Aug 16

Missions and minerals – Loreto, Mulege and Santa Rosalia

In my previous two posts I mentioned the towns of Loreto, Mulegé and Santa Rosalía but, deliberately, didn’t go into any detail about them because I felt they warranted a specifically dedicated post. So, here we go.

The three towns are situated in the northern half of the Mexican State of Baja California Sur and [as well as La Paz in the southern part of the Baja] are the principal provisioning stops for cruisers in the western Sea of Cortez. Having said that, you won’t be able to stock up much in “specialist” goods – though there is a rather excellent deli [called “Dali”] in Loreto which carries quite a lot of food imported from the US and where we found lamb and duck and, even more amazingly, a decent cheddar style cheese. It might sound a bit strange that a decent cheese takes on more significance than osso buco or duck breast but being a cheese lover, believe me, finding good cheddar in Mexico is a cause for celebration.

All three towns have at least one supermarket as well as smaller tiendas and “Panaderias” [Bakeries] – this one in Mulegé being quite famous for its French bread.

Panaderia Boleo, Loreto

Panaderia El Boleo – the French Bakery, Loreto

Unfortunately, I think the Baguette is a seasonal thing in Loreto – and we were there out of season, but their bread rolls were good and not sweet. I mention flavour because a lot of Mexican bread has quite a lot of sugar in it and therefore a bit too sweet for my taste.

But, I didn’t set aside these towns from my previous posts to talk about food – I did it because of their interesting historical significance and their attraction as places to visit.

Loreto and Mulegé have a long history in the settlement of the Baja Peninsula – and north into [US] California.

Missionaries from Spain started arriving in the area in C16…

P1070748…. but didn’t really start to settle until the late C17. On a very auspicious date in 1697…

P1070745…. i.e 25th October – my birthday [not in 1697 obviously!], the Jesuit priest Juan María Salvatierra landed at Loreto, with a boat load of men to establish a settlement and the first mission of the Californias.

Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto

Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto

Now, when I say a boat load of men, don’t get too carried away with your thinking as this was the boat.

P1070760 (3)However, a settlement was established, the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto was built and a centre for church, government and military activities was developed. Twenty three further Jesuit “misións” followed….

P1070749…and it was in Loreto that the Franciscan monk, Junipero Serra – who you last heard about in one of my earlier blogs when I wrote of our stop in [Mexican] San Blas – landed before sailing on to San Diego.

Because of the scarcity of imported materials and the lack of skilled labourers, the Misíon buildings are quite simple in style both inside….

Inside Loreto Mission

Interior – Loreto Mission

….and out.

Santa Rosalia Mission, Mulege

Santa Rosalia Mission, Mulege

Whilst Loreto’s mission is in the centre of the town, the surviving one in Mulegé was built in 1705 on a slight hillside outside of town. The original mission, built in the Arroyo, was swept away in 1700 by flooding.

Mulegé is noted as the “oasis” town of the region, surrounded by date palms….P1080052

…..and we remarked that it was the only flowing river we have seen in those parts of the Baja we have visited.

The missionaries made full use of the fresh water supply from the river and built a small dam for irrigation purposes.

P1080056 (2)Unfortunately the dam has done nothing to stop the flood waters. The road bridge and the area surrounding the town most recently suffered severe damage during Tropical Storms/Hurricanes John, Jimena, Paul and Odile in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2014 respectively.

Fortunately the town itself escaped the worst of the water damage though buildings were battered by high winds. Even so, many of the older buildings have survived, such as this residence….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA….a number of small businesses including this “Taqueria”, where we enjoyed a nice cold beer,……

P1080060…and, most notably, the building we think was built as a centre for education for the military [plantel literally translates as “clique”].

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was the area closest to the sea which took the brunt of the storms – and the shape and depth of the estuary mouth have changed many times.

Looking up the estuary towards the town, Mulege

Looking up the estuary towards the town, Mulege

Now non navigable to most vessels [including dinghies!] it is hard to believe that Mulegé even had a harbour and that, in 1719, was the site of the first shipyard in Baja California.

Looking north from the lighthouse, Mulege

Looking north from the lighthouse, Mulege

Mulegé’s other claim to fame [as well as its famous Misíon] came about because of that harbour. During the Mexican-American war U.S. marines and sailors fought against the Mexican militia up and down this coastal part of the Baja. On 2nd October 1847 the Battle of Mulegé followed an American attack on the harbour. Whether the U.S. forces left because they considered they had taught the locals a hard lesson or whether they retreated seems to depend on which side you were on at the time! However, Mulegé was never occupied by the Americans and the “victory” galvanised the Mexicans. As a tribute to the undefeated town “Heroica” was added to its name – as displayed on the town portal.

