Isla Isabel – 23/3/2020

Isla Isabel.

We motor sailed the 42 nm (78 km) from Bahia Matanchen, San Balas on the Pacific Coast of Mexico to Isla Isabel, a small rocky volcanic island. We visited the island last year in May and it was definitely one of my favorite spots we visited last year, so I was eager to share the experience with our son, Tristan who is visiting with us. How many places in the world can you freely wander among thousands of nesting birds?

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The island often described as Mexico’s Galapagos has an abundance of nesting frigatebirds and blue, red and brown footed boobies, as well as a variety of iguanas and lizards.  The frigatebird’s nest in Crataeva Tapia trees which stand around 2 meters high and are in the lower part of the island, while the boobies and seagulls’ nest on the ground at the top of the island.  As the island has no natural predators the nesting birds are unworried, and this allows you to view their babies fairly close.   Should you venture too close you will find the booby will warn you with a honking sound, similar to geese.

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Nesting blue-footed boobies

With the increasing number of deaths due to the Coronavirus, we have been quarantined on the boat for 7 days, so far and thought Isabel would be a spot we could go and not be in contact with other people.  Andrew’s anxiety level increased as we approached the landing spot near the fisherman’s village and he rather hesitantly went ashore.  I may have done a bit of convincing after coming all the way here.

We began our hike in the lower part of the island walking among the nesting frigatebirds.  The species found on Isabel are called the Magnificent Frigatebirds, the largest in the frigatebird family.  We came to Isabel last year at the end of May and it was the end of the breeding season, so we didn’t get to see the male’s spectacular throat.  The male’s black feathers contrast to their scarlet-colored throat or gular sac which they inflate during the breeding season to attract a mate, it looks like an inflated balloon below their beak.

Veins in the frigatebird’s throat when inflated are highly visible and the sides are patterned with black spots.

At any point in time while on the island or on your boat you can look up to the sky and there are hundreds of frigates soaring in the thermals.  I still think there is something a little creepy about frigatebirds they have this death feel about them.  Last time we visited there were numerous frigatebirds who had either recently died or in the process of it and there are always skeletons and bones of the deceased adding to the morbidity feel of the bird.

As we hiked up the hill to see the boobies, we could see some fishermen approaching and quickly retraced our steps to maintain social distancing.  The whole social distancing is awkward when you are in your own country, but when you are a tourist in another country it is incredibly uncomfortable.  Normally you use your limited language skills to talk to the locals, but now the risk of the virus puts us and them in a position where you mumble a quick greeting and retreat as fast as possible.  Not really a great touristy feel and it definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

We ascended the hill, leaving behind the last of the nesting frigatebirds and their trees to reach the grassy top, home to the ground-nesting boobies.  Last year during our visit the birds already had their fluffy babies, some of which were the same size as their parents, this time there were only eggs.  I think the boobies were possibly a bit more protective of the babies at this stage of development than when we saw them later last year and they had hatched.

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You can’t help but love these beautiful birds.

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We wandered around the top and spotted lots of the blue-footed boobies and a few brown-footed too.  Eventually, everyone was boobied out and we made our way back to the dinghy, stopping to look at a few iguanas on the way down.  I’m pretty sure Tristan enjoyed the trip.

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View from the top of Isla Isabel

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The steep hike back down

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An Iguana enjoying the last rays of sunshine

We spent 6 days at Isabel and while we didn’t go and visit the birds again as we decided it was too risky with the Coronavirus, we did snorkel around the rocks, in the chilly water.

Ciudad Murals/ Mural City – 20/2/2020

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle started as a small fishing town located in Banderas Bay and was named after a cross, overlooking the town, made from the Huanacaxtle Tree.  Over the year’s development ensued and it has become a tourist town and home to a marina catering to yachts cruising the Mexican coast and those preparing to cross the Pacific.  The town has a multitude of small restaurants and nearly every night at least one will feature live music.  One of the town’s major drawcards is its popular Sunday market with fresh produce, food stands and local crafts for local and international tourists.  During January to March boats take tourists whale watching to see the humpback whales and their babies, the local area also offers fishing and diving.

