Archive | Big Wind RSS feed for this section

Not your average year!

19 Mar

Just finished celebrating my birthday (March 14th), the last year of my 50’s as my youngest so delicately put it. Sitting around the fire, eating BBQ ribs, scalloped potatoes and drinking tequila, talking about how much longer we all have before we have to head home once more.

The population of campers on the beach has halved over the past week, signaling the end of another season. For all of us, it’s a time of sadness as well as anticipation; sadness because some may not make it back to the beach next winter and anticipation as we all look forward to seeing friends and relatives back home!

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

As I sit here writing this (March 16th), I’m listening to the VHF radio, hearing chaos out in the Waiting Room and Inner harbour at Puerto Escondido, as boats break loose from their moorings, dinghies capsize and docks are torn to pieces. Today is the very first north wind, exceeding wind speeds of 55 knots! That’s higher than the wind from Hurricane Paul of 2012. It almost seems as if Mother Nature was saving up everything for this one blow!

..and this is what it looks like today!

..and this is what it looks like today!

Up until today our weather has been unseasonably calm, and warm. We’ve had mostly gentle breezes when we would have appreciated slightly higher ones, due to all the mosquito and no-see-um activity all season and we’ve had our little heater on for exactly 45 minutes the entire winter. While everyone at home suffered through some of the worst winter weather on record, we seem to have been sitting right on the very edge of the drought conditions hitting the southwestern United States.

This has been an odd season because normally the Grande Nortes start blowing in November/December and the temperatures begin to drop. It usually gets cold enough that most of us are wearing long pants, with a light jacket during the day because of lower temperatures and blowing sand. Nights and mornings are usually cold enough to have a heat source on for at least a little while.

This year, as I said no winds and average daytime temperatures never dropped below 70 F with averages in the low 80’s. Even the water temperatures have stayed high. High enough that even I’ve been out swimming recently and that’s never happened in the past, at least not for me! Once the water gets below 65, I just don’t want to go in, but this year, it had only just reached that when it started to rise again and it’s now fast approaching 80 again.

For those with years of experience on the water, they’re starting to be a bit concerned about the coming hurricane season since 80-degree water sustains them. They believe with the high temperatures this early in the year that it could lead to a very bad hurricane season with multiple storms. I guess we’ll see and we’ll be watching the weather closely before we venture down next fall.

Ladies fishing day

Just me and Jan out fishing and successfully I must say!

Other than strange weather and worrying about our families back in the extreme cold up north, it’s been pretty much an average year, lots of parties and get togethers, BBQ rib nights, bocce ball games, when we weren’t getting eaten alive by the bugs, fishing, kayaking and hiking. I even got to catch a couple of large Yellowtail on my single action reel which I’d been told was impossible plus we managed to have a couple of Ladies only fishing trips which were highly productive and the cause of much conversation around the fire!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

The big difference this year was the season brought us kittens instead of puppies. We are usually the recipients of abandoned dogs and puppies on the beach, from the locals, since over the years the folks here have managed to find homes for almost every one. This year it was 9 kittens and 1 cat, most likely the mother of 8 of the kittens, maybe. I have to thank our friends and neighbours on the beach, Sy and Jan, who actually shouldered most of the burden of looking after this brood. We only had one at a time appear on our doorstep, while they had almost the entire group!

Sadly, out of the original 8 kittens, 2 had to be put down and 2 died, most likely from complications of Feline Leukemia, which is a major problem amongst the cat population down here. One of them, I’m sad to say, was a little Siamese cross female that we had decided to adopt and named Bella.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

Happily, however the other 4 found homes and still remain healthy. For this we have Jan to thank as she did all the leg work and doggedly searched for people to adopt these lovely little girls! The adult cat was eventually live trapped, spayed and released, where she will hopefully manage to survive without producing any more unwanted kittens.

Unfortunately there is no place to take cats in Loreto. Animalandia, a volunteer organization, deals with dogs and has no facilities for cats beyond arranging for spaying and neutering.

Just when we thought we were done with all the animals, I went for a walk up to the little convenience store, and on the way found a very young, very cute, puppy. I may not be a dog lover but there was no way I could ignore this tiny little girl so I carried her to the store and then back to our campsite. As I was showing her to Richard he exclaimed in horror that she was covered in fleas and upon putting her down, it became obvious she really was! There were so many on her, you could see them seething through her fur and she was covered in bumps from bites. Surprisingly enough, not one got on me, nor did I receive a single bite!

Thankfully one of the campers had a flea spray medication that was suitable for young animals, and we soon had the little girl completely free of fleas. She was very appreciative, though I imagine, the previous bites itched like hell! The next morning we took her into Loreto and turned her over to the kind ladies from Animalandia, who figured she would be very easy to adopt out, since the size of her feet indicated she would probably grow quite large, had the colouring of a Rottweiler, and good guard dog instincts, all desirable traits.

Feeling good about ourselves, we headed for home knowing that thanks to our actions, this little dog would have a much happier life, rather than getting hit by a car, being eaten by coyotes or bobcats or dying from starvation or dehydration. We walked through the door of Grummy, only to have our neighbours knock on it moments later, with a small furry bundle wrapped in a silk shirt and the greetings of Happy Birthday!