P1080058But, I seem to have gone off track slightly as I haven’t actually finished talking about the missions. So, I need to go back to Loreto and the museum there where we first learnt about the impact the various missionaries [and other Spanish settlers] had on the indigenous population.

P1070754 (2)In the 80 years of Jesuit missionary work 90% of the local Indian people died of recurrent epidemics of European diseases e.g. smallpox and from endemic syphilis which increased child mortality and decreased the birth rate. Whilst their deaths contributed to the demise of the missions it was the Spanish Government who withdrew the Jesuit clergy because they were thought to have become too rich and powerful! They were replaced by Franciscans, and then Dominicans both of whom consolidated congregations and therefore closed several of the mission buildings. Finally, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, the Baja became a federal territory and the governor put an end to the mission system by turning them into parish churches.

However, some good came from the mission system. Some small industries were established which remain today e.g. the “Trapiche” whereby sugar cane was made into molasses and also sweets called “Piloncillo” or “Panocha de Gajo”.

P1070752 (2)The peeled sugar cane was dropped into the centre of the mill, turned by a mule. The liquid sugar fell into a container made from cow-skin and was then transferred to and cooked in copper kettles to the required consistency. Pieces of orange were added for flavour after which it was cooled in mesquite wood moulds.

Systematic cultivation of fruits and vegetables was also introduced and the Rancher way of life developed – a “typical” ranch dwelling being depicted within the museum…

P1070755Mango trees still proliferate inside the Loreto mission museum courtyard and, in season, their fruits are free to all visitors. We took four lovely fresh juicy ones away with us.P1070758 (2)

With regard to museums we also visited the prison museum in Mulegé…..

P1080063….which operated on an “open prison” basis for about half of its inmates – those in the outer cells not considered too mad or bad. They worked as local labourers during the day, returned to the prison at night and sent their earnings home to their families. The territorial prison opened in 1907 and operated until 1974 when the inmates were moved to a new, larger facility north of Mulegé. Given my work background I was fascinated to learn that Mexico had open prisons and that on occasions, whilst not able to drink or dance, they were allowed to attend Dances and watch from the sidelines!!

The lives of those unfortunates in the inner cells was very different. No privacy, water torture and small cells shared by up to four increasingly “mad” souls. In the museum there was not much in the way of prison artefacts – probably because there was very little in the actual prison itself other than a cot and blanket per inmate – so some of the cells had been filled with bits and pieces of old carts, some ancient typewriters and a few tools. Very bizarre – and the “star” of the show is this satellite – which fell to earth and landed in the prison!!!!

P1080065 (2)We had hoped to also visit the museum in Santa Rosalía – but “Odile” put a stop to that as the “Museo Historico Minero” lost its roof. Odile caused a great deal of damage all along the waterfront. What was Marina Santa Rosalía is now a single twisted frame with what might once have been a nice two mast boat leaning drunkenly alongside. In fact the whole of the harbour, except for the SW corner where the ferry docks and where Marina Fonutur survived, is pretty much a mess.

P1080117It is possible to walk out on the harbour wall and see the remains of piers and docks. At the north side of the harbour is …. well I am really not quite sure what……..

P1080119 (2)….. and I am even less sure where the rider of this cycle has gone!…..

P1080116Santa Rosalía’s roots are very different from those of Loreto and Mulegé. It is rather confusing that it is called Santa Rosalía because the river of the same name is the one at Mulegé and the Mulegé mission was Santa Rosalía. However, Santa Rosalía it is and was founded and built in 1884 by the French Copper mining company “El Boleo”. The mining company built wooden houses for its workers……

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….and the building style is also reflected in the town hall…..

P1080102 (2)…and the Workers Union Offices.

P1080100The name of the library came as a bit of a surprise….

P1080091…and it was very interesting to find that the church was designed by Gustav Eiffel.

P1080093It is made of steel and was acquired in Belgium by the manager of the mining company, shipped to Santa Rosalía on the company sailboat “San Juan” and dedicated to Santa Barbara, the patron saint of miners. The church was enlarged to meet the growing population and the walls modified. It looks as though some of the original exterior walls now make up the ceiling of the extension.

P1080095However, attractive street planning and nice architecture does not, in itself, make for “the good life”. Frequent explosions, lung disease, cholera, yellow fever, TB etc claimed the lives of hundreds. Fresh water was in short supply and wages were low.

