PARADISE ON A SANDPILE
When the Mexican Tourist Bureau decides to produce a brochure on the glories of Baja California Sur, the bottom half of the 800-mile-long peninsula that dangles southeasterly from Tijuana to the Tropic of Cancer, it is not likely to borrow any quotations from the German priest Johann Baegert. The good father spent 17 years in Baja California and came away shaking his head dolefully, his mind full of dismal memories "of poor shrubs, useless thornbushes and bare rocks, of piles of sand without water or wood."
Two hundred years later, anno Domini 1965, turistas in growing numbers were trying to reach Father Baegert's piles of sand. They were winging down in their Aero Commanders, sailing into Baja Sur's deep harbors in sloops and yawls and power cruisers and permitting themselves to be stuffed aboard DC-6s run by that quixotic carrier, Aeronaves de Mexico. Some poor benighted few were even trying the trip by automobile, across baking deserts, rivers of rock and lava beds, and along precipitous slopes that would give acrophobia to a mountain goat, all to get to a place that Father Baegert reported was "hardly worth the trouble to take a pen and write about."
There is, of course, no disputandum with gustibus, as Father Baegert doubtless would agree if he were alive today to watch the thousands of pale-faced norteamericanos, including the likes of Dwight David Eisenhower and Bing Crosby and Shirley Jones, wending their way down the long peninsula in search of fun, sport and a sense of discovery that familiar resorts cannot provide. The priest went to Baja to save the souls of "a handful of people who...have nothing to distinguish them from animals": his description of the aborigines of Baja. From a theological standpoint, Father Baegert and his contemporary clerics were on a sticky wicket from the outset; the Indians learned about hell and then, on chilly nights, would beg to be dispatched there to get warm; they were taught that a man should have but one wife, and then went out and collected three or four more whenever the fathers' backs were turned. As a final frustration for the missionaries from Europe, all the aborigines, the saved and the unsaved, perished of the white man's diseases: tuberculosis, smallpox and syphilis.
How history does its flips and flops! Father Baegert felt that his main accomplishment in Baja California was the baptism of "the infants who were lucky enough to perish quickly before they had a chance to sin." And now there are regiments of vacationers whose idea of bliss is to spend two weeks on that same peninsula from which the pure little babies made their escape into heaven. Whatever has happened to the place?
Hardly anything, and that is precisely the point of Baja Sur. There are, to be sure, some hotels and one city (La Paz) and a few small towns. But the dominant theme is bleakness and solitude and immutability, Father Baegert's "poor shrubs, useless thornbushes and bare rocks." Baja Sur beats back intruders. It is conceivable that Bermuda or Nassau or San Juan may become overrun and "ruined" by tourists, like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but no one is seriously predicting such a fate for Baja Sur. Through the centuries, bonanza towns have sprung up around mineral deposits, only to slip back into the sands when the veins ran out. Industries like whaling and pearling and shark-fishing have boomed for a while and then collapsed, and promoters from north of the border have swept down the peninsula full of clever schemes, only to emerge later begging for a vanilla malted. Behind them they left the trap cactus, ready to rise up and give meddlers the business at the slightest touch. The iguana runs from rock to rock, sticking its tongue out at all unauthorized personnel, and the huge cardon cactus stands parched and brown, green only at the top, dying from the ground up like an old man. The buzzards run the mortuary parlors, the coyote polices the area, and the killer whale roams offshore, seeking to feast on the tongues of other whales. No one who is fazed by the cruel realities of nature need call here.
At the very tip of the peninsula, around small habitations like Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, Baja Sur is at its most garish and wild, and tourists who begin to take the place for granted can be letting themselves in for awesome surprises, as did a teen-age girl who is well remembered by one native of that area where the Pacific and the Gulf of California lie in sapphire conjunction. "She was trying to learn to water-ski," the local man remembers, "and her uncle took her out in the deeper water. She was falling every 10 or 15 feet, but then she caught on and she was going real good, and she went a couple of hundred yards and skied right over the back of a whale shark." The whale shark is harmless, unless you are a plankton, but this explanation did little to calm the poor child.
