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.
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.
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.
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.