Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

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Have you ever seen a photograph of a location and knew you had to go there?  Nikk and I were planning our sailing trip south from La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in December when I spotted the photograph of Las Hadas Resort in Pacific Mexico:  A Cruiser’s Guidebook.  (http://bluelatitudepress.com)  That’s all it took for my mind to be hooked.  Usually my fascination centers on some aspect of the natural world, but this time my love of architecture, and Moorish architecture in particular had me planning and plotting a trip to Las Hadas.  Soon Nikk  somewhat merrily agreed to our off-boat adventure when I suggested that a two-night stay to celebrate my birthday at Las Hadas would be so romantic.  Balance sailed into the little cove in front of Las Hadas on January 4th, and we anchored in aquamarine water with only two other boats, one unoccupied.  Reservations were easy, using hotels.com.  This time we played it safe and transported ourselves, our luggage and our electronics in the dinghy, not the kayaks, to the marina located inside the breakwater.

 

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The hike from the marina up to the lobby involved some serious puffing and panting, as the road is steep and long, and we were hauling all the gear necessary for a two-day stay.  Luckily after checking in an employee ferried us in a golf cart up to our room, several floors and stories above the lobby.  After that ride, Nikk and I enjoyed hiking all over the resort, exploring and photographing, and puzzling the employees who constantly asked us if we wanted a ride.  Our room was small, but seemed roomy after three weeks on the boat.  Marble floors and counters, bas relief in Moorish styling on the door and the headboard designed on the wall, hot water (a happy luxury after the Grand Bay Marina restrooms with almost no hot water), WiFi  (a bit slow so no movies) and a luxurious large shower.

This Moorish fantasy was created by Antenor Patino Rodriguez, known as Antenor Patino, who was heir to his father’s title of “The King of Tin” in Bolivia.  I have learned that whenever I see a work of fantastic architecture in Spain, Central America or South America, the wealth that built it is likely to come from the extraction of resources, like tin, which involves the use of many poorly-paid workers or slaves.   Patino wanted to create a resort for his family and friends, and named it Las Hadas, which means “the fairies”, because of the sparkling, shiny particles in the sand, or maybe because of the glimpses of phosphorescence scintillating in the water.  Architect Jose Luis Ezquerra took Patino’s ideas and formed them into turrets, towers, whimsical sculpture, beautiful pools, and luxurious accommodations.  After Las Hadas was completed in 1972 a month-long celebration for the rich and famous ensued, and then three years of money-draining parties and what I sometimes call “wretched excess”, until Patino’s fortune was threatened and he sold Las Hadas.  Patino married into European royalty, so there were plenty of rich and famous people of his acquaintance to entertain and accommodate.   We were also amazed to have dinner back in La Cruz with Ed and Connie, who sail on Sirena, and to find that Ed grew up in Bolivia and knew Patino because his father was an American geologist.

Today the property is managed and cared for by the Las Brisas Hotel Collection, and they are doing an admirable job of keeping the aging resort from crumbling and losing its charm.  In our wanderings, we found places where Mother Nature had caused some serious problems recently, but the bulk of the hotel, with five restaurants, tennis courts, two pools, and many roads and buildings looked like maintenance was a serious and on-going priority.

Las Hadas became famous worldwide after the movie “10” with Bo Derek and Dudley Moore was filmed there and released in 1979.  Nikk’s son-in-law heard we were going to Las Hadas and immediately gave Nikk a long story on the phone of the teenage fantasies caused by Bo Derek at Las Hadas until his wife said “OK, moving on to other topics….”.

