Saturday, May 28, 2011

Isla San Francisco to Agua Verde

While at Isla San Francisco we joined forces with other cruising couples for a climb up a rugged ridge overlooking the picturesque anchorage. In places the arete narrowed to just a few feet in width with precipitous drops on both sides. Even though it was hot and arid, Mark said the view of those climbing ahead of us conjured up images of Mt. Everest’s Hilary Step. We were rewarded with spectacular views of the sea around us and our boats anchored peacefully a thousand feet below.

With so many recommended places to visit still ahead of us to the north, our wanderlust prompted us to move on after our second day and motor sail across to the Baja Peninsula and the quiet, little fishing village of San Evaristo. The little community there is inhabited by about twenty full time families and has a school, desalination plant and a small tienda (market). Even though we did not need much in the way of provisions, it was fun visiting the small store. Housed in a tiny concrete block building, the market had an ample selection of the basic needs including a few boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables. We even found Best Foods mayonnaise, an item on our short shopping list. We visited the store with several other cruisers and we all discussed the need to be conservative in our purchasing so as not to deplete the stock for the local families. Across the peninsula from the anchorage is a small cattle ranch and salt evaporation ponds where sea salt is harvested. As our group hiked over the hill to explore that area, we came across numerous grazing burros and skinny cows. The ranch itself was located in a small canyon with a water source and many large date palm trees. We could only imagine how hard the ranchers must work to tend to their livestock and make a living.

From San Evaristo we continued up the Baja coast to Bahia Los Gatos, another incredibly scenic spot that features red sand stone and pock-marked, volcanic rock formations. After settling in at anchor, we felt a little like we had sailed “Blue Rodeo” into Utah’s Lake Powell. It was here that we were first bothered by what would become a pesky nemesis. Before long, dozens of honey bees began swarming our boat in search of even the tiniest drops of fresh water. Fortunately, the bees had no interest in us and, even though they covered the stern of our boat near our exterior shower, any articles of damp clothing left out to dry and even our sink faucet and sponges in the galley. We did our best to co-exist peacefully with the critters but eventually closed the screens on all of our hatches and took refuge below. The next day, after exploration on foot along the rocky shore and some snorkeling in the crystal clear water, we chose to continue our journey in hopes of escaping the bees.

Another short sail brought us to Bahia San Marte, an anchorage protected by a reef that extends well off shore. As we approached, we used our GPS to carefully monitor our progress and proximity to the reef. We have often commented about how modern electronic navigation aids make adventures like this so much easier and safer than just a few years ago. Howard and Lynn, our friends from the vessel “Swift Current” joined us in the anchorage and, anxious to cool off and enjoy the cool, clear water we all inflated our swimming pool-style lounge chairs and drifted about the anchorage with adult beverages in hand. The company was splendid and the scenery around us sublime. What a great way to end the afternoon! Before leaving the next morning, we took our dinghy to a portion of the reef about a mile away and snorkeled among an array of multi-colored fish. Mark carried with him his pole spear and managed to get a shot off at a fair sized candidate for our dinner but sadly, the wily fish was too quick and the spear bounced harmlessly off its gill plate as the fish darted away. Though not as bad as Los Gatos, fresh water-seeking bees prompted us to leave the anchorage early and continue to our next stop, Bahia Aqua Verde.

Aqua Verde is a lovely spot and cruiser favorite that features a protected bay, a shoreline mixed with rocky cliffs and white sandy beaches and clear, emerald green water. We anchored there with added excitement over the news that cruisers had the opportunity to swim with a large whale shark just the day before. These amazing plankton feeders can approach 30 feet in length and, though resembling other carnivorous sharks, are harmless to humans and seem unafraid of sharing their watery world with us. The next day, we joined friends for a trip ashore to explore the village. What a treat! Although less populated than it once was, the community of Aqua Verde features many simple homes, two schools, two tiny markets and a cinder block police station with a tiny jail cell. As we explored the town, the guys in the group took great pleasure being photographed behind the jail cell bars while being guarded by the local sheriff. It appeared as if the sheriff had as much fun posing for the pictures as did the guys. After buying a few things at the small markets, Anne led the way to the home of a women who made fresh tortillas to order. While some of the group waited outside the small house, Anne visited with the woman while she worked just a few steps from where her fisherman husband napped, fully clothed on a simple bed. As we have experienced everywhere in Mexico, the local people were charming, warm and friendly. The high point of our walk through town for Anne was seeing the numerous goats, cows and pigs. In fact, the town is known for its two goat milk dairies and we were able to buy a large chunk of fresh cheese from one of the tiendas. Later that evening, while relaxing in “Blue Rodeo’s” cockpit, Anne became aware of the bleating of a goat coming from a shoreside cliff. Being the animal lover that she is, she feared that it was in distress and sped off to the rescue in our dinghy. She returned to our boat after determining the cries were coming from one of three goats high on a cliff and it appeared to be in no danger. In fact, it’s probably a nightly occurrence as the goats venture around the area nibbling on tiny plants that somehow manage to grow in the inhospitable terrain. Our days at Aqua Verde were filled with snorkeling, swimming and socializing. One evening, couples and families from most of the nearby anchored boats gathered on a beach to share snacks and beverages. Its hard to imagine a better life than to be sharing such an adventure with so many great people. Our next stop would be Puerto Escondido, another cruiser favorite, where we would be able to explore the town of Loreto and the surrounding area.

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