Archive | December, 2010

Just a quickie!

30 Dec

Sorry folks, the kids came to visit and it’s been a very busy week, so I’ll have a new post for next Tuesday after the New Year!

Hope it was a very Merry Christmas for all of you and may the new year be the best one yet! Prospero Ano!


On the Sea of Cortez

21 Dec

I’ve told you about our kayak. One of the great things about it, is it allows us to go further, faster. That means we can decide we want to head out for a leisurely paddle over to Danzante Island, stopping here and there to explore the many coves and beaches that abound on it’s shores, and still get home in time for Happy Hour!
The water here this year, due to a slightly lower than normal temperature, is crystal clear and even in depths of 20 feet the bottom is clearly visible and so are all it’s inhabitants.
Over the years, we’ve had problems with dust getting into our cameras, so last year we purchased a couple of small, digital cameras capable of underwater shots and movies. This not only does away with dirt and sand getting inside them, it also offers us a new perspective when out on the water.
We headed out last week to explore the coast of Danzante, cameras in hand, hopping for a few sightings of fish and fowl to record for posterity, and to get a little exercise. As we headed out past Coyote Point we could see a great deal of splashing ahead of us, so we aimed for it, then stopped paddling to wait and see what it was. What it was was Manta rays, hundreds of them! They were doing an intricate dance around one another that included leaping clear of the water, moving back and forth around and under us, in a fabulous mating display. It was like watching a carefully choreographed ballet and continued for as long as we wanted to watch.

Manta Rays mating dance

While I was shooting in every direction I could think of and getting quite a few good photos, I inadvertently got a shot of this fellow. They’re called Needlefish, they run about 2 feet long, and are a major predator in the waters here. The name describes both it’s body shape and the multiple needle sharp teeth in it’s jaw. They are also a very pretty blue colour as are it’s flesh and bones.

Needlefish investigating us

Coasting around a bay towards a sandy spit which we intended to land on, we became aware of a California Sea Lion, feeding in the deep drop off at the end of the spit. We watched him for a while enjoying his antics, then noticed a pod of Dolphins, either Roughtoothed or Bottlenosed, on the other side of the split, playing. They had quite a few young ones with them and seemed to be doing nothing more than having fun, leaping and splashing about.
Both animals remained in the cove, seemingly keeping us company as we explored the beach and surrounding area. Just as we decided to hit the water the dolphins disappeared, but we realized that the Sea Lion hadn’t. As a matter of fact it had gone to sleep on the surface about a 100 yards off shore, so we snuck up on it. We got quite close before it noticed us and simply slipped below the surface with barely a ripple to show where it had been.

Wakey, wakey!

We turned our boat back towards the shore we live on, but a fair ways further south, intending to work our way up the coast and check out a few of the small Islets on the way. The weather held, warm and calm, just another beautiful day here on the Baja!
There was unexplained slashing going on just ahead of us, in close to shore, so we paddled over to see what it was. Imagine our surprise when the head of this came out of the water. It was a 20 foot long Whale Shark, a plankton feeder, sieving through the huge volumes of Krill that had appeared in the Sea over the last week or so. It swam with it’s top jaw above the surface, pushing massive amounts of water through it’s gills, turning constantly to keep within the waves of Krill. This was a once in a lifetime happening! Most never experience the thrill of seeing one of these massive creatures. It swam so close beside us we could touch it and a couple of times it went under the kayak and it’s dorsal bumped us as it went past. We sat with it for a good 20 minutes just enjoying seeing one of the oceans largest and gentlest creatures. When we returned home and told our neighbours about our exploits, they told us we were very lucky, they had sailed the world’s oceans for 25 years and had never seen one nor did they know of anyone else who had had a similar experience. We felt extremely privileged to have been witness to one of natures rarer displays!

Heading under the kayak

The next day we were invited to go out on a friends motor boat to see more of the coast than we can reach with our kayak. They were also planning to take us to one of the numerous hot springs in an area we have difficulty accessing in our vehicles. We headed out early, tossed the lines overboard just for fun and started to learn more about this beautiful and rugged area.
Rounding a point south of Ensenada Blanca (White Cove) we spotted a net pen in the bay. Our hostess explained that the women of the small village in the cove had a business Cooperative, diving for Angelfish and selling them into the Aquarium Market in the US. They didn’t take many fish, just enough to make a little money. The business was successful enough to buy clothes and school supplies for the children of the village as well as a few other necessities.

Cortez and Queen Angelfish

Over the next hour both our host and Richard caught, fought and released small Roosterfish, both under 10 pounds and lots of fun, both for those doing the fighting and those who watched. We had just released one when another pod of Dolphins appeared off our bows and played around and under us as we made bow and stern waves. Eventually they grew bored with us and went on their way as did we.