The Boleo Company owned and ran the mine from 1885 until 1954 when it ceased production. However, to prevent the economic collapse of Santa Rosalía and surrounding communities, a Mexican state-owned company assumed control and reopened the works using basically the same [rather archaic] equipment and process used by the French.

P1080111The operation was never really profitable, and the mine was closed again in the 1980s, when lower-grade ore and old technology made continued operation impractical.

A Canadian firm began intermittent exploration of the El Boleo mine in 2010 and subsequently, in partnership with a Korean Consortium has recommenced work in the area, but has developed new sites leaving the old workings now in complete disrepair.P1080104

My friend and past work colleague Paul [Holt] came to mind when I saw this….P1080108

….and he might be pleased to know that the town celebrates its heritage with a rather better model.

P1080089For visitors wanting evening entertainment we saw a band performing in Loreto [it was actually part of a fishing tournament prize giving]…..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

….and we strolled along the Malecón in Santa Rosalía.

Overlooking the harbour at dusk, Santa Rosalia

Overlooking the harbour at dusk, Santa Rosalia

There are a couple of decent restaurants in Mulegé and a very nice ice cream parlour in Santa Rosalía but our favourite town for eating and drinking was Loreto where there was a home brew pub…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mike very much enjoyed the “Tombstone” and the “Rattlesnake” – but didn’t get round to trying the El Bandito

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext door to “1697” was an excellent restaurant – “Mi Gourmet”. Prior to enjoying Fish Fillet Vera Cruz [Mike] and King Prawn wrapped in bacon [Me] we shared a starter of the local Chocolate Clams baked with Mozzarella.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe name comes from the colour of their shells. They were delicious though Mike actually preferred the raw clam – eaten like an oyster and washed down with tequila.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough this would be a good place to finish I feel I need to say something about the anchoring/berthing at these three towns.

Mulegé is an open roadstead and, if you remember from earlier, there isn’t really anywhere to take or land a dinghy. The town itself is also a good 20-30 minute walk down the estuary. We didn’t take the boat there. We took a bus from Santa Rosalía and spent two nights in a nice small hotel.

Loreto is also an open roadstead but during calm weather several boats anchor outside the small fishing harbour. We spent three comfortable nights. If you don’t like roadstead anchoring or the weather is against you then just 14 miles to the south is the almost totally enclosed anchorage of Puerto Escondido – a good hurricane hole where you can also rent mooring balls from the marina – which only has about 4 actual berths.

At Santa Rosalía is the small Fonatur marina with berths for about a dozen yachts and all the same facilities as the other Fonaturs.

There are fuel docks at Puerto Escondido and Santa Rosalía and, in an emergency, fuel could be jerry canned from Loreto or Mulegé.

Fuel dock and naval vessel, Santa Rosalia

Fuel dock and naval vessel, Santa Rosalia

Apologies if this post has seemed to jump around but it is just the way the writing went. I never really know when I start to write how it is going to work. But, I hope you got at least a taste of the three great little towns which we are really glad we visited.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2016/08/16/missions-and-minerals-loreto-mulege-and-santa-rosalia/

Aug 07

Bahia Concepcion – and other anchorages between Loreto and Santa Rosalia

The second part of our cruising journey in the Sea of Cortez this year was spent mainly in Bahía Concepcíon. I will tell you about that in a moment – but first, a couple of stops we made between Loreto and the Bahía.

Isla Coronados, just 6nm NE of Loreto, is a volcanic island with a walk up to the top of the crater. It was our intention to do the walk – but by the end of June the temperatures are really beginning to climb – so we didn’t!

A dinghy trip to shore seemed a much better option….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA….where we enjoyed the lovely turquoise waters….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA….and played with some fish. Or, rather, they played with us. As we kicked around in the shallows we obviously disturbed tiny delicacies in the sand which these Sergeant Majors like to eat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmusingly, when we stood still so that we could take their photograph the sand settled and they decided to nibble us instead!

We had intended spending three nights there so that we could have another day enjoying the soft white sand beaches and lovely water but the local wildlife had other ideas. On our second morning I woke to find about half a dozen bees flying around the cockpit. Well, half a dozen isn’t bad, so I put the kettle on for a brew and took two cuppas back to bed while we listened to the local radio net and the weather. 20 minutes later we got up to find that we no longer had six bees in the cockpit – we had about one hundred and they were mainly in the saloon/galley! Among the cruising fraternity, Isla Coronados is renowned for its bees. We had, therefore, been cautious and had not e.g. rinsed our swimsuits in fresh water after our swim the day before. They search out fresh water, as we had found out on Isla Espírutu Santo at the outset of our “Sea” adventures when we washed down our solar panels after crossing from Mazatlán. So, obviously they were attracted by the sink and taps. We decided it was time to go. The good thing is that they are territorial – so within about 5 minutes of leaving the anchorage [and therefore the island] they all flew off – back home.

