Robbery and The Whales

La Maresita, our little white water taxi with its green canopy and vibrant red sun-faded shag carpeting, sped across the water.

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We were racing so fast out into the ocean that with every wave we hit we were jolted in our seats. The waves were getting bigger and the impacts became so strong that each one made a loud cracking sound against the bottom of the boat. Eventually, we hit one so hard that I was actually concerned that the hull would split at any moment, leaving floating by our life vests in the ocean until we could be rescued. I looked over at Matt and saw the look of fear on his face. I knew at that point, I had to do something.

The previous weekend I had gone out and partied a little too hard. When Monday morning rolled around, I woke up to discover that my debit card was missing. I went back around to all the clubs and bars that I remembered going out to, and then to the ones that I possibly didn’t remember. I searched high and low trying to track down my card but, to no avail. My card was gone, vanished into to the aether and it wasn’t coming back. I now had no way to access the money in my bank account and was down to only sixteen dollars in my wallet. You can live pretty cheaply in Mexico but, not on sixteen dollars. I needed to figure out how to get money and I needed to figure it out soon.

As the evening rolled around, I came to terms with the fact that there was nothing I could do about it that night. I decided to put my worries aside and went out for drinks with Oscar, A.K.A. “Azul,” a local friend with a blue-tip-dyed Don-Quixote-style goatee. With the financial position I was now in, Azul and his friends generously treated me to a few drinks throughout the night.

We were out until about 3:00 am when we decided to call it a night and Azul offered to drop me off at my van. We rode in the “Purple Haze,” his 1980 Ford Fairmobt with it’s vibrant purple paint job.

We got back to my van and I hopped out of the Purple Haze only to discover glass shattered all over the sidewalk next to my van. The front passenger side window had been completely broken out and my van had been robbed.

Everything I owned was in my van and the thieves got away with a decent portion of it. They had cleared out everything in the front cab before they opened the curtains to discover the wealth of my living space in the back.

It appeared that by that point they were in a hurry. They ransacked the back of my van, snatched anything out in the open that the robber inside could be easily hand to robber waiting outside. They tore through and tossed everything around, likely looking for a hidden stash of drugs or money, neither of which I possessed.All in all, they got away with my backpack and laptop, every shirt I owned except for the one on my back, my motorcycle helmet, a space heater, and plenty of other stuff that held more value to me than any amount of money they would get from selling it all.

My van was my home. It was my sanctuary. No matter were I ended up along my travels, I knew that I could always return to the comfort and safety of my tiny little home on wheels. That illusion of security though, was now shattered all over the sidewalk. As soon as I saw the inside of my home trashed and turned inside out, I went into shock. I didn’t know what to do.

Azul told me that I could safely park outside his house for the night, so I followed him behind the Purple Haze in my van. As we drove through the back streets of downtown Cabo, Azul was soon pulled over by the police for not having his headlights on.

I didn’t want to stop and interact with the local police, so I looped around the block. By the time I came back around, the police had let Azul go. He was parked next to the curb waiting for me. But, he wasn’t the only one.

The same police that had just let Azul go were now parked with their headlights off down a side street waiting for me to come back around. As I did, they pulled out behind me and popped on there headlights along with their red and blues.

They pulled me over right as I pulled up behind the Purple Haze. The officers spoke very little English, so Azul did all the talking for me. They said that I was driving in the wrong lane on a one way street and insisted on confiscating my license.

Azul tried to explain our situation, hoping they might show just a shred of sympathy and let us on or way but, they had their own agenda and were sticking to it.

They asked why we didn’t call the police when we discovered that my van had been broken into. Azul told them that we just wanted to get out of there and get to a more secure location for the night. The truth though, was that we knew better than to call the police for anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, especially in the middle of the night. The situation we were now in was the very reason why.

These officers had no interest helping us. Their only concern was in helping themselves. They told Azul that they were going to write me an infraction and keep my license. After about ten or fifteen minutes of bargaining with them, Azul was able to talk them into taking a twenty dollar bribe.

Azul gave them the twenty dollars, they handed back my license, and we were once again on our way.

The next evening, Azul’s friend Veronica showed me to the nice, quiet little neighborhood dirt road outside of her apartment, where I would park my van, mostly undisturbed, for the remainder of my stay in Cabo. After showing me to my new parking location, we headed to Sangria’s, a literal hole in the wall and, hands down, my favorite bar in Cabo, where Azul works as the lead bartender.