I will admit La Cruz has disappointed me somewhat as it is filled with Gringos and isn’t really the place to see and experience real Mexican culture.  However, during February while doing my required 20-minute walks for physio I started wandering off the main streets and exploring La Cruz and it was here that I encountered women, men and even a few kids painting murals. I was even invited to join in.  I started photographing them as I went past to show how quickly they progressed. I thought I would start with my favorite mural/murals.  Please note I have translated, with the help of my friend google,  the signs explaining the murals to the best of my ability.

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                                           Los Recuerdos Viven Por Siempre/Memories Last Forever by Ramón Escobedo                     The mural tells the story of two humans united by love who have shared thousands of moments together that have become memories that they keep as a treasure and nobody can steal.

This is by far my favorite building, on one side you have scenes of the sea and farm where the couple have worked and on the other is the older couple.  I love the story the mural tells.

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                                                            La Brisa en el Cultivo/ The Breeze of the Crop by Bp Vinalay                                            In this mural the different stations through which Don Luis and Doña Lupita went through, life partners to forge the future of their children.  They have traveled their way in pangas and tractors, from the sea to the countryside, from fishing to the sowing, to collecting fruits of the ocean and land.  They are the best company.

I’m amazed at how the artists have incorporated what is done in the local area like whale watching, fishing, and boating, with what was once grown in the area like maize and beef and local faces.  Most of the murals were completed in two or three days, some in a day.  The tired and sometimes crumbling walls of restaurants, toilets, shops (tiendas), houses, toilet blocks and even a statue of a bull have colorfully transformed the local area.  

The slideshow below shows how the restaurant Green Tomato’s walls were given a facelift with rendering and murals.  Even the bull received a new color treatment.

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So who did the murals you may ask?  Well, the project, ‘Ciudad Mural’ or ‘Mural City’ was overseen by the Municipal Government of Bahia de Banderas and was done jointly by the Company Comex and a group called the Colectivo Tomate (Tomato Collective).  The Collectivo Tomate and Comex Paints have spent the last 11 years working with artists from around the country, to create murals in 23 cities across 17 states to give town inhabitants a sense of identity.

Quauh Nacastl by Yorckh

In 1937 the Ejidal Commissariat was founded by Vincente Chavez Gonzalez and a group of natives, dedicated to fishing, agriculture and fruit cultivation of mango and Guanabana. These elements are fused in the composition of this mural, along with the town’s name sake the Huanacaxtle tree (also known by the Nahuatl language as Guanacaste or Oregon) which is alluded to through it’s colors and shapes in the mural.

Corazon del Mar/ Heart of the Sea by Isela Becerra

In the middle of the light blue life grows. It blooms with a ray of sun that illuminates, warms and turns this place into a safe space filled with love, ideal for caring, raising, growing and loving.

The slideshow below shows the school walls transformed over a week by a team of artists.

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Mural Cacarea/We Parade Together

This mural is on the elementary school fence and its theme is celebrating being whoever we want to be whether it is a cloud, sun or a dinosaur.  Let our imagination take us where we want to go.

Frutos del Fruto / The Fruits of the Fruit by Eduardo Cruz

Healthy growth process along with the cultivation of the soul, we are sowers of seed and harvesters of respect for life.

The project was brought to Banderas Bay by the Director of Economic and Rural Development, Claudia Vidal back in October 2019.  La Cruz de Huanacastle was the chosen town to give it an identity and create a tourist attraction.  The project began in La Cruz in November with the artists talking to schools, children, families and other organizations to listen to people tell their stories, talk about their jobs and their community.  The artists were able to use those stories to inspire their ideas for murals unique to the town.  Approximately 300 applications were received from residents and businesses who wanted to have murals on their buildings and from those applications 40 murals were created covering 1344 square meters.

