Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lower Baja

School in the mountains - the ranch out of La Paz
After a month of Spanish Lessons in La Paz I’m on the road again with enough EspaƱol to hold a basic conversation in past present and future tenses (3 of the 14 tenses that they have in Spanish!!). My teacher, Marta, at El Nopal, the school that I went to was great - if you are considering classes in Baja, check these guys out:
Caracas - my campsite companions

I’m now travelling with two old friends (well, friends from a while back) who previously appeared in this blog back  in early September on Vancouver Island in Canada. Michael and Mariana have also made their circuitous way to Baja and we are now planning to head to the mainland together, but first we wanted to spend a week or two exploring the bottom of Baja.

School stress
In trouble - again! Just can't get my head around "ser" and "estar"
Memorial for a fisherman
Fishing camp near Tecalote

Pleasant end to another tough day at the office
Street stall at the La Paz Carnival

Festival Queens

Festival float - and then the flash on my camera died!

The coast to ourselves - except for whales, rays and dolphins
Our first campsite was a few kilometers north of Los Barriles in a sheltered little cove which we had all to ourselves. As we pulled into camp, we thought the fish were jumping but a closer look revealed them to be manta rays - an amazing spectacle as dozens of them leapt repeatedly out of the water sometimes 5, 6 or seven at a time, over 2 meters in the air flapping their fins as if trying to fly. They would then  land flat on their bellies, the slapping noise being audible from hundreds of meters away. This show went on for hours, as the setting sun glistened off their glossy black blacks and white undersides. The sound of slapping provided a backdrop to our campfire as they continued into the night. 

Dinner at Los Frailes
The following morning, we were awakened by the sound of blowing whales, a couple drifting lazily just off the shore with a pod of dolphins in the foreground. A morning bike ride then took me through the coastal mountain ranges - a long grind upwards but then a swift descent down a dry creek bed that took me back to camp, just in time to find one of the young whales leaping out of the water.

From Los Barriles, we meandered down some dirt roads along the coast to another beautiful camp at Bahia Frailes on a sheltered south-facing beach. The winds have been coming in strongly from the north for a couple of weeks so shelter is welcome! Went for a paddle at dusk in an attempt to get closer to the leaping rays, which were here also, but they were a bit far off. Had to settle for another whale instead, as it drifted by in the fading light.

On the water again at first light this morning, this time visiting a small colony of sea-lions with a couple of them swimming up to the kayak to check me out. More leaping rays - this time quite close to the canoe, while others just lazed about on the surface with their fins held upwards out of the water just meters away. Later in the day we were treated by a gymnastics display from a young calf that frolicked with its mother, “standing” on its head with its tail out of the water,  a whole lot of tail slapping, and the occasional leap for variety.

...didn't Split Enz / Little Birdy sing something about a leaky boat??
And then disaster - well a minor problem really in the scale of things - the kayak started to take water when we launched it for some fishing at dusk. It turns out that the clever design that enables it to be converted from a tandem to a solo kayak also results in a weak spot where the modules join. After tipping the water out we found that the hull had split in three places - I’ll be providing the brand name if they don’t come through on warranty! But being in Baja, with some of the best kayaking in the world, and a leaky boat could legitimately be considered a disaster in my mind. 

From Los Frailes we continued down the bumpy east cape road until we eventually got to San Hose Del Cabo. The area around here is rapidly being developed (although things seem to have stalled with the GFC and paranoia about Mexico’s crime rate), but one of the good things about Mexico is that it is legal to camp on the aroyos (river beds) for free, so we found one of these between two swanky hotels with a million dollar view and enjoyed it for free. Of course we wouldn’t have been brazen enough to wander into the hotels and use their facilities, would we???

Cabo San Lucas is very developed for tourism with cruise ships the size of small cities spewing their contents into the streets, but a small boat ride around the caves and beaches of Land’s End was fun and we got to see more leaping rays from very close. 
Why pay the full price...

...when you can have this for free

Land's  End - where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific
I want to be a pelican...
Flying manta rays near Cabo San Lucas
Another free beach near El Pescadero on the Pacific coast provided yet another pleasant campsite, where we caught up with a number of friends from various points in earlier travels. Another incident here took the gloss off my stay. I guess foolishly, I simply pushed my solar panel under the car when I went to bed, and the following morning it was gone. Not necessarily blaming the Mexicans though - there are numerous down-and-out gringos scrounging out an existence in run-down cars and campers and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that they were on the lookout for some means of getting some extra cash.  So now I’ve got to figure out how to keep the ice cubes frozen for the margaritas!

Cenar con mis amigos alemanias
Back in La Paz Michael and Mariana are hoping to get some new shock absorbers they ordered from Germany, and I’m waiting for replacement credit cards so we’ll have a few days to kill before we tackle the ferry for the mainland. Also met up with another German couple (Bernd & Viola) who Michael and Mariana had met previously in Canada. They are also heading for South America, so I suspect we’ll be bumping into them again somewhere along the way.

The Pan-AMerican gang