I’m not telling any secrets, but Nikk and I did have a romantic stay at Las Hadas, and celebrated my birthday with lobster ravioli, cheesecake and margaritas

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Sunrise

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A luxurious unit

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An echo of the Alhambra in Spain

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Holiday lights

On the third day, while walking near Los Hadas, we found a large abandoned house on an overgrown lot, with tropical thorn forest rapidly taking over the property.  Since it was for sale, we went exploring.  Why it was abandoned, who owned it, where they went, and how long before it’s razed and turned into another hotel were questions asked and not answered.  Las Hadas would soon resemble this decaying home if not for all the efforts to thwart entropy (the tendency of the universe to go to maximum randomness).  The contrast between this neglected property and Las Hadas became a meditation on the impermanence of all things, and on whether the birds, lizards, trees and shrubs were more beautiful than the carefully-tended creations of Las Hadas?

Even the name of the property is a mystery that is not solved yet.  The name on the plaque can’t be deciphered by anyone I’ve asked so far, including the Mexican waiter at Octopus’s Garden.  If any reader has a guess, please add it in the comments!

 

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Too soon it was time to head back to Balance, pull up the anchor, and slowly make our way back north to La Cruz.  Our idea at the beginning of the trip  was to sail down to Zihuatanejo, but the heat and humidity and the lack of air conditioning on Balance made us give up on that plan, and decide that Manzanillo and Las Hadas were the furthest south we’d go.  Maybe next year, we said.

 

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Chamela Bay looking across to Balance anchored at the tip of Isla Pajarara.

The lure of warm emerald water and isolated anchorages pulled us out of La Cruz on December 14, 2015, and south to Chamela Bay.  Balance would have sailed out two days earlier but the remnants of a tropical storm pounded La Cruz with three days of rain.  It was a final example of the weird weather of November and December – unseasonably hot and humid with apparent temperatures of 100 degrees F many days, or unseasonably cloudy and rainy.  We splashed around the cobblestoned streets doing last-minute errands and saying goodbye to our many friends.  Six weeks in La Cruz seemed like a long time at the beginning of November, and not nearly enough when mid-December came too fast.  Three friends visited for a week in early November, and my brother and his wife came for a week at the end of the month.  The advent of visitors created good times eating and drinking in our favorite restaurants in the evening, and kayaking, hiking, sailing on the Bay, walking the beaches and birdwatching during the day.  I wound up leading some yoga classes again, taking Spanish classes twice a week, exploring  the world of science on Science Fridays with the marina kids, and taking part in a stimulating Writer’s Group at the marina on Saturdays.  Nikk kept at the boat projects so Balance would be ready to head south after almost a year in Marina Riviera Nayarit.  She weathered the six hot months from May to October tied to the dock and watched over by Gonzalo, Richard, and the wonderful guards.

Finally the day came to cast off our lines and motor sail at sunrise across the Bay of Banderas 24 miles to Cabo Corrientes, around the corner with only mild chop in the usually rough area outside the Bay, and then halleluia! we turned off the engine and sailed for four hours on to our first night in tiny Ipala Bay.  Small Spinner Dolphins accompanied us for about fifteen minutes, and they really do leap out of the water and spin like a drill in the air.  That first night in Ipala Bay we didn’t even want to get off the boat and go ashore.  Balance rocked her two tired sailors to sleep that night, with brilliant stars shining above, soon it was time to make coffee and sail south with the morning sun.

Hurricane Patricia in late October spared Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz, because the Sierra Madre mountains east and south deflected the 200 mph monster hurricane.  It came ashore about twenty miles south of Chamela Bay, and we expected to see massive damage all along the coast and in the bays.  Instead many trees, cacti, and buildings miraculously survived with only some damage.  We heard that the destruction inland was much more extensive, with many people losing all of their banana or papaya crops.

Isla Pajarara lies in the middle of Chamela Bay, and there Balance dropped anchor so we could spend four days snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxing aboard our boat.

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Sunset as we paddled around Isla Pajarara

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Balance with Zoe B

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Immature Brown Booby with Heerman’s Gulls.

More fun and friends old and new awaited us in Tenecatita Bay.  Robert (the Mayor of Tenecatita anchorage)and his wife Virginia on Harmony kindly invited us to sail across the bay with them and two other couples to visit La Manzanilla (a small town in the SW corner of the bay).

