Tag Archives: friends

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”!

BORED? NOT AT ALL!

11 Feb

Howdy campers, how goes your winter?

 

My throw with Syarita handicap

My throw with Syarita handicap

Mine is going along just fine now that I’ve gotten rid of the little bug in my tummy and the nasties outside have disappeared, most of them, anyway. Right now it’s 75F outside with a slight cloud cover.

 

It’s been a very different year when it comes to the weather and how that has affected everything here. We had 3 weeks of what’s considered winter weather, where the nighttime temperatures dropped below 40F. Though that only happened to us a couple of mornings. We’ve had our little Dickenson propane heater on exactly once and probably closed all the windows for maybe 2 weeks max.

 

The Grande Norte has been pretty gentle with us this year with averages of 5 to 15 miles per hour on the days when it was blowing. Sure we’ve had a few days were the wind has reached 25 but not many and lots of days there’s been no wind at all! Again an unusual weather occurance!

 

With the weather being so warm, things that normally would go into some form of hibernation haven’t needed to, hence the rattlesnake in the photo below that was making it’s way across the road just behind our campsite yesterday afternoon. On a normal year these bad boys would disappear in November and only start reappearing in March when it warms up sufficiently.

 

A not so friendly visitor

A not so friendly visitor

We do see lots snake here but this year has been exceptional, with all sorts of different ones being seen all winter. That really cut down walking the trails for everyone. No sense in walking through grass that’s so high and thick you can’t see your feet, just in case somebody’s hiding there. You’d hate like hell to step on one of the few poisonous ones.

 

Most of the snakes here are harmless but there are several varieties of Rattlesnakes all over Baja. Not to mention all the spiders. I’ve seen more and bigger spiders this year than all the preceding years put together and there are some nasty buggers in that family down here!

 

Have I ever told you how much I hate spiders? Probably but it bears repeating!

 

Snakes, no problem. Spiders, big problem!

 

One of many gatherings this season!

One of many gatherings this season!

None of that has slowed down the social activities on the beach this year though, as a matter of fact it has intensified to the point where I figured I was cooking at home maybe twice a week. A couple of the campers came down with bigger rigs this year, which enabled them to have company for dinner inside which wasn’t possible before. So a lot of the time even if they weren’t the hosts and dinner was being provided by someone else, the actual get together was in the more spacious RV.

 

One of the smaller spreads . You should have seen Christmas!

One of the smaller spreads . You should have seen Christmas!

Considering how bad the bugs were, this was a godsend! Plus we all enjoy each other’s company, so it didn’t take much of an excuse for a beach dinner to come together easily or a trip to the nearby Tripui Restaurant for dinner. The restaurant will take your caught fish, prepare it anyway you want, add on rice and beans and charge a grand total of 65 pesos per person which works out to about 5 bucks. Pretty hard to beat that eh?

 

We’ve had 2 Thanksgivings, Pizza Night, Full Moon parties every month, multiple birthdays, (one of which was celebrated for an entire week), Christmas Eve, Christmas morning breakfast and Christmas dinner, Superbowl Sunday, Paella/ Valentines Day, which is next week, arrivals, departures, a good day fishing, or just for the hell of it and those were the get togethers that included everyone on the beach, old-timers and newbies as well. That didn’t include the various invites to dinner, or a quick potluck around a campfire that were and are constantly happening amongst the campers, or the Costillo de Puerco and Bocce Ball Club that Richard and I are full-fledged members of.

 

One of many meetings the club has had this winter.

One of many meetings the club has had this winter.

The Pork Rib club was started with just 5 members. Meetings consist of preparing and smoking a rack of ribs for every 2 people, preceded by a game of bowling, the course of which we make up as we go along. Everyone is handicapped by having to carry at all times and drink a “Syarita”, a fabulous drink invented by one of the originators of the club, Sy. The ingredients remain a closely guarded secret but I can tell you that the main ingredient, tequila, is poured into each drink for a count of 8 seconds. Try that at home!

The main reason for the club.

The main reason for the club.

 

Each member is responsible for hosting one round including the purchasing of the ribs, (at 65 pesos per kilo, what more could one ask?) the BBQ sauce and any pre-cooking preparations, though the smoking and consumption were always at Sy and Jan’s who had the largest venue capable of accommodating all of us. Over the winter the numbers have increased and decreased and the venue has now changed but until we all leave, every Friday, Saturday or Monday night (depending on everyone’s schedule) is set aside for the Costillo de Puerco Club meetings!

We will adjourn at the end of March but the next meeting will be called back into session in October 2013.

 

Richard's wind vane.

Richard’s wind vane.