On their walk early in the morning they came across another kitten, all by itself very near the highway, and they just couldn’t leave her to get killed by a car. Knowing that we had lost the kitten we’d adopted, and that we had talked about getting another kitten when we got back to Canada, they brought her to us. And so, Bella 2 came into our lives. (I would post a picture but WordPress seems to be having major problems uploading photos these days)

(The name was stuck in our heads and even when we tried calling her something else, “Bella” always seemed to come out. She responded to the name almost immediately, so we figured she was destined to be called it).

You know, we had both forgotten what it was like to have a kitten.  They’re crazy; fun, entertaining, cute and cuddly, but crazy and they wake up way too early. So now we have to figure out how to travel with a kitten and live with her in our Dodge van at home. So far she’s taken to the Grummy with no problem at all and doesn’t seem inclined to wander out of sight of us. We’ll see,  I guess it’ll be one step at a time. We’re really hoping it will work out for her, and us, but if not, we’ve already had a couple of folks at home volunteering to take her. So one way or another this little lady is going to have a great life.

Stay tuned; I may have to change the title of this blog to “Travels with Bella”!

Advertisements

THE LONG ROAD HOME

13 Mar
Just another shitty day in Paradise

Just another shitty day in Paradise

 

Yeah, I know this post is late. That’s becoming an ongoing theme, isn’t it? Well, I am retired and I run on Baja time, which mostly entails, “Manana”. Why do something today, when there’s no rush and tomorrow is soon enough? Besides, the days all flow into one another and I’m always amazed at how quickly they pass. That’s the biggest reason why my posts are always late from here. I suddenly realize that I haven’t written for a while and when I check the calendar a month or more has gone by.

 

Truth be told, I didn’t really want to write this particular post because it’s the last one from the beach. Yep, it’s that time of year again, when those of us who have a life somewhere else, start to prepare for heading North.

 

The Rattlesnake Beach community started to break up last week with the first 2 campers leaving but the trickle is about to become a rush. By the 16th of March there will be only 5 of us regulars left here and Richard and I will be hitting the road by the 22nd at the latest.

 

Bougainvilla in full bloom! It's Spring in Baja

Bougainvilla in full bloom! It’s Spring in Baja

The big push comes from Semana Santos, or Saints Week, the week of celebration before Easter Sunday, when all the locals who can, move out to the beach and take over every square foot of available camping space. A few of the regulars have friends in the local communities who come every year and camp with them. They apparently enjoy the excitement of having a small city descend upon them for a week!

 

Richard and I feel that since we basically have the use of the beach for 6 months, the least we can do is get off it and let the locals enjoy it without having to share it with a bunch of Anglos. We also camp at the far north end of the beach where the launch ramp is and it gets incredibly busy and noisy during Semana Santos. After 6 months of peace and quiet the last thing we want to take away with us is the stress of absolute chaos, loud noise, music, Skidoos, Pangas, cars, trucks, kids, dogs and people and garbage everywhere!

 

So we’re already in prep mode, deciding what to take, what to leave, packing up stuff we aren’t using, unpacking it again when we realize we are still using it, trying not to purchase too much food so it will all be used up when we leave, rushing to the store when we realize we don’t have enough for dinner and saying goodbye daily to friends we won’t see for another 6 months. It evokes a kind of sadness; since we know that next year will not be an exact repeat of this year. Some folks will return, some won’t. There’s one thing in life we’ve all learned to accept and it’s that change is constant.

 

Stand up John playing around the fire

Stand up John playing around the fire

It’s not all sad because at the same time excitement is building about getting home and seeing our kids and their families again. There’s nothing to give you that kick in the butt to get moving like having one of your Grandkids ask when Grandma and Grandpa are going to be getting home. There is always some trepidation however, since we all know that the weather will not be the warm 85F that it is here.

 

We won’t be rushing home this year like we did last spring! Grummy will be put to bed properly and tucked in for a long summer sleep. Then we’ll meander our way home in Rosie taking our time and visiting ruins and parks in Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the ranch of friends we spend the winter with. We were supposed to go last year but, well, fate intervened. Plus, just because we leave here in March doesn’t mean we want to get home in March. We like to wait long enough for Spring to have have sprung. At least that’s the plan so far…

 

There’s something a little strange about watching the season’s go in reverse as we head home. We leave here and the trees and flowers are in full bloom. All through the southern U.S., everything is green and the trees are in leaf, then gradually as we continue north the leaves slip back into buds and the greenery declines until we reach home where the buds are just starting to show and the landscape has that look of anticipation, just waiting for the right moment to burst forth with the new spring.

 

 

In some ways we’re going to be swept out of our campsite this year as the winds which were mostly gentle for much of the winter have come back with a vengeance. For the last little while we’ve had tremendous blows, one that lasted 2 full weeks, with average wind speeds of more than 20 knots and gusts pushing 35.