The natives of the cape area are much bemused by the visitors who now are swarming down via the dozen-odd landing strips gouged out of the parched soil. Luis Coppola, an old Baja hand and airline pilot, remembers a duck-hunting trip when the boom was just starting. "I had this little Mexican boy along as a retriever," Coppola recalls, "and he was all excited about the people flying in. I'd say, 'Shut up, I'm trying to hunt,' and he'd rattle on: "But, Se√±or, they are coming in with the boats and the motors and they go out and fish with a captain and two more men to help.' And I said, 'Well, this is great fishing down here," and he said, 'Yes, but they spend all this money to get maybe one martin, and you know my father? My father, he goes out and gets 10 or 15 martin in one day all by himself.' I never could make that boy understand the ways of the North American."
Nowadays it costs $65 to rent a boat and a crew off the tip of Baja Sur to chase pelagic fish, those wild wanderers of the open sea: sailfish, striped and black marlin, wahoo, bonito, swordfish and tuna. For sheer quantity of such game fish the cape is rivaled by only a few places in the world. Fish stories are cheap and often exaggerated, but the absolute measure of the fishing off Baja Sur is the fact that the area has become a sort of world headquarters for light-tackle anglers like Bing Crosby, whose idea of Nirvana is to spend half a day connected to a 200-pound sailfish by a line about the thickness of a spider's strand. Light-tackle fishermen do not flourish in areas where one or two strikes are par for a day's fishing, because too many fish are lost and the light-tackle nut must have more than the average number of chances if he is ever to see his name in the record books.
This kind of fishing deserves special categorization, like paranoia, manic-depressive psychosis and Bright's disease; it turns otherwise normal men into monsters, breaks up homes and sends healthy men to early graves. One whom it has not yet felled is W. Matt (Bud) Parr, a former rancher, businessman and World War II OSS operative who liked Baja Sur so much that he turned his life upside down to build a hotel at El Chileno Bay and make it his permanent home. Parr has done everything but strangle fish on light tackle in the water off the cape. Once he was out with a friend in a 14-foot skiff, trolling with 12-pound-test line. when a striped marlin took the bait and began tail-walking straight toward the boat. "I couldn't turn him with that light tackle," Parr says, "and the motor was dead. So I stood up in the boat to shoulder the fish out of the way, and he got me across the neck and the arm with that raspy bill and he laid my friend open across the chest." Bandaged, Parr was back fishing the next day, proving once and for all that he is a light-tackle fisherman.
If Bud Parr is not the manifestation of every outdoors-man's dream, he will have to do till the real thing comes along. He made his first trip to Baja California Sur in 1947 and decided on the spot to sell out his construction business in Los Angeles and stay with the marlin and the doves and the mountain lions. For years he built places for others, stymied by a Mexican law forbidding foreigners to own land within 50 miles of the ocean. But five years ago providence intervened in the form of Michael Antonio Parr, born to Mr. and Mrs. W. Matt (Bud) Parr in Mexico and thus becoming an instantaneous Mexican citizen. Now 5-year-old Michael (Mitch) Parr is nominal owner of the Hotel Cabo San Lucas, a 62-room luxury establishment perched on the rocks overlooking a bay that once sheltered Chilean pirates. Little Mitch, the lord of the manor, hired his father to run the place, and thus the laws of the Republic of Mexico were satisfied. Sixty North American shareholders, each putting up $6,000, did not make Bud Parr's task any more difficult, and nowadays he can be excused if he walks about his son's hotel with the corners of his mouth upturned, cackling at his own mots and now and then doing a bit of work. As for Mitch, he is well aware, even at 5 years of age, that he is the lawful owner, and when one of his three older brothers gives him any lip, he says, "You stop that or I'll run you off here!" Sometimes Mitch wanders up to strangers on the beach, proffers his hand and says, "How do you do. I'm the owner of this hotel."
As befits a man who is living out his dream, Bud Parr is a warm, amiable person who believes that a hotel should stay loose and relaxed, and he does his best to set the tone. A parrot named Pancho has the run of the place; he taps his beak on the glass doors of the hotel's restaurant, and when you let him in he hops nimbly up on the table and bolts all the butter patties while Parr screams at him in bad Spanish. The Parrs keep four Labrador retrievers, and one of them, a chunky animal named Kennedy (after the Parr boys' favorite President), ambles about with a five-by-five block of wood in his mouth. When he wants to take a siesta, Kennedy puts the block down and rests his head on it.