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Montando Entre las Olas/Riding Among the Waves by Isela Beccera
The charreria and the horses have been a legacy and a tradition for this family and are a reason for pride.

Over 300 artists from Mexico and abroad applied to work on the La Cruz project and 25 were selected, among them were 3 locals and 4 from abroad; United States, Argentina, Russia, and Chile.

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                                                                   Amor Amarillo/Yellow Love by Cristina Durán                               This mural tells the story of two lives that unite in the sea between waving waves and multicolored life.

If you find yourself in the area, immerse yourself in the murals and wander the cobblestone streets off the main tourist drag to experience this wonderful Mexican culture in La Cruz.  I’m looking forward to taking my son to see them when he arrives in a few weeks.

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San Blas

During our stay in the San Blas, we anchored off Playa Las Islitas Nayarit, which is a beach located on Bahia de Matanchen in the San Blas region.  The bay is surrounded by jungled mountains that tumble down into the sea and a wetland area nestled at the bottom.  The area itself is home to over 500 species of birds, some native and others migratory, as well as protected crocodiles.

The beach is relatively quiet during the week, but come to the weekend, residents, Mexican tourists and the odd gringo come out to play and enjoy the water, the thatched-roofed huts serving a variety of seafood and for some, surfing. For our kids and my husband, what they enjoyed was the opportunity to surf. Our friends on Love and Luck brought their surfboards to shore and proceeded to teach Max and Ava how to surf. They loved it and I think Max is hooked. Andrew too had a go after 23 years of not surfing and came back happy and invigorated.

Surfing photos courtesy of Mark Vannini from Love and Luck

On a return trip from the town of San Blas, we stopped so Andrew could enjoy a dozen oysters for 100 pesos at one of the beachside restaurants with a large cold beer (almost a liter).  The oysters were good, but not quite the same as at Puerto Penasco.  The Mexican population some with jeans and cowboy hats were also enjoying their seafood meals while traditional Mexican bands serenaded the diners and kids played on the beach.  The only downside was by 5.30 the no-see-ums were out in force, which caused us to retreat to our boats shortly after.

San Blas – 4/1/2020

Love and Luck, Andrew and I went for a trip to San Blas.  A short walk from Playa Las Islitas past the Tiendas/shops selling banana bread is where you catch the local transport.  On our walk down the sandy path, a local showed us a very small crocodile nestled in the mangrove, I don’t want to meet his mother.  We also passed a trio playing their instruments on their way to entertain the diners at the beachside restaurants. 

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It is a short trip to San Blas. Visiting San Blas is like stepping back in time to a place long since forgotten, yet steeped in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. This once important port was the epicenter of the Spanish colonization of Mexico’s Pacific. San Blas was named a port on the 22nd of February 1768 during the reign of King Carlos III of Spain. The Pacific’s first custom house was constructed on San Basilio Hill along with its protective fort in the San Blas and was used to store the gold and other treasures captured.  The Port was used as a base for exploration of North America and for incoming ships from the Philippines. The ports usage declined in the late 1700s due to the diminishing Spanish held territories and terminated expeditions and was eventually closed in 1873.

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Today the sleepy laid-back town is a far cry from its bustling past and is home to quiet streets with a small market area selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and prawns/shrimp. 

The main plaza was still complete with its Christmas decorations and tree during our visit. It’s amazing how close we are to La Cruz and yet how different San Blas is. We did not see any other gringos during our visit, the souvenir markets seemed directed at domestic travelers and it had a more authentic feel to it.

We decided to explore the history of the town and walk to Contaduria San Blas (fort) which sits upon San Basilio Hill and was constructed in 1770. The walk takes you up a cobbled street through a residential area before you enter the gate and pay your 10-peso entrance fee. We explored the site with just a few other locals.

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Walking towards the fort you pass the ruined church, Nuestra Senora del Rosario Temple, constructed in 1769. While the roof no longer exists the walls and arches remain strong and set an eye-catching scene and photo opportunity. Interestingly, while the church may not have had human residents for a long time, nature has taken over with plants growing within the walls, a hummingbird fluttering around, and I could hear a buzzing noise for quite a while before I noticed one of the holes high in a wall a hive of bees.

