Wednesday, March 30, 2011
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...
Monday, March 28, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Day 5 Journal Entry
We headed off throughout the dirt roads in the barrio de Zaragosa. the road was filled with rocks along the arroyo and vultures perched atop tall Cordon cactus peered down upon these strange Americanos on bicycles loaded with camping gear. crossing the highway, a new, paved road lead toward San Javier. We climbed into the mountains and stopped at an arroyo crossing where native palm trees were reflected in a pool of water. it hasn't rained in a year and a half and the water surfaces intermittently along the arroyos of Baja, which are mostly dry river beds of sand and rock. Near the top of the pass, the pavement stops and the road is rocky in the center and dust fills the edges.
After a couple hours, we stop to visit and get water from Raul and Angelina, who own a Rancho (most ranchos in Baja are small simple farm buildings with palm thatched roofs, near meager water sources), friends of Shahe's from previous bike trips. They reminisce about the time that Shahe showed up in the dark on his bike and slept beneath the palm thatched palapa where we now sit, enjoying a slow, relaxed conversation in the heat of the day. We fill our bottles with water pumped by the old windmill and Raul picks us a few lava beans before we say adios and promise to stop in again in three days.
Continuing on, we see vultures eating on dead cows along the road, the drought has been especially hard on them. By mid day, we have reached the town of San Javier. I buy my first meal of the trip, tortillas with goat cheese and avocado, at the simple restaurant on the plaza which leads to the Mission, which is a destination for annual pilgrimages. We explore the grounds and a path leading to a 300 year old olive tree, twisted by time, but with strong young branches woven into the old ones. We play frisbee with some school kids, tighten the bolts on our bikes and fill our water bottles, adding drops of chlorine as usual and continue refreshed.
We ride for hours through the desert, following the arroyo much of the way. The watering holes are well separated, the road is strewn with rocks, so me times we see goats. Shahe's bike has only a simple front suspension. The rocks begin to wear on him, and his mood is not great. It is getting dark and it has become clear that we will not make it to near the coast as he wanted. We come upon a large open, flat area with a small, rough wood casita near the road across from a well tended field. A small thin man appears out of nowhere. I slow, then stop to greet him. We shake hands and then he hugs me. In amazement, I watch him do the same with Shahe. Whole paragraphs of friendly words are exchanged and despite our weariness, we cannot help but smile and be lifted by his genuine kindness toward these two dusty strangers. "Ignacio, sus
or dines.". Can we camp here? "Claro que si". He insists on bringing us warm water from a well pipe and struggles to carry 2 full five gallon buckets of it to us as we set up camp. He then excuses himself to tend to his cattle and goats, and I wash body and clothes free of dust. It will be the only time it turns out to be possible durning out 5 day trip, but I don't know this then...
After we have washed and eaten, Ignacio again appears seemingly out of this air and we talk for an hour in the dark. We learn that he is one of 16 children born here on this Rancho is the desert (all the ranchos we saw were small assemblages of rough build, thatched roof structures, adjacent to widely spaced meager water supplies). He tells us that he attended some high school as an adult in Santa Domingo and that his parents live a couple of hundred meters down the road. We talk of everything from politics to constellations, crops and water to education. Shahe (ever the news junkie) asks if he knows about the current state of affairs in Japan and Ignacio says he listens to it on his radio in his casita. We are 20 miles from electricity and at least 40 from a flush toilet, and I have never in my 59 years seen anyone happier and more giving. Shahe calls him our angel, and if this is what angels are like, then I must try to be one. With these thoughts in my head, I finish my journal entry for the day, writing my my head lamp, Shahe,Ignacio and the cows all asleep now, under a sky filled with more stars that I have ever seen.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Now, after 3 days of driving and over 1200 miles, we are in Loreto. Last night we unpacked and took our first showers since leaving Aptos. Today was our first kayaking trip. Next door neighbor Bill lent us 2 kayaks, sprayskirts and paddles. We packed sleeping bags and food so that we could spend the night if conditions got too back to return by dark and were on the water before 9. Conditions for the first 85 percent of our trip were perfect. We covered the 7 miles from Adom's (Shahe's brother) place on the beach to Coranado Island in 2 hours and 15 minutes. My arms began to hurt after the first half mile. I knew I was in trouble. After a bit, I began to remember what I had learned, I beg an twisting my torso with each stroke, to relieve the strain on my forearms and shoulders, I paid more attention to my stroke angles, I adjusted my seat and foot pegs and was able to keep pace with Shahe (who paddles several times a week--I paddle 3-5 times a year). At least he made it look like I was keeping up with him. I suspected that he was taking it easy on me at this point, especially when he sprinted the last 300 yards to the lagoon where we had decided to eat lunch. It was gorgeous and the respite much appreciated. But Shahe wanted to press on and try to circumnavigate the island that he estimated had a 1.5 mile diameter. I did the math and decided it was worth a try. So much for a nap time. We got back into our trusty craft and headed around the volcano island. The rock formations were very impressive and made it easier to ignore the pain of my hands... blisters and a streaming tendon. When we neared the northern side of the island, we decided to turn back as the wind was forming whitecaps. We returned to the lagoon, ate some more lunch, I went for a short swim and when Shahe said he was going to take a short nap, I told him might also. After about 10 minutes, we gathered our gear and set off again. At first the wind, now finally behind us, increased our progress. Feeling quite confident in my abilities,I asked Shahe how far our day's trip would total. His estimate was18 miles. EIGHTEEN MILES my brain shouted, that THREE TIMES YOUR LONGEST KAYAK TO DATE. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
It's. ok, things are going to be alright. It's just going to take awhile.