Parr is forever regaling the clientele with jokes, none of them suitable for the Ladies' Aid, and when he comes to the punch lines his face lights up and he keeps repeating, "What? What?" to make sure that everybody knows it is time to laugh. As the comedian-in-residence at Hotel Cabo San Lucas, Parr does not deign to laugh at others' feeble attempts at humor. If he likes your joke, he merely says, "Urn hmm." He is also fond of playing tricks. When the hotel was being built, Parr slaughtered a fat burro and served it up to his construction workers. "Se√±or Parr," one of them said, "where did you get this delicious beef?"
"It's burro meat," said Parr nonchalantly.
"Se√±or Parr," said the same worker after a few halfhearted chews, "where did you get this bad meat?"
Bud Parr is his own best customer; at the drop of a hint, he takes guests to Santiago in his private plane to hunt doves, both because he likes to hunt the darting white-wings and because he likes to show off his skill with the 20-gauge shotgun. Parr takes his shooting stance as close as possible to his guest, so that both will have the same opportunities. "Don't worry," Parr said to me when I expressed some concern over this arrangement. "I ain't gonna shoot you unless you start flyin'." It is no trick for Parr to shoot 20 doves in an hour, whereupon the guests at his hotel are in for a gustatorial treat: cr√™pes √† la reyna, a dove dish invented by Parr's Italian-born chef, Oreste Toni, a man who keeps his own counsel. After a dozen polite attempts by me and several broad hints by Parr, Toni was muscled into divulging the recipe, which he wrote out as follows:
"Onion Sautee' Butter. Golden 2½ Table Spoon flower Blend with½ Tea spoon Paprika. Salt and Paper 2 York of eggs, chicken Broth. Shredded dove, Sautee' in Butter. When Half Down,½ Glass White Wine.
"Seduce, and Put the above Sce in part of it. Make pan-Cake with flower, one egg and milk, roll up, Put in Square-pan. The rest of The Sauce, put some Parmesan cheese and Mix. And over The Crepes. Brown on The Salamander."
If that recipe means anything to you, consider it yours, compliments of the inscrutable Toni, who also features on his garbled menus such succulent specialties as cheese ka bob, pooched eggs and musharoom omelett, all of them, presumably, Browned on the Salamander.
Parr's hotel has become a mecca for students of the deliriously absurd, culinary and otherwise. They sit around the hotel's open-air bar at night, guzzling Margaritas out of salt-rimmed glasses and listening to Parr telling stories and leading the laughter. "We make our Margaritas with a little bit of damiana," he says. "That's a Mexican drink made out of herbs. It's supposed to be an aphrodisiac, and I have four boys to prove it." But laced in with his salty humor is an almost childlike respect for the wonders of Baja Sur. "One day I was fishing all alone," he tells the guests huddled in front of the burning mesquite in the fireplace, "and I hooked the biggest sailfish I've ever seen, maybe 300 pounds. Most sailfish'll jump periodically, but this one just kept skipping on top of the water, jumping and diving with his full sail open, the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. After 45 minutes I brought him back to the boat and I grabbed the leader, and then the thought went through my mind that I was the weighmaster for this area, and I'd have to sign my own weighing certificate for a record, and I remembered how beautiful that fish had looked. I jerked the leader and the hook came out of the fish's mouth and he swam away."
"Did you lose him on purpose?" a guest asks.
"I don't know," says Parr slowly. "It's the lady or the tiger. I don't know the answer myself."
As a longtime sufferer from the light-tackle disease, Parr is tolerant of fellow victims, even when they are as far gone as the actor John Wayne. "He parked his yacht out here one day," says Parr, "and he comes in and he says, 'Parr, let's get the hell outa here. I got 27 guests on board and I'm up to here with 'em. Let's go fishin'.'
"So he tells the skipper of his yacht to expect us back at 4 o'clock that afternoon and off we go in one of my boats with 12-pound-test line. Well, the fishing was terrific. He had one marlin on after another, but I couldn't keep him from tightening down on the drag and breaking them off.
"At 3 o'clock we got another hookup and I say, 'Now, John, keep your hand away from that drag!' We were fishin' this marlin for about two hours and it comes to the top and I say, 'John, that's a tail-wrapped marlin and you're never gonna bring that fish in.'
"He hollers, 'I'll stay on this fish if it takes all summer!' Well, that night, at 9 o'clock, 50 miles at sea, we landed that marlin—a puny little 150-pounder. But he had to have it. We got back in at 11, and all his guests were worried sick. Luckily most of them had done their worrying in the bar."