Our second anchorage was at Caleta San Juanico – a beautiful place about 19 miles north west of Isla Coronados. It is one of the favourite anchorages in the Sea due to its assortment of beaches and geological formations.

P1070770We spent two nights there anchored, the first night, west of the two rocky pinnacles [you can just see us in the right of the photograph below behind the right hand rock].

P1070780The second day we moved between the rocks, taking the place of the two boats nearer the centre of the picture who left early morning, and found it to be quite well protected from swell as well as wind. We went for a pleasant walk across the peninsular to an alternative anchorage called “La Ramada”. It was very pretty and we will keep it in mind for next year. The folded rocks along the shore were quite interesting….

P1070773… and we found another skeleton – a fossil for the future!

P1070774Some cacti were starting to bloom….

P1070777…which seemed a bit strange as we haven’t had any rain?

We also saw several lizards.

Carmen Island Zebra Tailed Lizard

Carmen Island Zebra Tailed Lizard

Although mainly inhabitants of Isla Carmen – hence the name – they are also found on this part of the mainland.

Another memory tree decorates the shoreline….

P1070782…this one having some rather more sophisticated mementoes than the painted pebble!

P1070783 (2)However our most memorable aspect of San Juanico was seeing a pair of Osprey nesting in the rocks in front of the boat.

P1070960We spent a couple of hours just watching them – fabulous.

P1070856 (2)P1070914 (2)The following day we made our way to Bahía Concepcíon. This large bay is almost like a sea within the Sea and is protected from the east, south and west. Because it is open to the north some of its anchorages are too exposed during the main [winter] sailing season – though there are places tucked away where boats gather. In the summer months all anchorages are protected and/or open to the gentle prevailing south easterlies and we spent ten days in four different places.

Having covered 46 miles from San Juanico we first anchored in the top corner – at Santo Domingo – where the 3-7m [10-23 ft] depth extends for almost half a mile from shore.

This gives some indication of the shoal which can be found in this bay. Sailing down into the main part of the bay it is important to keep more or less midway between the shorelines – probably favouring the eastern side – as shallow waters extend a long way out from both shores.

Once into the main part of the bay there are, within about a 4 mile stretch, eight anchorages – mainly tucked into the coves along the western shore. We were headed for Playa El Burro which, with its immediate neighbour Playa Coyote, gets filled with boats for what has now become an “institution” in the Sea – i.e. Geary’s 4th July party.

Geary, an ex cruiser, settled in Playa El Burro 21 years ago and this was his 18th party. He is best known for his daily weather reports on the Sonrisa Ham net and annually cruisers gather to celebrate with him. We were really pleased that the timing fit with our schedule. It isn’t necessarily something we would want to do year on year – but it was great fun for a one off event.

A few of the happy revellers

A few of the happy revellers

Lots of eating [Geary’s hot dogs complimented by various pot luck dishes to share provided by the cruisers] and drinking and fun in the sun and sea….

The rubber ones are harmless!!!

The rubber ones are harmless!!!

Don't be fooled - there is gin in that orange!

Don’t be fooled – there is gin in that orange!

…. followed by fireworks – provided by a guy who works on film sets with special effects pyrotechnics and made the fireworks himself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being in the bay wasn’t just about partying though – especially for Mike who could be seen variously swabbing the decks….

P1070982…… and fixing the mainsail!

P1070993Obviously I just sit around doing nothing except take photographs – if only!!!

Ashore at Playa El Burro are a few Petroglyphs scattered around the hillside.

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We later read about them when we visited a museum in Mulegé – about ten miles up the coast – but I have included the explanation here as it seems to fit better with the photographs. I love some of the explanations we have found in museums – the translations are sometimes quite funny – but at least there are translations and better than anything I could do from English to Spanish.

P1080062Another popular anchorage is Playa Santa Barbara but it is almost enclosed and we decided that with next to no wind and blazing sun it wasn’t going to be that pleasant so we by-passed and went about four miles further south in the bay to Isla Requéson – a small islet connected to the mainland by a narrow sand spit.