We rarely get bored since there’s really so little time to ourselves but on the occasion when he has nothing to do Richard creates new and unusual things to give the folks on the beach something to giggle about. The photo below is his latest creation. It died and washed up on the beach where it dried hard as a rock. After he put it up on the post as a nominal wind vane, he waged a running war with one of the seagulls on the beach. When the wind blows, the fish wiggled and I guess instinct took over. The gull would scoop it off the post, and then drop it when it realized it couldn’t eat it. The funny part was watching the running battle between man and bird for a couple of days. After a while it seemed as if the seagull was just playing a game as it would wait for Richard to put the fish back on the post then turn his back to go into Grummy, then it would pounce, grab the fish, drop it immediately and fly just down the beach, watching his reaction. Eventually the bird gave up or maybe the wind just died down enough to stop the gyrations of the fish, either way, this has provided a lot of humour for us and everyone who sees it. Even the Parks Wardens thought it was pretty funny!

 

I’m writing this on Friday the 8th, and we’ve just said goodbye to our friends the Filthy Pigs, (Trust me, that’s a whole other story), who were visiting us from the Pacific side for the last 3 days, Sunday is another birthday celebration at Tripui, Monday is the weekly meeting of the Costillo de Puerco and Bocce Ball Club, and Valentines Day/Paella Potluck is on Thursday. Chances are good that something else will come up for Saturday, Tuesday or Wednesday. What can I say but, Woohoo!!

 

PARTY ON DUDE!!!

 

…And what did you do today?

8 Nov

One of the things we get asked a lot when we get home is, “What do you do all day?” We usually get cute and respond with, “Well, we’re not really sure but it takes all day to do it!” Actually we find our days are full of things to do.

 

Our day generally starts at 6:30 AM. That’s when the sky starts to lighten in the morning and since it’s been so warm we’ve not bothered to cover any of the windows to allow as much breeze as possible to flow through the van, so we get up as morning twilight breaks. It’s my favourite time of day ever since I worked as a fishing guide. I loved getting to work early enough to enjoy my morning coffee while watching the sun come up. So we sit with our coffee and our Kindles and watch the sun rise over Danzante Island. Every day it comes up just a tiny bit further south.

 

One of the views from the top of Hart's Trail

Once coffee is over, I put on running shoes and head up Hart’s Trail, just a little to the north of us on the beach. It’s a ½ mile trail that meanders up the side of the hill up to 800 feet from sea level. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Trust me this is a cardiac killer and I do it as fast as my feet can carry me. Nothing like sweating so hard it feels like I just stepped out of the shower. Then it’s back down without slipping on the rocks and into the van for breakfast, a quick wash and then we sit and listen to the daily VHF net. A program that fills everyone in on the weather, comings and goings of friends, local announcements, jokes and various other information that helps all of us with the daily grind here. I’m still Sandy Beach on the radio and rather famous for my jokes, so I’m told. There are some friends on the beach who won’t go out fishing until they’ve heard my latest offering. So I’m finally famous! Who knew?

Richard's Dorado

On other days we head out kayaking or fishing as early as possible. The kayaking because we travel long distances and the fishing because most of the fish we’re after don’t bite once the sun is up. I’m proud to tell you, both Richard and I caught a Dorado this past week. Him in our our kayak, by himself, and me with one of the campers on the beach, while piloting a little 15 foot tin boat that she and her husband have put at our disposal. This really is quite the friendly, loving community and we all look after one another. A day doesn’t go by that someone isn’t offering us a piece of fish, fresh or smoked, or inviting us to a beach dinner or restaurant special. Yesterday, for example, we went for lunch with some friends from Victoria. They’re here helping her brother with the grand opening of a new restaurant. Best damn burger I’ve had down here! Then for dinner we headed to the south end of the beach where another couple we’ve become very close to, fed us Elk steaks and smoked Dorado.  Our life is just one great big social whirl!

My Dorado. I should mention that both these fish were caught on very light tackle. What a great fight!

 

As the day advances, and the temperature rises, we find ourselves relaxing for a while in the shade, with me in my hammock, Kindle in hand. By 2 or 3 it’s time for a swim or maybe a bit of snorkeling, to cool off, then back on shore for a warm shower and an ice cold Dos Equis.

 

Oh, and I should mention the birds. We’ve become as our British friends call us, Twitters. It’s hard not to watch the birds when the variety’s are so many and so varied. They are everywhere and you just can’t help yourself, eventually you have to know what they are. All of us have at least 1, if not 2 or 3 bird identification books and we talk about rare sightings as if we were all Ornithologists. It even gets announced on the net, once in a while.

 

Male and female Hooded Orioles. A very common bird here.