Dolphins toying with us

We rounded a point into a crescent bay with a spit of rocks leading to a small island. During high tide the spit is underwater. We anchored in the middle of this rocky spit and both of our friends made comments about hoping we had made it here during the right part of the tide. Richard and I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about until we got off the boat and up onto the spit. Right there in front of us, in the middle of this rocky finger was a pool. a hot springs! The only time it can be accessed is during low tide and it’s obviously been in use a long time as patrons over the years have pulled more and more rocks out of it to make the pool larger. It reminds us that the Sea of Cortez is just an extension of the San Andreas fault and that volcanic activity isn’t very far below the surface. It was a most welcome respite and we were loath to exit it, but there were others who had shown up to use it and we vacated to let them enjoy the warm waters as well.

It's nice and warm!

Heading into the last bay, a place called Agua Verde, (which mean Green water and it’s a very apt name as the water has an almost emerald colour to it) our host noticed fishing activity and dropped the gear, almost instantly we were into a large fish and the rod was handed to me. I fought it for a good 10 minutes before we even sighted it and even then we couldn’t figure out what it was. We’ve come to realize that even those who fish this sea all the time are often surprised what appears on the end of their rods. Another 10 minutes went by before we caught enough of a glimpse to identify it as a big Roosterfish. Finally after another 10 minutes I managed to wear it out enough to get it to the side of the boat for assessment and photos, where it was promptly released. From past experience I figured it to be between 25 and 30 pounds and it was one hell of a fun fight!

A great fight then a quick release.

We headed back home after that, thanking our hosts for another memorable day on the Sea of Cortez and wondering what more it holds in store for us the next time we venture out on it! Sights and experiences never to be forgotten!


14 Dec

Serendipity |ˌserənˈdipitē|noun,  the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way : a fortunate stroke of serendipity | a series of small serendipities.


I know, I know, that’s a strange way to start the blog today but hey, bear with me and you’ll understand!

First a slight digression. After having used a 7 foot  extreme white water kayak for the last 4 years and being driven crazy by it’s and my inability to travel in it, we decided after listening to friends whose advise we trust, to invest in a divorce boat. Never heard of them? Well that’s what those in the kayaking industry sarcastically call double kayaks. We love one another dearly, but we have also been known to fight like cats and dogs, even after 33 years of wedded bliss. So we decided on a 22 foot Seaward Passat G3, a Canadian made, fibreglas boat. Those of you who know the industry will recognize what we bought, but for the rest of you, this is a very long boat that separates the paddlers by another cockpit. It’s so long we can’t even touch one another with our paddles which for us is a good thing as the concept of paddling in unison is about as foreign as learning Chinese would be. It’s also a very fast and stable boat.

Told you it was long!

We bought it in May and spent a few trips out around Victoria, Shawnigan Lake and Okanagon Lake learning how to use it and get it on and off our vehicle. Since we drive a Suzuki it was quite the sight and we certainly got some strange looks from those who saw us transporting this beauty. The whole point of this was because for the last 5 winters we have been staring at Danzante and Carman Islands, just 3 1/2 miles away with no way to get to them, and we wanted something that we could do something together.


The kayak was hoisted onto the top of Grummy and off we went, back to Baja with the thoughts of long kayak trips dancing in our heads. We unloaded at our favourite spot on Rattlesnake beach and tried out a few short trips, mostly because sometime during the latter part of fall, I apparently tore my left Rotator Cuff. Big Bummer!! After a couple of short paddles it became apparent that the torn muscle wasn’t really going to be a problem paddling, so last Saturday that water was just too inviting and we decided to head out for a short fishing trip to figure out how we would manage to do that from the boat.


You know how you start out to do one thing and somehow it leads to something else? Well that’s exactly what happened to us. We caught a Little Tunny about 2 miles from the beach and decided since it was such a glorious day that we’d head to the south end of Danzante and take a look around. When we got there we thought, well, what the hell, let’s just put our nose around the bottom of the island and see what’s there, then it was go a little further till we found a lovely beach. We hopped out and wandered around enjoying the break and since we were almost half way up the other side of the island we decided to continue to round it and then head for our beach.


