OPINION – About four hours south of the border, Bahia San Luis Gonzaga sits calmly as one of The Baja’s little gems.
Quiet and calm, the bay offers sanctuary from the Sea of Cortes, which doesn’t often get angry, but when it does, can rile and extract a heavy toll.
There are few amenities. The bungalows that populate the small, isolated campos that dot the shoreline of this bay, are powered by the sun. You truck in your own water, shut off your phone – because it won’t work out there anyway – and make like the Zak Brown Band with your toes in the water and posterior in the sand.
There is an abundance of fish and clams, so the only time you need to go to the little neighborhood mercado is to replenish your produce, cold cerveza or hot tequila.
The people who spend a lot of time down here come to depend on each other for many things, from helping with fixing things around the beach houses to digging first-timers out of the sand when they get a little too far to the edge of the road and end up buried up to the axle in sand and silt.
They also depend on each other for much more important things; things that can, literally, walk that edge between life and death.
We took a few days last week to enjoy the solitude of the place. Our friends Mike and Barbara, who have California roots, invited Cara and me, along with Joyce and Dan, who come from Idaho, to hang out and experience the tranquility of this semi-tropical beach.
It was idyllic.
There was a gentle breeze, shady veranda and comfortable hammock with a spectacular view of the bay – outdoor living at its best.
But, even in paradise, sometimes things go dreadfully wrong.
Saturday afternoon, while Mike and I fooled around with a couple of guitars, Dan was peering at the water, looking for an elusive whale that had played hide-and-seek with us for a couple of days, lazily rising to the surface to expel water in an explosive poof, then diving deeply again.
What Dan spotted this time, however, was not the beauty of one of God’s greatest creatures, but the hand of Nature at work about 300 yards out.
“Looks like those two out there are in trouble,” he said, pointing at two young people who had somehow toppled the kayak they had rented from the locals.
Immediately, people started reaching for the binoculars on the table in the middle of the veranda.
“Yeah, they’re in trouble all right,” Mike said. “They need some help.”
Mike yelled to his neighbor, an 80-year-old woman named Sonya who is fit and trim and full of vigor: “Go get your boat, we got a couple kids who need some help.”
Watching the two young men flail about was terrifying and I’m sure a lot of prayers went up from those on the shore who saw the drama unfolding in front of them.
But, all we could do at that point was send up a prayer.
Sonya paddled her kayak out to her boat, which was moored offshore. Mike, knowing that it would take a while for her to get to her boat, get it fired up and get out there to the boys, grabbed a single-person kayak from his veranda and, with help from Dan, headed to the beach where they launched it. He was out on the water in a flash.
Mike, who is 74 but lean and muscular after years of construction work, raced across the water.
Meanwhile, I kept tabs on the two guys in the water and was happy to report that they appeared to have life jackets on.
Now, life jackets will keep you afloat, but they do not ensure that you will survive cool water temps or what can happen when somebody in trouble on the water is overtaken by panic, and one of the young men who toppled out of the kayak, was clearly in panic mode.
Mike got there quickly and the two young men clung tightly to his kayak while they waited for Sonya to arrive with her boat. He calmed them and assured them they would be OK, that they would be on shore in no time, which they were, shivering in a couple of beach towels, but safe and sound.
The boys were driven up to rejoin their families while we just sort of sat around and allowed wave upon wave of relief wash upon us.
It all turned out well, thankfully, but it could have been bad, very bad.
The incident was a not-so-gentle reminder about just how fragile this thing called life is and how there are countless unsung heroes among us who are willing to get involved, to preserve the sanctity of life, even for people they had never met.
Make no mistake, Mike and Sonya were heroes that day.
So tonight, instead of being buried in grief and mourning, a family will share a meal, share a few laughs and share a few important “I love yous.”
It certainly got us all to thinking about our trips around the sun, their importance, the impact we can have upon this crazy world we live in, our very small roles in the play called “Life.”
There was a stark reality as we replayed the scenes over and over in our minds of how this beautiful, tranquil setting was, for an agonizingly long few minutes, transformed into a nightmare.
Later in the evening, we were all settled in cozily on the veranda, enjoying each other’s company, a few good songs and more than a few tequila toasts to our newfound heroes.
Somehow, that night’s moon was a little brighter, our smiles a little broader, our hearts a little fuller.
This time, it ended well.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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