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The dinghy shortly before being swamped during the La Manzanilla landing.

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Nikk with a little Crocodile buddy at the large Crocodile Refuge in La Manzanilla.

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Gordo, the 70-80 year old crocodile at the refuge.

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The Mexican who called Gordo to the bridge so we could get a good photo.

During Hurricane Patricia wave surge about ten feet high came ashore and flooded homes on the beach whose windows had been blasted out by the high winds.  We heard sad stories of homes losing their roof, or having foundations washed away.  Seven weeks later the damage was still being repaired, and one of the first places in town to be repaired was the Crocodile Refuge, because the fences had been washed away and large crocs were wandering the streets of La Manzanilla, wanting a tasty meal of cat, dog or chicken.  Luckily for us by the time we arrived they had all been rounded up and returned to the refuge (at least we didn’t see any in town!).

Tenecatita is a cruiser’s paradise.  Swimming, snorkeling, games of bocce ball on the beach, tasty meals at the beach palapa restaurant, and a two mile long estuary to paddle in our kayaks.  Robert and Virginia on Harmony organize much of the fun.  Virginia published Harmony on the High Seas:  When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey in 2011, tales and advice about the cruising life, and how to stay in harmony with your cruising partner despite the lack of space and the dire and dangerous moments.  I read the book two years ago (and read parts of it to Nikk) and I recommend it to all, even non-cruisers, for its sage advice, philosophies of love and living, and the fascinating details of how to build a harmonious cruising life.

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The Tenecatita anchorage, seen from the beachside palapa restaurant.

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Surprise! Moonshadow and Janna Banana arrive in the dinghy.

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Nick wrestling mangroves trying to get us a way through to the lagoon we visited two years ago. Sadly, he was defeated.

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Denizens of the estuary: White Ibis in a hurricane-denuded mangrove.

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A Green Heron whose relatives we see when paddling the Tualatin River west of Portland.

After four days anchored in Tenecatita Balance carefully motorsailed through the rocks and reefs to spend a week tied to the dock in Marina Isla Navidad, next to the Grand Bay Hotel across the channel from Barra de Navidad.  It’s been our goal to spend Navidad in Barra de Navidad again after the wonderful time we had two years ago.  Unfortunately I must have been very bad this last year, because Santa brought me sciatica for Christmas and I hobbled for three days.   I did manage to take a few photos of this spectacular hotel and the view of the Xmas Eve almost-full-moon.  There will not be another full moon on Christmas Day until 2034, and I wonder if I will see that one too?

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The almost Full Moon of Xmas Eve .

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Moorish architecture at Hotel Grand Bay.

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The spectacular Grand Bay Hotel from the marina.

 

50 cruisers attended the Christmas Day Potluck and the wild White Elephant Gift Exchange at the Time Out Bar overlooking the bay.  I was too busy being an elf for the gift exchange, trying to keep track of how many times a gift was stolen, and who received which gift.  Fun and hectic and no time for photos.  I can say our cruiser buddies know how to have a good time, and it was fun to see all the folks dressed up instead of in shorts and flip flops.  We did get one picture of us at the bar, so I will end with that, and with our wishes for a happy, healthy and more peaceful 2016 for all.

We are sailing south today to spend New Year’s Eve in some secluded anchorage, if all goes well, and then Manzanillo for my birthday in early January.

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Happy New Year and Prospero Ano Nuevo to all!

Mexico City and Teotihuacan

 

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In a valley 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, the ruins of Teotihuacan speak of the ancient civilizations of Mexico.  Here the roads and pyramids are aligned with the places where the sun rises on the Summer Solstice, where Venus rises as the morning star and sets as the evening star, and even line up with the placement of Sirius, the star we know as the “Dog Star”.  Sometime around 100 BC peoples of unknown origin came into the valley to establish a city that would hold 100,000-250,000 people by 450 AD.  (Those widely varying population estimates came from some of the dozens of pamphlets, internet articles, and Museum of Anthropology  plaques I read.)  The influence of the Teotihuacans spread as far south as Tikal and other Guatemalan cities, west to the Veracruz area, and perhaps to the Pacific Coast.  They made objects of obsidian discovered in many ancient cities in MesoAmerica. .