It is just as well for the peace and equanimity of Baja Sur that the natives are as happy and relaxed as Parr. They are Mexicans, but many of them bear names like Collins, Fisher, Robinson, Cunningham and Wilkes, names that go back to the days of English pirates who made forays, both larcenous and concupiscent, into the area. Money means little to these smiling descendants, partially because they get most of their food free from the sea and the land, and partially because they have never had much money anyway. "I no underston these people," says a visitor from Mexico City. "Eef a mon from here have five pesos [40¢] he will no work. You ask heem if he want to make some money, and he say, 'No, gracias, I have five pesos.' " A popular canard about Mexico is that there is a right way, a wrong way and a Mexican way, but to that must be added a Baja Sur way, as exemplified by the farmer of Cabo San Lucas who had two windmills but took one down because there was not enough wind. Little English is spoken by these Mexicans, in contrast to their counterparts in other areas of the country, but they are more than willing to share their minor linguistic skills with the outlander. "I weel titch Sponish to you," said my friend Enrique, a cab driver of sorts. "You weel learn first: Yo soy. Usted està El es. I is. You am. He are."
San José del Cabo, a somnolent town near the tip of Baja Sur, is perhaps the only place in the world where you can meet treasure hustlers. "Come weeth me and buy me dreenk in cantina" says a grizzled old man, "and I tell you where ees bury treasure." The little town, location of the Matt Parr orphanage for girls 4 to 12, has known boom and bust, first when its black-pearl beds became permanently contaminated in 1940, a happening which some blame on the Japanese, and later when synthetics replaced shark liver in the production of vitamin A. But no one in San José del Cabo seems down in the mouth. In the cantina there is an aging dervish who will dance for three hours straight on a bet, with a few refueling stops, and another character who will take on all comers in a beer-drinking contest, loser pays, and who is currently undefeated. Most of the natives keep a few cows and use the milk to make a delicious local cheese which is traded for staples like tequila and beer. (Occasionally one of the cheesemakers boils the milk in a copper pot, producing a poison which causes a few deaths in the community, but the natives' reaction is that nobody is perfect.) Another small source of income is shark-fishing. The firm white meat is sliced into squares, stamped "Norwegian Cod" with authentic Norwegian letters and shipped to Mexico City where it is served as bacalao Vizcaíno, a favorite codfish dish in the capital city.
Some of this chicanery, one might suppose, stems from the pirate tradition. There is hardly a citizen of Baja Sur who is not related, biologically or ideologically, to the buccaneers who prowled the cape. And when the wind blows southward off the cape the natives will tell you it is the Coromuel, a designation that goes back to a pirate who went by the unlikely nom de mer of Oliver Cromwell. This freebooter would lurk around the bays of the cape waiting for an offshore wind, then ride it out to sea and knock over the Spanish galleons coming from Manila. Thus the offshore wind became known as the Cromwell, later changed to the more Spanish spelling of Coromuel. It was just off Cabo San Lucas that another British pirate, Thomas Cavendish, captured the Spanish ship Santa Ana and her $3 million in gold. And to make matters more dangerous for honest seafarers, there were land pirates on the cape; they would light pyres of brush along the rocky shoreline, and navigators would wreck their ships thinking they were rounding the lights of the cape. There are many small houses made of ship's plate along the Pacific edge of the peninsula. Skin divers and scuba divers brave the sharks and tidal rips to search for treasure where the pirates once roamed, but most of the natives have given up treasure hunting as a bad job. "Where is the treasure?" you ask them, and they answer: "No màs el Coromuel te dice" (Only the Cromwell can tell you).
A more tangible treasure of Baja Sur is the Hitchcockian profusion of birds, in small, medium, large and extra large, from the tiny hummingbird to the albatross, with his 10 feet of wings and his taste for the open sea. In a lifetime of fiddling around with the outdoors, I have steadfastly resisted becoming a bird watcher, for some reason or other. But Baja Sur puts one to the test, and more often than not I found myself in the late afternoons sitting on the veranda of Bud Parr's hotel, binoculars tuned and ready, like a little old lady from Kennebunkport. One especially rewarding evening Pancho the parrot got himself stranded on the roof of the hotel; Pancho is a wise guy whose mouth outstrips his brain, and he was unable to retrace his steps to find the single tall tree he had climbed to the roof. So there he stayed, flapping his clipped wings and calling "Awwk" and "Hey, I'm hungry," plus a few indiscreet expressions in Spanish. Within a short time the frigate birds, those winged Black beards of the sea, had begun assembling over Pancho's head, circling closer and closer, perhaps attracted by the living color, until there were 18 of them peering down at him with their telescopic vision. Now there is nothing in the literature of ornithology to indicate that frigate birds will attack live parrots, but Pancho did not know this. His cries reft the night, and the next morning we were relieved to see the frigate birds were gone and Pancho was rapping on the restaurant door for his pats of butter.