 

I know that at home those wind speeds are not considered very big. Hell, I guided regularly in winds over 35, but with the geography here, winds of that speed push the water to deadly proportions. This is the height of the tourist season so there are Kayakers everywhere and due to heavy winds, we had an almost fatal accident just off Rattlesnake Beach 2 weeks ago. Everything worked out thanks to a very experienced Kayak guide from one of the local companies and a Pangero (a panga operator) who braved the heavy seas.

 

It pays to go with an experienced guide when pursuing a sport in areas that you are not familiar with. The group that got into trouble were experienced kayakers at home but not here, and local knowledge is worth its weight in gold. We’ve become friendly with all the local kayak guides and the companies they work for, and we’re impressed by the qualifications, experience and dedication these people show to their chosen profession. It’s the same where I guided, a professional fishing guide can keep you safe, show you the best fishing grounds and put you into the big fish, most of the time. It’s certainly worth spending the extra money; otherwise you’re taking chances in waters you know nothing about.

 

It’s been blowing now for the last 3 days, making the van rock and roll, scouring the last remaining sand from the beach. Tomorrow it’s supposed to drop down to a reasonable speed then down again to almost nonexistent, maybe we’ll get one last trip out in our kayak before we wrap her up and put her in her cradle, on top of Grummy.

 

Eventually the summer winds will come in from the opposite direction and hopefully blow all the sand back onto the beach so that by the time we all return, there will once again be a sandy beach.

 

There’s still a few social get-togethers coming up, my birthday and the last meeting of the Costillo de Puerco club, but in a few short days we’ll be on the road and slowly making our way home. Next time we talk it’ll be from Penticton, where I’m sure I’ll be complaining about the cold, but it sure will be nice to give my family big hugs and spend a few months visiting back and forth with them.

 

Hold on kids, here we come!

Same old, same old? NOT!

12 Jan

 

Hi, it’s me again. As usual I’m a little late in my post but hey, I’ve been sick. Geez that sounds like a line from a Looney Toons cartoon doesn’t it? It is, however true. After all these years of eating damn near anything I could find down here and not once suffering from Travellers Tummy, I finally got hit, and it was my own damned fault!

 

My youngest daughter convinced us to try the Paleo diet along with a Cross Fit training program and since it involves lots of meat and bacon, (mmm, bacon) we decided to go for it. So breakfast became the old-fashioned bacon and eggs. No problem, since eggs are easily found here, and they’re cheap. Sometimes they come from factories but lots of times they’re obviously from some local farm, which means they haven’t been cleaned. I guess at some point, some bacteria from the shell of one of the local eggs found it’s way into my breakfast, then into my tummy and it stayed there. From about December 18th until about a week ago, I’ve felt like crap!

 

After discussion with a couple of the ladies on the beach, one a genetic researcher and the other a nurse, plus a lot of Internet research, I finally narrowed down what the problem was. With help from my son-in-law, Dave, who’s a pharmacist, I’m now on a regime of antibiotics, and starting to feel better. Hopefully this will do the trick, cause sitting in Grummy, with no desire to do anything while the sun shines and all our friends are outside playing has sucked big time!

Between my last post and getting sick though, Richard and I did manage to get up Tabour Canyon, the easiest and closest hike to Rattlesnake Beach. Now, over the years, I’ve told you about this canyon and I’ve posted numerous pictures. About the only things that have changed over the years have been the folks accompanying us and slight increases or decreases in the water level.

One of our friends here, on the beach, has an old book dated from the 50’s showing photo’s of Tabour Canyon and it looks no different from any of our own shots, but Hurricane Paul changed everything!

 

Whenever we hiked the canyon, there were certain spots we’d always stop, to admire the view, take pictures, or have a bite to eat. A couple of spots especially to take pictures of those we were guiding so they would have a touristy shot of themselves either crawling out the Rumble Pile hole leading to the upper two thirds of the canyon or sitting in an incredibly convoluted fig tree. Not anymore!

 

The entire place has changed, so much so that we can’t even tell were we are most times, except for a few places that are obvious. Like the Rumble Pile for instance. This was a spot that unless you knew where to look, you would assume the canyon dead-ended. If, however, you knew the secret, you crawled under the rock ledge, slid carefully over the palm tree log, came out on the top of the ledge, went over it then back under and climbed up the hole, which brought you up to the next section of the canyon. Many, many people have had their photos taken emerging from that last hole, but sadly, no longer! The holes no longer exist!

 

 

Take a look at these pictures. The first one shows how we used to access the upper portion of Tabour with a couple of friends up through the first hole, sitting on the rock ledge. The second shows how deep the gravel is now after Paul came through.

Tabour Canyon before Paul

Tabour Canyon before Paul

 

Tabour Canyon after Paul

Tabour Canyon after Paul

This second set is in the same area. The first shows the big rock sitting in a pool of water that was virtually impossible to get around. We had to climb up a rock wall just to the south of it, sidle across the skimpy ledge, duck under and through a hole made of 3 big rocks balanced on top of one another and came out just below the Rumble Pile. Now you can barely see the top of the rock, which is what Richard is pointing out.

 

Before 2012

Before 2012

How much Paul changed everything!

How much Paul changed everything!

