Thursday, July 21, 2016

San Ignacio, Oasis in the Desert

Volcano and lake at San Ignacio 

Our friends Steve and Sue of s/v Kashmera planned a drive trip to San Ignacio, 
60 miles west into the Baja interior, and invited us to come along.

We drove west from Santa Rosalia on the Sea of Cortez
 coast to San Ignacio, in the center of Baja.

On the drive to San Ignacio we passed the beautiful Tres Virgenes volcanoes

Soon, the 300 year old church of San Ignacio appeared through the palms

Chris and DeeAnne of s/v Stridor, who also came on the trip,
marvel at the majesty of the church

An educational placard outside the church (hence the bird droppings) states that " 1716, on the FIRST day of his visit, Jesuit Padre Francisco Maria Piccolo and the ENTHUSIASTIC Indians built a chapel." 

Well. Not sure how much documentation there is that the Indians were ENTHUSIASTIC about stopping their hunting, fishing and foraging and doing the exhaustive work of building a giant brick church in the middle of the desert for strangers newly arrived from Europe. 

Now that I think about it, maybe the bird droppings are the pigeons expressing their opinion on the validity of the statement. Anyway, there is no doubting that it is a gorgeous church -- one of the most beautiful we've seen.

Church wall and sky 

Priest with broom statue --
no idea what it means.

Machete out in the courtyard

Out in the graveyard, I liked the family 
crypt shaped like a historic mission

After touring the church, we explored the little town of San Ignacio

300 year old ficus trees cover the town square

Wow! We were blown away by the beauty of San Ignacio!

Beautiful San Ignacio home

And have I mentioned that it's hot? Literally every Mexican I pass on the street says "Mucho Calor..." for their greeting (translation: It's damn hot!)

I'd like to introduce you to my new hobby:

Me sticking my head and upper body inside an icebox each time I pass one. 
And I'll stay there for about 20 blessed seconds. 

We were surprised to see orange and lime groves here in the middle of the desert.

Limes hang like Christmas ornaments on the trees

There was a nice little clean and well stocked grocery store in town.

DeeAnne marvels at the produce selection

And then at the other end of the store was this:

Unmarked little baggies filled with an unknown 
white substance on the shelf of the grocery store

Pretty little main street on San Ignacio

We spent awhile in the shade of the trees in the town square, 
listening to musicians playing guitar and mandolin 

After a nice little taco lunch and date shakes (specialty of the area due to the hundreds of date palms), we climbed in the car and headed over to the San Ignacio lagoon.

The beautiful oasis that is the San Ignacio lagoon

There are small resorts and camping along the shore of the lagoon

Friends amongst the palms

After exploring the oasis and the lagoon, we started back to Santa Rosalia.

Home in shadow of volcano

We visited a hunting lodge along the way. Beneath a volcano, 
it's mostly used by Americans

The lodge leads hunting trips into the desert for ram

Outside there's a tall lookout tower.

The caretaker's son shows off his big binoculars in the lookout tower

View from the lookout shows the hunting cabins and the volcano.
You can see evidence of a lava flow between the cabins and the caldera.

We noticed a little hatch in the middle of the lookout tower.
Perhaps it was a gallows in a previous life?

I have to say that San Ignacio was a beautiful surprise, and I strongly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

Meanwhile, we're leaving Santa Rosalia tonight and sailing north to San Francisquito. Several buddy boats are all heading there in the same timeframe, more or less -- Vivacia, Kashmera, Firefly, Linger Longer and Stryder.

We'll have little to no WiFi for a couple of weeks at least. No worries!


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Beautiful Bahia Concepcion

Espiritu rests in the anchorage at Playa Burro in Bahia Concepcion 

We spent two weeks in beautiful Bahia Concepcion on the Sea of Cortez.

After sailing north from the Loreto area, we made 
the left turn into the very protected Bahia Concepcion. 

Espiritu sits at anchor in blessed solitude at gorgeous Playa Santa Domingo
 at the mouth of Bahia Concepcion

Yes, we're sailing in paradise, and it's lovely. But there are inconveniences. Like bees.

Dozens of bees swarm the cockpit of Espiritu 

Welcome to my nightmare.
(courtesy of the Huffington Post)

At first seeing dozens of bees flying about the boat is, of course, a bit unsettling. But then we learned that they are not interested in us humans. What they are looking for is fresh water to drink. Turns out bees are just like humans -- they need their 8 (teeny-tiny bee sized) glasses a day. 

And when you're a dehydrated bee in the middle of the parched desert, seeing a sailboat with gallons and gallons of fresh water aboard pop over the horizon is surely a happy sight.

So we learned some simple tips to keep the bees at bay, like drying the cockpit immediately after showering. 

After one night alone (well, not completely alone -- just us and the bees!) 
our friends aboard s/v DeJaLa arrived and dropped anchor.

The official doggy of s/v DeJaLa has his own cute little doggie door!

After a couple of days here, we pulled anchor and headed southwest, deeper into Bahia Concepcion. Our destination was Playa Burro, where gringo Geary lives. 

We had been hearing about him for weeks: he left the states 20 years ago and moved into a tiny shack on the water where he has lived by himself ever since providing SSB weather to cruising sailors.

Also, he throws a big gringo July 4th party every year, with fireworks! Naturally, we wanted to be a part of it and to meet this mythical creature Geary.

This was our first view of Playa Burro as we entered the harbor. 
A thunderstorm gathered in the distance. 

