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Author Topic: Mercy of the Wolves: SHTF in Los Cabo San Lucas  (Read 1598 times)


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Mercy of the Wolves: SHTF in Los Cabo San Lucas
« on: September 19, 2014, 05:32:33 pm »
This post might be a little disjointed, as I'm copying it from an APS board.  Some Q&A in other posts is referenced or quoted.

But this is my AAR from riding out Odile in San Lucas, and escaping the aftermath.

So yes, I survived Cabo.
It was a wild assed ride.

First couple days were great.  We knew a TS had formed, but it wasn't forcast to do much besides mess up our fishing on sunday. 
So, saturday rolls around.  I get my Marlin

Saturday afternoon, after we have lunch we find out they closed the Cabo harbor.
Storm still forecast to miss us by a decent margin.
Sunday rolls around, we hear that the storm his moving along at a fast clip.  Cat I and might glance off us.  No biggie for us Texas boys, we get spring showers like that.  We check on flights anyway, but all outbound flights are booked with no new flights coming in.

Sunday afternoon, panic starts to set in.  There is a run on the grocery store, gas stations.  We get word that the storm has intensified.  Not sure how strong.
I make the suggestion that we rent a car and run.  We decide not to, as it's a long run up the coast.  Big mistake, but hindisght is 20/20, right?
Worse, we hit the grocery store, but don't stock up on too much.
Well, afternoon rolls around, and we find out the storm is a cat III or IV, and is boresighting cabo.

Evening hits, and the *expletive deleted* it gets gnarly.  We are in a nice house high on a hill.  Winds whip up from the east, and hit at least 100mph, caving in a double set of patio doors on the second floor.  We retreat to the main floor.
Wind shifts after tearing up the up stairs on the East side of the house to the south-east, and proceeds to blow out a series of 6x6 windows.  Debris is banging off the house, and the entire concrete structure is shaking.
Wind blows the door separating the floors off the hinges and begins raining debris into the downstairs.  Another hour and it shifts again, from the south.  Blows several more windows and a set of sldiing doors in.  More debris, grass, glass, and rain.  Water has accumulated upstairs and is pouring into two of the bedrooms.  We've got one bedroom that is dry and debris-free.
This goes on over a period of about 5 hours.

Monday, we assess the damage.  The 1/2 million dollar house we're staying in is trashed.  Few windows survived, there's large pieces of thick glass everywhere, and debris and trash littering the area.
Decor and furniture tossed around and wrecked.  Furniture tossed out of the house.  Glass coffee table tossed into a wall.  Dogs and cats living together.

We clean up and head to the Marina to check on the boat and see what the damage looks like.

We had spotty cell coverage all day monday.  I think it still hadn't hit how serious conditions were, though.  We started seeing a little light looting, but not much beyond that.  The airline even rescheduled our flight to thursday.
Fat *expletive deleted*ing chance.
Tuesday rolled around, and it started getting hot.  We had a couple days of eats and water.
We started seeing planes going into the airport, so we ventured down the hill to the major intersection, where we saw taxis coming out of the airport road.  (we were about 10 miles from the airport).  We flagged one down and they told us it was all military stuff, so we went back to la casa.  After a while, we saw and identfied at least two AeroMexico flights.  Hmm.  Interesting.  So we went back down the hill.  Directly across the highway on the road we used to get out was a resort.  Bryan spotted some Caucasians with luggage out front.  We slammed on the breaks. That's *expletive deleted*ing odd.
I hopped out and asked around.  The hotel had word that evacuations were being conducted for tourists from the airport. 
Okay, we're getting somewhere.  So we checked around more but couldn't confirm it.  Started scheming to get a taxi, but none would take us. 
Went back to the resort and grilled the hotel guy who told us that.  They confirmed that they'd already taken a load of people there and it was in fact an evacuation.
What what in the butt? 

We packed our meager belongings and bailed. 
I tucked my passport in my pocket just in case I couldn't take my carry-on sized suitcase.  Wasn't a factor, but I felt like it was a smart move anyway.
We got a neighbor with a full tank to run us to the airport.  She is an expat and sticking it out.  Paid her well and gave her a bunch of stuff we left behind.  She did ask us to make some phone calls to her family, which we were able to do last night and today.
Anyway, so the airport.
Activity was buzzing.  Airplanes coming and going, Federales everywhere (and *expletive deleted* ck they were actually helpful and never asked for a bribe!  :laugh: )

And yes, you read that right.  In just over 24 hours, the mother *expletive deleted*ing Mexican government had cleared the runways and movement areas at the airport and was ramping up a large scale evacuation.  Did I mention that approximately 30,000 tourists were estimated stranded in the Cabo San Lucas area?
There was still plenty of chaos to be had, though.  Lines were formed for Mexico City, Tijuana, Guadalajara, and even Monterrey.  Aircraft were a mix of Mexican flagged airliners, as well as Mexican Navy birds. 
Private jets were arriving even, and we saw a miserable looking Robin Thyke getting whisked away to his G4.  He looked just as s___ty as the rest of us.