Discoveries are still being made at Teotihuacan to this day, including a 300 foot shaft underneath the Pyramid of the Moon, with skeletons of humans and jaguars, and fantastic balls which were probably coated with metal alloys.  Recently a Wal-Mart was built right near the site in the picture.  Workers were fired when they protested the removal and secret dumping of artifacts.

I visited here October 30 as part of a five-day trip exploring Mexico City.  It was easy to take a taxi from our central hotel to a huge bus terminal, and from there a bus out to the ruins.  The complex has a restaurant, many gift shops, and assorted vendors with local crafts, some quite stunning.  We spent about four hours there, not enough time to see everything.  Even though many tour buses deliver tourists there all day long, the complex is so huge that only when I was squeezed into small spaces with twenty others did I feel crowded.

After sixteen centuries rock walls still show the meticulous craftsmanship of the workers. Complex murals of jaguars, qeuzalpapalotl (bird-butterfly), serpents and mythological beings painted in red, green, blue and cream decorated the stucco walls of the homes and temples.

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Teotihuacan is at an elevation of 7000′ above sea level, even higher than Mexico City.  It’s one reason to acclimate for a few days in Mexico City , and to climb lots of stairs in your hotels before attempting to climb the pyramids.  The Pyramid of the Sun is the third highest pyramid in the world, so of course Goat Woman had to climb it to see the view from the top, which involved lots of panting and puffing and a few stops along the way.  Before climbing I contemplated the pyramid and imagined it as it looked in 450 AD, decorated and with a temple perched at the apex.

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On top the views stretch north to the Pyramid of the Moon and the hills that echo the pyramid’s shape.  Even farther to the northeast, right in a line with the wide Avenue of the Dead, lies an even larger mountain which isn’t visible even from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun.  Did the architects of the complex know it was there?

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This illustration shows an artist’s conception of the Pyramid of the Moon as it may have looked. The text is in Spanish, English and Nahuatl (the language of the peoples who lived in this area before Cortez arrived).  Even though there were many languages being spoken by the visitors that day, we all sounded the same as we climbed the even-steeper Pyramid of the Moon, “whew…pant, pant, pant…huh, huh, huh”.  But then there were some younger folks who maybe lived in Mexico City and had the advantage of living at altitude who sprinted up to the top!

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Around 700 AD a mass exodus of people began, and then unidentified people burned the beautiful city of Teotihuacan. When the Aztecs arrived from the north in the area that is now Mexico City around 1300 AD they traveled to Teotihuacan and found it almost deserted. The Aztecs may have copied pyramid designs they saw there when they built Tenochtitlan, the grand city built on an island that became Mexico City.  One model at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City shows the area around Mexico City with the causeways built by the Aztecs.

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Diego Rivera, the famous muralist of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s painted scenes of Tenochtitlan on the walls of the National Palace,  showing the great road leading into the city that so stunned Cortez when he arrived in 1519.  In the foreground commerce and maybe even seduction take place.  In the background bloodstains from the many ritual executions flow down the tops of the pyramid steps, and the fantastical pyramids of the central plaza of Tenochtitlan rise from the lake.

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Here are some representations of what Cortez destroyed.  Some said the Aztecs and their bloody religion of sacrifice needed to be crushed.  Some said Cortez was a greedy Spaniard with no goal but wealth and glory.  Some could draw parallels to the struggles of today for religious supremacy and power.

Mexico City probably began with a small settlement on Chapultepec Hill, to take advantage of the numerous springs, and now is a city of over 22 million.  In the next blog I’ll explore modern Mexico City.  Here is a view from Chapultepec Hill that Montezuma, king of the Aztecs, could never have imagined.

