Saturday, June 4, 2016

BAHIA CONCEPCION

May 14, 2016

I awoke early to the slapping sound of dozens of rays hurling themselves out of the water in vain attempts at flight.  Each short flight ended in a belly flop that sounded like a gunshot.  They kept it up all morning.  There was just no sleeping, so I got up to watch.

video

Downtown Mulege
We were out of everything and needed to use the internet, so we motored across the bay to Mulege, which took about an hour.  Mulege is not a protected anchorage, but there was no wind, so we felt comfortable leaving the boat for a few hours.  Our guidebook said to land by the port captain’s office and we figured we could check in at the same time.  We rode the dinghy around the point and up into the estuary, but couldn’t find the port captain.  We asked some fishermen who told us it had been closed for some time.  The abandoned looking building on the spit where we anchored had been the port captain’s office at one time.  We took the dinghy back around to the outside and landed it on the rocky beach in front of the boat where it was not visible unless you were right on top of it.  It was kind of a deserted spot and we were slightly uncomfortable leaving it so close to a town with no one watching it.  We had even locked the boat for the first time since leaving La Cruz.

Las Casitas Restaurant
We had barely begun the 1.5 mile walk into the center of town when a friendly fellow named Paco offered us a ride in his PT Cruiser.  He let us off at Las Casitas Hotel and Restaurant, a pleasant spot off the main plaza.  We had lunch in the restaurant and were surprised to find it completely empty.  Indeed the town was largely deserted.  We asked the waitress why it was so slow and she indicated that it had started to get hot.  We were starting to get the message that the tourist season in the Sea of Cortez had ended.  It was definitely hot.  We had a very reasonable and tasty lunch.  I was hungry upon arrival, but could only eat half of my tostada.  It was huge!

Even Mexicans Need Their Sriracha
The town of Mulege sprang up around an oasis where the Rio Santa Rosalia runs into Bahia Concepcion.  The Spanish built a mission there.  It was a pretty spot with palm trees lining the river.  After lunch, we walked a couple of blocks to the Mini Super Ayleth where we did our grocery shopping.  They had a decent selection for a small store, although we failed to find any desirable lettuce.  It was a relief to resupply so that we could stop rationing virtually everything.  When we had last shopped in Loreto, we planned to make another trip before we left and then we never did.  We were out of eggs, fresh meat, produce, and rum, although we never quite ran out of beer.

After we stocked up, we were too laden to walk back to the beach in the rather oppressive heat.  A taxi driver had approached us on the plaza when we arrived but, of course, he was nowhere to be found when we wanted a ride back to the boat.  I stayed with the groceries while Don went in search of the taxi.  We eventually had to have the hotel call him.  It was siesta time.

Sunset from Santo Domingo
Our dinghy was fortunately still there when we returned.  It was 16:00 by the time we got back to the boat.  Margaritas on empty stomachs, followed by a big lunch on a hot day had sapped our energy.  We had planned to move on to Playa Santispac, but couldn’t face an extra hour of motoring.  We returned to Santo Domingo for the night.  It was hot and we were satiated, so we skipped dinner and lounged through the evening.  The sky was cloudy and the sunset was extraordinary, something we mostly missed with the sun setting over the land.  When it grew dark, I went below to write.  The rays continued jumping.  After I had gone to bed, Don got me up to watch them because they were leaping right next to the boat.

May 15, 2016

The rays were quiet, for once, so we slept in a bit.  I got up and dived into the water, which was pleasantly warm.  After a dozen laps around the boat, I got out and took a shower.  By 9:00 in the morning, the water in the sun shower was already warm.  A warm breeze was blowing and, for once, I could sit in the sun and dry off without clutching my thin towel around me to keep from shivering.
We decided to make bacon and goat cheese omelets for breakfast but, after I had started the bacon, we discovered that we had lost the dozen eggs we purchased in Mulege somewhere between the store and the boat.  I changed horses in midstream and made bacon and goat cheese quesadillas instead. 