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We continued uphill to the fort. The best thing about the fort is the views over the bay, the town, rivers, and surroundings. A few canons are remaining among the fort walls and a large gold statue of priest don Jose Maria Mercado, who led his towns to fight for freedom presides over the fort.

Something I have observed is the different way the Mexican culture has with dealing with loved ones they have lost. While this is seen prominently through the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration it can also be seen daily. Walking back from the fort we passed a cemetery with its walls decorated with a large brightly colored mural of characters from the film Coco and peering inside through the adorned gate, I could glimpse color and tributes left to the dead, so different from the white, austere and somber tombs and graves in western society.

If you want a more authentic and less touristy Mexican experience head to San Blas for a couple of days.

Ava’s 14th Birthday – 2/11/2019

Written by Ava

My birthday is on the 2nd of November, and this year I spent my 14th birthday in Puerta Penasco in the boatyard with my friends Totem and Love and Luck.

I started the day with breakfast underneath the boat with the kids. Max made French toast with jam and cream cheese stuffed inside, Love and Luck made pancakes and Totem made bacon.

I made a rule that everyone had to wear at least one thing that was red. Many people in the hardstand had asked us why we were wearing red which made us laugh.

We all then went and found the kittens of the hardstand, Dulce and Pedro, or their English names, Candy and Pete. We spent some time with them before everyone retreated back to their boats to prepare for a BBQ lunch.

Everyone from Love and Luck, Totem and Utopia gathered for a BBQ with sausages!

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I was lucky enough to be gifted with presents and cards from my friends. A lovely red headband, knitted by Sally, bracelets from Fenton and Lucy and a beautiful collage of photos from all of Love and Luck as well as a plastic turtle necklace and a guitar strap from Mairen and Siobhan. I have to admit I cried while I was reading my cards and my birthday mix was playing.

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After lunch and cake, I played the guitar with Siobhan and Heidi, who practised their ukuleles instead. After a while we had to go back to our boats to get ready for the Day of the Dead.

Some people from the hard were kind enough to let us ride in the cattle truck where we were transported to the area where the event was being celebrated. There were food stands everywhere and ofrendas as well. A few hours in I got my face painted like the Catrinas, along with Sally, Heidi, Max and Siobhan. It was all super cool! Although, one of the best parts was seeing the Catrina competition where locals were dressed up like the dead and judges would rate their costume. We even got to take pictures with the woman in costume, they were all really realistic.

The end of a wonderful day was concluded with a slice of cake and a few episodes of Once Upon a Time with my mother.

 

Dia de los Muertos – 2/11/2019

Dia de los Muertos or in English, ‘Day of the Dead’ is a two-day celebration which is a blend of Spanish culture and European Catholicism brought to the region by the Conquistadors and the Indigenous Aztec rituals. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November.

Brief History

The celebration’s roots are primarily from the Aztecs and other Nahua people living in Central Mexico during the pre-Colombian Mesoamerica period. They believed to reach their final resting place of Mictlan, they had to accomplish nine challenges. During August, families would provide food, water and tools that they believed would help the deceased to reach Mictlan, this tradition continues to this day with families leaving offerings to their deceased on the Day of the Dead. In ancient Europe, pagan celebrations in the fall for the dead involved bonfires, feasting and dancing, while in Spain, families would bring wine and bread to their loved one’s graves and decorate them with flowers and candles on All Souls Day. The Roman Catholic Church incorporated All Souls Day and All Saints Day into their Catholic calendar as minor celebrations. When the conquistadors came to the region, they brought with them traditions from Europe, which ultimately contributed to the Day of the Dead traditions.

