Day 1 - Sacramento to Las Arenas Resort via Phoenix and La Paz

The first snafu of this trip occurred before the trip actually began. As usual, I had planned everything out on a schedule to be sure I did everything I needed to do before I left Sacramento. The schedule showed that I should call the Las Arenas representative in San Diego on Saturday morning to be sure that I was still scheduled to be met at the La Paz airport on Monday for a transfer to the resort. I have always had dark fears about not being met at a foreign airport as planned. When I called, I discovered that the office was CLOSED for the weekend. This immediately triggered a mini heart attack!

Before this happened, I was up at 5 AM as scheduled. It was a sunny September morning and still warm like summer. I was on my way to the Sacramento Airport (SMF) by 7:30.

At SMF, the parking and hike to the terminal went OK and I checked-in at America West at 8:00 AM. At Phoenix, I would transfer from America West to Aeromexico and I wanted to be sure that my bag would be transferred properly so it would be in La Paz, Mexico when I arrived. The bag-tag the gal put on my bag was not very legible but she assured me it would be OK.

At 9:00 AM we climbed aboard the 737 jet for the 647-mile flight (1-hr/48min) to Phoenix. We took off at 9:45 AM.

At 9:50 AM, we had a nice view of Folsom Lake on take-off.

At 10:10 AM, we were over Lake Tahoe.

At 10:30 AM, we had a nice view of Las Vegas below in the Nevada desert.

At 10:45 AM, we were over the Colorado River and heading into Arizona.

At 11:30 AM, we were coming in for landing at Phoenix and I got a quick look at its new stadium with its retractable roof. It had been several years since I’d been to Phoenix and the airport was much larger and different.

It was a long hike to the international terminal to find Aeromexico, which was at the last gate in the concourse—not a new experience! I had some problems understanding the Mexican-English at check-in, but it went OK.

At 12:30 PM, we boarded the MD-80 Aeromexico jet and took off at 1:05 PM for the 650-mile (3-hour) flight to La Paz, Baja Mexico. Just after take-off, I got some quick views of Southern Arizona between Phoenix and Mexico and then it was solid overcast.

At 2:30 PM, we were circling for a landing. I knew that we were to make one stop before La Paz – at a small city called Guaymas. It was located along the coast of the Gulf of California on the NE corner of the Mexican mainland. They made some announcements over the intercom in Mexican-English that I did not understand. However, I assumed that this was a passenger stop and after the stop, the plane would proceed to La Paz. So I sat back in my seat and waited.

The airport outside was a small rinky-dink affair with one small brick building with no signs. Suddenly, I realized that everyone was leaving the plane but me. Somebody motioned for me to follow, so I did. This turned out to be the airport where we had to clear Mexican customs. Only one person at the airport spoke English – everyone else was speaking Spanish. From this point on, I would understand very few of the word spoken each day.

At 3:00 PM, everyone climbed back aboard the plane and at 3:15 PM, we took off for La Paz.

At 3:20 PM, I got my first look at the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). It is a huge body of water – much bigger than Lake Tahoe or the Great Salt Lake. Then it was solid cloud cover again.

At 4:00 PM, we descended for landing. Suddenly, a shocker—there was rain on the windows. I had been checking Baja’s weather for weeks before this trip and there had not been any mention of rain. But here I was almost to La Paz and it was raining. Most of the time, fishing and rain do not go well together.

At 4:00 PM (5:10 PM in La Paz), we were on the ground. The rain had stopped but there were large puddles everywhere.

I followed a small group of Mexicans through a second Mexican customs. Suddenly, someone wanted to look in my big bag. I opened it and somebody wanted to know what was in all of my tin cans, but I did not have to open them. My tin cans held food for evening snacks, such as cookies and hot chocolate.

Now I was through customs and at the critical point where I was supposed to meet my transfer to Las Arenas. I was praying that there was someone there to meet me. A slim Mexican passed me with a glance and then came back for a second look when he saw that I was the only one to be met. He turned out to be a real godsend for me. His name was Gabriel and he said he was part of the Las Arenas “family”.

He was the hustler type and knew exactly how to maneuver me to his advantage, but in this case, it was also to my advantage. I could not drink the water at Las Arenas and I needed a supply of water and Pepsis for my stay in Baja. At 73 years old and anticipating spicy food, I could not take the chance of drinking the Mexican water and possibly making the inevitable digestive issues worse. Gabriel headed straight to the nearest Mexican “Super Mercado” and I loaded up on a supply of both. I had no Mexican Pesos yet, but Gabriel took care of that.