In Baja Sur the frigate is the king of the seabirds; he steals from honest, hard-working gulls, and he gorges on the remnants of baitfish left by the swirling schools of tuna and dolphin. He is all hooks and angles, with wings that jut sharply forward and back as well as up and down, like two bent black boomerangs; a tail pluming off into scissors for steering; and a wicked-looking beak that hooks at the end like a safety lock. Structurally speaking, a frigate bird is to a pelican as an épée is to a putty knife, but if I had to spend the rest of my life watching one type of bird, it would be the pelicans of Baja Sur, those affable citizens of the rocks and bays. Bud Parr swears that pelicans have landed on his fishing boat and allowed him to stroke their backs, and I would not be surprised. It is my own impression that the pelican (or alcatraz, as he is called locally) is the most self-effacing and mild-mannered of birds. He engages in no wasted motion, no false histrionics, no posturing about. He wears a simple brown commuter's suit; he has a long, unsophisticated, no-nonsense wing and a dumpy, functional body, and yet he flies with consummate grace. He may be soaring gently on a high wind or flapping energetically to get off the water, his wingtips leaving round splashes in the sea, but in either case his body is not herky-jerking; it is stable and balanced and dignified. The pelican is the Grand Touring car of the Baja Sur bird world, and at 30 mph the loudest noise in a pelican is the rumble in his stomach. He is, moreover, a people watcher, spending much of his free time watching the skin divers and fishermen of the area going about their crazed activities. One day the sloops Tangent and Psyche anchored in Cabo San Lucas Bay and the crews went over the side skin diving. The pelicans came from miles around to watch, in their open-eyed, guileless but dignified manner, and one of them, perching on a needle of rock, leaning farther and farther out to take in the view, lost his balance and fell into the bay. A diver expressed his amazement. "That is the first time," he observed, "that I have ever seen a pelican lose his cool."
One afternoon I found a pelican lying on a tiny beach that stretched across the tip of the peninsula of Baja California, a beach of brown decomposed granite threading from the Gulf of California 100 yards through tall rocks to the Pacific Ocean. The bird was lying in the hot sun, fighting death, his heavy head lifting slowly and then flopping back grotesquely on the sand. Years ago, after a ship had been sunk off San Francisco, I found a cormorant lying on Sunset Beach, and I washed the fuel oil off his wings in the surf and saw him fly heavily away. Now I washed a pelican, but he was beyond help; there was no fuel oil in his feathers, only atrophy; his big eyes already were glazing over, and his wings hung loosely at his sides. I carried him to a shaded cove where the tide hissed across the sand, and I propped his head and walked away quickly so he could die with some final pelican dignity. That day there were rare clouds over Baja Sur; at sundown the sky seemed to tilt toward the west, and the pale washes of purples and reds flowed in long streaks down the night.
Cabo San Lucas
San José del Cabo
Bahía de Las Palmas
GULF OF CALIFORNIA
BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR TRAVEL FACTS
GETTING THERE: Baja California Sur is the southern half of the 800-mile-long peninsula that extends from the U.S. border to Cabo San Lucas. To cross the border, vacationers need a Mexican tourist card, which is easily obtained through a travel or airline office. Aeronaves de Mexico flies DC-6s from Los Angeles to La Paz (round trip $93) every day but Tuesday and four times weekly from Mexico City (round trip, $82.30). At the La Paz airport numerous single-engine air taxis are ready to fly tourists the remaining 60-to-90 miles to fishing resorts that rim the Gulf of California, or the Sea of Cortez, as it is often called. The one-way fare is about $20 each. A drive down the parched peninsula is not to be undertaken lightly. Only a few have made the journey over the unpaved roads, and some, like Eric Stanley Gardner, were moved to write armchair adventures on their return. A growing number, however, are discovering Route 15 from Nogales on the Arizona-Mexico border. They cross the gulf at Topolobampo via a ferry that runs on ma√±ana time to La Paz. Last summer the Mexican government began a luxurious ferry operation from Mazatlàn on the mainland to La Paz. It makes the overnight trip on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Fares range from $50 down to $4; the charge for autos is $30 up, according to size. The best and most popular way to reach Baja California Sur is by private plane. Each resort, no matter how simple, has its own landing strip. Most of these are merely hunks of desert scraped clean of cactus, and un-lighted. Before flying to a resort, clear customs through a point of entry like Mexicali, Tijuana or La Paz. Fees for private craft can be as low as $1.75 in Mexicali to an exorbitant $40 in Tijuana. Gas-80-, 91-, and 100-octane—is generally available at all resorts and in some of the larger towns at double to triple American prices.
