Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Archive for December, 2015

Vagabonding Once Again: La Cruz to Barra de Navidad

 

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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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