The Rosarito Theatre Guild is presenting to us a wonderful treat from “the most unadventurous person in the world”. That is how Graham Mackintosh describes himself in his lectures and his books. He started walking the Baja peninsula in 1979 and today, 37 years later, he is still grinding out the same path on the same narrow peninsula, so adventurous might not be our first pick of descriptions.
This longevity has been a great surprise to Graham himself, and to all his thousands of friends and followers, but the desert; the flora and fauna, the mountains, the sea and the beauty of an outdoor life on the Baja have captured his soul and consumed his life.
The Gringo Gazette caught up with him by phone in Loreto. Graham doesn't carry a phone but we emailed him and he was able to convince Jeannine Perez, who owns a book store in Loreto where he gives talks, to let him run up a bill on her phone. What a delightful man, and what a fascinating raconteur!
The first thing we asked him was how did he obtain adequate food and water in the mostly barren landscape he moves through. He said that he has become quite “desert wise” and that he has learned over the years which plants, which cactus, and which seeds he can eat. Graham said that he learned a lot from watching his burro selecting plants to eat. Oofa. Learning from a donkey. That takes a secure individual.
When he is near the sea he has learned to use a portable reverse osmosis desalinator. It can produce up to 50 gallons of water per day and can be bought for $50 to $60.
Graham has adopted two burros for companionship and for carrying his pack which weighs about 70 pounds. He paid just $30 for his first burro and although it was male he named it “Bonnie” because his mother loved the name and insisted on it. Graham is a devoted son.
Graham spent the early part of his career as a lecturer in Kent, in England, where he taught social sciences and special education. Some of his students were unemployed teenagers and Graham was trying to convince them that they could have the adventure of a lifetime on a shoestring budget. Following his own advice, he planned a walk around the beautiful but formidable coastline of Baja. As it turned out this was a 3,000 mile undertaking. But Graham is not a man who thinks in small ways.
Did he speak any Spanish or take any classes in preparation for dealing with Mexicans? Yes, he said, he took some classes in Spanish before he came here. Unfortunately, being a European, the Spanish he learned was Castilan and when he got here the Mexican people could not understand him and they laughed behind their hands at his pronunciation. Graham said he never has learned to be fluent in Spanish but that everybody he encounters on his adventures is invariably kind, helpful, warm and full of hospitality. People go out of their way to make him feel welcome and to make sure he is okay.
He recalled that one time he was camped about a mile outside a tiny village and one of the locals discovered him. Every day that man walked more than a mile to bring him food and water, to check on him, ask if he needed anything, and to make sure he was okay.
Another time, he was kayaking on the Sea of Cortez and a storm popped up. Both a Mexican fisherman and a Gringo took their boats out to check on him. These incidents are what Graham feels are the most touching and endearing characteristics of the Mexican people. It is what he loves about the Baja, in addition to its physical beauty. And it is what has kept him going for nearly 40 years. He is now in his 60's but he is still putting one foot in front of another up and down the Baja and he is not thinking of retiring from trekking.
He says the only danger he has encountered has been from coyotes. He always uses a tent because if he slept out in the open in a sleeping bag it would be iinevitable that he would eventually be hosting a rattlesnake or a scorpion. Even with the tent he was once stung on his foot by a scorpion and it was “like the worst bee sting you can imagine”. He has never been bitten by a rattler, but one time he heard an animal outside his tent. When he started to unzip the door a coyote bit at the nylon. It scared both of them! So for protection from the weather and from the occasional curious animal he always wraps himself inside a sturdy tent.
If he is out trekking all the time how does Graham make a living? He says he doesn't need much while he is living off the land, but with the income from his lectures, his books, and his tour guiding he has purchased a home in San Diego. He has written four books detailing his adventures. His first book Into A Desert Place received the “Adventurous Traveler of the Year” award in England. His second book Journey With A Baja Burro describes his 1,000 mile trek with his pack burro, “Mision” . This faithful burro got his name because he carried all the gear as Graham visited the old missions along the rugged mountainous interior from the U.S. border to Loreto.
Graham's third book Nearer My Dog To Thee chronicles his four months in the Sierra San Pedro Martir with two rescue dogs that he got from the Baja Animal Sanctuary in Rosarito. And in his fourth book Marooned With Very Little Beer , we live with him for two months as he kayaks and hikes Isla Angel de La Guarda, which is the second largest island in the Sea of Cortez.
He tells the Gringo Gazette that he is working on another book, no title as of yet, which will describe all the changes he has witnessed as he re-visits places in Baja that he traveled to many years ago.
On January 8th the Rosarito Theatre Guild will host Graham Mackintosh's fascinating lecture and slideshow. He is a spell binding speaker who will regale you with tales of this wonderful land you live on.
You can get your ticket by calling 664-609-3451 or visiting firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are only $5.00 and all money will be donated to Baja Dog Rescue. You can find him at www.grahammackintosh.com. ,