Friday, April 19, 2013

Endemico, Tacos, and a Police Chase

Yum
No one ever told me how distractingly beautiful the drive would be. I've asked around and people told me to take the "scenic" toll road or the Tecate HWY to get to Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Little did we know that once past the sketchy border rife with hitchhikers, the road would spread out before us and take us up and down these beautiful Big Sur-like cliffs.



The weather was perfect - one of those top down, driving along the coast kind of days. Too bad we were in a hard-top Honda Fit. The drive was sort of like driving down Pacific Coast Highway, but BETTER.



The roads cut across mountains like a knife through a piece of amazing Mexican cheese.



After some girl talk and catching up, we were on the 3 HWY and started seeing these tiny pods along the cliff. We knew we arrived at the Endemico Eco Lodge!



We drove up the sandy pavement, were let in by the friendly guard, and parked along the dirt path on the level of the lobby. This was no hotel. This was a retreat. This was camping with style. This was GLAMPING.



The art here was interesting. This black twisty thing that reminded me I should go to the bathroom was worth $30,000. I got yelled at for sitting on it and taking lewd pictures. Randomly, there would be these art pieces all over the premises. It was interesting to see something so iconic blending into the sandy, mountainous landscape.



We checked in and were driven to our pods. The first night, we had to separate since they didn't have a 4 ppl unit. Dawn and I got the honeymoon suite and Annabelle got one all to herself. It is possible to walk to the pods, which we did on our final night there, but it's definitely a trek/hike and not for the unfit.


  
The bar and restaurant at the lobby.
At the restaurant on the lobby level.


Each room is its own pod and they only have a few units that can hold 4 people (2 queen beds). Most are 1 king bed units and they dot the mountain in an almost camouflaged way. If it wasn't for the sparkle from the window you wouldn't be able to make it out so fast.

 

Each pod has its own balcony and a furnace and sitting area. Since Dawn and I were staying in the  honeymoon suite, it was further away from the other pods that are all connected with a walkway. Our suite had an amazing view of the vineyards. 


 

The modern industrial decor inside fell in line with their minimalist theme. Adorable. I never saw lightbulbs like this but when I instagrammed this pic, The Minty introduced me to The Drunken Crane. I'm going to buy myself one of these when I move into a bigger space.

View from our window inside the honeymoon suite.

We settled into our pods, had a drink, and went for a quick tour of the grounds and used our free drink tickets at the pool for some micheladas.




When we got restless and hungry, we asked our driver, Danny, where he usually eats. We wanted something simple, cheap, and didn't want to drive all the way to Ensenada for tacos. He told us there are a few taco stands on Franco Zarto hwy sort of where the hwy splits, except, just stay on Franco Zarto. 

We didn't have high expectations since we were saving up our money and expectations for our blow out meal at Corazon de Tierra but our hearts and minds were definitely open for adventure.

As we drove, we saw a really crowded taco stand and a few well-lit taco kiosks that dotted the hwy. We kept driving into the darkness until we saw one that had a small crowd but the crowd was definitely local, family-oriented, and the stand had some great veggie decorations. I spotted a woman making handmade tortillas so I pulled over. My friends and I sheepishly walked in, hungry but also trying not to startle/offend anyone since it looked like a small mom/pop taco shop that didn't necessarily cater to the tourist crowd.




We ordered the adobado and the carnitas and asked to sit next to a family since there was only one table. The only distinguishing sign that they had at their taco stand was their sign, "El Pariente" jumbled into their menu, which we saw after we had finished eating and telling the owners how awesome their tacos were. We wanted to eat more but we were on a mission to go taco hopping so we didn't want to overkill at the first spot. My friend Annabelle wanted some homemade tortillas to go so they threw that in for free. For $48 pesos which is around $4, we had 4 tacos and 3 handmade tortillas. The quality at "El Pariente" is noticeable. All their ingredients seem local and the salsas have a great kick to them. The handmade tortillas were one of the best I've had. Jin approved.



We were excited to see what else Baja had to offer so we drove back down to the first taco stand where we noticed a lot of people hanging about. This one may have had a sign but we didn't notice it. It's the taco stand across from the PEMEX gas station and diagonally across from the liquor store that is named... "Tecate" an actual branded beer. There are a lot of stores like that and it reminds me of Bolivia where stores just call themselves whatever they want, usually a well-known brand name. It's probably not sanctioned by the brand but I'm sure they could care less.

Anyway, we walk into this taco shop and it's filled with Californians. At first we thought it was going to be great but soon after talking to a few people waiting in line, we realized they were missionary kids and this taco shop is probably the closest to their stationed church.


 
 

We got a torta and an adobado and carnitas to compare it to El Pariente and quickly noticed that their ingredients were not legit. No handmade tortillas here and the bread was way too thick to be any good for a torta. I compare all tortas to Wash Mobile's torta in Tijuana and I'm probably ruined now forever because of it but anyway, all in all this place was not impressive and we were full by this point so we decided to go across the street to get some beer at "Tecate" and wash it all down since this taco stand nor the one before sold any beers.



After we got the beers and we walked out from the liquor store (we couldn't go in since the owner barred it up and just sold goods through the hole), a white truck parked right next to us and the drivers looked super freaked out. When we got into our cars, we saw a police car drive behind us to lock us both into our parking spots. They must have noticed three Asian girls who had nothing to do with anything since they sort of moved so we had room to back out and get out of the way. After we moved, the white truck backed out too, swung around, and sped along the highway. The police car and two other police cars came out of nowhere and a police chase ensued. The three of us were suddenly freaked out thinking that we could have been in the middle of a police chase. Annabelle mentioned that there was another car involved that highbeamed the car next to us to signal something or other and got away. I wonder if they got away because of us.



Back at the hotel, we were telling everyone about our car chase debacle but no one really seemed that shocked about it. One guy even joked and said that usually happens on a Saturday, not a Sunday. The next day, someone at the wineries reassured that it was probably a drunk driver or something like that since it's a really safe area. All we knew was that both parties moved out of the way for us to get out of that situation before they started chasing each other so the best thing I can say is that they tried not to involve us in something when clearly, we were just trying to get some beers.

Taco stands should sell beers.

ENDÉMICO
Ctra. Tecate-Ensenada, km 75
Valle de Guadalupe
Ensenada, Baja California
Mexico
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