour and the storm continuing up the peninsula, don’t even attempt a ride a bus to La Paz and northward even if the bus company assures you the road is clear. (as of Sept. 18 one lane is open to La Paz and Los Barriles is cut-off from San Jose due to a collapsed bridge -ed)
There will be numerous washouts of bridges and vados along the way that will allow you the opportunity to bond with your fellow travelers by getting out and pushing the bus.  Tip: Bring boots.  BTW a vado is a low dip in the road that washes out during storms. 
Don’t be clever and try to rent a jeep and think you’ll be Indiana Jones and are going to power your way up the peninsula.  Rental jeeps only go about 50 feet further in the sand and muck before they get stuck like all the rest of the cars.
By Burro – One Englishman school teacher rode, walked and cussed a burro the length of the peninsula (from north to south) several years ago and wrote a charming book about it. This route or paddling a kayak back UP the peninsula would be my preference. Think of the stories you could tell your grandchildren.  About whales, whale sharks, giant squid, dolphins, more sharks, and eating lobster every day along the way. You can rent or purchase kayaks in La Paz. 
By ferry:  When the road to La Paz really opens up, buy a ticket on the ferry to Mazatlan and fly out of the Mazatlan International airport or continue your vacation in Mazatlan. It’s a fun town.  Ferry tickets are sold in Cabo and La Paz. The ferry departs daily. Try to get a stateroom.  
Lessons from hurricanes past:  After you’ve crawled out of your hurricane shelter (the hotel room bathtub) get out of Baja, get out soon and anyway you can. Here’s why.  In the aftermath of previous hurricanes in Los Cabos, power was out for 1-2 weeks, water rationed and there were long lines at the water pumping stations in the arroyos, fights at gas stations, and the grocery stores only had about a week’s supply of food.  It wasn’t pretty.
The disaster experienced Mexican government came through after hurricane Juliette in late September 2001 by bringing in emergency supplies by landing craft from the mainland.  After a week without services in Cabo, I caught a flight to Guadalajara and life was as it should be there.  I returned to Cabo after 2 weeks and Cabo was pretty much back to normal.
Cabo only lost a few palapa restaurants, a few bridges and some hotels had newly planted 30’ palms replanted to inside guest rooms. But 12 people who didn’t evacuate died.  Juliette was a strong contender - a category 4 downgraded to cat 2 when it hit. But one difference was that slow dancing Juliette sat on Los Cabos for 3 days and just bumped and grinded away with winds of 90-115 mph. 

For 3 days we prayed in our rooms that the windows wouldn’t break.Our prayers were answered. The windows didn't break. But we forgot to pray for money so the ATM's didn't work.
Cabo after Odile: It will take 3-4 months for Cabo to be ready to party again. Utility poles and lines need to be replaced, millions of square feet of glass reinstalled, thousands of concrete blocks, cement and paint to repair damage structures, roads fixed and more.  Is all that building material available in Cabo?  No. It has to be brought in from the mainland to La Paz by ferry or 900 miles down the now washed out Baja 2-lane highway from Tijuana.
If you have a Cabo vacation planned for anytime October through January, you might want to consider Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta instead.  Both are traditional Mexican resort towns, and offer all the fun and amenities of Cabo.  And they didn’t have the misfortune of dancing with Odile. 
David Mandich
 Cabo Writer                                                                                                                                      
Cabo Free Press 

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