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Today is October 27, the day to return to Mexico, and I’ve been singing the  song written by Philo Hayward, of Philo’s Bar, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for the past few weeks, especially after learning of Philo’s unexpected passing on Sept. 5.  La Cruz will never be the same.  I can’t believe Philo will not be there grinning and singing, riding his scoot around the corner to Ana Banana’s in the morning, and taking a busload of revelers up to San Sebastian to take over the little silver mining town. Philo gave so much musically and to various charitable organizations all over the Bay of Banderas.  He was a HUGE presence, an “exceptional man” (as the writer for the Vallarta Times reminded us in the piece he wrote after Philo’s passing).  I wish we could have attended one of the memorials in La Cruz.  My memorial is to go to You Tube and listen to Philo sing Dreaming About Mexico.  Here’s the link https://youtu.be/PkaNzle47yw.  Enjoy.

It has been really quiet on the rainbowspinnaker site since May.  I’ve mostly posted to FB, and not much of that.  Cleaning out a 10’x20′ storage area and then finding “homes”  for all the stuff that we stored three years ago before setting sail for Mexico took quite a few weeks.  Once the weeks of manual labor were done, living at the cabin up by Mt. St. Helens with really spotty internet meant no blogging.  Pacific Core Energy dropped the reservoir 30 feet in June due to the drought (yes, Western Washington and Oregon actually had a drought this year).   No water on our end, so no sailing, kayaking, or taking the party barge to the waterfall for a cooling swim this year.  The dried lake bed gave us dust storms like desert haboobs every afternoon, miniature tornadoes of dust, and sometimes whooshing pillars of airborne sand, ash and dried mud against the house and into the house through minute cracks.

Instead of water sports we went hiking and exploring to visit mountain lakes and streams, old growth cedar and fir, deep pockets of greenery, wild waterfalls, and vistas of bare Cascade Volcanoes (Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, and sometimes even Mt. Rainer from just the right viewpoint).

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Even in August water was melting from the glaciers on Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, misting us with the molecules from far-away snowfields.

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Up above June Lake on the south side of Mt St Helens is the Loowit Trail, and a section of a downed tree missing.

Time at the cabin and in Portland began to speed up as October grew near.  Suddenly it was time to see as much of my kids and grandkids as possible, and the last meetings with friends for meals and music.  The leaves began changing, and the rains returned, even the mountain was dusted with the first fresh snow since the spring.

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Goodbye to fall, goodbye to chilly nights, goodbye to autumn leaves and birds.  Time to end the Dreaming of Mexico and board the plane for our winter home.

On the last day of April I sit in the rather chilly VIP Lounge here at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, reflecting on the past six months, and especially the past month here in Mexico. Foggy brain syndrome due to the past six nights of gigantic explosions at sunset, 11 pm, 5am and 7am is plaguing me right now. It is due to The Days of La Cruz, nine days of parades, entertainment on the stage next to the plaza, and an excuse for horrific amounts of Bang, Bang, Boom. If someone had PTSD they would need to get out of La Cruz for these nine days! I am avoiding anyplace that might have explosions, so there are no pictures of the festivities.

Luckily most of April was calm, but busy. Yoga many mornings for me, Nikk listening to the Cruiser’s Net each day at 8:30am, Spanish class Tuesdays and Thursdays for me, then meeting friends for potluck dinners, nights out at local restaurants, and a lot of saying goodbye to our friends sailing off north, south and west, or flying back “home”.

Birdwatching took on new meaning when I stayed at Punta Esmerelda in an upscale condo with my friend Zoe while she was “parrot-sitting”.

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Izzy the African Grey Parrot and Rudy the green Australian parrot got cozy with us (sometimes a bit too cozy, when the big yellow beak was only cm away from Nikk’s ear). African Grey Parrots are celebrated for their intelligence and speaking/singing ability. When Zoe sang opera, Izzy tried to duet. Of course we had to closely monitor our speech, to avoid having the owners come back to a bird with a startling new vocabulary. The most recently-famous African Grey Parrot was Alex, trained by Dr. Irene Pepperberg. www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/books/review/Royte-t.html

Have you heard the saying “I’d rather have a palapa in Yelapa than a condo in Redondo.”? We sailed across the Bay of Banderas twice in April to investigate the Yelapa scene, once with visiting friends Bruce and Maureen, once on the annual trip to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

On the trail to a waterfall three miles away we found a palapa, perhaps not exactly what the creator of the saying had in mind, but perfect for someone to escape the SoCal scene.

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Nikk hiked this same trail up the river to the waterfall 30 years ago, and what a change he found. Many new concrete block homes, some hippie palapas, some Mexican homes built on stilts with homemade furniture from local woods. Finally the last mile meandered through the tropical trees without any abodes, and we came to the waterfall flowing over polished granite.

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The pool below the waterfall looked way too muddy, so we climbed the slick rocks by the waterfall and found a perfect pool above the falls. Since no one else climbed after us we stripped and bobbed in the cool water, being careful not to get swept over the falls.

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The other waterfall in Yelapa is a short but steep hike up through town. Along the way there you can stop to catch your breath and look out over the little deep blue bay with Balance anchored among the fishing pangas.

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This waterfall is visited by hundreds of tourists per day, yet still conveys peace, solitude and even romance from the right angle.

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Six boats sailed over to Yelapa from La Cruz for the birthday bash. To get to the restaurant we anchored with a mooring ball, paid the panguero 200 pesos (about 13 US dollars) for the mooring ball and rides to and from the boat, gathered for drinks at the beachside palapa, hiked up the beach, waded across the fairly shallow river, hiked up some steep steps between homes, across a bridge, and arrived at Gloria’s Restaurant. The seafood was fabulous, fish in garlic and butter sauce, with rice and salad, shrimp, octopus, and oysters cooked numerous ways. Then Mike’s cake arrived, with candles, whipped cream, and a little caballito, a small, skinny glass full of tequila in the center. The Mexican birthday cake tradition is to take the first bite using no hands or implements. Mike removed the little shot glass and complied. Somehow some of the frosting got transferred to Katrina. The picture is a little blurry because we were all laughing so riotously.

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Back in La Cruz, Earth Day began with a bird watching tour where we found 38 species just by walking near the marina, through the town, and down the beach. After the bird watch we joined a beach cleanup, with many cruising families filling up huge trash bags. That night Katrina the marina PR organizer arranged a bonfire with music to thank everyone.

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Friday the 24th was the last Science Friday for the season, so we exploded zip lock bags by mixing vinegar and baking soda. The baking soda was wrapped in a paper towel to slow the mixing and production of carbon dioxide gas, which allowed the kids to pass the bag around like a hot potato until it exploded. We also made giant soap bubbles with a special recipe I found on the Internet. www.happyhooligans.ca/homemade-giant-bubbles

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We fly back to Portland next Tuesday, and until then the days will be filled with the work needed to leave Balance here for the next six months.
Instead of boring you with those details I’ll leave you with a shot of our dock taken from the third story La Pezka restaurant, where we just might have dinner tonight.

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La Paz in December 2014

When John Steinbeck visited La Paz in 1940, on the expedition with his buddy Ed Ricketts, he called sleepy La Paz “beautiful out of all comparison”. Almost 75 years later it is still lovely, a true Mexican town, but with a population of over 200,000 that sprawls away from the historic downtown area with its shops, hotels, restaurants, markets, and marinas.

Hurricane Odile pounded La Paz September 15-16, 2014, with winds howling up to 124mph and huge surf crashing into the shores. All but five boats in the anchorage broke loose and either sank or were washed ashore. Three people on boats died. Most boats in the marinas fared well, except for boats out of the water in storage at Marina Palmira, blown off their stands and piled like kid’s toys discarded after play. Unlike in Cabo San Lucas, where looting of big stores raged for days, La Paz (which means “peace”) saw little damage to businesses caused by greedy or desperate people. Several business owners told us that some homes and businesses were without electricity for over a week, and some businesses were not able to open for almost a month. A month without income is a serious liability to anyone, so we did our best to spend money in La Paz during the two weeks of our visit.

For ten thousand years before Hernan Cortez sailed into the long, protected, shallow bay in 1535, Neolithic hunter-gatherers wandered the peninsula that is now southern Baja California. They left multi-colored rock paintings which have been preserved. El Museo de Antropologia e Historia in La Paz showcases the paintings and dioramas of reconstructed Neolithic life.
www.tripadvisor.com/museodeantropologiaehistoriadebajacaliforniasur

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Cortez wanted to name the sandy shore Santa Cruz, but Sebastian Vizcaino declared the future name of La Paz in 1595. The Jesuits came, the Spanish plundered and pillaged the land, sea and peoples, and the natives succumbed to disease by the thousands. It’s the same ugly picture wherever the Spanish conquerors landed. By the time John Steinbeck arrived in 1940 the church of Nuestra Señora de la Paz dominated the town tied to the wealth of the sea, and superstition and supernatural beliefs vied with materialism and pragmatic progress. Steinbeck’s novel The Pearl uses these themes to tell the parable of the poor fisherman who desperately dives to find a pearl that will pay for medical treatment for his tiny son stung by a scorpion. When he finds a supernaturally grand pearl his troubles begin. The book and the movie made in Mexico debuted in 1947, both already a chronicle of a bygone era because by 1940 the oysters were mostly dead, and with them the pearl industry.

One of the many sculptures on the new 5km malecon (walkway) is a huge metallic pearl.

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Our Marina de La Paz lies at the southern end of the malecon. We strolled it several times each day, finding restaurants, ice cream stores, marine supplies and places to browse. I would need another blog to list all our favorites, so I will just show the view of the malecon looking south towards our marina with my favorite mermaid/dolphin sculpture.

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Since it was the season of Navidad, Santa Claus rode a paddleboard near shore, a Katrina dressed up for the season, and some of the boats in the marina decorated themselves.

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La Paz would be seriously difficult for anyone with mobility issues, here is why:

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Of course, there are always taxis, but if you want to walk to the markets like Mercado Bravo, the indoor market with dozens of shops, or to the church and plaza, or the uptown eateries, you need legs for strong climbing and descending. Along the way street artists decorated walls with artistic inspiration.

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We managed to tour La Paz for two weeks without any breakage or spraining of limbs, and too soon our time in one of our favorite Mexican towns came to an end. On Christmas Day Balance left La Paz and sailed all the way across to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in one three and a half day voyage of 397 miles. A new bird appeared out in the middle of the trip, a Pomarine Jaeger, that breeds way up in northern Canada and Alaska and then winters out on the ocean in the warmer latitudes.

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Before the winds came up and the seas got pretty rough for the last 24 hours, we motorsailed with calm seas and spectacular clouds. It was a Vermilion Sky instead of a Vermillion Sea, another name for the Sea of Cortez.

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Being in the midst of the stunning beauty of the sea and sky, sailing under the spangled silver stars, we came to the end of 2014, another year of adventures in Mexico and time with family and friends back in the States. Someday I may catch up in this blog.

Journeys

We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and intruded depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.
John Hope Franklin, .

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hope_Franklin

This week saw many cruiser friends leave La Cruz, some traveling north into the Sea of Cortez, some traveling across the Pacific Ocean to the islands of the South Pacific. We said a heart-wrenching goodbye yesterday to Kai, Eddie and Ellis on Solitary Voyager, and watched their boat become smaller and smaller as they started the journey to New Zealand. Their leaving has finally kicked my brain into writing gear, to reflect on the journeys of last December in the Sea of Cortez. Many of the adventures and explorations of this segment included Kai, Eddie and Sarah.

The journey from Los Gatos to La Paz gave us many opportunities to “go out into the bypaths and intruded depths of the wilderness”.

