Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crossing Over and Back

This messages comes from the middle of the Sea of Cortez. We are crossing back to Baja after a short trip to Guaymas and San Carlos on the mainland side. We explored the San Carlos area a little, traveled to Guaymas to get some additional groceries, and sailed thirty miles north on the mainland coast to anchor for several nights at the pretty Bahia San Pedro, where all the rolling swell from the entire Sea of Cortez seems to concentrate itself at night. Despite its spectacular rocky shoreline, the charms of San Carlos mostly eluded us. Maybe because the only other time we had been there was exactly 40 years ago. As college seniors on a spring break escapade, we camped on the beach, and the deserted Mexican coast seemed to go on forever undisturbed. Obviously lots has changed since then, but what has grown up is a weak hybrid, neither very Mexican or entirely North American.
Fortunately, we are recovering our good spirits with some good sailing. Today we have an excellent Northwest wind of about 15 knots, giving us a perfect sail across the sea. That's the Captain in the photo, taken a few days ago sailing wing on wing with a following wind, and munching on a chicken and bean burrito. We are on our way back to the quiet of relatively undeveloped Bahia Concepcion.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pinturas Rupestres

With the boat safely tied up in Santa Rosalía, Indigo's two-man crew caught a bus last week to travel forty miles south to the village of Mulegé, where we met up with a guide in order to visit the painted cliffs in the nearby Guadalupe Mountains.
There are hundreds of sites of prehistoric rock paintings in this central area of Baja California. Further north, there are caves with displays so tall and wide that they are called murals. Although there are some similarities between the art in all regions, there are variations that continue to challenge interpretation. What is constant among all the rock painting sites is that there are very few artifacts or traces left from the civilization that created the art. Dates suggested for the paintings range from 7000 B.C. to 1000 A.D.

The other commonality among the sites is that they are very remote. To reach the paintings near Mulejé, we drove for an hour up a sandy wash into the Sierra, hiked and scrambled over rocks for another hour, then hiked and swam through a narrow river canyon. The paintings we encountered were not murals, but individual paintings, often layered one over the other, as if they were painted at different times. The "Trinidad Deer" shown above is one of the best preserved paintings. Besides game, these painters certainly treasured the fish they took from the Sea of Cortes, about fifteen miles distant from this cave.

If you are interested in seeing more of these paintings, click on the link on the right hand bar which reads "Photos from Indigo's Travels".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Company Towns

Our travels up the Sea of Cortez have brought us to the town of Santa Rosalía, which looks and feels different from any other place we have visited in Baja. Santa Rosalía was a center of copper mining and smelting in the late 19th and early 20th century, an operation owned for most of that time by a French corporation. Nearly all the buildings in the town are constructed of wood shipped here from the Pacific Northwest. The simpler buildings look like something out of any old Western town in the states; more elaborate buildings have balconies, verandas, tall windows, and other details that show the French influence.

The most famous building in town is the little church made of sheet metal (shown above), which was designed by and fabricated for Gustave Eiffel, who hoped it would be a prototype for French mission churches in remote, tropical locations. Although the design won a prize at the 1889 Paris World Exposition (where the Eiffel Tower was also featured), the idea of a prefabicated metal church didn't catch on, and the owner of the mining company bought the pieces and brought them to Santa Rosalía, where they were reassembled. It's a surprisingly pleasing structure, with handsome detail pressed into the metal cladding.

But French influence aside, Santa Rosalía reminds us of company towns we have encountered in our travels - from Ocean Falls in remote British Columbia to Samoa on the shores of Humboldt Bay in Northern California (both pulp mill towns); from Butte, Montana to Bisbee, Arizona (mining towns). These places get built up and organized and inhabited with great energy and investment, and they develop an air of purpose and prosperity. Then the timber or the ore on which they depended gets used up, and jobs disappear, leaving only the shell of the purposeful operation.

Santa Rosalía has survived well, and the town is still energetic and densely populated. Every tiny wooden cottage seems to be inhabited, and bursts with flowers, as if the small graceful French details inspire a different aesthetic than is found in most small Baja towns. Best of all, there is still a French bakery, with baguettes fresh every morning.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Isla Carmen

We are anchored in Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen, about eight miles off the town of Loreto. This is a large island, and the hiking inland is wonderful. There is more vegetation than we have seen in other places in Baja, signs that there is a little more rain. On a long hike we encountered a fair number of plants in bloom, including the Passion Flower in the photo. We've seen brightly colored birds - cardinals and orioles, plus large white winged doves. A great place to stretch your legs and drink
in the exotic.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Agua Verde, Puerto Escondito

At anchor or underway along this section of the Baja coast, we are always at the base of amazing mountains, rising up very steeply, rugged, dry, seeningly unapproachable. They make everything else - snorkeling, sailing, visiting with other sailors, hiking - seem inconsequential. The less said the better.

Monday, March 02, 2009

On the Move Again

We have left La Paz behind, and are heading north for several months of exploration in the Sea of Cortez. It seems unlikely that we will have real internet access, but we will continue to post to the blog via the single sideband radio. We will also update our location, so you can check on the link on the right side of the blog that reads "Indigo's Recent Locations".
We have come about forty miles north, back to a favorite anchorage at Isla San Francisco. Today we had calm water in the morning, and were able to kayak around the island. Highlights included a Manta Ray with a 4-5 foot wingspan leaping twice from the water a few yards from our kayaks, and the largest Osprey nest we have ever seen, populated by two splendid osprey. The sky is virtually always clear, and the weather here varies mostly in terms of how much of the cool northerly wind is blowing. It
is a win-win situation: a hot, hot sun and a calm sea or a rough sea with great sailing and cool air. We are bearing up very well under the strain.