While Dia de los Muertos is widely recognised as a Mexican celebration, it’s also celebrated throughout Latin American countries. It’s a widely held belief that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on November 1st and the spirits of children can join their families in the celebrations for a 24-hour period and similarly that adult spirits do the same on the 2nd of November. The day’s purpose is to celebrate the lives of the dead with food, drink, parties and activities that the dead enjoyed while alive, rather than focusing on mourning. Family members either leave the deceased favourite foods on their grave or they set up ofrendas (altars) in their homes. The ofrendas are decorated with cempasuchil (marigolds) and candles are lit, their favourite foods and things that symbolise them are also placed there.

The symbol most would recognise and attribute to Dia de los Muertos is the calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls). The skeleton originates from the Aztec goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl. The modern day take of this, is Calvera Catrina which is attributed to the 19th century cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada, who reinvented or modernised the original Aztec Goddess as La Calavera Catrina in a zinc etching. The Day of the Dead tradition is in fact growing due to pop culture. Movies like James Bond’s Spectre featuring a Day of the Dead Parade and Disney’s ‘Coco’ have brought the tradition world wide acclaim. Calavera Catrina now appears as candies, masks, dolls, souvenirs and costumes that are worn on the day and in parades.

Our Dia de los Muertos

During our stay at the boat yard in Puerto Penasco, we went to two Day of the Dead events – those in the boat yard with vehicles kindly drove us to each event. Our first was an altar expo held on the 31st of October at the Colegio de Bachilleres. Students had put together altars either of a deceased family member or a famous Mexican. The altars all had the common feature of marigolds, lit candles and food offerings. Some took it a step further with motorcycles and helmets, model boats and cars and their own Catarinas. I thought it was interesting, Andrew found it a little creepy.

The second event was held on Rodeo Drive on the 2nd of November, Ava’s birthday.  The yard cattle truck was organised to transport the large group of yachtees wanting to participate in the event.

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The street was closed off to road traffic and a stage erected at either end with dancing on one and judge’s awaiting the Catrina parade on the other. In between the two stages different stands were set up selling tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare. Some of the shop fronts had altars erected in front of their stores. Catrina statues and paraphernalia decorated the streets and offered photo opportunities for locals and tourists alike.

The favourite part of the evening for the teens was definitely visiting the face painting stand and selecting the colours they wanted for their own Catrina style skeletons.

The stand was popular with local kids and tourists. The ladies operating the stalls do so on a tip basis.

The evening culminates in a Catrina parade/competition which is open to all ages from tots to grandparents and male and female. The crowd around the stage was large and we had agreed to meet everyone soon after it had started.  We watched for a few minutes and made our way back to the truck where the Catrinas were patiently waiting their turn on stage. Fortunately for us, the Catrinas who had already been on stage were happy to pose for photos with our excited teens, making them very happy.

I have to say that while the costumes were amazing, the makeup was too. Its bewildering how black and white face paint can not only hollow out cheeks but create a realistic mouth of teeth that looks like a skeleton. The ladies were very happy to pose for photos.  In fact the lady in cream also had her son dressed and participating in the event, somewhat reluctantly.

The teenage girls in our group were a little freaked out with the women’s eyes. If you look closely you will see that they are wearing coloured contacts that are a milky blue colour.

Andrew enjoyed the food, the kids loved the face painting and I loved the costumes and photo opportunities. It was a blast!

Snorkeling with Seals – 13th and 14th July 2019

13/7/2019

After re-provisioning in Loreto we returned to Isla Coronados for shelter from the forcasted strong winds.  We decided to go for a snorkel and I suggested it was time to brave it and snorkel with the seals.  The kids very reluctantly got in the dinghy and we headed off.  Along the coastline we saw numerous blue footed boobies relaxing on the rocks, keeping company with pelicans and seagulls.

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We got to the point and the male was barking, as he has done every time we have visited.  I donned by gear and hopped in.  The kids were not particularly happy with me and were concerned I would lose an arm like the Buster Bluth from ‘Arrested Development’.  No seals approached, so we anchored the dinghy around the point and all went for a snorkel.

Andrew decided to take the dinghy oar with us for protection.  Max and Ava followed closely behind Andrew.  Not to fear, the dinghy oar was not used in any manner.