We bounced from line to line working the system and eventually ended up in the Guadalajara line, with just about enough people to fill a 737.  Most seemed bent on TJ, expecting to drive to San Diego from there, or Mexico City for it's large amount of connections. 
In the end, we were given a chance to fill up a 737-800 bound for Mexico city and jumped.  We arrived at the Cabo airport at about 2pm and boarded a flight out at about 630.

2 hours later, we were on final into Mexico City when an elderly passenger on the plane had a heart attack.  That prompted an emergency landing.   But we made it into the gate post haste, and spent last night in a real hotel with running water in Mexcio City.

Don't underestimate a hurricane.  Ideally, we should have gotten the *expletive deleted* ck out of dodge.  We could have bounded up the Penisula and turned around if the storm veered. 
Alternately, we should have laid in water and supplies as soon as we realized what was going to go down.  We should have been prepared to spend at least 2 weeks there, and we weren't.
Shoes.  I brought tennis shoes on the trip, and felt a *expletive deleted* it ton better wearing those around.  My buddy wore flip flops because that was all he had, and ended up with severe blisters on his feet.
Be prepared to ditch everything and go.  We saw people hauling surf boards, multiple suitcases, and golf clubs.  For hours on a hot parking lot waiting to maybe get on an airplane.  I had all my clothes in a carry on, and my passport on my person.  If they had said "No luggage" I'd have dropped my bag in a heart beat to get on a flight out. 
Pay attention, get intel, and when in doubt, recon.  If we had stayed holed up, we'd still be there.
Make friends.  We met the lady that gave us the ride on monday and were very friendly with her. She's sweet as can be, and didn't hesitate to take us to the airport.
We also made friends in line.  I gave some water to an elderly lady and to a man who'd had heat exhaustion earlier in the day.  When we were checking on stuff, they saved our spot in line without hesitation.  We spoke to several people who were fluent in spanish and got them on our side, which made communication with the officials a lot easier (Bryan speaks some spanish but isn't fluent, I speak less but can ask basic questions).

Feel free to ask questions on anything you think I might have left out.


RE: Family
My gut says that we would have ran north.  Worst case, we got to sight see, and return to the AO again in the morning.  But of course, looking back now, that seems like such an easy call.  I'm certainly less inclined to put my family in any chance of harm's way.  We live well inland here and I'd prefer them to bail for anything larger than a 2.
The roads didn't seem jammed, but we weren't on a main exit route.  I think that we could have headed north to La Paz and up the Baja from there, but I'm guilty of not studying a map of the area.  Planning additional exfil routes wasn't a priortiy.  Looking at it now, it would have been a straight shot up highway 1 for us. 

Glad ya'll are OK man, could have been a lot worse.

I take it one of the sunk boats was ya'lls?

Nope. The boat we fished hung tough.  The marina did surprisingly well, with only a few sunk boats and about a dozen that broke loose, plus misc. damage.  Many of the large sport fish boats didn't have any glass break, but there were a lot of bent outriggers.

Thanks for good info and advice. I know you were stag but did you see many families? How were they doing? Anything special you'd recommend if you had the family along?

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

There were a lot of families, actually.  Many had younger, not school aged kids.  At one point the authorities were giving them priority boarding, but nobody seemed to put up any resistance to that idea.  Armed Federales probably made sure of that. 


Forgot to add: Seeing Robin Thicke in a miserable state would have made the whole thing worth it.


I think it just drove home how everyone had it pretty s___ty for the preceeding 24-48 hours. 