As I sat at the bar feeling justifiably down on my luck, an Eagle’s music video played on the television behind the bar. Hearing the Eagle’s as they walked passed, a middle-age couple stopped to listen. After the video ended, they were on their way again but, the woman had unknowingly left behind a bag of souvenirs that she had just recently bought.

In an instant, Azul snatched up the bag and bolted up the sidewalk after them, leaving me and Veronica to watch after the bar. He caught up with them, returned the bag to her, and was back at the bar mere moments later.

Only a minute or two after Azul returned, the couple did as well. They were so grateful that they came back to give Azul more business as they generously tipped him throughout the night. Their only caveat was for Azul to continue playing the man’s favorite Eagle’s songs.

Hours went by as the man ranted on about his knowledge of his favorite bands and regaled Azul with story after story about the best concerts he had ever attended. As the man carried on, his girlfriend started chatting with me. Fascinated with my plans of traveling the world, we quickly became instant friends.

Charmene and her boyfriend Matt were in Cabo vacationing for the week, as they did every year of the past fourteen years that they have been together. She told me the charming story about how they dated briefly in high school before they each parted ways to live their own separate lives. But, they had made such a strong impression on each other during that short time in high school that fate eventually brought them back together.

Throughout the night, I bonded with Matt and Charmene as we got to know each other over drinks. At some point, they mentioned that they wanted to do something fun for their last full day in town. They were in luck as I realized a perfect opportunity for all three of us.

My friend Justin owns the little white water taxi with the green canopy that the previous owner named La Maresita (The Little Seas). At some point, Justin put a big piece of bright red shag carpeting over La Maresita’s stern that, along with her green canopy, makes his boat standout as one of the most unique water taxis in the San Lucas Marina.

Just a few days before my van had been broken into, I expressed to Justin an interest in helping him book water tours for La Maresita. He told me that whale watching tours booked for up to $60 per person. The “house” cut was $30 per person, which would earn me a $60 commission if both Matt and Charmene wanted to go on a tour together. Which they did!

The next morning before they arrived to meet up with me at the marina, I met Justin’s business partner, Gabriel, only discover some confusion about the tour pricing. What I apparently didn’t know was that the whale watching tours were $60 per person, if the boat had a minimum six passengers.

Gabriel told me that they could not send the boat out on an hour-and-a-half whale watching tour for less than $120 per tour. The commission that I was relying on to hold me over until I could sort out my current financial situation all of a sudden dropped from $60 to nothing in zero seconds flat. I was devastated. But, I was also determined to follow through on the promise I made to Matt and Charmene to take them out on an awesome tour.

As if everything I have ever known and learned throughout life simply shut down and the backup generator of my natural instincts kicked in, it was like was suddenly now a master negotiator. I was going to take Matt and Charmene on the tour that I promised, I was going to make my commission, and I wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer.

I explained to Gabriel the situation of whatever this miscommunication was. I told him that, if the house could take $60 for this one tour, just this one time, I would book more tours for them in the future and bring in a lot more profits for them than they would make off of just this one tour. Despite Gabriel’s reluctance, we finally settled on cutting the tour down to just one hour for $70 which, after the $10 case of beer that I also promised to Matt and Charmene, left me with a $40 comission in my pocket. Good enough.

I never was able to book another tour for La Maresita. Unfortunately not due to a lack of trying but, whatever.

Matt and Charmene showed up soon thereafter and the three of us boarded the boat. Not too happy about the results of our negotiations, Gabriel told the boat’s captain to make sure the tour was a fast one. The captain certainly made sure of it as we soon found ourselves racing out onto the ocean dangerously fast for the kind of boat we were in.

As La Maresita sped across the water and banged harder and harder against wave after wave, I became concerned about the experience Matt and Charmene were having. I looked over and saw Charmene’s discomfort and the worried look on Matt’s face. It was clear I needed to do something to turn this situation around.

With a sense of excitement, I yelled over the sound of the wind and the crashing waves, “ISN’T THIS GREAT?!You’ll never have an adventure like this on one of those big fancy boats!”

I couldn’t believe it but, it worked. As Matt processed my words, I could see the tension in his body starting to relax and a smile beginning to form on his face. This was suddenly no longer the start to what was turning out to be a bad experience, it was now the beginning of a wild adventure!

Right then, we hit another wave, so hard this time that if we had hit it any harder, I’m certain we would have all ended up with whiplash.

