Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Nikk’s dream for this two week sailing trip was “One Particular Harbor”, my dream was birdwatching in San Blas.

San Blas is a town of about 12,000 people located two hours north of Puerto Vallarta by car, and about 75 miles by sailboat, which in our case took us from La Cruz to Punta de Mita, Sayulita, La Laguna de las Cuevas, Matenchen Bay, and then the little marina on the river in San Blas.

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The view of San Blas from the hill above town

The first morning in San Blas found us hiking all the way across town and up the hill to the ruins of the cathedral and fort built by the Spanish while they occupied San Blas, building ships to take away the loot the conquistadores and others plundered from Mexico. In 1768 ships also left from San Blas to take Fr. Junipero Serra to Baja California and then California itself to establish missions. After this the beaches receded, the trees were gone from the hills, and the cathedral and its bells fell into ruin. The poet Longfellow, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, read an article about the ruins and wrote his poem, “The Bells of San Blas” right before his death in 1872.

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The cathedral as it was

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The chapel that once looked down/On the little seaport town/Has crumbled into the dust

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As you can see, the chapel has not quite “crumbled into the dust”

The major reason that San Blas is not now another Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta rests on the tiny shoulders of the miniscule sand fly, the jejene (hay HAY nay). The jejene has saved San Blas from hordes of tourists, by inflicting its blood-sucking bites. Especially at the full and new moon (we arrived on the day of the full moon), at sunrise and right before sunset, the jejenes come out in force. One internet article said research indicates that only about one in four people produce a reaction to the protein injected by the jejene to keep blood from coagulating. Nikk and I are definitely in the one in four category, and we itched for days at the sites of red welts left by jejenes. I think insect repellent was somewhat helpful, as was wearing long sleeves and pants, or we might have been even more miserable. However, the Mexican government is now supposedly injecting about 10 million dollars (125 million pesos) to improve San Blas, including dredging the river to allow small cruise ships access. In other words, go to San Blas now, if you want to experience it before the hordes arrive.

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Street improvements

Oh yes, birdwatching. When we returned to town we went to Wala Wala for a delicious lunch (and later a wonderful breakfast, and then a dinner too). A man who had moved to San Blas the previous fall, after visiting for about eighteen years, sat next to us. We visited, then he introduced us to Francisco, a birdwatching guide (SafarisSanBlas), and we engaged Francisco to guide us on a trip on the river and mangrove estuary to Tovara Springs that afternoon and evening, and then to go up to Tecuitata, in the hills above San Blas, to a coffee plantation, lunch at a local house, then on to tour Capulin Coffee, birdwatching all the while. Francisco is one of those extremely knowledgable guides who can instantly recognize, call, and point out hundreds of birds. There are about 500 species of birds in San Blas during the year, we saw way over 100. Anyone who is interested in a list of the birds we saw can send a reply to this post asking for that information and giving an email address. (I will not publish the reply so no email address will show up on the blog)

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Our guide Francisco calling a bird, and the panga driver, Jose

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Great Blue Heron with fish, jealous Yellow-Crowned Night Heron in the background

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Tropical Kingbird

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Golden-Cheeked Woodpecker

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Coffee Beans

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Drying Coffee Beans (yes, that’s a yin/yang symbol in the center)

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Daniel, the owner of Capulin Coffee, http://www.capulin.com, who has a philosophy of growing,
processing, and marketing which results in healthful, locally-produced coffee.

And speaking of healthful, I’ll leave you with a picture from San Blas, which shows how the people of San Blas get around town and market their produce.

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Now we’re back in the La Cruz marina, with enough sailing and birdwatching to last us for a few days while we catch up on tasks here. I’m flying to Portland Feb. 20, for ten days with family and friends, and many, many appointments and shopping ventures before I return to Mexico for at least six months.

Comments on: "The Byways and Birds of San Blas" (2)

  1. I really enjoyed this! I just got back from San Blas and went on a tour with Francisco (what a great guy). Alas, Daniel wasn’t around, so we didn’t get a tour of the coffee operation but next time.

    • Glad you found the post and enjoyed it! Also happy you were able to tour with Francisco. I have been back in the States where I am living in a remote location and do not have access to WP very often. Glad I finally saw your comment.

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