As we were approaching the northern end of Danzante, we spied what we thought was our friends in their Folbot, a rather slow, folding boat. We decided to sneak up on them, but as we got close, it became apparent that this was not our friends, but we planned on being friendly and saying “Hi” anyways. As we got close without them noticing, Richard said, loudly, “Beep, Beep”. They spun around, laughed, then noticing our fishing rod, plaintively asked if we could teach them how to catch fish. During the ensuing conversation, they told us they had been travelling for a month and a half and hadn’t managed to catch anything. They’d been into Loreto to store some gear and were just mucking about the islands as one of them’s girlfriend was coming to spend 4 days with him and the other was just going to hang around and relax while the other entertained. They wanted to know what time it was and if they could get a ride into town and to the airport from Puerto Escondido, the harbour just north of us, as the girls plane arrived at 3 PM. Richard as is his usual wont, immediately offered to drive the one fellow to the airport so he could meet his lady friend. They were pretty stoked that a total stranger would be willing to do that for them and accompanied us back to our beach. All the while, as we paddled back to Rattlesnake they told us of their journey and jokingly pointed out how heavily loaded their kayak was. It also was a folding boat but a Feathercraft, which is also a Canadian made kayak, which they pointed out when it became apparent that we were Canadian, and they weren’t joking about all the weight. They said they had a hull speed of 6 knots and they weren’t kidding. It was all we could do to restrain ourselves and stay with them.


Landing on our beach, Richard pulled our kayak up to it’s parking spot and I grabbed 4 bottles of beer and took them down as the boys started to unload their kayak, and unload, and unload, and unload! The amount of stuff they had with them was unbelievable and they said they still had a sail rig, kite and kite board sitting in Loreto that they had carried all the way from San Filipe, where they had originally put in. This is in the far north of the Sea of Cortez on the Baja side, a very long ways away. They were ever so thankful for the beer and we finally got around to introducing ourselves. They were Mark and Josh and it was Josh who was heading to the airport to meet his girlfriend. As soon as the kayak was unloaded enough to get it up the beach, off they went with Richard.

And that's only part of all the stuff

When they returned a couple of hours later, it was just Mark with Richard and already the funny stories had started. Richard had dropped Josh off at the airport and continued into Loreto so Mark could get the rest of their stuff. They had stopped at the little convenience store near our road access on their way back in and apparently Mark was famished. As he gathered up all the carbs he could find, Richard mentioned to Lorraina the proprieties how hungry Mark was, sensing a customer she could upsell to, she showed him a pizza. Mark was interested but not willing to eat it cold, “Not a problem” Lorraina said and popped it into her Microwave right then, and handed it to Mark, hot. He devoured the whole thing quickly and Richard was still chuckling about Lorrainas business acumen when they got back to the beach.


Mark kept asking if it was going to be OK for him to stay on our beach for a couple of days and we kept reassuring him that it would be fine, besides it wasn’t really “our” beach. I asked him to come for dinner and he accepted with alacrity. Over the course of dinner, we heard more of Mark and Josh’s story. Mark was an doctor from Oregon that no longer practiced in the States. He was actually supposed to be writing a book about the how bad the US medical system was but he got a bit bogged down and on the spur of the moment he asked his friend Josh if he wanted to travel down the Sea of Cortez, to La Paz. Josh, an unemployed carpenter with nothing better to do, agreed. With only a weeks planning, off they went. They hit huge waves, very high winds, no landing sites, and probably should have died a dozen times over, but fate obviously had other plans for them.  With Josh off to new girlfriend heaven, Mark had time to finally relax, enjoy the warm sun and sand and get some work done on his book. The next morning, Richard had the couple next to us in stitches when he leapt out of the van, coffee cup in hand to present to Mark just as he woke up. Our neighbours told us that they’d never seen such a high quality resort.

Dr. Mark

Dr. Mark was a very personable guy and in no time at all became a favourite with everyone on the beach who met him. He also was more than willing to help a few folks who were in need of a doctors ministrations. I warned him that he could end up stuck on our beach, all he had to do was let it be known he was a Doctor and the folks would be lining up. He actually ended up doing consultations on our beach with a fellow that was having major stomach problems caused by parasites. Mark in his young life (38) had kayaked in a great many countries and had experienced the same problems, so he knew exactly what was needed and actually had some medicine with him that helped our friend tremendously. He was more than willing to offer advise consisting of Western, Oriental and herbal. When I asked him about it he said he believed in using whatever worked. The only time he ever used strictly Western medicine was if the patient was dying, because it had the best painkillers.


He joined our beach Yoga group and went hiking up Tabour Canyon, with us and others, making friends as he went. Finally after 4 days Josh returned to the beach with his girlfriend in tow, and 50 pounds more food that Mark’s wife had shipped down. Heather was supposed to have flown out that day, but her flight had been cancelled with no explanation. She was told to come back the next day, maybe the flight would leave then. This is Mexico, you just get used to these things. They decided the best way to pass the time was to come to the beach, borrow the kayak and go snorkelling. Off they went and when they returned they had another 2 kayakers with them. These gentlemen had made the same trip Mark and Josh had and were only staying the night. In the mean time Mark spent the day on the beach trying to pare down the amount of stuff that they needed to pack, and still stay afloat.