P1080007Probably my favourite place in Bahía Concepcíon, it is very quiet and relaxing and we enjoyed our short walk on the island….

P1080016.. and our swim in the warm waters by the spit.

This seems like a good time to tell you about the water temperature – it’s about the same as a warm bath and other than the fact that it is wet it is really hard to tell that you have entered the water at all! Because of its almost landlocked aspect and generally shallow waters, Bahía Concepcíon is warmer than the rest of the Sea of Cortez – at least according to those who know [or say they do]. All I know is that everywhere we have swum in the Sea has been very pleasant indeed! For those who like a more refreshing dip, come in the winter months when I believe it is considerably cooler.

Whilst I have shown you photographs of cactus before they have always been growing in, at least, dry sand. The cactus on Requéson appeared to spring directly from the rocks. I am sure there must have been dregs of soil or sand there but it didn’t really look like it.

P1080011We also came across something on a branch and we couldn’t decide whether it was some form of fungus or a dead slug – what say you?

P1080022Our final anchorage in the Bahía was Playa Santispac.

P1080024 (2)This was the most “built up” bay we visited and is the closest to the above mentioned town of Mulegé. Highway 1 actually skirts the whole bay – though it is really hard to believe that it is the main road from the border to Cabo and La Paz. There was maybe a vehicle every minute or so during the day and next to nothing at night. Mulegé is, therefore, the closest town for provisioning if you are spending long periods of time in Bahía Concepcíon, but most of the bay anchorages have small tiendas selling mainly tinned goods – though we got bread and tomatoes as well – and there are also the occasional bar/restaurants. During the winter months the bay is busy with RV’s and more of the restaurants are open but we ate out on two evenings at two different places and had a beer at a third.

Having left Bahía Concepcíon on 10th July we stopped twice more before reaching Santa Rosalía. Punta Chivato, 23 miles north of Santispac, was a nice place to stop for just one night. It is famous for its shelling beach. Although we think we have seen prettier shells elsewhere, you certainly couldn’t fault it for the volume of shells available.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur final stop was Sweet Pea Cove on Isla San Marcos. To get to it from Punta Chivato we took a route outside the island avoiding the Craig Channel. Whilst looking quite wide [2.5 miles], the navigable section of the channel is only narrow [0.5mile] and the bottom rises from 2,400 ft at the north end of Isla San Marcos to just 26-30ft in the Channel which severely amplifies the current. Given the weather conditions it was possibly an unnecessary detour but we encountered about 1 knot current against on the outside of the island and when, having rounded the northern point and turned south towards the anchorage we had 2-3 knots in our favour. So, coming up the channel may well have felt like quite an uphill struggle.

All in all then, the second half of our travels in the Sea have been just as good as the first. It was a different experience with most of our time in just four anchorages in Bahía Concepcíon rather than a change of anchorage almost every day. We also spent time with other cruisers which was totally opposite from the La Paz to Loreto leg when we were practically alone every stop we made.

However some things were the same, regardless of the time spent in a place or where in the Sea we were or however many other people were there as well. These were the beauty of the landscape, the variety of wildlife – especially given that it is mainly desert – and the calm and wonderfully relaxing atmosphere.

Sunrise at Isla Requeson

Sunrise at Isla Requeson

Sunset at Bahia Santa Ines

Sunset at Bahia Santa Ines/Punta Chivato

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2016/08/07/bahia-concepcion-and-other-anchorages-between-loreto-and-santa-rosalia/

Jul 18

La Paz to Loreto – 3 weeks “off the grid”.

Puerto Los Gatos

Puerto Los Gatos

Our route from La Paz to Loreto totalled 161 miles, during which time we visited 15 different anchorages over a period of 22 days. We deliberately took our time as we wanted to experience as much as we could – our longest leg was 30 miles and our shortest 1.2!

It would not be fair to bore you with an anchorage by anchorage run down of the trip so I aim to give you an overview of what we did and what we saw and have titled my photographs so you know which anchorage we were in at the time.

Just to state right from the start that, as we anticipated from our first encounter with the Sea of Cortez [previous blog post], this place is Incredible.

As I said in that last post, the geology of the area is fascinating and the resultant landscape, amazing….

Punta San Telmo

Punta San Telmo

En Route to Agua Verde

En Route to Agua Verde

San Telmo

San Telmo

……particularly when you also walk the trails ashore….

Puerto Los Gatos

Puerto Los Gatos

Puerto Los Gatos

Puerto Los Gatos

Many of the anchorages have small islands in the middle of them….