After the market stop, I climbed into Gabriel’s van and we took off toward the Las Arenas Resort. It was about a 50-mile drive and the 2-lane paved road we were on for the first 25 miles turned to a dirt trail through the desert. The recent rain had made it wet and slippery, but Gabriel still went as fast as the van could go. I was surprised to see that the Baja landscape was a continuation of the beautiful Sonoran Desert that I had seen in Southern Arizona. There were cacti everywhere and the Saguaro was one of the dominant plants.

Gabriel spoke his own brand of Mexican-English and I struggled to understand him as we continued along the road to Las Arenas.

It was 6:30 PM and close to dusk when we pulled in front of the Las Arenas Resort. At the check-in office, I once again had a communication problem. None of their English was very clear to me, but after some discussion, I finally was given a fishing pole and told that my Panga skipper would be Manuel (Man-well). Breakfast would be served at 5:00 AM the next morning and I would then be taken to the beach near the lighthouse to meet up with Manual. It was almost dark by the time I got to my 2nd floor room overlooking the Sea of Cortez—it was 7:00 PM.

I had made a list of questions that I needed answers to for my 3-days of fishing in Baja. Unfortunately, because of the language barrier, I never did get some of them answered. It was a major frustration of the trip to NEED information, but not be able to get it because I could not speak the language. However, now that I was here at Las Arenas, some things had become clear to me.

The resort was a contradiction. It was an impressive structure located on a beautiful site on the shoreline of the Sea of Cortez but it did not have hot running water. It was located in Baja Mexico where the daily temperatures can exceed 100 degrees, but it had no air conditioning. The road out of the resort was only partly paved and part mud-hole. I had paid for 2 days of fishing on a Panga boat and 1 day on a more expensive Super Panga, but now I was being told that all fishing was on the same boat. These were difficult issues to come to terms with in a foreign country; however, I was about to find out that three days of excellent fishing made all of those worries seem irrelevant.

Although the language barrier combined with my bad hearing prevented me from understanding much of anything throughout the trip, I was still able to catch some magnificent fish in the Sea of Cortez. In fact, the good fishing more than made up for the lack of a hot shower and the mix-up regarding boat size. Additionally, there was a nice cooling breeze coming in from the Sea of Cortez that allowed me to forget about the lack of air conditioning—it was actually hotter back in Sacramento.

At 8:00 PM, I walked over to the dining room for my first “included” dinner at the Resort. I had gone all day without an airline meal and I was hungry. I ended-up having a bowl of homemade mushroom soup with lots of crackers and a very good dish of lasagna with a hot roll. I skipped the salad to avoid the lettuce that was presumably washed with the local water and then went back to my room for a warm Pepsi, hot chocolate, and cookies—a nice snack before turning-in. After a lot of clean-up chores and a long first day of travel, I got to bed at about midnight. Overall, my day started at 5:00 AM in Sacramento and ended in Baja at 12:00 AM.

Overall, it had been a good first day. There had been obstacles, but no major disasters. Despite the language barrier, I understood enough to get to Las Arenas. Meeting Gabriel and getting the water and Pepsis I needed was a real break. The resort had its issues, but it turned out to be a great fishing site. Despite my fears, my old gray bag was waiting for me when I arrived in La Paz, and health-wise I felt good all day with no real urgency or other problems.

Next ---- >


Sacramento America West Counter
I could not read what the lady wrote on my bag tag, but she assured me it would make it to La Paz.

America West 737 at SMF
It was a nice morning for flying out of California's Central Valley.

air9 air8 air7

Folsom Lake from Above
1-Folsom Dam, 2-Doton Point, 3-The peninsula where I would fish 3 weeks later.

Colorado River
We were somewhere over Southern Nevada.

air4 air5

Colorado River
We were somewhere over Southern Nevada.

Colorado River
We were somewhere over Southern Nevada.

airport1 copper bajataxi bajamarket1 lasarenas

Colorado River
We were somewhere over Southern Nevada.

Colorado River
We were somewhere over Southern Nevada.


Transport from the La Paz Airport to Las Arenas
Gabriel and his Van

A Local Super Market
I loaded up on Pepsi and bottled water.

My 2nd floor view at Las Arenas
The Sea of Cortez and Cerralvo Island are in the background.

Entrance to the Resort
Las Arenas was at the end of a long dirt road (above right).



browse memoirs by: