Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 16: finding our way north

It is a three day's drive of 1200 miles home. We pulled off the highway and turned into the desert on a sand road. We venture into the maze of paths for about a half mile and find a great place to camp near some magnificent rocks. again, we have a 'campground to ourselves'!
The next day, we make it to my great friends, Cindy and Chris' home in Palos Verdes, who put us up unannounced! Today we will sleep in our own beds for the first time in almost 3 weeks.
Thanks for following David and Shahe's Excellent Baja Adventure.
David and Shahe
April 3, 2011

quote from my friend Jerry:
"The adventure is on the outside. The journey is on the inside. The challenge is to not let the one lose sight of the other, to bring them both home."

Day 15: Two Images from CateviƱa

Camping in the desert of Catevina just before dawn

our campsite

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 14

Day 14 
Today Bill, Shahe and I went on a 4 hour hike an arroyo that alternated between pools of water, fan palms and a huge diversity of cactus and desert plants. I didn't anticipate to find such diversity here, in the land of little rain, and I have new respect for the power of evolution. Bill taught me the names of a two dozen of them and we had a great time analyzing the geology of the area and philosophizing. Shahe and I rode above this old trail from the pictographs up to the Parra Rancho both going out and coming back from our bike camping trip. It seems so long ago now. Walking down along the creek proves to be a very different perspective, we can feel the ancient ones here, in tune with the seasons, the plants and animals. Scraping out a living by their shared knowledge, powers of observation and respect. The same things that Shahe and I have been using.
Tomorrow we begin our three days drive home. 1200 miles, did I tell you that before? It's all getting a bit scrambled, so many images and thoughts of my time here. I am glad that I wrote it down. Journal, you have been a good friend. You have helped me remember, you have helped me process, you have helped me grow and get the most of these precious experiences.
And who knows, maybe you will help me reintegrate with my other life, and become a better person for it.
David Casterson
March 2011

Day 14

Day 13

Day 13 kayaking back to Loreto from a deserted rocky beach south of Nopolo
March 30, 2011
Yesterday, waiting for the couscous to cook, I stood on this deserted rocky beach and used the last of my gallon of washing water to rinse my naked, salty body. Isla Carmen smiled in the distance. I remembered the fertile green scent of the sea, the defiant mother gull and her unhatched young, turning within their shells, waiting to enter a world they had not yet seen. In my other life, I am still asleep, maybe turning over  to match the spaces of my body with the warm curves of hers. In my other life, I do not often see sun rise. But then, I rarely go to sleep so early in the night. There are always other things to do, electricity to power lights and screens. Here there are o nay Shahe's flute and my journal. After a day full of energetic adventure, an hour in the darkness with these is usually enough. The stars hypnotize us into a deep, dream filled sleep.
This is our last morning out. Shahe and I listen to the 'early birds' as they fly through the dawn sky in search of their first meal. Fish roil the flat water below camp. We eat our own food and watch the sun rise from behind the graceful curve of Carmen's back. As above, so below.
Unlike the other mornings, today we pack in silence. Unspoken is a small mourning for the end of this 'other life', the one that connects us so strongly to nature. For one last time, we pack our boats, slip into the cockpits, take our paddles in our hands and pull forward into the sea. There is a gentle wind behind our backs, helping us make the eight mile journey in two hours. The rising sun silhouettes Shahe as it did the first day. This time, I pause my paddle to capture the image of him, wild and free upon the water. This time, I want to remember.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 12 Isla del Carmen "Taiko Cove" to rocky beach south of Nopolo