Interestingly enough we did see a male seal, only it wasn’t the one in charge of the harem of girls, maybe a future contender?  Andrew dived down and came face to face with him, he wasn’t aggressive and just swam away.

After seeing the seals we went on the other side of the point, where a lot of dive boats come, for a quick snorkel.  The point has lots of rocky ledges and if you dive down you can see large schools of grouper and snapper.  We are used to seeing one or two groupers around a bombie, but never schools of them.  Above the groupers were thousands of bait fish.  We swam through them and they would part for you and then regroup when you passed.

Bait fish on the left and some of the many Sargent Majors.

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We went back to seal point with Jamie and Behan, for another attempt at snorkeling with seals.  The kids on both Utopia and Totem, decided they didn’t want to come, so it was an adult only trip.

We admired the seals from the rocks for a while, the current was strong on the point and there was more swell than the previous day.  Finally after a few minutes we anchored the dinghy around the point and donned all of our snorkeling gear.  By the time we reached the point, all of the seals were comfortably ashore, with no indication that they were likely to enter the water.  Everyone admired the many grouper in the water and there were a lot, while we waited for the seals to spring into action.  In the distance beside one of the incoming pangas was a marlin, jumping high in the air.  We watched, amazed as it leapt 4 or 5 times.

Andrew and I swam close to the seal rock and tried to encourage the female seals for a swim and were later joined by Jamie.  Eventually there was a scuffle as the seals squabbled for more room and one of the females came in.  She was soon joined by 4 or 5 others.

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It was absolutely amazing.  These curious creatures with their acrobatic skills; tumbling, back-flipping and diving below us. 

Andrew and Jamie swam down with them and had a few curious ones come close. 

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We all laughed at a juvenile male who swam to the bottom and scooted along the rock, using it to scratch his back.

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We all agreed it was definitely one of the best snorkeling trips we have had.

And a few more pics, because why not.  This is the young male who probably interacted the most with us.

Painted Cliffs

We decided not to stop overnight at the Painted Cliffs, but to return to Loreto.  Our trip to Loreto did take us around the northern tip of Isla Carmen and past the painted cliffs.  You can see the viewpoints we looked at on the map below.

The first point we passed was Punta Perico South.  You can see a few colours in the rocks.

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It was after we rounded Punta Perico that the pink and red tones in the cliffs were really noticeable.  Ava says its just rocks, but the different colours offset against the brilliant blue water is truly beautiful.

P1140741The guidebook raves about the next bay, Bahia Cobre or Copper Bay and from our initial view we were really unimpressed.  However, the further around the bay we got, the more colourful the landscape became and it is quite pretty.

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Of course the highlight is definitely the painted cliffs.  You can see not only the red, brown and pink sections in the cliffs, but also green, which is copper.

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And finally a panorama looking back at the bays and points.

 

Bahia Salinas, Isla Carmen – 10/7/2019

Leaving Isla Danzante behind we headed to Bahia Salinas on the western side of Isla Carmen.  After a late lunch the kids took the dinghy ashore to have a swim, while Andrew and I recovered from our morning hike.

Andrew and I went for a snorkel on the sunken tuna boat in the middle of the bay.  The 120 foot boat sunk in 1981 and has since split into two pieces.  The wreck is great for either diving or snorkeling, as part of it is only a couple of meters below the surface.  The site provides a variety of fish and a wreck with its cargo holds to explore.  The water visibility has been terrible over the last week and although it had improved today and the water was warmer, the water clarity was still not great.