Isla Gallena, Ensenada de la Raza

Isla Gallena, Ensenada de la Raza

Roca Monumento, Ensenada del Candelero

Roca Monumento, Ensenada del Candelero

These are the easy hazards to spot but cruisers need to be aware that most points [and there are lots of them] have detached rocks and/or reefs around them and many anchorages are quite shoal or have reefs/rocks in the bays so care needs to be taken when sailing in this area.

There are rocks of every colour…

Black, White and Rust at Caleta Partida

Black, White and Rust at Caleta Partida

Pink at Ensenada Grande

Pink at Ensenada Grande

Yellowstone Beach, Monserrate

Yellowstone Beach, Monserrate

Fabulous red rocks, Los Gatos

Fabulous red rocks, Los Gatos

…and, as well as the usual formations which are found along coastlines….

Arch - San Evaristo

Arch – San Evaristo

…. there are also some which are perhaps less usual – and as a result have been named [and appear on postcards and calendars promoting the Baja Peninsula].

El Hongo [Mushroom Rock], Puerto Balandra

El Hongo [Mushroom Rock], Puerto Balandra

The “Hand of God” …..

Manos del Dia, Caleta Candeleros Chico

Manos del Dia, Caleta Candeleros Chico

…….was named by local “pangueros”, behind which is a small anchorage where we chose not to stay because another boat was already there and there is really only swinging room for one.

However, as far as we know, this “guy” hasn’t got a name, so perhaps you can think of a suitable title?

Puerto Ballena

Puerto Ballena

Some of the rocks are like works of art – either in themselves – this formation being the “icing on the cake”….

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida

…. or in conjunction with other elements such as crystal and wood.

Both at El Metzano

Both at El Metzano

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These last two photographs prompt me to tell you about a particular walk we did – because that is when the pictures were taken. The main cruising guide we use [Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer’s “Sea of Cortez”] has great maps of most anchorages which also show the trails ashore. We have found the descriptions of the trails and their designation on the map really useful – except on this one occasion! Maybe it was our interpretation but, the hike up the arroyo was much, much further than we anticipated and did not end in the promised overlook of Caleta Partida. Only Mike made it to the top of the arroyo and this was the view he found….

Top of the Arroyo, El Metzano

Top of the Arroyo, El Metzano

I, on the other hand, was busy sheltering under any rock I could find!

Phew! Hot, hot, hot at El Metzano

Phew! Hot, hot, hot at El Metzano

A small aside – note the holes in the rocks. Some of these boulders were quite hollow sounding when hit and almost cinder like.

Anyway, back to my sheltering. Unfortunately, not expecting such a long trek we hadn’t taken enough water and I am afraid I got rather dehydrated. With hindsight we should have turned back earlier but, having set out to do something, we like to complete the task.

We were really glad on the way down to finally see the anchorage….

At anchor, El Metzano

At anchor, El Metzano

…and the sea never looked or felt so good – we completely submerged when we got there!

Exhaustion and dehydration aside, the walk was excellent. El Metzaño anchorage is at the top end of Isla Espíritu Santo which, if you remember from the last post, is the island where we saw the rare black jackrabbit. On this walk we encountered…..

Goats

Goats

…. Mike spotted this lovely specimen….

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

….and we spent about five minutes watching some really cute chipmunk like animals which we later found out are…..

Antelope Sqirrel

Antelope Sqirrel

During other walks we have come across rather less cute creatures such as these insects which we think must be related to the wood louse and descendents of trilobites….

At Punta San Telmo

At Punta San Telmo

We found them skittering among rocks on several shores.

Also, what we thought was a small bird flying down between rocks turned out to be a beetle about 12cm [5 inches] long!

On the rocks, Los Gatos

On the rocks, Los Gatos

We also saw some black tailed jackrabbits [not to be confused with the black jackrabbit]. These are also known as American Desert Hares and are quite prevalent in the Western US and Mexico.

A walk inland at Los Gatos

A walk inland at Los Gatos

As you will remember we fully provisioned before leaving La Paz knowing that, at best, we might find a small tienda or two in one of the scattered communities we had scheduled to anchor at. A walk to Ligui from Bahiá Candeleros was a bit of a wasted journey – though we had only really gone for the exercise – particularly as we found a very reasonable small store almost next to the anchorage in Ensenada Blanca.

We had intended to drop the hook at one of the three anchorages of “Nopolo” on the peninsular but about 24 knots of wind was blowing directly into what looked like the most protected of the three [from the SE] so we did not get to visit that small fishing community who inhabit a lonely spot with the only access being by boat.