The storm soon cleared, so we went ashore to explore with Mark of s/v Trovita.

Mark and Chris take the first look around heavenly Playa Burro

We heard that Olivia Newton John and Sammy Hagar's drummer have places down here. 

Maybe this is where Olivia Newton John gets mellow...

Chris and Mark explore the beach. Geary tells us he was the first person to build his home here. Over the past 20 years, many have followed his example.

Playa Burro beauty

You may wonder how these people living in these humble beach shacks deal with the thirsty bee problem. 

Their solution was kinda smart and kinda horrifying:

They have a little container of water set out next to one of the homes for the bees -- I call it the thirsty bee community pool. Yikes. Seems like a good idea, unless someone accidentally trips over it...

Looks like someone down here is from North Dakota! :-)

This is how they walk their dog in Playa Burro

Humorous shark and Canadian geese decoys float in the bay

Kayak rental

Obviously it's gorgeous in Playa Burro. But there is nothing here but the few beach shacks.

We heard there was a tiny tienda about a mile up the road, so we donned 
our hats and sunscreen and headed out. 

There was a freak snowstorm/hailstorm at Playa Burro!

Just kidding. It's not snow or hail -- it's salt. But it crunched just like snow as I walked across it. 
Made me think of home at Green Valley Lake. :-) 

But soon enough, visions of snowdrifts were melted from my mind as we walked across the desert.

The road to Playa Burro

And, if I haven't mentioned it lately, it's hot. It's July in the Mexican desert.

The glue holding this guys shoes together literally melted in the heat, 
and his soles simply slid right off. 

Welcome to Mexico!

Finally we found Senora Bertha's teeny tiny little tienda.

Chris and Mark enjoy a cold drink at Senora Berthas lovingly tended tienda. 
It was truly like an oasis in the desert! 

During our 10 days at Playa Burro, I visited Senora Bertha and her family several times to see what was new in the tienda. On a good day, she would be selling recently received fresh avocados, mangos, tortillas and diet sodas. 

Senora Bertha and her niece enjoy a telenovela to help pass the 
time during the long desert afternoon

I grew to love Senora Bertha during our sort stay at Playa Burro. Something about her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners demeanor made me want her to like me. Also, she wears her hair in an intimidating super short, spiky cut that actually inspired a bit of fear in me. She is the matriarch here -- she's in charge -- no bones about it. 

 I wanted to earn her respect.

In the American casual tradition, I usually call new friends simply by their first names after I meet them, even here in conservative Mexico.

But I always called Senora Bertha by her full respected name with the title -- Senora Bertha.

Me and Senora Bertha. I'm sure she's frowning because she knows I'm sailing 
north, and she'll miss me when I'm gone. That's my hope, anyway. 

We hiked to some ancient petroglyphs in the hills above Playa Burro.

 Obviously fishing was a big deal to these guys so long ago

Speaking of fishing, there is a reef at Playa Burro but the fish stocks seemed pretty fished out. I did manage to spear a triggerfish, though -- my second kill of the season. There were billions and billions of baby fish swimming around, though, so maybe there's hope for the future. 

Life may be peaceful for Geary and his friends living at Playa Burro, but it's not easy. They are completely off the grid. That means solar panels, propane tanks, composting toilets, and driving into the city of Muleje once a week to buy water, which he Geary hauls back to his home in a giant water barrel in the back of his truck.

Geary offered us a ride into Muleje, the nearest town, which is 17 miles up the highway.

Oh, noes. Not 5 miles into our trip, Geary's truck overheated. The guys rigged 
       something up -- don't ask me what it was. But soon enough we were back on 
the road keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge. 

On the drive to Muleje we passed several beautiful bays.

Playa El Coco is just one of several beautiful beaches in Bahia Concepcion

A dog rests under a blooming tree in the center of Muleje 

Muleje is the only actual town for miles around, and although it's on the coast of Bahia Concepcion, there is no good anchorage for sailors there. So if you want to visit you need to catch a ride from one of the anchorages deeper in the bay, as we did.

We got our propane tank filled at Casa Yee, which was established here by Chinese 
immigrants in 1907, and now is just another Mexican tienda

Muleje tire staircase

Well, word gets around about Gary's big July 4th blowout, so by the 4th there were 11 sailboats anchored in the harbor ready to celebrate.

An ice cream truck came over from Muleje and made a killing off of the gringos

Gary provided the hot dogs, and we had a big potluck on the beach. But the real attraction was yet to come after the sun went down. Geary had been working with his contacts for weeks in preparation for the July 4th fireworks. All of the guys couldn't wait to help Geary light them up.

Mexican fireworks...being lit up by guys who have been drinking all day.

No thanks. 

Nurse Liz retired to Espiritu to watch the festivities from the shelter of our floating home -- with the VHF on Channel 16 in case my nursing duties would be needed ashore.

OK, Geary's mexican fireworks weren't this bad. 
But it was probably close. 

Fortunately the evening passed without incident, and a fine time was had by all.

The next night we all met for a final dinner at the tiny bar/restaurant JC's in Playa Burro.

JC's bar and restaurant in Playa Burro

The next day, everyone pulled anchor and sailed away, leaving Geary and his few full time neighbors to the peace and quiet of Playa Burro.

As we all sailed away, Geary blasted a loud bagpipe-version of Amazing Grace from his solar-powered stereo out into the bay in tribute. 

It was goodbye for now. But we'll be back!