We met Totem on the beach at 5.30 to explore the old salt mining operation, which closed down in 1984. In 1995 a program commenced to reintroduce desert big horn sheep onto the island. Isla Carmen is one of only a few privately owned islands in the Sea of Cortez and as such you are not permitted to walk inland from the beach.  Rumor has it, that the island is owned by a Mexican ex-president from the 1990s, Carlos Salinas de Cortari. Today set among the decaying ruins at Bahia Salinas is a hunting lodge, where for a large sum of money you can visit and hunt ‘desert big horn sheep.’  Mmm, anyone else wonder why they started the reintroduction project?  There is even a website advertising the lodge: http://mexicohunts.com/carmenisland.html

The site mine is home to not only the hunting lodge, but also a beautiful church, some dilapidated buildings, rusting equipment and a vast area of salt pans.  Our first discovery was a school.  What was interesting about the school was the exterior walls on either side, which are covered in shells.

I decided to go for a little wander to have a look at the salt ponds, while everyone else continued on.  I had seen pictures of large chunks of white crystallized salt in the cruising guide and had hoped to see some.  My endevours were in vain, as the ponds were quite far back on the private island and with signs in Spanish, I decided to not push my luck and turned back.

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One of the most photographed buildings at the site is the church.  The white church is in fabulous condition and is really pretty set against the desert hues of the island.

I finally caught up to everyone else in front of what looked like a grain silo.  From what I could find out online, some say it was used to store salt, while others said it was for water storage.  However, today there are seats surrounding it and it appears to be a place to relax for a drink for paying customers.

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It was at this point that Ava found a rotting turtle carcass, near the remains of a pier.  The rotting pier is the resting spot for brown pelicans, while recovering from their dive bombing into the water in search of fish. Ava and Siobhan disappeared to have a closer look at the turtle carcass and to collect shells, while the rest of us continued on. 

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Among the crumbling buildings are small touches of the past life here, whether it is a typewriter in a building which is slowly caving in, a collection of old toys or a piece of rusting machinery in a room.

Scattered throughout the settlement and near the salt ponds are rusting equipment; cars, forklifts and trucks. The lodge has added small touches to the vehicles, like a cactus driving the forklift.

Inside the buildings are long forgotten household items or signs on buildings advertising past services.

Even without the personalised touches to the buildings and vehicles, the crumbling structures with the desert landscape is a photographers dream.

I loved the site, the full circle of life.  The environment was destroyed or altered to create both the salt mine and a settlement and now in just three decades the buildings and machinery are crumbling and the natural world is reclaiming what was theirs. My opinion of beauty may be a little different, as Ava is begging me not to make her visit any more boring salt mines.  Oh well you can’t please everybody.

Honeymoon Cove Hike, Isla Danzante – 10/7/2019

Written by Ava (age 13)

On the 10th of July at eight in the morning, my family and our friends, Totem, ventured to Honeymoon Cove, on Isla Danzante, or otherwise known as Dancer Island. The anchorage has three lobes and can only fit a handful of boats. From our position on one of the ridges, we had a great view of Sierra de la Giganta.

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Leaving Utopia behind for our hike. 

We drove in our dinghies from the northern lobe, where our boat was anchored, to the southern lobe. There, we hiked from the white, sandy beach, to a stony ridge. After spending a few minutes staring out into the deep blue abyss we carried on our hike and arrived at a very rocky and testing mountain foot. All four teenagers; Mairen, Siobhan, Max and I, started off first while the adults lagged behind. By the time we had arrived at the halfway mark we were tired and sweaty, and had to stop for a water break (Max and I did, the others continued marching on). Although we pushed through and it turns out that the further you hiked the tougher it became. The rocks were loose and the dirt didn’t give a lot of grip. I was scared that a rattlesnake would come and bite my exposed arms and legs.

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When we arrived at the peak of the mountain the sun too had almost reached the top. It was nice to be able to sit on a rock and drink refreshing water, while staring at the view below and around us. The glistening shades of the blue water, ranging from turquoise to navy blue along with the surrounding mountains and cliffs created a picturesque view. Staring below we could also see turtles bobbing their heads up and down, and rays flying through the shallow waters.

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Us at the top of the mountain

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The view of Danzante Island from the top.

After enjoying a relaxing break, we had to trek back down the mountain. Now that was difficult. The rocks were even looser and shifty. You couldn’t grip much, otherwise the rocks would fall. I slipped multiple times but only fell once. It was actually fun, slipping around (creating miniature landslides) and trying to talk to the others. Although, I’m sure it wasn’t entertaining for the adults. 