As we sailed into the anchorage at Isla San Francisco memories of the cracked ribs of last spring didn’t deter me from the anticipation of more exploration, but I did vow to check each step, handhold and embedded rock very carefully. This December all the boats anchored close together in the far northern part of the bay to stay sheltered from the still-blowing northerlies.

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Hidden behind the beach lies a large salt flat. Instead of the level, white expanse of our past two visits the ground was spongy, wet and orange, with minerals leaking out of the ground and Semi-palmated Plovers in their winter grounds hunting insects on the salt pan.

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Huge cliffs of green, pink, cream, tan and ocher rise from the far side of the salt pan, perfect for following faint trails alongside the bottom of the cliff, with the pounding surf nearby.

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American Oystercatchers waited for the surf to expose a tasty morsel, they are one of the more common birds seen on the Baja coasts, but only found on the southern and eastern coasts of the U.S. They are also very skittish, so it was a challenge to get them to pause long enough for a picture.

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While I waited for the Oystercatchers to pose, Nikk scrambled high above, ready to “fly like an eagle”, or actually a vulture, which soared high above on the currents of air sweeping up the cliffside.

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The next day Sarah and Eddie joined us to hike the ridge above the southern cliffs. Once again it was a brilliant blue-sky day, perfect for a hike down the long beach of white sand, up the winding trail to the top where huge boulders perch with drop-offs on both sides. Climbing through areas like this requires focus on each step and handhold, stopping to enjoy the view, take pictures, and watch your fellow hikers move through the maze, before once again carefully working yourself farther along. One of the many things I like about climbing is the necessity of keeping your thoughts in the present, where the richness of experience is undiluted by the mind dwelling on the past or future. And on this hike came the reward of vistas of many-layered cliffs, deep blue sea, and a little trail leading to further spectacular views.

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Balance sailed further south and once again we anchored in Callita Partida, the cove in between Isla La Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo, one of our favorites. Of course we visited the hidden cave with Kai, Eddie and Sarah.
I think we’re like agile hippie grandparents to them, since they are only 25 years old.

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One night we paddled over to Solitary Voyager for a shared dinner, to once again admire the results of the five months that Kai spent restoring and upgrading the Valiant 40, preparing it for the journey across the South Pacific. After listening to a few songs, we realized that Eddie had put together a sound track of 60’s music for us.

Together with ten other boats Balance anchored in the stunning emerald water of Bahia Ensenada Grande, a perfect place for snorkeling and hiking.
Unfortunately the Go Pro pictures of the snorkeling have disappeared, but not the pictures of the epic hike that Nikk and I started too late in the day.
From the beach, the trail began to climb up an arroyo, as it steepened the rocks became larger. No worries about losing our way, though, the government had pounded rebar with direction signs into the rocks. We felt like we were in the city, with left, right and straight ahead arrows posted every 40 or so feet. This was not an exploration into true wilderness. We also found information signs.

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Along the way we found a deep well, dug to supply miners, then a stone walkway that reminded me of Zion National Park, and 1500 feet above sea level another amazing stretch of steep cliffs.

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One of the reasons I write these blogs is to encourage everyone to explore the natural world, especially the places more remote. I don’t encourage anyone to go exploring late in the day, and to turn around as the sun sets.
Nikk knows I have to get to the top of wherever we’re going, but this time Goat Woman and Nikk had to hike the last mile in the dark. There was no moon, but just enough ambient light to keep us from plunging into the open well and twisting our ankles on the rocks. We were very happy to reach the last stretch of trail alongside the mangroves which had been marked with white rocks. Nikk just rolls his eyes whenever that hike is mentioned.

After Bahia Ensenada Grande it was time to sail down to La Paz, where we spent two weeks in marinas and our hiking was done on the malecon, before leaving Christmas Day to sail the 397 miles to La Cruz. A short blog of La Paz and the holiday sail will follow.

Once again, one picture got “lost”. I’ll try again, since I love this shot.

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