Depending on the night we might find ourselves, like last night, at a beach dinner with a few of the other campers, or a full beach party, or simply at home having a quiet dinner together. The sun sets at about 6:30 PM and many nights we take our coffees and sit out on the beach to watch the stars or the full moon. The sky here is so dark when the moon is not up, that shooting stars are seen every night, and the Milky Way is always visible Then it’s a couple of hours of reading or maybe a movie, then bed around 10

 

Yeah I know, you hate me, but hey, you too could be doing this. All it takes is giving up everything you’ve got. Quit your job, sell everything you own and move into a 26 ft, motorhome. You could be living right here beside me on the beach. All it takes is being a little crazy and not afraid to take big risks.

 

 A week doesn’t go by that’s not filled with something exciting, the whales are starting to arrive, pods of hundreds of dolphins are moving around, the waters are full of more green turtles than anyone has seen in 30 years and the Dorado are running.

 

Life is hard, but hey, someone has to do it!

 

EXODUS

15 Apr

It’s that time again. Time to go home, hit the road, and vamoose. Time to say our goodbyes. Not just for us, but for a large majority of the Anglo population down here. Sure there are those who live here year round, but probably more than half of us, spend only the winter on the warm shores of Baja.

Just after Christmas, there's no room left on the beach!

On Rattlesnake beach, us and 2 other couples were the last holdouts but after Saturday, we’ll all be gone. Sunday is Palm Sunday, an important start to the Catholic Easter, or Semanos Santos as it’s known down here. It’s the start of a 2-week holiday where the locals gather up their families, from the youngest to the oldest and move to the beach. And I do mean move. They bring beds, couches, tables, chairs; almost everything they live with in their homes comes with them to the beach. It only rains here during the height of Summer, so there are no worries about their belongings being damaged by the elements. They will fill this beach and every other accessible beach on the Sea of Cortez till one can hardly move and they will eat seafood, play and party hard, then they too will all go home and the beach will be empty once more until September when the Anglos will start our annual, southerly migration.

April 13th, pick a spot, any spot!

The summers here, as I said, are the start of the rainy season where temperatures can soar up to 45C and the threat of hurricanes is always present. Not a time Richard or I care to be here. We’re not sure we could stand the heat and much as I think I’d like to experience a hurricane, I know realistically neither of us would enjoy it very much!

We have come to know and care for some of the locals a great deal and we will miss them very much. They know we will be back again next fall and we know we can keep in touch with them while we’re away. Besides it gives us lots to talk about when we finally get together again. We’ll say out final Adios this evening.

Tomorrow morning after spending today doing a few chores, picking up some last minute items, getting a bit of welding done, (can’t leave with at least some mechanical work being done on Grummy. It just wouldn’t be the same!) writing this blog and uploading it, we’ll be turning North.

We plan on taking 2 weeks to get home and hope to visit a couple of friends on the way. Now Internet is an iffy proposition on the road, especially when you don’t know the area intimately, so I may or may not be talking to you until we cross the border and pull into our daughters backyard.

Wish us a safe trip home and when I do finally get back on the web, I’ll be sure to let you know all about our travel adventures, good and bad. Though I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be any bad!

Yoga on the beach

11 Jan

 
A couple we’ve come to know well, here on Rattlesnake Beach, is Klaus and Parvin, who’ve been coming to Baja for more than 20 years. Parvin ran her own Yoga studio at one time and down here on the beach she has been persuaded to head a group for those of us who are interested. Both are in their late 60’s but you sure couldn’t tell by looking, as the two of them are more active than a great many 30 year olds we know. Not only do they do yoga 3 times a week, they also guide groups on the 3 nearby canyon hikes. We’re not talking flat, easy walks here either; all of them involve a great deal of clambering up and over gigantic boulders, crossing almost sheer rock faces and squirming up rabbit holes, taking on average of 6 hours to complete. They’ve been known to walk 20 year olds into the ground.

 

Our Rattlesnake Beach Yoga group, Parvin is on the far right.

 
They also kayak and are well known by all the professional kayak guides who  often see them in the coves and on the beaches of Islas Danzante and Carmen. They leave our beach in the early hours of morning so they can be on the eastern side of Danzante to watch the sun come up. These 2 were also the reason we ended up buying a double kayak, after some very convincing arguments as to why it would be a good idea.

 

The other day, Klaus asked us if we would be interested in going in a group with 3 other single kayakers to Isla Carman, where we would do our yoga on the white sandy beaches of Playa Blanca. The weather was supposed to be good, with little wind and since we hadn’t ventured that far on our own yet, this was a great opportunity to go with experienced paddlers. We of course said, “YES!”

 

Up before the sun!