“If you feel like we’re going too fast, just let me know and I’ll tell the captan to slow down,” I yelled to Matt.

“No, it’s fine,” Matt feigned.

I then looked back at the captain and stared him down with an evil glare. With a agreeing nod, he acknowledged that we were going too fast and dropped the throttle down to about half its previous speed.

We were now zipping along at a comfortable cruising speed and within minutes came upon a school of at least thirty dolphins crossing our path. Charmene was absolutely thrilled and I could tell by both of their excitement that our ocean adventure, despite its rocky start, was suddenly turning worthwhile.

Shortly after passing the dolphins, we approached a circling of other larger, fancier boats each crowded with large groups of tourists. I could tell by this little collective, we had reached our whale watching destination. Or, so I thought.

I had never been on a whale watching tour before and simply assumed by the name that we would go out on the ocean, park the boat in some kind of designated whale watching area and would simply sit and spot whales as they surfaced off in the distance.

Gabriel had told Charmene and Matt upfront that there was no guarantee that they would see any whales. The tour boats had no control over their habits and these wild creatures had no obligations to adhere to our one hour tour schedule.

We sat there amongst the circling of other boats, waiting and wondering if we would actually see any whales, when suddenly our boat’s co-captain yelled something in Spanish as he pointed off into the distance. Before we could even see what he was pointing at, the captain had the boat racing again, full speed in its direction. It was our first pair of whales!

Suddenly, any fears we previously had of the waters beneath us vanished in the instant that we were back in motion. Now, over much less choppy waters, Matt and I stood at the head of La Maresita’s stern, bracing our balance with one hand on the canopy’s frame and the other pointing out in the direction of the whales.

“This is great!” Matt shouted as we raced across the water, “Yeah, you don’t get this experience on those bigger boats!”

“We’re right on their level. They are right there and they are as big as our boat!” Charmene exclaimed excitedly.

“Are you kidding? They’re bigger than the boat!” Matt responded.

For the remainder of the tour, we raced with the other boats as each one attempted to be the first to get to the whale surfacing locations.

As Charmene took as many pictures as she could, Matt commentated the experience with remarks such as, “This is what it was like in the past! They went whaling on small boats like this. Not on big boats like those. It’s like we’re in Moby Dick! Could you imagine if we speared a whale in a boat this size?!”

“Spear a whale that size in a boat this small,” I remarked, “and it’s taking us for a ride!,” to which Matt nodded excitedly.

When we returned to the marina and docked La Maresita, Matt and Charmene were still so excited and happy with their tour experience that they tipped the captain, the co-captain, and me each an extra $20.

As we left the marina, Matt invited me to join them for lunch. I told them I knew of a great place and prompted them to follow me. As we broke away from Cabo’s main tourist area, Matt asked me where we were going. “Just a block this way,” I told him, to which he asked, “How is it that I’ve been coming here for over ten years and yet you’re introducing us to parts of Cabo and restaurants we’ve never been to, after only being here for three weeks?”

Seated at our table, I revealed the secret about this restaurant’s menus. I told them that the host is going to bring us the menus that they give to the tourists but, we are going to ask for the “A la Carte Menu.”

From the tourist menu, printed in English, the restaurant charges between $12 to $20 per plate which, to be honest, really isn’t bad for as good as the food is at this restaurant. But, by ordering off the A la Carte Menu, printed in Spanish, we would have our fill of the best selection of entrées at the locals rate for less than half of what they charge the tourists.

Regardless, Matt found exactly what he wanted on the tourist menu while Charmene and I ordered our fill of the most incredible smoked Marlin and other types of seafood tacos and quesadillas off the A la Carte Menu. Throughout the meal, Charmene poured shots of Don Julio from a bottle she brought with her in her purse. We shared tequila shots with the very grateful wait staff and when the bill came, Matt’s jaw literally dropped.

“Is this right?” he asked the server. It was likely the least he has ever paid for one of the best meals they have ever had in the over ten years that they have been vacationing in Cabo. The bill was so low in fact, that Matt chuckled as he put down a tip that over doubled the bill.

After lunch we were all exhausted from our day of adventure. Matt and Charmene thanked me for an amazing experience and headed back to their resort. I headed back to my van with $60 fresh dollars in my wallet, having made two incredible new friends that I still keep in touch with.

After I lost my debit card and had my van broken into, I don’t know what I would have done without Azul, Veronica, and Matt and Charmene’s friendship and generosity.

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