 

We had to go through a lot of old photos and compare them to the most recent to figure out what we were looking at and where we were within the canyon walls. Even when we did know where we were, the canyon is virtually unrecognizable, from beginning to end. All of this was caused by the incredible power of water.

 

Now, I’ve explained about the wet summer but what everyone thinks happened here is that in August it rained about 20 inches in a couple of days, causing the ground to become saturated for the first time in 7 years. The next big fall, about 10 inches, happened at the end of September and filled every available space that water could accumulate in. When Paul hit there was nowhere for the water to go, plus even though it rained only about 101/2 inches down here it was probably in the neighbourhood of 30 inches on the top of the Gigantes. As the water fell down the steep slopes of the Gigantes, it gained speed and power and nothing stood in its tracks. There are places in Tabour where solid rock has been pounded out by the force of water and the rocks and boulders it was pushing in front of it. From what we can figure out there is at least 20 feet of gravel covering the old canyon floor.  Boulders the size of houses have been tossed around as if they were toys, tearing out chunks of the canyon walls, and destroying all vegetation in their path.

 

Tabour used to be my favourite hike as it was a full body workout. You used your arms and legs scrambling up and over the rocks and now except for the easy climb over the bit of rock that separates the upper canyon from the lower, it’s virtually just a stroll.

 

Ah well, nothing really ever stays the same does it?

 

Hopefully once I’m back up to fighting strength, we’ll try Wow and Ligui Canyons. We already know we can’t drive as far up the road to Wow as we used to since an arroyo has torn away part of the road. We hiked a kilometer into the canyon and it looks much the same as before but since Wow requires a lot of wading through very cold water we went no further. We haven’t even attempted to get into Ligui yet especially since it’s a very long drive up the arroyo to get to it and we know that there was considerable damaged caused by water flow all along it’s length. For all we know the canyon is no longer accessible, but I’ll let you know.

 

In the meantime friends, keep warm and try not to have a jammer shoveling that white crap.

 

Hasta Luego!

 

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR…

6 Nov

I’m sure you’ve heard the old expression in the title of this blog and you all know the next part, “ because you just might get it”. Well, I have to say that I’m never going to tempt fate again and having been involved in the fishing industry most of my life I really should have known better.

Our campsite on October 3rd

Let me back up a bit here. Before we arrived in Baja we knew that this year the rainy season had lived up to its name in spades. We were still astonished though at how green everything was and how many bugs there were. We had hit the beach a day or two after a heavy rain and the temperature, humidity and bug life was pretty overwhelming.

What the campsite looked like on the morning of the 14th

Rattlesnake Beach came as a very pleasant surprise however, because over the course of the summer it had become a true, sandy beach, from one end to the other. We’d been told that the nature of the beach changed fairly regularly and were thrilled that for the first time since we started to camp here, we’d get to enjoy a tropical, sandy paradise, and we did! We were having difficulty getting our kayak out of storage in Loreto as the caretaker was away, but with the water temperature at around 90F we spent a lot of time in it simply because it was a great way to escape from the heat, humidity, (which was in the 70 to 80 percent range) and the bugs. We swam and snorkeled at every opportunity.

This is what it looked like just before Paul hit

In a normal year here, the hurricane season is considered to be over by the beginning of October and we had a few conversations with those who live here year round about what it’s like to experience one. It was during one of these chats that I made the fatal error. I said that I’d experienced massive storms and hurricane force winds at sea and every year very large gales whipped the shores of eastern Vancouver Island where we lived. I’d even been in Vancouver when the tail end of Hurricane Frieda slashed through in 1962, but at the age of 7, didn’t really remember all that much about it, and then I said, “Wouldn’t it be neat to be here and experience one?”

The next thing we knew, the weather reports were tracking a storm in the southern Pacific that was gathering force and heading for the Baja. Eventually it grew big enough that they gave it a name, “Paul”, and it became apparent that it was going to hit the peninsula, though no one was sure exactly where it would make land fall.

Same spot right after Paul passed

We had arrived on Rattlesnake Beach on October the 3rd and gradually, over the next 2 weeks, the temperature and humidity level declined slightly and even the bugs seemed to be leveling off, but come October the 14th it started to rain. The weather gurus explained that Paul wasn’t going to hit us directly but would make landfall further north, That didn’t mean that we weren’t going to be affected by it, just that we wouldn’t experience the full force of it.

This is a spot on our road into the beach called Five Corners. This was on October 3rd. It’s the same spot in the photo below.

This gives you a pretty good idea as to what our road into the beach looked like, and this was only Monday morning before Paul hit.

As I said, on Sunday, the 14th in the morning, the rain started and continued to fall until the afternoon of the 15th. Now I realize that if you live anywhere on Vancouver Island or the lower mainland, at this point you’re shrugging your shoulders and saying, “So what? Sometimes it rains here for weeks on end!” and normally I would agree with you, but during that 36 hours it rained 10.29 INCHES of rain and that was what fell here on the beach, that doesn’t include all that fell on the Gigantes, the mountain range that sits just behind us.