RE: Mercy of the Wolves
I know you're all wondering where that came in.  It's a phrase my buddy Bryan taught me.  He's a seasoned Mexico travleler, and has been going to various parts of Mexico to surf and fish for the entirity of his adult life, as well as many of his teenaged years.  He went on a seriously epic trip at 17 right out of high school that would seem insane by today's standards.
His grandfather actually told him that phrase, with the implication being that many people in Mexico are predators of one degree or another.  Whether they lie to you about the conversion rate on the peso, or the Policia Muncipal trying to give you a ticket for some bulls___ you didn't do.  Even to downright thievery.
To some degree, you have to be for you and yours.  Stand your ground and you can many times make the other wolves back off.  Sometimes you might even accept a small screwing to avoid a large one. 

Speaking of which, another decision we failed at was making sure one of the two vehicles we had was filled.  We started seeing lines at the gas stations, and it would have been wise to fill up.  Both were below 1/8th of a tank on Monday morning.  *expletive deleted*ing fail.
The sub division we were in had a storage lot full of vehicles, and the storm took the fence.  We decided we'd siphon the rarely used vehicles (many were certainly belonging to people who were out of town).  They'd all already been siphoned.  To a vehicle, they were empty.  A couple had locking caps on them, so we were going to bust them out on tuesday and see what was in those, but in the end it wasn't necessary. 

Information is king.  I speak a tiny bit of spanish, Bryan speaks a lot more.  Between the two of us, we could get information from the authorities that many couldn't.  Being able to relay decent information to the other people there got us a lot of good will and even made us quasi-leaders of the people around us.  Safety in numbers and all that.

I think the fact that we were at a well known tourist destination also made this turn into a crazy story and not a nightmare.  It wouldn't do to have 30,000 tourists die from starvation in Baja.  Nobody would ever go back, right?  I was impressed that in just 24 hours from the storm end, the Mexican government was mounting an airlift and getting the word out.  If we were in some unkown town doing stupid *expletive deleted* it, nobody would know or care about us.  Not that I have any desire to go off the beaten path in Mexico, but it's a lesson to keep in mind.  Tourst destinations seem destined to get immediate and swift aid. 


List so far:

Authentic experiences suck, stick to the tourist spots.
Water and footwear are first priorities outside of immediate safety.
Speak at least some of the language when visiting a foreign country.
Leave immediately if get the bad vibes.
Know how to leave immediately and ideally be prepared to leave immediately if necessary.

Good run down.

On the foot wear, let me add that I brought several pair of extra socks.  I got lucky that they were relatively dry, so when I got my feet wet I was able to get dry socks on quickly.  Next time, they will be in a ziploc bag.  Period.

Add to the list, be willing to part with anything you don't need.  I still can't believe how many people lugged surfboards, golf clubs, and extra luggage to the airport.  We literally got put into a mad dash to get on an airplane.  Given the information vacum, for all we knew it was ready to leave.  I only had a rolling carry on and my messenger bag doring Manpurse duty (it's a *expletive deleted*ing satchel!), but I had my phone, passport and wallet on my person.  I'd have dropped it all on the spot to get on a plane. 

Add to the stuff list a sat-phone if you can afford it.  Cell network went down after 24 hours.  Guess what? My wife knew about the evacuations and texted us tuesday morning to get to the *expletive deleted*ing airport.  I got that text when we landed in Mexico City.  A sat phone would have been worth it's weight in gold.
Another thing.  Two things, really.  One, was a car charger.  We were able to keep our phones charged off the two cars we had because we had car adapters.  Secondly, it seems stupid, but I had my Kindle.  Tuesday morning broke, and I started feeling really s___ty.  Bored, just stewing over the mistakes.  I had some books on the kindle and it was charged.  Played music on my phone and read a book.  That helped calm me down.  I was also getting frustrated with my partners, as they weren't in a hurry to go to the airport.  Seeing planes going in and out, my gut said that was where we needed to go.  RFN.  RMFN.  Sure, it was a calculated risk.  A trip to the airport would cost money and gas.  But you can't eat either of those, nor can you drink it.
Another calculated risk should have been a no brainer.  $100 in non perishables and water would have given us at least a week's worth of food.  We should have filled a shopping cart sunday. 

Oh, and the airport.  Flexibility got us out of there early, perhaps saved us from not getting out for another day.  Anywhere but here was option 1) 2) and 3).  We saw people dithering about what airport to go to (options were Mexico City, Guadalajara, TJ and one flight went to Monterrey).  We had cash and credit cards.  A flight out of any of those places would be progress.  We knew it could be to New York for all we cared.