However, the wind was kind to us at San Evaristo and we were able to spend two nights there.

Main village, San Evaristo

Main village, San Evaristo

While most of the villagers live in the main bay, through the small gap in the hills [right hand side of photograph], there are a couple of homesteads complete with cattle and burros.

Isolated homestead, San Evaristo

Isolated homestead, San Evaristo

We have noticed that even in the remotest areas cattle in Mexico are tagged – presumably for food provenance…

Hey, not too close please....

Hey, not too close please….

… even where there don’t seem to be people actually looking after the cattle. This small herd were just wandering down the beach….

San Telmo

San Telmo

…but when we went ashore we could find no evidence at all of any community – just a vague track which seemed to disappear into the dusty interior between the mountains.

Back in San Evaristo, our walk “over the hill” and past the homestead took us past a sea salt panning operation.

White and Pink Salt

White and Pink Salt

I don’t know if you can tell from the photograph but the front piles are white salt and the back ones pink. So, when you next come across pink sea salt, in whichever supermarket you frequent, it might well have come from here.

Four nights were spent at Agua Verde…..

Agua Verde Village

Agua Verde Village

…with three beautiful anchoring options to choose from. Given the calm weather we chose to anchor off the village beach but took the dinghy to the slightly more secluded anchorage on the left of this photo…

Village Beach anchorage

Village Beach anchorage

…and enjoyed a walk along the road behind the mountain to the most sheltered spot….

Popular anchorage in Northerly blows

Popular anchorage in Northerly blows

…. from where we were able to walk back to our beach along a ledge of rock at the water’s edge, accessible at low/mid tide.

Whilst there we met a couple [Gary and Dorothy on “Salty Dog”] who have been visiting the community for several years bringing donated school supplies, clothing etc. Gary is also helping them to build a water purification system and Dorothy, a vet, holds a clinic a couple of times a year – mainly to spay/neuter. We spent a couple of hours one morning helping to dinghy the supplies ashore and then take them to the Pastor’s house.

I had mentioned to Dorothy that we had run out of limes but couldn’t find any in the village tienda. It was quite a surprise when later that day she came to our boat to deliver a gift from the Pastor as a reward for our help….

Thanks from Agua Verde

Thanks from Agua Verde

So, as our wonderful friend Patricia’s Christmas present T-shirt to me stated – “If life gives you limes, drink Margarita’s”…. we did.

Lovely - but no ice!

Lovely – but no ice!

Restaurants are fairly few and far between in the Sea but both of these larger communities had them and we enjoyed locally caught fish meals in both….

Lupe Sierra's, San Evaristo

Lupe Sierra’s, San Evaristo

Brisa del Mar, Agua Verde

Brisa del Mar, Agua Verde

San Evaristo actually had two restaurants but we only had a beer in the other – it didn’t have a name [the restaurant that is, not the beer!], and the food looked equally good.

Fish is the staple at the restaurants because being a fishing village that is what you [and they] get. Even at anchor there are sometimes fishermen who will come by and offer to sell fish or, in the case of Miguel, offer to go and fish for you. He must have spent about 90 minutes in the blazing sun catching two fish for us.

Filleted fresh from the sea

Filleted fresh from the sea

We only took one of them so hope he ate well too. In exchange he wanted some outboard fuel. We gave him the equivalent of about £3 worth [US$4.50] – fair exchange we thought, especially as the one fish would have probably served four people.

Signs that fishermen use [or have used in the past] certain “Ensenadas” [coves] are sometimes seen in the form of crosses – usually quite high on the cliffside…

Ensenada Grande

Ensenada Grande

Cruiser “memory trees” are more often on the shoreline!

San Evaristo

San Evaristo

One tree that we have seen quite a lot of is the “Boojum Tree”, which is the Baja species of the “Ocotillo” plant.

Baja Ocatillo - the Boojum

Baja Ocatillo – the Boojum

It is known by several names, including “Coachwhip”, “Flaming Sword” and “Jacob’s Cactus” though it is not a true cactus. It flowers from March to June so we were lucky to see this before its flowers died. A popular use of the plant is a living fence – naturally designed to deter most animals [and humans] from crossing it!

Another plant – this time a real cactus surprised us by being the only one in a huge clump which was hairy.

Cactus at Isla San Francisco

Cactus at Isla San Francisco

On closer examination we could see flower buds hidden among the hairs and we wondered whether it had grown the hairs specifically to protect the buds?