After breakfast, Don called our friend, John, who had been considering coming to meet us.  We had cell service in Santo Domingo, but wouldn’t once we left, so we needed to solidify our plans before moving on. John confirmed that he wanted to meet us on the 19th. He would fly into Loreto and take a bus to Mulege unless he could convince the driver to stop at one of the beaches along the way, which we had heard was sometimes possible.  Our taxi driver in Mulege had told us that the airport taxis charged $200 to come to Mulege (about a 2 hour drive), although the Mulege taxi would charge only $100 to get back.

Shells on the Beach at Santo Domingo
After fixing our plans with John, we were free to leave Santo Domingo, but first we went for a walk on shore.  The beach was cluttered with a staggering number of beautiful shells.  When we returned, we pulled up the anchor and headed south down the long, narrow bay.  The water on the course suggested by our Navionics program was quite shallow.  The bottom was white sand and the water pale blue green.  We could see dark patches that represented groups of rays or, once, a pod of large dolphins that came to play with us even though we were motoring.  Just when the depth rose to 14 feet and we started to fear we were being led astray, the bottom fell away and we were able to turn the corner and cut between Isla Pitahaya and Punta Piedrita to tuck into the cove containing Playa Santispac.  We anchored in 18 feet of pale blue water off Ana’s Restaurant.
Ana's Restaurant


We arrived at mid-afternoon and lounged on the boat until 17:00 when we went ashore for dinner.  Playa Santispac consisted of a nice beach littered with palapas for rent and backed by a large sand lot where RVs could camp.  There were a few nice homes on the eastern shore and a couple of ramshackle ones on the inland side.  A few trailers were installed in semi-permanent settings here and there.  It looked like there would have been quite a community during the season, but the campground was mostly empty.  We walked to the western end of the beach and back before stopping at Ana’s for beer and dinner.  A few Mexicans were scattered around the television, watching a playoff soccer game between the Chivas (Guadalajara) and America (Mexico City.)  A couple of gringos were using the slow and unpredictable internet.  Lucy, a tiny Chihuahua, wandered from table to table or flopped in the shade by the door.  It was hot.
Palapas for Rent

We both had a couple of beers and excellent shrimp burritos for dinner.  According to the guidebook, there was once a store attached to the restaurant, but the building was severely damaged by Hurricane Odile in 2014 and the shop had not yet recovered.  They sold drinks and a small selection of snack foods, but nothing in the way of groceries.  We were disappointed that we could not replace our missing eggs.

After dinner, we strolled over to Armando’s, the other restaurant on the beach, for margaritas.  One was plenty for me, as they did not stint on the alcohol.  On our way back, we heard someone hailing, “Hey, cruiser couple.”  They were a pair of former cruisers who had moved ashore to Todos Santos and were on a camping trip with their new RV enroute to a grandchild’s graduation.  We chatted with them for a few minutes and then visited with an international group of twenty somethings who were traveling in a fifth wheel purchased in San Francisco.  Some of them had been traveling for two years. I marveled at that because, when I was that age, I was consumed with my career and trying to buy a house.  I would never have been able to travel for years, nor would my family have tolerated it.  I was nearly thirty before I ever left the country and then it was for less than a week.  Of course, I was making up for my late start.
Playa Santispac
May 16, 2016

I awoke to a strong wind from the south, which put us in shallow water on a lee shore.  I got up at 9:00 and dived in the water, swimming thirteen laps around the boat despite big swells smacking me in the face periodically.  The water was heavenly and the shower water warm, but the wind, which had increased in velocity, made it a bit chilly to sit in a wet swimsuit and I feared the long hair of my braid would be hopelessly tangled if I remained outside for long.  I dried as quickly as I could and scurried below.

Don was up by this time and, after considering the alternatives, decided that we should re-anchor in deeper water in the slight protection of Punta Piedrita.  It got a bit exciting when first the usually reliable engine hesitated to start and then when it took several long moments for the bow to come through the wind once the hook was up.  It always made me nervous to gun the motor in shallow water, but there was no other option and she eventually came around before we hit anything.  We relocated and, feeling much more secure with 180 feet of chain out in 30 feet of water, took the dinghy back to Ana’s for breakfast.