 

It rained so much on Sunday alone, that one look outside Monday morning told us we were all going to be in trouble. Our campsite had a lake in it, the road behind us was flooded and the old arroyo beside us was starting to run. We had already discovered a couple of leaks in Grummy, including one of our skylights, two other small ones that had bowls under them, nothing we couldn’t deal with but we were worried about some of the older campers.

This was our lovely sandy beach north of us just before Paul hit.

It’s hard to explain just what it was like actually. The temperature was in the low 90’s and the humidity level was at 95 percent, everything just felt wet. We even turned the heater on for a couple of hours trying to dry things out a bit but it was too hot to keep it running.

And this is the same beach after Paul, nice eh?

We put on minimal rain gear and headed out for a walk. Come on, we’re from the Wet Coast and a little rain wasn’t going to stop us, besides there was hardly any wind blowing and we wanted to make sure the rest of the folks here were doing OK. We walked from our campsite to the arroyo to the south of us, which was flowing pretty good, and everywhere we went was flooded. The roads weren’t roads anymore they were rivers! Richard carried a hoe and we tried to dig trenches to funnel water where it would do the least amount of damage. Everyone was doing all right, though most had some small leaks, mostly they were all hunkered down waiting Paul out. It rained so hard during the day and was so warm that both Richard and I had showers outside. Hey, why waste it right?

Paul didn’t hit us with a lot of wind, only about 30 to 40 miles an hour, mostly because the vast expenditure of water and wind was thrown at the mountain range at our backs. Thanks to a nasty convergence that was still to come, we were to eventually experience some fairly nasty repercussions!

Over the years I’ve written about the canyons that we hike on a regular basis in the Gigantes, but these are canyons in name only, what they really are, are vast water collection systems designed to funnel it and pour it out in the arroyos that fan out from the base of them, like the one at the end of our beach. When you sit out on the water and look back at the beach, it’s obvious that this entire area is a vast flood plain created by the erosion spewed out of the Gigantes over eons. Most of the time these arroyos are dry and are used as roads to get from place to place where real roads don’t exist, but not on October 14th. Just after noon on Monday, the arroyo to the south of us filled to capacity and broke through a sand dam that had built up over the last 10 years, spewing everything in it and everything that had come down from the Gigantes, out into the sea. The one beside our campsite just kept getting bigger as more water and debris flowed down it.

Around 3 PM the rain stopped and the clouds parted, but it wasn’t over yet. The wind that we did get, combined with the storm surge, high tide and the huge amount of water pouring off the Gigantes into the arroyos came to a head. I don’t know how deep the water coming out of the big arroyo south of us was but the amount of debris it was carrying was tremendous and as the sun started to come out, that debris started to spread. The waves pounded the shore throwing up mountains of woody debris and continued all through the night. The water had so much force that it ended up scouring rocks off the bottom and tossing it up on top of the debris burying it under tons of rocks and gravel.

On Tuesday morning our beautiful sandy beach had vanished and in its place was a horrific mess of deadwood, torn up trees, cactus, weeds and vines, in many places buried almost completely under the rocks and sand.

We had to remove as much out from under the rocks as we could because we realized the smell from the rotting vegetation would be overwhelming if we didn’t. There was no sense waiting for the local municipality or the government to help. We were a pretty low priority as they needed to deal with the damage done to the local area which included destroyed water mains, downed power lines, washed out roads and the approaches on a few of the nearby bridges. The highway, Mex #1 which is the one and only main artery on the peninsula, was closed amazingly, for only one day as they rushed to fill in gaping holes and missing pavement and make the road as safe as possible in as short a time as they could. We were very impressed at how fast the work was completed, especially since the water didn’t stop flowing in some places for a couple more days.

The road into Rattlesnake was severely damaged and though those of us with 4-wheel drive could get in and out, we knew there were a few more campers due to arrive soon. It was a very uncomfortable, bumpy ride that might have proven dangerous for motorhomes and trailers, so we all chipped in and hired a local from the nearby village of Juncalito, who owns a loader, to come in and fix it.

We have only just finished cleaning up our beach and the boat launching area beside us. For days the only way we could get rid of anything was to burn it and for a week, day and night, the fires burned. Everything was done by hand using rakes and shovels.  Considering the size of some of the debris, without a chainsaw, some spots had to be left for the elements and time to deal with.

The continuing trouble for us has to do with the well that we draw water from. The pipes that carry the water and the power lines that run the pumps both crossed the arroyo that drains to the south of us and both were ripped away by the massive runoff out of the Gigantes. This arroyo starts in Tabour Canyon, which I’ve written about before, so Richard and I decided to go up and have a look and what we saw stunned us! The drainage canal that had been built to funnel the water down into this arroyo and away from Puerto Escondido had been about 12 feet deep, only now it’s level with the ground, filled with rocks and gravel. The canyon itself bears no resemblance to anything we remember. The ground that we had walked on before was buried anywhere from 10 to 15 feet below us and from the damage to plants and trees, what little was left, meant that the water level ranged from 25 to 35 feet high as it crashed down off the Gigantes. There is almost no vegetation in the canyon anymore, all of the palm trees are gone and massive rocks bigger than houses, not to mention smaller ones have been tumbled around like toys.

