What a perfect place for a walk on the beach! The sand was white, fine and warm between our toes as we walked out on Playa Algodones, so named because of its resemblance to cotton. We walked on the damp, firmer sand by the water, letting the gentle waves of the Sea of Cortez, also warm, wash over our feet. The slight breeze over the water cooled us off just enough in the moist heat of midday. We began our walk at the Plaza San Carlos Hotel, on the south end of the beach. Some call it Catch-22 Beach, because it’s near where the film crew worked back in the 1960’s to film Catch-22, starring Alan Arkin. There are supposedly some old falling apart buildings a ways inland from the beach, all that remains of the set. But we were more interested in staying on the beach. We’d heard that the old Club Med a mile or so north had sustained serious damage during Hurricane Marty last fall. We wondered if they were open, and if the damage would be visible.
As we walked on, we spotted a most unusual sight: a pickup truck halfway in the water. There were people all around it, and as we got closer, we noticed another, smaller pickup on the sand was chained to it and the driver was getting ready to try to pull it out. Plenty of people were trying to help. Apparently what had happened was that the man who drove the pickup into the waves was unloading a jet-ski-boat into the water. When he tried to drive back up onto firmer ground, the truck’s wheels just kept spinning in the soft wet sand, digging in deeper. As luck would have it, the tide was coming in. When we arrived at the scene, the smaller pickup was expending mighty effort, its engine revving high; sand and water were spraying in the air from the churning tires of the truck in the water, and as many people as could get their hands on the back of the truck were pushing for all they were worth. After several of these attempts, it became clear that the truck in the water wasn’t budging, and if anything, sinking deeper in. Someone went to see about getting another truck, and a couple of other guys went to ask some construction people for help. We decided there probably wasn’t a whole lot we could do, so we walked on.
A couple of hours later, we wondered as we approached the area on our return walk. Would we see the truck floating out to sea? Would we hear it had become hopelessly waterlogged and sank? Or did it somehow manage to get pulled out? We spotted one of the guys who had gone to see the construction crew, and walked over to where he was sitting in the sand with a friend. He said they’d managed to get the truck out, and pointed. Sure enough, there it stood, high and dry, well away from the surf, appearing none the worse for its ordeal. They’d gotten a couple of 2-by-6’s from the construction guys. They were able to place these under the tires, and a second pickup arrived with a chain. The combined effort of the two trucks plus the boards and people pushing from behind were enough to finally free the hapless pickup from the waves. So with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of effort, no calls for official help were needed and the day was saved for the owner of the truck and his family!
Evidence of hurricane damage was already in sight as we continued our walk up the beach. The aforementioned construction crew was rebuilding a structure, one of many in a row of vacation rentals along the beach. Just past a yellow cubular building which turned out to be a restaurant, we came upon another vehicle. A shiny, black SUV had been left stuck in the soft sand. Was there no end to this? On our way back, we witnessed the happy ending to this story. It only took one pickup with a chain to pull the SUV onto firmer ground.
The coast curved eastwards; to the west was a rocky peninsula and some islands, one full of pelicans. We took some photos with the zoom, but wished we’d brought our binoculars. To the east and within the curve of the coastline appeared the old Club Med. We crossed a wooden bridge and continued walking on the path… past very quiet, isolated guest rooms. Under palms and past flowering hibiscus, we eventually spotted a couple of young women, one pushing a baby stroller up the path towards us. They said they weren’t staying here, and didn’t really know what was going on, but thought they had been open recently. Finally we got to the pool and the bar. Dozens of white plastic lounge chairs surrounded the attractive pool, all empty, the pool empty too, but for the water. One solitary guy manning the bar told us this was El Paradiso, bought only one year ago after Club Med fell into disrepair. Three months later, Hurricane Marty blew up the Sea of Cortez on September 21, 2003, causing major damage in many ports along the way. The bar and the resort were again open, but there was still work to be done repairing some of the more heavily damaged rooms as well as the fitness center. Eventually, two young men in swim trunks came out to use the pool – they had it all to themselves. We turned to walk back along Los Algodones Beach, leaving El Paradiso, with its eerie ghost-town feel.