Don's Conversation Partners
After breakfast, we went for a walk over by the homes on the eastern shore and across Punta Piedrita to the bay side where there were more shelters available for campers.  By this time (13:30) it was getting hot, so we returned to the boat to read, write, and nap away the warm afternoon.  Two gulls decided to take their siestas perched on our dinghy and Don carried on a lively conversation with them as they squawked and cackled at him.
Just as we were contemplating hauling up the anchor and moving over to Playa Coyote, our friends, John and Julie from Myla, arrived.  We thought it would be rather rude to run away as soon as they arrived, so we decided to stay put.  Soon, we were invited over to their boat for cocktails.  We had ice and guacamole.  They had chips and alcohol.  We had all the ingredients for a party.  John and Julie had a guitar and we took turns playing.  We had a great time.  It was well past dark by the time we got back to our boat, but I was hungry.  We barbecued some lovely thick pork chops we had bought in Mulege and ate them with beans and a mango jicama salad.

May 17, 2016

Playa Coyote
I got up early and swam fourteen laps around the boat while the seas were still flat calm.  When Don got up, we went to shore to dump garbage, use the internet and get breakfast.  It was Tuesday and both Ana’s and Armando’s were closed.  We went back to the boat and, after conferring with Myla, decided to move over to Playa Coyote, a cove about 2.5 miles across Bahia Coyote.  Bahia Coyote is a smaller bay off the western shore of Bahia Concepcion.  It has several islands in it and is ringed with small anchorages and various forms of vacation homes.  Some detached rocks poked up a foot or two above the water in the center, surrounded by light blue shoal water.  Playa Coyote had a Mini Super and a Myla was not among them.  We thought we could see them in El Burro Cove.  John and I had plans to play guitar that evening, so we motored back over there so as to be close.
Rocks in Bahia Coyote
number of substantial houses.  There were several boats anchored there, but

El Burro Cove is famous as the location of Geary, the fellow who provides daily weather forecasts for the entire Pacific coast of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez.  We could see his antenna topped palapa a dozen feet from the waterline.  We dropped anchor in nineteen feet of water over white sand in front of Geary’s place.
Geary's Place


Don and I were eager to find some Wi-fi because we needed to communicate with our friend, John, who was joining us soon thereafter.  We took the dinghy in to Bertha’s restaurant where they had good seafood and very slow satellite internet.  We ate ceviche and fish tacos and drank beer until about 19:30.  Stopping by Myla on the way back, we all agreed to put off the jam session until the following night.
Bertha's Restaurant
















May 18, 2016

We were just starting to stir when we suddenly heard a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace emanating from shore.  Apparently, Geary has played that recording every morning for many years.  Once the music ended, the weather report started up on VHF channel 22.  We drank our coffee and listened to the weather report.

Posada Concepcion
We had plans to climb to the top of a peak overlooking the bay with John and Julie that morning at 9:00.  We picked them up and all went ashore in our dinghy.  Supposedly, the trail began somewhere behind Bertha’s restaurant.  Though we could see white painted trail markers on the hillside, we never did find the beginning of the trail.  There were supposed to be petroglyphs near the trailhead and we never found those, either.  We did, however, eventually connect with the steep, rocky trail.  We climbed uphill for a couple of
El Burro Cove from above
miles to the top of a ridge where we could see back over towards Posada Concepcion and Playa Santispac.  I scrambled up the summit block to take a panoramic picture of the entire Bahia Coyote.  We discovered a Geo cache on top of the ridge, but couldn’t register our presence in the logbook because someone had taken the pen.  It occurred to me that hunting Geo caches could be a good occupation for cruisers, since we all have GPS devices.
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Panoramic View of Bahia Coyote
Don Dwarfed by Cardon Cactus
Our descent was much more rapid than the climb up. We had a chance to admire the desert flora.  Huge cardon cactus dwarfed us puny humans.  Once we made it back to the road level, we walked 500 meters south along Highway 1 to Bertha’s tienda where we bought cold drinks, tortillas, and eggs.  We were served by Bertha herself, who no longer operates the restaurant.  The Wi-fi at the store cost 20 pesos for a password and was so slow as to be virtually useless.  We drank our waters and went back to the beach.