One of the campers has been coming here for 30 years and has a 50-year-old book that explains how the canyon came by its name. The pictures in it show the canyon as we all knew it and this is the first time that anything this dramatic has changed in Tabour. She calls it a Millennium Storm and considering all the damage done by it I think she’s right. At least we can all be thankful that there was no loss of life!

We’re still waiting for the well to be repaired, though water isn’t really a problem since we can buy purified water in Loreto for virtually pennies. It just requires a carrying system. The really big problem has to do with the huge areas of sitting water that has created a plague of mosquitoes, fly’s and no-see-ums, so bad that you can’t go outside for even a few seconds unless you’re covered from head to toe, including your clothes, in at least a 20 percent solution of DEET, preferably 30, and even then it doesn’t keep them all away. There’s been talk of spraying since Yellow and Dengue Fever are carried by some of the varieties of mosquitoes here, but this is a Third World country and it might happen or it might just be rumour, we’ll just have to wait and see. Thank God, I bought no-see-um netting to fix our screens with; it has definitely proven it’s worth this year!

In the meantime our kayak has finally made it to our campsite and we find ourselves, all of us on the beach, for the first time ever, preying for wind! At least out on the water there are hardly any bugs so most of us are spending as much time out there as we can. This is the reason why I’ve been communicating so little lately. It’s no fun sitting under a Palapa roof trying to send off a couple of e-mails while the mosquitoes are descending on you in hordes and the only places we have access to the internet are all outdoors.

You try typing with one hand and waving the other one in the air continuously trying to keep the bugs at bay!

Though now that we’ve got the air conditioning going in the car and can sit right outside the Internet café, I’ll be talking with you a little more!

Did I even tell you how the Sea of Cortez is a continuation of the San Andreas Fault? Good thing I didn’t tempt fate by mention anything about wanting to experience an earthquake eh?

TTFN!

THERE’S NO FREE LUNCH

20 Oct

 

 

Just before dawn and only 22c

 

I mentioned previously that the average daytime temperature down here was sitting at around 35c but that doesn’t actually tell the real story. You have to factor in the humidity levels, which are between 35 and 40 percent. Now I know that doesn’t sound like very much but oh, man does it make a huge difference. With the humidity, the actual temperature is between 40 and 45c. In other words, it’s freaking hot here!

Our home, where ever we are

 

It’s so hot and humid that you sweat heavily just sitting still and there is no part of you that isn’t wringing wet all day long. Just before sunrise it’s only 22c but as soon as the sun comes up the temperature skyrockets and within 20 minutes it has reached the maximum it’s going to be for the day and it doesn’t cool down until about 3 AM.

 

So what’s a person with lots of time on their hands to do? Why go swimming of course, or snorkeling or simply standing in the water, right? Uh, wrong. Not unless they have a full-length wet suit. Why? Well, there’s this little creature in the water here that folks call an Auga Male (that’s pronounced malay) Which translates to Bad Water in English. Now that’s probably not its real name nor have I been able to find anyone who can tell me what it really is, but it’s a suitable description.

 

An Auga Male. Sorry, but it's the best shot I could get!

These things are polyps, less than ½ an inch long, and so clear that they are virtually invisible in the water. They feed themselves by deploying a very long clear thread and when it touches bare skin, it burns, a lot! It also leaves a line of raised red welts that sting and then eventually itches like mad.

 

Our problem is where our campsite is. We are the last site right beside the launch ramp, so whenever any of the folks down here are trying to launch or retrieve their boats, they usually need help since all the launch ramp really is, is a gradual decline of sand into the water. Not to mention that except for ourselves, the average age on Rattlesnake Beach is 70 and up, so every day we accumulate large numbers of stings and man, are we going through limes since the best cure is warmed lime juice. Vinegar works but not anywhere near as well and I’m sorry but I’m just NOT going to try the old having someone pee on me experiment!

(Appreciation for help is paid in fish. Not that we’ve ever asked but hey, when someone offers you a Dorado, you don’t say no!)

 

An angelfish swimming by

These little nasty’s will eventually disappear when the water cools down some, but will then be replaced by a jellyfish called String of Pearls which look exactly like their name, except they are an iridescent blue colour. These too make life miserable for swimmers.

 

All in all, though it may seem as if we’ve moved into Paradise, there is always a price to be paid for it.

 

I got smart this year and purchased a full-length wetsuit, but have you ever tried to get into a wetsuit? Try doing it when every square inch of your skin is already wet. I know, I know, use cornstarch, but you know what? When your skin is already wet, cornstarch just clumps. So it’s a struggle and by the time I get the damn thing on, I really do need to get in the water as the sweat is pouring off me. Not to mention that even a wetsuit with mask, snorkel and flippers doesn’t cover every portion of skin. The hands and parts of the ankles and face are still bare and you know, getting stung on the face bloody hurts. Considering how long it takes to get the damn thing on, when the folks need help with their boats, I go as I am and in most cases it’s just my bathing suit and me. Oh well, nobody ever said life was going to be easy.

 

This is a Balloonfish, though they are mistakenly called Pufferfish. These little guys are anywhere there's a rock to protect.

