By Greg Niemann
El Requesón, Bahía Concepción – May, 1978
“Here’s one,” Leila said, “Left foot.”
So I dove down, felt her left foot and pulled the small clam out of the sand beneath her toes. The water was only waist deep and the little sandy bay was filled with succulent butter clams.
We’d only been at it about 15 minutes and already the plastic sack was getting heavy. We just waded in the tepid water, wiggled our toes until we felt something hard, and reached down to extract a clam. These were not the big Pismo clams I had often found along the broad Pacific beaches, but enough of these small ones would make for just as tasty a meal, nonetheless.
We were on Conception Bay (Bahía Concepción), a beautiful arm of the Sea of Cortez between Mulegé and Loreto. Travelers driving south most often stop at Santispac, the first campsite as you approach the bay. Santispac also has the most amenities for RVs, and sometimes in the winter you can see lots of those rolling aluminum boxes parked by the water.
El Coyote, farther south, is perhaps the prettiest cove reached by car along this side of the sparkling clear bay. But a couple years previous to this trip I had found the troublesome no-see-ums (gnats) there so thick you could see-um. They were so numerous they looked like a dark menacing cloud massing for attack. Result: No-see-ums, 1, Me, zero. So my buddy and I left, heading south.
Ergo, it was by default on that previous trip I discovered El Requesón farther south. It’s just a sand spit separating a very shallow cove on the left with a larger one on the right. The spit goes out to a small rocky island, but for most people the sand spit is the destination.
A half dozen palapas were sitting at water’s edge on each cove, perhaps a dozen in all. On the sand spit there is nothing else, no vegetation to attract the insects, just sand and sun.
We were on our way home
Leila and I were traveling north, on the final days of our first trip together. It had been a fun trip, with all those little adventures that Baja travelers enjoy. Sometimes we camped and some nights we stayed in hotels, but most important, we got to see each other in times of stress and adversity as well as times of fun and frivolity.
We’d been stuck in the sand, been lost, had car trouble, and sometimes were hot, tired and irritable. How we weathered those minor crises was definitely noticed by the other, and from that character-awareness trip, romance blossomed.
So heading north, we were almost totally out of food and planned to spend a little time in the water at that beautiful little sand spit of El Requesón, and then continue to head up the road to a store and then either camp at Santispac or get a motel in Mulegẻ.
Then we started finding the clams. After a while, we’d filled the plastic bag. Back at my little MGB which resolutely and stubbornly survived the round trip of the Baja peninsula, Leila rummaged through our remaining few provisions.
“We’ve got some crackers,” she said. “And some hot sauce and some limes. Why don’t we just cook up those clams and just camp right here?”
It was this type of response that told me I was traveling with a winner, not a whiner. She was definitely stroking up points in the “keeper” department. I knew she could fit in beautifully in social occasions. Now, in a manner of speaking, she was being “Baja-tested” and winning the battle of Baja.
That may sound cold and heartless, but that’s what courtship is, a period to determine compatibility. All individuals going through courtship look long and hard at the other’s actions and reactions. At least they should.
My actions were being scrutinized as well. Leila mentioned later that she was impressed when we were stuck in the sand earlier in the trip near San Quintín. I didn’t throw a tantrum, just calmly and methodically went about taking care of the onerous situation.
We camped right there
So we set up camp under the palapa, just rolling our sleeping bags out on the soft, shady sand. We let the clams soak to get as much grit out as possible, changing the water several times.
We found an old tin grate and I set about making a small fire. The bottom of our bucket quickly turned black with soot, but the clams steamed open as we watched and prepared our plates with crackers and limes.
Darkness was falling and the full moon became a bright white beacon as we sat on the sand with our legs crossed under us, holding our platters of clams and crackers. There were no tablecloths, not even a table. There were no fancy implements, nor even condiments. There were no candles, but the fire below our feet still sparkled. It was the most romantic dinner I ever had!
(Update: We were married the following April and celebrate our 40th this year.)
Greg Niemann, a long-time Baja writer, is the author of Baja Fever, Baja Legends, Palm Springs Legends, Las Vegas Legends, and Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS. Visit www.gregniemann.com.