Our kayak resort

The next morning our beach looked like Kayak Heaven with bodies camping out all over the place. Our neighbour told us later she and her husband were taking bets between them as to whether we had enough coffee mugs to go around and would Richard be out there again in the morning handing coffee out. We did and he did. Shortly after breakfast the other 2 visitors said their goodbyes and thanks and turning into the sunrise, headed south.


The rest of us consulted and made plans. Heather needed to be at the airport at noon and once 2 PM had passed they knew she would be off. At that point, if she didn’t return to the beach, the boys would pack up and head south themselves.


We also wanted to go out on the water so we figured we’d meet up with them as they left. We were gone until 3PM and figured we’d missed them, but as we got closer to the beach we could see them still loading their kayak. We made it back just in time to give them both a big hug and sincere wishes for a safe and uneventful finish to their trip. There was quite a crowd on the beach to see them off and actually a few tears were shed as they sailed off into the wind. Most of us watched until we could no longer see them and many commented on just how quiet it would be now. When we turned back into our camping site, there in our Mesquite tree was a bag with about  20 pounds of food. Mark had left it for us as a sort of payment for everything we’d done for him. He also had an ulterior motive, that way he didn’t have to put it in the already overloaded kayak!

Josh and Mark leaving the way they came

E-mail addresses had been exchanged and all of us were invited to visit Mark in Bend any time. I’m sure, considering all the friends he made in the short time he spent on our beach that many will take him up on the offer. We can all hardly wait to read his book and get it personally autographed by our new friend Dr. Mark!

A serendipitous occasion if ever there was one!

A trip to market

6 Dec

We sit on the beach every morning, coffee in hand and watch the sun rise over the Island of Danzante. The quiet is broken only by the plop, plop sound of pelicans diving into the water in search of fish, and the continuous susurration of the lapping waves.

Just another beautiful sunrise

Our beach is peace and quiet itself, but Mexico is not. These are a people who revel in noise. Everything is done at full volume as if by doing so God will hear them and smile on them, and who’s to say they aren’t right?

They also have a different standard than most North Americans about personal space. They think nothing of standing or pitching their tents inches away from someone else and if you can’t stand that or the noise, you probably shouldn’t come here.

Need a stroller, or bike for the kids?

Sundays in the town of Loreto, is when the local market is set up. People here work 5 ½ days a week and Sundays is the only day they have off, so it’s a perfect time for the outlying farmers, tinkers, ranchers and other sellers to pitch tents down the dry arroyo beside town and set out their  wares.

One of many vegetable and fruit stands

You can buy just about anything here, from freshly butchered goat; beef or chickens to the freshest organic vegetables one can find anywhere. The vegetables and meats are organic only because of economics. These are dirt-poor farmers and so cannot afford anything in the way of fertilizers or pesticides. The ranchers allow their animals to range far and wide so they can find enough sustenance to survive. No antibiotics here. If they survive long enough to be rounded up, they become the next meal. They also don’t hang their meat, first because it’s extremely lean, second because there is very little in the way of available refrigeration, due to lack of electricity in the out lying areas.

A little something for everyone!

Everyone turns out for the market and it becomes a cacophony of colours and sounds. The vegetable sellers use loud hailers to announce the prices of their wares, the CD salesman just turns up his speakers to full volume, the Taqueria,(taco restaurant) and the birria (Goat soup) sellers also have their music playing loudly.

Good tacos here!

You want a plastic garbage can, tools, kitchen implements or used pot and pans, second hand clothes, religious icons, there’s a booth here. Fresh cheeses, pastries, breads, seafood all can be had at the various tents lining the path. There are even candy and drink sellers pushing hand carts or carrying trays on their shoulders pushing through the crowds hawking their wares, adding to the volume.

Want some fresh seafood?

This is a meeting place as well, as those who haven’t seen one another for a while,  catch up on the latest news of friends, relatives and local politics.

Need a religious icon?

It is a rollicking, pounding, colourful, carnival like atmosphere, which puts every market at home to shame. Prices as well. At home everyone who eats “Organic” has resigned themselves to having to spend more to get a little less. At this market, a weeks worth of fruit, vegetables and meat averages out to 500 to 600 pesos. That’s about $45.00 in Canada.

Here, everyone has a smile on his or her face, a friendly “Hola!” And “Como est ta?” to friends and strangers alike!

We go every week, pick up our necessities, visit with friends, poke into any booth that looks interesting, and then head back to our quiet little piece of paradise, treasures in hand, for another week. Who knows next week we may find that one unique thing we’ve always been looking for but could never find!

The colours of sunset