I’m sure your sitting there thinking, Jeez, what a whiner, but you know, writing a travel blog requires truth so here it is, these things are the price we pay for our little slice of Shangri-La… this year. Next year it could be a plague of flies or biting insects, a Grande Norte that blows hard all winter long or a continuation of drought that makes fresh water difficult to come by. We never know what to expect until we get here but we always know there won’t be any free lunch!

 

TTFN

The wind, she’s a blowing.

2 Mar

The Grande Norte came back this week. We’ve  been enjoying warmer weather and watching the sun rise higher in the sky everyday, but just like at home, just when you think Spring has arrived, a late season storm puts paid to that for while. So it is down here. The wind is supposed to blow all week. It’s not going to be high winds, but it makes kayaking and hanging around on the beach just too cold and uncomfortable, so we have to find something else to keep ourselves occupied. It’s time to go hiking!
There are 3 canyons nearby that we can choose from, Luigi, Wow and Tabour. All are basically the beginnings of the large arroyos that dot the landscape around here. Places where the waters that fall on the Gigante Mountains are gathered and funnelled to the Sea. They are also completely different from one another.
Now, I can’t speak about Luigi Canyon as we’ve never been up it. It is on private land, fenced off and the gentleman who has the key can be capricious, if you can find him.
Tabour is the closest and easiest to access. It’s just a little ways further up the road from the water well that we all use for our drinking water, about half a Kilometre from the highway. It consists of boulders; some small as baseballs, some so massive you can’t conceive of any power strong enough to move them. In Tabour, you do a lot of scrambling up, over and around the rocks, and unless you know the secret of the Rabbit Hole, you only get to experience 1/3 of the climb and miss the fabulous views of Danzante available further up the canyon.

Over, under or through the boulders of Tabour

Entrance to the Rabbit Hole.

The view from the top of Tabour Canyon

This hike starts the minute you park your vehicle and it generally takes us about 5 hours, but that includes a couple of rest stops to admire the scenery, take a few photos or do a little yoga, (Yes, even here we’ve been known to do a few asanas) plus one long lunch break.
As I said earlier, these canyons are funnels for water but just as the hikes are different so is the water you find. All the canyons have pools and all of the water is very cold, (though that doesn’t stop the hardy from swimming in them) but in Tabour you don’t usually get your feet wet as all the pools and rivulets can be skirted. This year the water is very low as Baja Sur is in a long drought. From the picture below, you can see where the water level usually is. Tabour comes eventually to an end. Those who are rock climbers can go further, but those of us who don’t do class 5 climbs call it quits here.

See how low the water is?

As far as you can go in Tabour.

Wow Canyon is about 10 Kilometres down the highway from Rattlesnake beach and is reached by turning down a bone rattling dirt road, that eventually just peters out after about 5 Kilometres. You park, start walking and just continue to walk, there are no massive boulders to overcome here, as the canyon bottom is flat and easily walked, but there are large pools of water that must be waded or swum through. This hike you get wet and I don’t like doing it until this time of year. The sun is much higher in the sky and actually shines directly down in the canyon in some areas. Any other time of year that we’re here, it’s in the shade. It doesn’t make the water any warmer but it sure dries you up a lot faster.

The first fording in Wow.

Wow Canyon always lives up to it’s name. None of us know what the Mexican name is for it, but it’s called Wow, because just about every corner you turn, someone in the group will usually exclaim “WOW”!

Just one of the magnificent views in Wow

This last trip we startled 2 California Bighorn Sheep from their drinking. This is a very rare sight and we were really lucky to have got a couple of shots of them. We also spied a Ringtailed cat that scampered quickly away.

Like Tabour, Wow comes to and end by a pool and again, those who are experts can go on if they like, but we eat our lunch, then head back, admiring the views that we missed on our way in as we head out.  A trip through Wow generally takes 8 hours and still, no one every really wants to leave this magical place.

As you can see, unless you're a rock climber, this is the end in Wow.

Wherever there's water in the canyons, the sound of frogs can be heard.

Just one of many massive Figs growing in Wow Canyon

This pool we swim in Wow, just for fun. It's very deep and at this time of the year it's the warmest.

Both of these canyons are filled with an abundance of animal and plant life supported by the constant availability of water. Even in drought years, there is water here. Some pools may go dry and streams flow under the rocks instead of above ground, but there is always water. Canyon Wrens sing their beautiful songs, frogs of many different colours and sizes croak to one another, flowers bloom in mass profusion, Fig Trees grow to enormous size, Ring Tailed Cats, Coyotes, Bobcats, Sheep, and other wildlife come to drink and every once in a while the silence is broken by a few humans seeking a little exercise and looking for something to do while the wind blows.

The end of a wonderful day!

 

You always have to pay the Piper!

8 Feb

We come here every winter obviously because it’s warmer than anywhere in British Columbia. The sun shines virtually every day, the temperature sits at a balmy 22c, on average, and if it clouds up and rains, well maybe 20 rain drops will fall from the sky. Ok, once every winter we do get a downpour and it can last an hour or so, but for the most part the weather is pretty awesome. It might not be the tropics, but it’s pretty close and it’s good enough for the folks I hang with.