STAYING THERE: La Paz, an 18th century port city of 30,000, curls along La Paz Bay, once famed for its lustrous black pearls. There are several very good hotels. The best is Los Cocos. Set in a magnificent strand of palms, it scatters 40 rooms in a pink network of modern units. It is the only La Paz hotel with its own beach. It also has a swimming pool and terrace for outdoor dancing. Saddle horses are for hire ($1 an hour), and the establishment is serviced at its own dock by the La Paz charter fleet. American plan only—$15 to $17.50 single, $25 to $30 double. Los Arcos, on the waterfront drive, manages to exude a Night of the Iguana aura in its palm-shrouded enclave of eight double bungalows and an 18-room hotel, but it is a perfectly respectable abode. Rates are $12 single to $35 triple. The hotels serve the best food—none rate even two stars, but the Misión de Santo Tomas red wine is rather good.
Bahía de Las Palmas is 65 miles south of La Paz. The resort hotel there, called Bahía de Palmas, is informal and relaxed (14 thatch-covered rooms; $10 a day) and completely devoted to fishing. The 2,800-foot landing strip is lighted. Rancho Buena Vista is 2.3 miles away in the crescent curve of the bay. It is a determinedly rustic resort with plain barrack rooms ($15 single, American plan) and family meals served at one long table.
Cabo San Lucas has three resorts clustered at its tip. Two, Palmilla, off the swarming Gordo Banks, and Hacienda Cabo San Lucas, snuggled next to a fish cannery by the Pacific, are restrained, elegant and clubby. Both are run by the swashbuckling son of a former Mexican President, Abelardo Rodríguez, who flies guests in from San Diego in his Lodestars. Each hotel has a 5,000-foot landing strip. The Hacienda, completed last spring, has a weekly package plan for $250 which includes everything but boat and bar bills.
Bud Parr's Hotel Cabo San Lucas at El Chileno, between the two Rodríguez establishments, is the largest and most lavish of the lot. It perches on a rocky outcrop overlooking a half-moon bay, and Parr has given it the works: a cavernous dining room, tiered terraces slung with stone statues, a waterfall, Olympic pool, onyx bath chambers and a mariachi band. Each of the 62 rooms has a private terrace or a balcony. Rates are $17.50 to $30 per person. There is a 3,600-foot air strip.
PLAYING THERE: La Paz has three charter-boat fleets—and each resort has its own fleet. Cruisers range from $40 to $65 a day, twin 35-hp outboards are $45 a day. Tackle is $3 per rod, and flying fish, the marlin bait, are $1.25 each. Limit is three billfish per boat per day. Licenses are $1 when anyone bothers. Hotels rent shotguns for dove and quail at $3 a gun, sell shells for 30¢, a good service, since, even with permits, getting your own gun past Mexican customs officers is chancy. For a pack trip into the Sierra after lion or mountain sheep, the charge of $30 to $35 a day includes guides, mules, dogs, food and overnight stops at ranches high in the mountains where Mexican families provide bed and board in wattle huts. Licenses for dove or quail are not generally required, but the government is only now selling a few $200 permits for the limited spring season on sheep. Deep-water snorkeling, skin diving and water skiing are best done in La Paz, away from the sharks that prowl the coast, but the nerveless can rent equipment at the Cabo San Lucas resorts. In La Paz, Dick Adcock, a certified diving instructor from Los Angeles, runs completely equipped diving barges for $10 a day per person. La Paz is a free port, by the way, and a surprising array of luxuries are stocked in Ruffo Brothers' century-old store.