Day 12 Isla del Carmen "Taiko Cove" to rocky beach south of Nopolo
At dawn we talk for awhile in our bags, comparing our experience to that which might be had by members of one of the guided kayak tours that are camped down the coast from us. I know that I would learn more of the local biology from a local guide, especially with my own questions. But I would give up so much of the independent, elemental sense of discovery of nature and of myself, so under-experienced by our modern culture. AndI have come to value that kind of self-work too much to make it a fair trade.
By the time we have left 'Taiko Cove' (which I dubbed it, based on the regular drum like sound produced by waves striking the curved undercut section of the cliffs), the drums have shifted from the south to the north end of this tiny 40 meter beach. A small pod of dolphins feed in the water before us as we put in, and begin our paddle across to Isla Danzante. Part way across, we here the great Fin breathing again...
Making the two mile crossing, we circle Danzante in a clockwise fashion to the south. The water is very clear as we glide over schools of Sargent Major, Black Tang, King Angel and one Parrot fish. Oyster Catchers, herons, gulls, neons and osprey watch us from the shore. The beaches here are rocky, where on the older Isla, they were made of ground up shell (later, at a dive shop in Loreto, we here that this is the best local area for snorkeling, and that there is indeed a shell sand beach, but at the north end of Danzante, nearest Isla Carmen).
After another respite, we head across the 2 mile stretch over to the mainland coast, heading directly into Puerto Escondido to explore it's deep pocket harbor. Protected by a rounded hill to the south, it is strangely seductive. With each stoke of my paddle, more of her beauty is revealed, like a shawl slowly slipping from the shoulders of a beautiful woman...
It takes us almost 20 minutes to reach the far interior of Puerto Escondido. As we had hoped, from there is is only a 50 meter portage over the rocks back to the sea. The wind and waves begin to pick up after a bit as we paddle north along the coast. We need rest and shade and aim for a tiny, very interestingly shaped island in the distance. It turns out to be an excellent choice, for after a break, we decide to circumnavigate it on foot and discover it's impressive biodiversity. As we walk, we see skeletons of birds, trigger fish, crabs and even a seahorse. There are rocks are covered with a species of tiny (5mm) mussels and a great variety of cactus cling to there existence here, in 'the land with no rain', to borrow the phrase from the title of the Mary Austin book I am reading. There is also a huge variety of human detritus. We pick up as many plastic bottles and cans as we can carry as mitigation or penitence for human transgressions which we know, are also our own. A mother gull nests on the ground along our path. She does not squawk like the others, but stands resolute before us with never a though of abandoning her 2 green eggs. We admire her defense of life, and turn away. Back by the water, I unscrew the forward hatch cover and we slip each of the plastic bottles we have collected through the small opening, like we might do in a recycle can. "Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet", the Sierra Club motto comes into my head. Everyday.

Day 11 Kayak camping: Loreto to Isla Carmen

Day 11 Kayak camping: Loreto to Isla Carmen
Neither Of us slept much after 3:30. We had planned on getting up at 5:30, but the incessant rooster crowing and our own anticipation woke us up, and we dozed at best after that. So it was that we found ourselves carrying sleeping bags, 4 gallons of water, food, clothes and other gear down to the water in the dark. After stowing everything in our kayaks, we are on the water at 6:15, just before sunrise.
Shahe makes a magnificent silhouette in the golden light as our boats glide south on the silky smooth water. Within 10 minutes, the Sea of Cortez begins to come alive; we see egrets, turtles, frigate birds and now cormorants, spreading their winds to dry in the sun. We stop to inspect a beached pilot whale, well attended by vultures.
After two hours, it is very clear that we are making excellent progress. We are crossing the straight between the mainland and Danzante Island. The water is still like glass and we wee a whale spouting off the coast of Isla Carmen, many miles distant. Usually, a kayaker takes the crossing in jumps, mainland to Danzante to Carmen. But today there is a whale! And so, we alter our course by 40 degrees to the north, hoping that it will continue to feed. The spout spray erupts 100 feet into the air, this is a large whale. A distant sailboat under power see it as well and begins to track it cautiously. We continue our approach, closing the distance to maybe a mile or so before it disappears. We continue our paddling toward Isla Carmen for many minutes. The sailboat has given up and continues north. The whale surfaces again, floating only 200 yards from us. We glide silently forward, closing the distance by one half and stop, not daring to breath. But the whale breathes for us and through us. The great rush of exhaled air vibrates the atmosphere, we feel and much as hear it. It is a magnificent Fin Whale, at least 60 feet long (Gray's average 40-50), with it's black back glistening in the sun between dives. When it disappears, we search the horizon, hoping for it's return, when it resurfaces, it is as if a long lost friend has been found. And the breathing, oh the rapture we feel as it's great lungs renew themselves and us as well.
Untracked time passes. We sense that the audience granted us by this noble creature is over. Retreating like humble servants, heads bowed, we back away and re-enter our own space. Over our shoulders, the great Fin's exhale can be heard and we cast one more look, it's back is more sharply bowed as it makes a deep dive and we see the fins for which it is named disappearing beneath the smooth shining water. We continue to hear the breathing for 10 minutes as we move away from each other. It is a sound that has stayed with us both for days, even now, writing these words, I can close my eyes and feel the breathing, slow and powerful, peaceful and regular, like the Earth itself.