 
We were supposed to be ready to go at 8:30 the next morning and so of course were up at 6 and standing around waiting for everyone at 8. Watching the sky brighten and looking towards the islands we noticed splashing headed our way from Punta Coyote just north of us. We at first thought we were looking at pelicans tearing into a school of fish, but as it got closer we realized we were looking at a pod of about 60 Common Dolphins. “Let’s go!” Richard yelled and we piled into the kayak and started stroking out from the beach. 50 feet was all we needed to be right in the middle of them as they raced by us, leaping and splashing as they pursued their breakfast. The old time sailors believed that seeing dolphins before a trip was good luck and we certainly felt that way.

 

A very good start to the day!

 

 

As we sat and watched the dolphins disappear, the other paddlers slowly made their way out to us and once we were all together, we set off for the north end of Danzante and the very tight pass between it and Still Point Island. Still Point isn’t really a separate island as it’s joined to Danzante by a finger of sand and rock, but at high tide there is a narrow pass only big enough for a kayak. Without Klaus leading the way, we never would have found it and would have had to paddle quite a bit further to go around the top end, but some years ago, Klaus and Parvin had dug out the small passage that exists. Lucky for all of us!

 

Is everybody here? Then let's go!

 
After making sure we had all managed to get through the opening, we aimed for Punta Arena on Carmen. There is a lighthouse on it and it’s easy to see from a distance so we paddled leisurely towards it, enjoying the water, and weather, yakking with one another as the boats jockeyed back and forth.
Stopping at Punta Arena, for a quick pee break, we noticed that the sand on the beach was totally covered in Hermit crab tracks, and one of the paddlers, Lance, said they had counted more than 60 of them in about 5 minutes when they had camped here a couple of years ago.

 

Tracks everywhere!

 
These islands are part of a huge Marine park and are protected, so everyone who visits them must have a Park pass and obey the rules, one of which states that nothing is allowed to be removed. Consequently, those who visit here have a tendency to create these treasure piles. Places where interesting and unusual things are left for those who will come after, to see and admire. The Trigger fish in the photo is the biggest one any of us had ever seen, and you’ll notice that it was rock hard. Things don’t rot here as it’s too dry. Dead things may be predated on by Turkey Vultures but anything they can’t or won’t eat, simply mummifies and Trigger fish skin is way too tough for them.

 

A common sight on the islands

 
Heading off again, we paddled only for a few minutes more and made it to this beautiful beach called Playa Blanca, or White Beach. It’s easy to see how it got it’s name. Here in the warm sun and sand we did our yoga, led of course by Parvin, with Klaus taking pictures. The Sun Salutation pose was of course the first one we did.

 

Yoga on the beach!

 

 

Afterwards, we pulled our lunches out of our dry sacks and settled down for a lovely picnic, enjoying the warmth, and beauty that surrounded us, not to mention the great conversation. At one point, we all stopped to watch this yacht go by and speculated on who was having the better time, us or them. We decided it must be us of course!

 

Who's the lucky ones?

 
Eventually, when everything had been eaten and drunk and all were becoming drowsy in the heat, it was decided we had better move on, or we wouldn’t be able to. Everything was picked up, stuffed back into the kayaks, and we hit the water to paddle a little further down to the very south end of Carmen. There are 2 palm trees here that have, against all odds, managed to grow and survive and this is one of Parvin’s favourite spots, so we had to at least see it before we headed for home.

 

How's that for a glimpse of paradise?

After a short stop to look around and talk with another kayaker we had met up with, a decision was made as to which direction we would take to go home and off we went. Like horses headed for the barn, we started moving faster, with the double kayaks leaping into the lead and pulling further away from the singles with each stroke.

 

 

Hey! That's us!

 
Half way across, Richard and I noticed whale blow in front of us, along the shore of Danzante, moving slowly north. It’s path and ours looked like they might intersect so we paddled a little harder hoping to see what it was. There had been few whale sightings this year, so we were excited to see one. Almost across, we lost sight of it.  We gave up looking and applied ourselves to paddling as the wind had come up and the waves were starting to reach 3 feet, with the occasional one breaking near us with a startling crash. Suddenly the crashing sound changed in pitch and there, close behind us was our whale. It was the blow that we were hearing, so that gives you some idea of how close it was. It turned out to be a she, a large Sei Whale and her calf. We sat with them for about 10 minutes as they surfaced and blew, ignoring us completely as they headed up into the northern reaches of the Sea of Cortez.

 

Momma Sei Whale.

The waves continued to rise, reaching 4 foot and becoming chaotic. It was a good experience as we realized that our kayak was built for this, so we stopped worrying and just paddled a little harder. As we all finally approached our beach, a tired goodbye was exchanged with all.
So ended another day spent with good friends and filled with the wonderful surprises that we’ve come to expect here on the Baja. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?