There is however, a price that must be paid for this…..El Grande Norte, The Big North. This is a wind that blows pretty much every winter, down from the north. It can start anywhere after the end of November and blows on and off until April.

You can go from this......

...to this, in less than 1 hour!

Some years it’s like living with a raging gale that just never seems to let up, and then you get a year like this one, were the winds have for the most part, been fairly gentle. All this winter we’ve had winds that have averaged between 5 and 15 knots, with lots of days with little or no wind at all. At least until last Tuesday! The Grande Norte came for a visit last week and hasn’t really left, he’s just taking a momentary rest.

The view for 5 days. Cold and very windy!

February is the month when the winds are at their worst and this is the time most of the Kayak companies have the bulk of their trips out to the islands. Imagine paying $1200.00 to come to Baja for a week of kayaking beautiful Carman Island only to be trapped on a beach by winds exceeding 50 knots (That’s 57 miles per hour or 92 kilometres per hour for those of you who are not nautically minded), not even knowing if you’ll be able to get back in time to fly home! We’re talking 8 and 9 foot waves here folks, and most of the folks who come for these paid excursions have absolutely no kayaking experience!. Not only that but it can come up so fast that it’s easy to be fooled and over the years some folks have died, either because they didn’t realize how fast the weather was deteriorating, or because they figured they had to take the chance to get back for their flight home.

Now I must interject here and tell you that the Guided Kayak adventures have NEVER lost anyone, so you’re safe with them, but it can still be a miserable trip, hunkered down in your tent for days on end, unable to even go hiking because the wind is so strong it can knock you off your feet and do damage to exposed eyes and skin. To add insult to injury, the sky generally remains clear and beautiful during these major wind events!
Some 7 years ago, 3 Canadians, one of whom was a Kayak instructor, were caught because they assumed they knew what they were doing and had a flight to catch. They left Carmen Island in the middle of one of the worst storms seen in years, and they ended up tossed out of their kayaks. The water here is definitely warmer than at home but you can still die from Hypothermia in 18c water, it just takes longer and that’s what happened to the Instructor. The other 2 managed to get back into their kayaks and were eventually found alive, but the instructor stayed under her kayak trying to keep out of the weather. She had a VHF radio with her and called and pleaded, but no one could get a boat out to her and there is no Coast Guard here. She eventually succumbed to Hypothermia and died. Those who had listened, were so shaken by the experience that they got together and created the Puerto Escondido Hidden Harbour Yacht Club Radio Net.

It broadcasts every morning at 8:15 AM and it is specifically designed for emergencies of any sort and to make sure that all who use the water know what the weather is going to be for at least 3 days in advance. The Kayak companies, sailors, anglers and those of us who just kayak for fun make sure we all listen every morning and organize our trips around that information. Since it’s inception, no one has been lost, injured or died. That’s quite an accomplishment!

Standing out in this can cause severe sand burn, if you can stand at all!

Now, back to last week.
We were warned it was coming and come it did! It blew for 5 full days.

Sometimes it sounded like the moaning and shrieking of an insane person, other times like the intake of a jet engine! The worst 2 days were so nasty and cold that we never ventured outside except to take the pictures you see here and for Richard to help the Fisherman next to us. His boat had broken it’s lines and was pounding ashore, so they tied it to our Suzuki and pulled it up the beach, out of the water.

A useless effort to stop the boat from pounding on the shore!

Aren't Suzuki's wonderful vehicles?

 

Carmen and Danzante disappearing!

You’ll notice that Carmen, and Danzante disappeared, except that wasn’t fog or clouds covering them, it was sand and dust in the air. Grummy rocked, shook and swayed in the wind, and even though every window and vent was shut tight, we still had to sweep and dust constantly as microscopic particles pushed their way through the very walls it seemed. Generally, when the wind is too high for water activities, the folks around here will head into town or venture out behind the beach for walks in the desert. Not this time! No one budged from their warm hidey holes until Friday when the worst was past, human, animal, bird or bat! Not a one was seen until the wind dipped below 25 knots(46 kph), then gradually life came back to the beach.
By the time the bulk of the storm had passed, our beach had completely changed. All of our lovely sand had been totally blown off the beach and was now up the road behind us. The rocks Richard had so carefully removed from our Kayak landing zone were now back, and there were twice as many than we started with. At one point, just below the locomotive sound of the wind, you could here the rumbling of rocks rolling under the waves. Broken branches from Mequite and palm trees littered the ground, and anything left outside needed to be rescued or dug out. The folks in the harbour are still trying to find and/or return all the lost articles blown off their boats. The locals say that this last blow was one of the coldest and windiest ones ever.
We not finished either. We’ve had a bit of a respite, with Sunday and Monday calm enough to get out and clean up, even to sit outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun, but it’s coming back! Tomorrow it’s supposed to start again and blow for another 4 or 5 days. Then after that, who knows? It could continue for weeks, gradually fade away or simply just stop and go back to the weather we’ve enjoyed up till now. There’s always a price to pay for everything, and for us El Grande Norte is the price we pay for the warmth, serenity and beauty we get to enjoy down here on the Baja.

You just never know when the piper will come calling.