That is so true. I never had a really bad example, like being shook down for bribe money, but plenty of little examples. My Mexico trips were all to Cozumel with a dive club from Texas (long story). My first trip to Mexico was one of those trips. I arrived earlier than the group. I left the airport, bought a shuttle ticket to town, and walked to the shuttles. A shuttle guy in a "uniform" took my ticket and said, "get in that van over there" (a van about three down from where we were standing). I walk to it and start to get in. That shuttle driver asks me for my ticket.  I told him I gave it to "the guy taking tickets down there". Where I pointed was to the guy who took my ticket, who was just then driving off in his van full of people. The shuttle drivers apparently either made money off the tickets, or scammed to make people buy extra tickets, or to give them cash or something.

So there I was with the one guy driving down the road and the other one not letting me in his van after I bought and paid for a ride. I was grumpy after a long flight, so I told the guy, "get on your radio and have it out with your buddy. I paid for a ride and I'm getting one. I pushed past him and took a seat in his van. He was pissed and complaining that I couldn't do that, but he didn't call for any cops or anything (there were plenty at the airport), so I was pretty sure I called it right. I got my ride into town.

When I got to the hotel (admittedly a fleabag, the "Hotel Lopez", because the guy from the dive club that put the trips together always cheaped out on the hotels). They claimed they had no reservation. By then I was getting seasoned and took the same attitude as with the driver. You have a reservation under "dive guy's name" for our group, please give me a room. They finally "found it" and I got my room. Same thing though, it was like they wanted to get a double charge or something.

I just found with many of the Mexican businesses, you just had to stand your ground and either haggle or just be forceful. It was just their way of "doing business". On the other hand there were restaurants, bars, the dive operators, who were all really cool people who dealt fairly with you. I think maybe the ones that relied on repeat business and word of mouth were stand up, while those that ran businesses where they might never see you again or care, played the ripoff game.

Exactly.  *expletive deleted* ck, even getting breakfast at the Mexico city airport before leaving, the waitress tried to rip us off on the conversion.  They were doing 10-1, which is fine, but our meal came out to $28 US (even airports in Mexico are *expletive deleted*ing expensive), and the b____ tried to tell us 40 wasn't enough to cover it.  Many resturants in Cabo would do the conversion for you (which is another story lol).  We stood our ground with her and she got no tip lol.

So the conversion rate was 13.something to one.  We would just round to 10 to make the math quick.  Leave a little extra on the table and everyone wins.  Several times, the "USD" bill was off.  Not by a ton, but enough that it became apparent when you were getting ripped.   It was funny to catch them.

Across the street there was a cantina.  Prices were high, but they were giving our group a discount because Chip (the boat captain) was a regular.  Holy *expletive deleted*ing guacamole the food was good.  I hope they are able to get back at it.

Sardinas Market.  I'll post a pic of the Huevos Rancheros I had the first day when I get it from my buddy.


Read the post at the bottom of the aritcle.  We got word at about 4pm that the military was turning people away who were arriving at the airport.  As an aside, Chip (boat captain) was of the mindset that we would go back to the house if they stopped flying.  Bryan and I were both in agreeance we weren't leaving until we were on an airplane.


thought I'd share with this group.  Any Q's fire away.  I made a lot of mistakes and owned up to them, but am willing to discuss my reasoning and thinking about them.
TexasJason D

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    Re: Mercy of the Wolves: SHTF in Los Cabo San Lucas
    « Reply #1 on: September 20, 2014, 03:20:40 pm »
    Excellent info. Thanks!

    Re: gas in the car. I never let the tank get below 1/2. In addition, on trips out of town I always fill back up or top off as soon as we arrive at our destination no matter what. It drives my wife nuts when we are in a hurry but it'll give us hundreds of miles head start if something goes down and we have to drop everything and run. It's one less major problem to worry about under stress.
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    Re: Mercy of the Wolves: SHTF in Los Cabo San Lucas
    « Reply #2 on: September 20, 2014, 03:24:28 pm »
    Excellent info. Thanks!

    Re: gas in the car. I never let the tank get below 1/2. In addition, on trips out of town I always fill back up or top off as soon as we arrive at our destination no matter what. It drives my wife nuts when we are in a hurry but it'll give us hundreds of miles head start if something goes down and we have to drop everything and run. It's one less major problem to worry about under stress.

    At home I'm anal about gas, too.  Especially during hurricane season, as I live on the Texas gulf.  The gas situation was a major lapse in judgement.  As it turns out, an alternate escape route would have been to head to La Paz and take the Ferry to Mazatlan.  But that would have required somewhere around 1/2 a tank of gas.
    TexasJason D

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