Often seen in desert areas, or at least portrayed in films as being seen, are bones and lo and behold……

Near the shore, San Evaristo

Near the shore, San Evaristo

Quite macabre! We also found a skeleton which seemed as though it had been deliberately positioned on this rock….

Los Gatos

Los Gatos

….and Mike was tempted to bring this one back to the boat. Strangely I said NO! – although, thinking about it, maybe it would have been a talking point for visitors.

Jaws at Agua Verde

Jaws at Agua Verde!

One or two people have commented on FB that they like some of our sunset photographs so here are a few more images of the lovely dusks and sunsets we have enjoyed.

Isla San Francisco - 8th June

Isla San Francisco – 8th June

An anniversary sunset 9th June

An anniversary sunset 9th June

Punta San Telmo

Punta San Telmo

Bahia Agua Verde

Bahia Agua Verde

Looking towards the peninsula from Monserrate

Looking towards the peninsula from Monserrate

and again....Monserrate

and again….Monserrate

It is at dusk that the Rays seem to become a little more active. We have been told by friends Mike and Marie [“Déjàlà”] that there are far fewer Rays this year than in previous years. In fact they have told us that all wildlife seems to have reduced. We know that we are at the wrong time of year for most whales – which may be why we haven’t seen any, but we have encountered several pods of dolphins including some lovely Bottlenose Dolphins….P1070664 (2)

 

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All approaching Monserrate

All approaching Monserrate

Even though Rays have been jumping – we often hear them during the night and occasionally during daylight hours – they never seem to jump close enough to the boat for good photographs. So, you will have to make do with these which at least show that we have seen them!

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Rays at Isla San Francisco

Rays at Isla San Francisco

A small school also passed fairly close to the boat, feeding.

Rays at Bahia Agua Verde

Rays at Bahia Agua Verde

A favourite pastime for cruisers is obviously snorkelling and swimming – and in the heat of the day the water is often the best place to be especially if, like us, you don’t have air con on the boat.

Puerto Balenna

Puerto Balenna

Yes, it is me at Ensenada Grande

Yes, that black dot is me at Ensenada Grande

Talking of swimming – well floating/relaxing/cooling down really – I have mentioned previously our positive experiences of Fonatur Marinas and this is one of the reasons why!

Mike

Nice and cool

Very laid back!

Very laid back!

Another popular pastime is searching for shells. Searching is probably an inappropriate word as you really don’t have to search that hard! However, most of the anchorages in this part of the Sea of Cortez are in one of two National Parks – The “Espíritu Santo/Partida Parque” and the “Bahía de Loreto Parque”. As with all parks you are asked to take away only memories and photographs. When anchored off Isla Monserrate we hadn’t realised we were actually in the park until we came across these signs at the end of the beach.

We therefore left behind several piles of shells we had collected – not exactly where we had found them as we had piled them up – but at least they remained on the beach. There are hundreds of shells and it does feel as though taking a few really wouldn’t matter. But if we all said/did that – and I guess there are some people who do – then maybe these beautiful islands would go the way of other off the beaten track places, become denuded of their ecosystems and eventually not support what wildlife remains.

OK, moralising over!

Fortunately there are some beaches outside of the parks too and our shell collection has grown.

A few more for the nature table

A few more for the nature table

Yes, OK, boring…move on!

So, to end this post I want to tell you about another special day we had – our fifth wedding anniversary which was spent on Isla San Fransisco with its crystal clear water and find white sand beach.

We anchored in the main bay [most popular anchorage but we were lucky not to have neighbours that day] and on the right of the photograph is an alternative anchorage which, unless pressed by adverse weather conditions in the main bay, I don’t think I would want to use.

Isla San Francisco

Isla San Francisco

We walked across the island to look at it and it did not seem that brilliant – very rocky. There is also an anchorage at the north end of the island which, conversely, looked quite nice – in south winds only though.

Anyway, we walked the ridge….

Mike being brave

Mike being brave

…. and the salt flats….

Ground level for Mike - much better!

Ground level for Mike – much better!

… all of which set us up nicely for an anniversary meal. A starter of crab, mango and avocado…..

Lovely presentation Mike

Lovely presentation Mike

….was followed by pepper steak and fried potatoes…

Tasty

Tasty

…and then a dessert of brandy chocolate mousse accompanied of course by a drop of the liquor.

Indulgent

Indulgent

Who says you can’t eat well on boats!

So Cheers everyone.

Happy, happy, happy

Happy, happy, happy

This Sea of Cortez is brilliant.

San Evaristo

San Evaristo

 

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