Getting Boofed in La Bufadora
Memorial Day Weekend 1994
by Ann Hazard
The following two articles are excerpted from Ann Hazard’s third book, Agave Sunsets. Her other books are Cooking with Baja Magic and Cartwheels in the Sand. She writes regularly for the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Coast News, the Baja Tourist Guide, Baja Traveler Magazine and numerous Baja websites. Her work has also appeared in Sister Cities Magazine, Cedros Review, and the North County Times. She is a resident of San Diego, CA, and La Bufadora, BC. You can get copies of Ann’s books and read her stories at bajamagic.com, or you can order books by calling Ann at 888-736-6433 or 760-944-6711.
La Bufadora you've got my soul;
your waves crash through my mind.
No lights ... no locks ... no phone ... no mail
not even smoke-free dining.
Your rules are etched upon brown hills.
Unspoken code of ethics.
It’s a safe harbor for our hearts.
No fears ... no tears ... no lying.
A magic cove perched all alone.
A place knocked out of time.
Several mornings a week about 10:00 a.m., the buses begin their descent from the crest of Punta Banda into the village of La Bufadora. They disgorge crowd after crowd of tourists who swarm the “Mall,” a row of shops lining the roadway to La Bufadora, or the Blow Hole—one of Mexico’s most visited natural wonders. American and Mexican visitors alike bargain with local shopkeepers for silver jewelry, folk art, curios – souvenirs, blankets, clothes, hammocks, sunglasses and leather goods. They munch on tacos, churros – cinnamon-coated donuts, and chile-sprinkled mangos as they work their way out to the Blow Hole, where – if they’re lucky – they’ll get drenched by one of its roaring blows.
The name La Bufadora actually comes from the verb bufar, which means to snort, so the literal translation is, “The Snorter.” And it does snort, believe me, as the sea is sucked into an underwater cave and erupts into the air. The first time I visited here was back in the mid-‘70s. The only things around then were a couple of outdoor restaurants with rusty metal tables and creaky, folding chairs, lots of flies and a precarious, slippery path that led right down to the water spout. Things have changed a lot since then. With the Mall’s renovation a few years ago, and the addition of electricity soon after, the place is able to offer a lot more to tourists than it did before. Yet, somehow, it still has the flavor and feeling of the Mexico I grew up loving as a child, and missed until I rediscovered La Buf on Memorial Day weekend in 1994.
To gringos like me, who have second homes and trailers at Rancho La Bufadora (a private ranch surrounding Bahía Papalote), it’s a whole different world – a remote, old-style paradise only two hours south of the border. Everywhere between here and there is full of Americanized hotels charging Americanized prices. Here, there are a few houses and trailers to rent that you can ferret out, but there’s no hotel. Most visitors never get any further south than the outdoor deck of one of the many restaurants and taco stands. Let me take you along on a tour....
After you board your tour bus (or point your car south) to La Bufadora, prepare to be awestruck by the beauty that surprises you en route. Heading out of Ensenada, you’ll see groves of olive trees, fields of artichokes, chiles, lettuce and vibrant purple, fuchsia and yellow flowers as you pass through Maneadero and turn right onto a country road. Going west on BC 23 toward the cerro – peak – that crowns Punta Banda – Banded Point, you’ll see more fields and livestock. The impressive, multi-hued Cerro Ramajal Mountains to the south, the crisp blue of the ocean and the winding waterways amid the rushes of the estero – estuary – will take your breath away. After you bounce over the last tope – speed bump – just past the town of Punta Banda, the road snakes along cliffs at the edge of Bahía Todos Santos. The view of Ensenada from here is the best there is. If you came on a cruise ship, you’ll see it waiting at anchor below the huge Mexican flag on the malecón – waterfront boardwalk. If you’re making the drive during the late winter or early spring – look out for migrating gray whales spouting in the turquoise waters below you.
As you begin your descent into La Bufadora, look to the south. See all the little houses and trailers dotting the hillside around the bay? The Blow Hole is down the road to your right. The houses are all on private land owned by the Toscano family of Ensenada. Our patrón is renowned Mexican political satirist and long-time PAN supporter (PAN rose to the forefront in Mexico in July, 2000 when Vicente Fox won the presidency and ended the PRI’s 71-year reign of power), José León Toscano – a.k.a “El Tigre.” He’s over 80 – but he’s still vital, and he loves his rancho. Once you park and finish checking out the shops and the Blow Hole, take a few minutes to sit down at one of the ocean-view restaurants. Order yourself an ice-cold cerveza and look out across the bay.
See the water sparkle as sunrays dance across its surface? Notice how its depth and clarity are revealed by the aquamarine color, accented with cobalt blue? See trails of bubbles rising up from divers exploring the depths below? Whoa! Wasn’t that a seal whose head just popped up through the kelp, surprising a pair of kayakers on their way out to the Blow Hole? See the squadron of pelicans circling the cliffs in formation, and then dive-bombing into the water to scoop up lunch? The craggy terrain may remind you of Greece; the shoreline, for me, also conjures up visions of Big Sur. Are you beginning to get a little more curious about those colorful houses dotting the hillside?
See that dust-covered four-by-four truck heading up the road? Wonder where he’s going? Your eyes follow the cloud of dust until it disappears behind the top row of houses hanging over the edge of the bay, and then reappears briefly, only to disappear again behind a knoll. You see a propane truck winding its way up the hill, honking its horn intermittently. A big black and white truck with “Tony Sanchez” written on its doors lumbers by, liquid sloshing from its rear as it too grinds its way up, bringing water to the houses on the hill.
Unless you know someone who has a casa in Rancho La Bufadora, or unless you’re a tough sort who doesn’t mind camping in the dirt, you probably won’t experience this side of La Buf firsthand. You’ll just soak up the beauty, finish your beer, snap a few pictures and climb back into your car or tour bus. But – if curiosity gets the better of you, and if you start feeling a little tingling in your soul – well, you may be well on your way to getting, as we say in La Bufadora—“boofed.” That’s what happened to me. Nina and John invited me, a friend and her kids to stay in a rental house for the long weekend. As I ate a $1.40 breakfast on the patio of Los Gordos, I watched the scene described above unfold before me. It was beautiful, peaceful, festive, lonely, comforting and magical. My heart stirred, my eyes misted up and in an inexplicable way, I felt I’d come home. Oh yes. I was “boofed!”
One characteristic common to people who visit La Buf is a tendency to stay at least one extra day. We did, and we came back again, again and again that summer. Like a magnet, La Bufadora kept drawing me back. My buddy Jim has a saying: “The more you go to La Bufadora ... the more you go to La Bufadora.” That pretty much sums it up. The raw remoteness of the place sets it apart from the frenzied, chaotic motion of Southern California. Being there relaxed me, right down to the nitty-gritty nooks and crannies of my being. It took me back to an earlier, simpler time when a handshake sealed a deal and people looked out for one other. It epitomized the Baja I’d come to cherish as a child – a Baja I couldn’t find anywhere else that wasn’t at least a 12-hour drive away.
Nina and I ended up buying a house together at the end of that summer. We had to. We’d exhausted all of our houseguest possibilities and had to find a place of our own.