Armed robberies in Baja keep surfers away

I lived out a hippie fantasy of mine a few years back when an old boyfriend and I drove his truck from Alaska to Mexico, camping the whole way. In Baja, where we camped on a beach for a month, he ran out of money and my funds got pretty low. We had to subsist on a diet of bread, rice, and oatmeal which were alternately flavored with peanut butter, jelly, maple syrup, or chicken bouillon cubes. I think I had one margarita that whole month, but nevertheless it was a great time — dolphins would swim by, I could swim laps along the shore, and my hair even started to dread (which was my incentive to finally wash it).

I could go on about my idyllic pseudo-hippie days, but the point of my story is to compare the Baja of my early twenties to the troubling Baja of today. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a half-dozen robberies and car jackings along Baja’s 780-mile stretch have been targeted at U.S. surfers. One story, from a Swamis Surfing Association member, is particularly gruesome:
[Chris] Weber said he and his girlfriend had gone to Baja to escape the foul air caused by the wildfires in San Diego County. Just after sundown Oct. 23, two men wearing military clothing and ski masks confronted the couple.

“They made us get down on all fours – execution position – and put guns to our heads,” said Weber.

Then the armed gunmen sexually assaulted Weber’s girlfriend before taking $10,000
worth of computers, video cameras and other gear. Weber acknowledges that his career guiding surfing tours in Mexico is over, and he urges other would-be Baja surfers to do the same.

Weber’s incident isn’t isolated, and a string of roadside robberies seems to indicate a rising threat to Baja tourists. In similar cases, “the perpetrators fooled tourists into pulling off the road by using flashing lights similar to those mounted on police cars. These thieves forced their victims to kneel and put firearms to their heads.”

These stories alone are practically enough to keep this reformed hippie-wannabe insulated in her tiny Alaska town. But I also know that if I had the chance for another road trip down to Mexico, I’d probably go for it — with extra caution added, and expensive gear left at home.

For more stories and information on how to report an assault, read the Union-Tribune’s article here.

Thanks to Marilyn Terrill over at National Geographic’s Intelligent Traveler for the story tip.