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Max and I at the start of the downhill hike.

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The view on the way down.

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With great certainty I can say that by the time we arrived at the dinghies we were dirty and dusty. Though, the good thing was the beach-side water, which was cool and refreshing, and surprisingly enough the water bottles still were as well.

 

 

Baja Dazzles Again with Dolphins and Seals – 28/6/2019

Jacques Cousteau once described the Sea of Cortez as, ‘the world’s aquarium’ and he was certainly right.  Baja has continued to dazzle us with its amazing display of both wildlife and landscape.

28/6/2019

Andrew did a bit of research to find out where the seal colony was located on the island, while Ava and I made a delicious pecan streusel coffee cake.  Once the baking was finished, we packed the snorkeling gear in the dinghy and Andrew and I headed off, the kids chose to stay behind.

We had no sooner rounded the corner of the island when we came across a huge pod of dolphins.  We slowed the dinghy as we approached and watched as they herded fish.  A large dolphin let us know through lots of tail slapping that he didn’t want us to get too close.  We watched for a while and then I jumped in.  The dolphins are edgy and it wasn’t long before they were diving down deep.  It was amazing being in the water with them to get the perspective of how large the pod actually was.  It was like watching a huge school of giant fish.

Back in the dinghy we continued our search for the seals.  Have you ever wondered what they call a group of seals?  Turns out there are lots of different names, ranging from a bob, bunch, colony, crash, harem, herd, knob, plump, pod, rookery and a team of Seals.  Who you knew there were so many.  A knob, really?

After getting two thirds a way around the island, we found them.  Our first contact was with a pair of female seals or cows.  They were very cute cuddled together, basking in the sun.

Moving around the rocky point was when we spotted a gorgeous baby.  We watched him/her for ages as he lazed in the sun, dipped in the water to cool off and occasionally lifted his head to see if we were still there.

We had our swimsuits on and snorkeling gear all ready to go, but as soon as we had arrived the male slid in the water and started barking.  The warning was received.  The females were not worried about us at all and were rather curious.  They would swim near the dinghy in groups of two or three and watch us.  It was so tempting to get in with them, but we just weren’t sure what the male would do. So instead I stuck the camera in the water and snapped some photos, hoping that I was actually capturing a seal.

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The largest of the harem of girls sat sunning themselves the entire time, with the occasional tussle and barking between them.

In between the little groups of seals scattered on the rocks was one star performer.  Rather than just lazing in the sun, she did some pretty spectacular stretching, which would make any yoga instructor proud, I’m certainly envious.

I think the seals are definitely my favourite in the underwater world, thank you Andrew for sharing the fabulous experience. Ava was very envious and wished she had come, so tomorrow we are all heading back again.

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29/6/2019

This morning we did another dinghy trip to visit the seals with Totem.  It was a little earlier than yesterday and the seals were less active, content to just relax on the rocks and pay little attention to us.  Ava thought the baby seal was adorable, I think they are all pretty cute.  Interestingly, the male seal was missing today, maybe out fishing.

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We continued around the point, donned our snorkel gear and swam along the rock edge to the end of the point.  The current was strong, so we stayed in the sheltered bay and explored.  I think it was Mairen who discovered a stone fish, which are prevalent in Mexico and of course there were lots of puffer fish.  Andrew and Jamie were quite excited about the number of large coral trout they spotted while snorkeling.

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No matter how many star fish you see, they never cease to capture the interest of both children (teens) and adults. 

After our snorkel, on our route back to the boat we spotted a large pod of dolphins, probably the same ones as yesterday.  There were lots of oohs and aahs as we watched them.

After returning to the boat, Jamie and Andrew went off spearfishing on the mainland, returning within 2 hours, which is pretty quick for them, with 6 large coral trout.  Looks like we are having fish for a few meals.  I think they were both pretty impressed with their catch.