The next sound I remember is a rushing of waves. At the horizon to the south we see the noisy wave coming toward us. Our first reaction is to think Tsunami, so loud is the sound. The water boils and is fast approaching. Our concern turns at once to joy, the sea is alive with 200 dolphins, racing toward us shoulder to shoulder in a huge line like a welcome army. And indeed we are liberated by the sight, leaving our earthly ties to time and space once more. The sound increases, pandemonium ensues and still they do not change course. We are as excited as children by this wondrous gift. they are now within range of even my simple point and shoot camera. It is laboriously slow, but I manage to take just under a dozen shots as they turn suddenly fifty yards in front of us and cross our bows. Without changing speed, they rush past, heading north. There are almost a hundred of them in the air at any one time and the splashing is deafening. Like the Fin, we continue to hear it miles away...
We reach Isla Carmen by lunch, and have covered over a dozen miles. After a respite, we head down along the shore toward the southern tip, with nearly twenty miles of island stretching gracefully behind us. By mid afternoon, we find the perfect pocket beach for our needs and pull ashore to camp.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 7

Day 7 Baranca to somewhere in the hills above San Jose de Comandu
This day begins amazingly. I awake from a dream to see the pre-dawn light silhouetting tall Cordon cactus. The yesterday's mountain range stands like a wall in the distance. I rise quickly, and quietly so an so to disturb Shahe, slip on my shoes, grab the old point and shoot digital camera I have been using and head off towards the rising sun, taking as many pictures as I can as the light changes. 20 minutes later, the magic has evaporated with the coming of the day. I switch the camera off, realize my pants are unbuttoned and that I cannot see our camp. I have come a long ways. I use the images in my mind of the pictures that I took to trace my path back to where I see Shahe's dew covered sleeping bag drying on an acacia bush in the sun.
Much, much later, I am waiting for Shahe to change his shoes so that he can push his bike up this steep pitch on the hot, nearly barren mountain. I am thinking of the kind young Padre Isaias of the mission in La Purissima, who invited us in for a fine late breakfast. I am thinking of the my first sight of the Oasis, with it's tall palms and verdant fields. I am not thinking of the road ahead, but like the builders who's rebar extends far above the present height of the church we past, I think with hope for the future. Of making it to the next mission tonight.
In the distance see an arroyo filled with water. We have been riding for hours without helmets, trying to keep our heads cooler. The road marker says "9km". This is a doable distance. After a few more hills in the hot sun, there is a long rocky descent. My bike and style of riding are better suited to this than Shahe's. I careen down the road, bouncing, making split second decisions but never totally out of control. Suddenly, my front wheel buries itself in a pool of dust 6 inches deep, and I am pitched over the handle bars without warning. Everything stops. My hands have broken my fall, but the cleats in my shoes have not been able to Declip from my pedals (too much grit and dryness). I hear Shahe yelling "Are you alright?". He repeats it, but I cannot speak either the wind has been knocked out of me my the weight of the loaded bike or the pain in my right wrist is too great. I feel sick to my stomach but decide it is not broken. All Shahe can see is my head against the rocks. I yet back now that I am fine and struggle to declip and lift myself to my knees. The left one is bleeding abit. My wrist is bad. I breathe away the pain that I can. Shahe suggests that the bombarder should be wearing his helmet. I agree with him and we continue.
Later. Now the road is totally full of bowling ball sized volcanic boulders, strewn here by Hurricane Jimena a few years ago. It is impassible by even 4WD. It is no longer recognizable as a road. We must lift our bikes to roll them forward. We hike down into ravines that have been cut 8 feet below grade. I have learned that Shahe is a faster bike hiker that I am. Still, he is much depressed by our progress. We come upon a goat herding family from which we get 2 bottles of water, for by now we know that we will not make it to the next village. We disinfect it with chlorine. It is the worst tasting water I have ever had. It tastes like pond scum. I cannot drink more than the smallest sip. Night approaches and although I lobby for pushing on (in hopes of water to wash the sticky body that kept me awake in the middle of the last night) I must in the end agree with Shahe. We must stop now, just before dark, somewhere in the hills, an unknown distance from the village. We find a flat place away from the power lines that buzz EMF and set up camp. In the dark, I find that my shrimp cup of noodles can almost drown out the taste of the water I make it with. We have some of Padre Isaias' date bread for dessert, happy to have it and our friendship to share. The stars are pin prick holes in a black curtain as I finish the day's journal...