Take awhile they did, for the wind began to shift, first coming from the East, then south and them for the entire end of the trip, blowing right in our faces and creating rolling waves for us to fight through. I looked at the shoreline. It didn't appear to be moving. At least that meant we weren't losing ground. Shahe kept asking me if I was ok. He was worried that My blood sugar might not be that good. I told him that I could make it and asked if he could. He told me we would make it together. and so we did. Afterwards he told me that it had been a long paddle for him too, and that he was a. glad to have a friend who could do such things with him. That was really nice to hear. Even if I figured he was trying to kill me. Tomorrow we start a 4-5 day self supported mountain bike trip across the Baja peninsula to the Pacific side and back. Kayaking I had done 'right out of the box', without preparation. Biking, I am in shape for. We'll see how that works out.....
We woke up to clear blue skies and flat water. Amazingly after last night's wind, the water appeared as glass. I bought a ticket and an hour later was stepping onto a ponta floating on the Lagoon. where the highest number of grey whales is found on Earth. The high count this year was 1500 before the males and few of the others had left. Now there are approximately 600 females and calves left. It turns out to be more than enough for a very satisfying morning. We motored out to. where we could spot a number of grey whales, and soon they were everywhere around us. A "Friendly" appeared and we spend half an hour at least with her. It was one of the most profoundly spiritual moments in my life. Here is an animal that humans hunted and messily murdered only a (whale and human) generation ago, and it has forgiven us. When I think of how long humans hold their bitterness and how it comes out generation after generation between different groups....it becomes clearer that ever to me that we are not the most evolved species on the planet. I walked away enveloped with a sense of deep peace, like I have never known.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
We packed up and were on our way by 7. Shahe took me a a short tour of the fish market in Esenada, we changed dollars for peso and then continued our way south. During the day we stopped at 3 military check points, where young soldiers with semi-automatic rifles asked us questions then waved us through. We traveled past crop land and green fields, shallow streams and olive groves, strawberry fields, hours of high desert with an amazing diversity of cactus and finally miles of sand dunes and salt flats before arriving at the lagoon previously known by the name of the whaling captain that murdered so many of the magnificent sentient beings that migrate along the coast of both Californias each year. Tonight again we are blessed by a burning orange sunset and huge moon, this time rising golden at the horizon. Shahe's flute playing and the wind have replaced last night's ocean music, we play rummy again but this time I win, the wind totally disappears suddenly and we fall asleep to an utterly silent moon glow.
Aptos to Ensenada (almost)
As our journey south begins, we are treated to Green hills all the way down into northern Baja. It was all easy driving except for San Diego traffic, and we decided to cross into Mexico at the border upon learning that Visas weren't required. We chose a toll route, "Scenic Highway 1", that lived up to its name south along the coast. The dramatic Islas de Coranado lay off shore and later we were treated to a fine view of the sun, lit up like a tall ship on fire, sinking into the water. The coast here reminds both of us of our own beloved Big Sur. The road hugs the cliff, and there is little to mar nature's raw beauty. As dusk gathered, we saw a small sign advertising family camping, and decided to abandon our plan of making it to Ensenada that day. We soon were to be most pleased with our decision. Winding down a steep dirt road, we came to a guard gate, where we were greeted by Francisco, a polite man who informed us that it would cost $15 USD to camp here, which included our pick of the campsites as there were no other campers. We settled on a small rise above the water, quickly setup camp and strolled out to our little deserted rocky beach. A heavy surf pounded the shore, each wave pulled scores of boulders into the water as it retreated, only to toss them back in the next, the noisy repetition proved mezmerizingly beautiful. Not finished with this first day masterpiece, the oversized 'super'' moon rose, pouring it's light through a gap in the mountains above us to the East, illuminating the the surf line in a dazzling primal show. We had neither planned nor hoped for anything so nice as this, and after a pleasant time of playing cards by the truck's shell light, we drifted off to sleep in the moonlight, serenaded by the sea, alone and held close to the wild heart of life....
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
waiting for one last repair before I pick it up on Monday and begin
packing. The mountain bike is getting new tires and tubes for the
abusive road/trail we will spend 4 days bike camping on. I am trying
to tie up a number of loose ends and finish some projects before we
hit the road south next Friday. Today I put together an extensive
tool kit and pulled out my camping and snokeling gear. Preparing to
be self-reliant is a satisfying part of this week. But the being
self-reliant will be the really fun part.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
12 days until the Adventure begins. Today is is raining, so instead of going out on the bike to keep in share for the trip, I am going to work to make my mountain bike more prepared for what we will be asking of it on the 4 day self supported ride coast to coast across Baja. Specifically that means adding a rear rack to my full suspensioned Santa Cruz Super Light mountain bike.