Parking Lot Hazard
As we were walking past the palapas on the beach, we spied a fellow standing next to Geary’s place and we asked if he were Geary.  He was and we stopped and chatted for a few minutes before he finally invited us onto his shady porch under the looming loudspeaker we had heard hours before.  We visited for half an hour or so.  He had built the place twenty years before and, “figured he’d stay.”  It was rustic, but comfortable and he had cats underfoot and seemed to know everyone in all the nearby communities.  He invited us for the Fourth of July party.

View from Bertha's Restaurant
Don and I dropped John and Julie off at Myla and then went back to the restaurant to finalize our plans to meet John and eat hamburgers.  The weather was pretty mild and the light breeze was just enough to keep things cool.  We returned to the boat and Don defrosted the refrigerator (it was getting difficult to remove the ice trays) while I worked on my blog.

Myla and Comet at El Burro Cove
John and Julie went in to use the internet after we came back.  They stopped by Comet on the way back.  Don was feeling a bit low energy after our big hike, so I grabbed my guitar and accompanied them back to Myla so that John and I could play some guitar.  The seas were a bit rough and we were almost back to their boat when I got completely drenched by a rogue wave.  They loaned me a towel and we mixed up some margaritas and visited with Julie until I was dry and we were relaxed enough to whip out John’s sheet music and try to play some Beatles tunes.  We weren’t ready for prime time, but we had a lot of fun and didn’t sound half bad on the songs that were in my vocal range.  It was late by the time John delivered me back to Comet.

May 19, 2016

I got up early and swam fifteen laps around the boat while the seas were nice and flat.  Myla pulled out early to head over to Playa Coyote, but we stayed in El Burro to wait for our friend, John South, who was due to arrive that afternoon.  We drank our coffee and enjoyed the weak morning sun.  Eventually, I made salami and goat cheese omelets for brunch.  Then we read until about 15:00 when we thought we’d better go ashore in case John appeared.

El Burro Cove from Behind
We received an email confirming that John had arrived at the Loreto airport and managed to get a shuttle to the bus station.  He said that he would be taking the 15:00 bus.  Pepe, at Bertha’s restaurant, told us that the bus would arrive about 17:00.  We had some drinks and shared an order of quesadillas while we waited, which gave us a chance to use the very slow internet.  A little after 17:00, I went up to the road to meet the bus.  Sure enough, the bus appeared about 17:10 but, despite my effort to flag him down, the driver just flashed his lights at me and kept going.  I walked the half kilometer up the road to Bertha’s tienda in case the driver had let John off there, but there was no sign of him.

Don and I figured that John would either end up in Mulege and have to take a taxi back or would arrive on the next bus.  We settled down to wait.  A little after 18:00, Don went up to the road to await the next bus.  No sooner had he left than we received an email from John asking where we were.  I responded and asked where he was, but didn’t hear any more.  Apparently, the driver had let John off in Posada Concepcion, the next bay up the road.  There were no taxis and no cell service and John had no luck hitchhiking.  He asked at a local hostel, but the operator did not have a room and was not the least helpful.  Eventually, after much prompting by an increasingly desperate John, he suggested that he knock on the door of a nearby home.

John Relaxing on Comet
The occupants took pity on John and gave him a ride the two kilometers back to El Burro.  John invited them for dinner and we all had a pleasant meal at Bertha’s.  We were interested to hear the details of vacation home arrangements in yet another spot.  Each community seemed to have slightly different peculiarities.  These folks were leasing their parcel from a Mexican who held a federal concession.  Their lease included water and generated electricity from 10:00 to 22:00.  The folks in El Burro had to provide their own water and power.

It was near dark by the time we got John back to Comet.  We spent the rest of the evening chatting and getting him settled in.



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