A well dressed man walks into the Internet cafe and scans the people sitting at all the tables. He instantly heads for our table and greets the man sitting in front of me. They talk for a few seconds and then Pep tells the man “This is Jeffrey. he is my friend.” We shake hands and then the well dress man is off to another table to talk to the person he had come to meet.
Pepe begins to talk with the ever present smile on his face. That was the mayor of the city. While this makes me glance over my shoulder and feel a bit strange that I just met the mayor and didn’t even realize it, the fact that the mayor would come to greet Pepe is no surprise. Pepe seems to know everyone and everyone seems to know Pepe.
I know Pepe because he is the leader of an organization that is trying to save the sea turtles along a 50 kilometer stretch of beach around Los Barriles. He was the one that organized the baby sea turtle release that I attended earlier in the month at which time I asked if he had a website. When he said “No,” I volunteered to meet with him to set one up. He asked how much it would cost and I said that I would do it for free and we would host it so there would be no ongoing costs as my donation and support for the project that he’s created.
Baja Turtles was now live and I was explaining to him and Dori Eagle, an American volunteer helping out with the project, how the admin area worked so that they could set up pages and blog posts in the future.This is how I found myself across from him at the Roadrunner Cafe having just met the Mayor without even realizing it.
As I finish explaining the basics of the blogging software, Pepe announces that he wants to take me to a secret hot spring in the hills if I have time. Never one to pass up an opportunity to go where most tourists never trek, I readily agree and the three of us are off. Pepe explains the we are heading into a national forest preserve, but that there were some people that already lived in the area when the preserve was created. These people still have their land although they are limited in what they are allowed to do with it. Pepe is a friend of one of these land owners who happens to have a hot spring on the river next to his property. Dori, who has been coming to Los Barriles for the past 7 years first heard of the hot spring a year ago, but has never been. Pepe talks non stop the 45 minutes over rough road about the forest preserve, about the ranch and about how he thinks that people would pay to visit the area as we head to the ranch of his friend and the secret hot spring.
We park the car at the ranch and can hear the water from the river nearby. Pepe goes and greets his farmer friend and then we are off to the secret place. a short walk down a dirt path and then over rocks to the river and the hot spring appears. Nothing has been done to it except to make a semi-circle river bed rock wall to enclose the hot spring and pool the warm water. It looks beautiful and the lush vegetation and trees are a surprise compared to the desert landscape that has been surrounding me most of the trip.
The hot spring water is the perfect temperature between warm and hot. It’s warmer than warm so that you aren’t disappointed, but not quite hot where you feel you need to leave after sitting in it for 10 minutes. Both Dori and I start laughing despite ourselves at how perfect this little hidden place is. You just don’t come across secret places like this very often because when they are as beautiful as this, they simply don’t remain secrets no matter how off the beaten track they may be.
I look at Pepe and tell him that the only thing missing is Internet and I would make this my permanent office. He laughs and says he will try and get satellite Internet for me. We spend the next hour soaking in the hot spring, marveling at the beauty and letting the water completely relax our bodies. When it’s time to leave, it takes effort prying us from the water.
On the way back Dori is so relaxed that she falls asleep despite the bumpy road and I realise that by inviting me to his secret hot spring, Pepe has paid me far more than what the website I helped build for him was worth…