Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beautiful Baha Bays

Concepcion Bay provided a beautiful backdrop for a few days at anchor. The bay has numerous islands in the northern part and several islands have their own sand beaches. We met Jack on Mandan, whom we had heard on the radio nets, as well as Bob, another single hander sailing on a bright yellow wooden cutter built in the 1930's. Beach fires with roast potatoes and marshmallows, snorkeling, petroglyphs, and rocks that sound like bells when struck (due to their high iron content) are highlights of our stay here. We anchored in El Burro cove where Geary broadcasts weather for this coast of Mexico from his thatched beach front Palapa. Geary also generously allows cruisers to use his satellite link for email and we were able to do this while at anchor in emerald green waters.

Petroglyphs above El Burro Cove

Ringing the Bell Rocks above El Burro. Note the beach front palapas.

These flowers grow out of the rock faces in arroyos (stream beds).

Large crickets and grasshoppers survive despite lack of grass and water.

Urchins, anemones and corals.

The terrain varies quickly from mangrove swamp, to beach, to mud pans.

We coasted south, anchoring at two remote beaches south of Punta Santa Theresa. Calm weather allowed us to explore this coast that would normally be pounded by northerly swells. The land is mostly empty with a few fishing villages and sporadic retirement homes. Beyond the pale sugary sands of beach and dune we hiked through a harsh arid land of volcanic rock, cacti, and hardy scrub bushes. Vultures rested on the vandalized and non-functional skeleton tower on the point. In stark contrast, urchins, crabs, coral, and anemones coloured the tidepools at the base of volcanic cliffs. We combed the beaches for perfect shells and skinny dipped in waters, pleasantly cool after the exertions of hiking the uneven terrain.

Chris explores a huge dune. We had these coves to ourselves.

Further south is Punta Pulpito – the pulpit. This impressive pinnacle pushes far out into the sea, looking like a reposing lion from the distance. We anchored in its lee, rowed ashore, and landed on a tiny slip of sand at the end of a mile of cobble. The cliffs here are a treasury of fossils – mainly clams and scallop shells. We found our first obsidian flakes and 'apache tears' (rounded obsidian crystals) in the sandy bluffs above these cliffs. Climbing the pulpit, we stumbled over areas strewn with these glittering jewels, collecting some for use in jewelry making. The views from the 500' pulpit are impressive and Brisa looked like a tiny jewel herself floating above the green tinted sands of the bay.

View from Pulpito Point. Brisa is far below.

Fossil cliffs packed with clam and scallop shells.

We found even better obsidian nuggets at our next stop – San Juanico bay. This unique bay has some of the most beautiful rock formations I have seen, as well as several excellent beaches and secure anchorages. A tree here is festooned with wood and stone and shell carved or decorated with ship and crew names (the so-called 'cruiser's shrine').

We shared our anchorage with a Norseman 44 foot sloop with Dennis and Lisette on board. Dennis looks a bit like Pierre Trudeau in his 60's and Lisette is from Quebec and still has an accent despite years of living abroad. I had my birthday (44) here and this charming couple invited us over for a delicious selection of appetizers and excellent wine (Dennis worked as a wine chemist and manager at the Gallo winery). We reciprocated with a curry dinner and my attempt at a cake (featuring snickers bars and oranges).

Roadrunner bird on the beach at San Juanico.

On the rocks at San Juanico.

Dennis, Lisette, and Rani at the Cruiser's Shrine in San Juanico.

Cruiser's shrine signs.

We also had Alejandro and Thomas over to Brisa for the birthday celebration. Alejandro and Thomas are caretakers at one of the 4 opulent houses that overlook our anchorage. The day before, we travelled into Loreto with them – a 50 km, 2 hour drive (the first hour is 10 kms of challenging dirt road). A 4 wheel drive is absolutely mandatory! At one point we met up with Thomas's cousin coming the other way in a pickup truck. The cousin pulled over to let us past and we had to pull them out of the soft river bed gravel with a tow rope. Even Thomas got lost once here, as the road is essentially a river bed and at times tributaries branch in several directions.

Chris, Thomas, and Alejandero in San Juanico.

View from home out over San Juanico.

Loreto is a fair sized town with a lovely church and beautiful leaf bowered pedestrian area. Tourism is definitely a major player here and we saw more white skin than we had in weeks. We reprovisioned with fresh food and staples, refilled our 5 gallon water jug (10 pesos or about 90 Canadian cents), and picked up some beer for the celebrations (< $5 Canadian for 6 cold beer). We visited Thomas's family and learned about the car accident in which Thomas lost his leg 2 years ago (despite which he drove us in and was able to get himself on and off Brisa and into our dinghy!). Sadly, Thomas's younger brother suffered severe damage to his head and neck and cannot speak or function normally. Despite not being covered by insurance for this family disaster, everyone seems to take things in stride and accept that they will have to look after the unfortunate fellow for the rest of his life. The closeness and supportiveness of extended families here is in contrast to our more isolated culture up north.

From San Juanico, we had a splendid sail down to Ballandera cove on Isla Carmen, We hiked into the interior of the island across dead level planes, along stram beds, and through gorges. We marvelled at dwarf birch-like trees with bizarrely stocky trunks and a tree that looks like our silver birch only bright green ('incredible hulk'-coloured). Back in the cove, we met a couple from Vancouver Island, cruising on a steel junk. They have been in Mexico for 6 winters, working up north for 6 months each year in the summer. They knew the Coast 34 sail boat and were very encouraging of our plans to continue cruising. The next morning, the trimaran, Flying Fish, and a large and somewhat decrepit wooden schooner joined us at anchor. These boats had been with us in Juanico, too. The schooner is owned in a partnership between a woman and two men and the woman's kids are on board. The boat was given to them and clearly needs a lot of love and affection. She was leaking profusely when we first saw her, lost her steering in heavy seas a day later, and dragged her anchor and drifted quite close to us that night. I admire the owners for taking on a project of this size (apparently they user her or plan to use her to deliver school supplies to remote places in Mexico).

Fishing hut in Ballandera Bay.

Inside of fishing hut.

Shrine in a fisherman's hut.

Throw-away Thursday. We gave this box to a fisherman.

Sunset in Ballandera Bay.

Cacti and flowers in Ballandera Bay.

Miniature birch trees.

Bright green 'birches'.

We are now in Puerto Escondido anchored off a marina where we have had our first good showers since Santa Rosalia (3 weeks ago!) The anchorage is backed by towering jagged peaks and is so large that even with 20 or so boats it seems empty. We plan to hike a canyon mentioned by John Steinbeck in his Log from the Sea of Cortez tomorrow.

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