Since our last entry we pulled anchor in Chamela and moved around to the south side of Isla Pajarera (2.5 miles away - see photo, showing the only other boat anchored by the Island). (see Chamela and Isla Pajerera photo galleries). The guidebooks indicated that the snorkeling was excellent in this location so Tom donned his mask and flippers and jumped in. Visibility was less than 8 feet and he got an immediate cold water headache, prompting a quick return to the boat. Not the best day for snorkeling!
We however, salvaged the day by taking the dinghy to shore and hiking the perimeter of the Island underneath a canopy of bird filled trees.
We left early the next morning and headed south for Bahia Tenacatita. Enroute, we swung into Bahia Paraiso with thoughts of staying there on the way back north. It is one of the most picturesque bays we've seen, with space for only one or two boats. We look forward to staying there on our way back up the coast this spring!
By mid-afternoon we dropped anchor in 20 feet, over a sand bottom in Bahia Tenacatita. We share the anchorage with approximately 10 other sailboats, including our friends from Borboletta, Tahnoo, and Companera. This is a well protected bay - a perfect destination to wait out the predicted 20 knot norther.
(Crocodile and tree crab hunting to come!)
Arrived this morning about 9:30 after an uneventful overnight sail from La Cruz. It seemed to be 'social night' on the VHF radio on the trip down. While we were talking to our buddy boat (Campenera) two other boats we know called in to chat.
Dropped anchor in about 30 feet on a sand bottom among 5 other boats. We spent a lazy day on the boat catching up on sleep, reading and relaxing. A 18-25 knot wind blew through the bay most of the day (thank God for a heavy anchor and all chain rode!). The wind made getting the dingy off the deck seem like too much work so we will delay going ashore until tomorrow.
Mark and James - we still have a few gremlins in the electronics but are learning to live with them. No other problems with the boat. Life is good.
It is presently 12:18 and we are getting ready to head south finally! After a trip to the fuel dock, we will leave about 2pm with our buddy boat Campanero (Joel anf Betty). As our destination (Bahia Chamela) is about 100 nautical miles south, it should take us about 20 hours and get us there in the morning after sunrise (always a good thing with a new anchorage). Should be a good sail as the wind is predicted to be about 10-15 out of the NW. After a few weeks of marina life we are looking forward to some time on the hook and some diving (I hope to tryout our new snuba gear). Will let you know how the trip went.
On this portion of our trip the saying 'Do Something That Scares You Every Day' took on a whole new meaning...
Our guide Gustavo picked us up from our hotel (Posada Mirador in Posada Barrancas) bright and early for a full day trip through the steep mountainsides of the Sierra Madres to Batopilas, at the base of Copper Canyon, where we would stay for the night.
There is only one road from the summit at 8,000 feet above sea level, all the way down to Batopilas. Gustavo knows it well. He's travelled it numerous times per week for the past 18 years, educating tourists about the flora and fauna of the area, as well as the shy, native mountain people - the Raramuri Indians. The 'white knuckle' roller coaster road conditions were an integral part of the experience... and were just as memorable as the scenery! Halfway through the harrowing 6 hour drive on this narrow dirt road, we wondered if Gustavo was either the most skilled driver we've ever met, or the luckiest, to have survived so many trips over the past two decades (we were really hoping it wasn't the latter)! He was kind enough to check in on us periodically to ask if we were okay, and practically had to peel our hands off the vehicle's arm rests after stopping at a particularly spectacular viewpoint so we could stretch our legs and eat our boxed lunch.
One of the most impressive mountains is nicknamed the 'Seven Layer Cake', because of its multi-colored bands of rock, deposited through the millennia in numerous volcanic incidents (Gustavo says it's still growing taller!).
The picturesque mountainsides appear to be completely uninhabited at first, but if you look carefully you can see numerous zigzagging footpaths that have been worn through the brush over the centuries by the native Ramamuri Indians. Many of these indigenous people still live in caves, surviving off the land as they have for centuries, trying desperately to hold onto their traditions and avoid as much contact with modern civilization as possible. They are well known for their prowess in running great distances, which was a huge asset when the Spanish first attempted to conquer Mexico and convert the local people to their religion/culture. The Raramuri Indians sought refuge by literally running for the hills, and many have remained. Their ability to survive in the harsh, remote mountain conditions is truly remarkable.
We arrived at the base of the Canyon at dinnertime, and enjoyed the evening exploring Batopilas. Batopilas was a very active silver mining town during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. An estimated 300 million ounces of silver has been extracted from this area, and mining companies continue to send geologists on reconnaissance missions to determine whether some of the old mines can be re-opened. In fact we met a German Geologist that evening, who confirmed that he would be surveying the area for the next few weeks! The locals speak very highly of the town's principal mining company founder, who offered hundreds of jobs to the local population back in the 1800s, and spent many of his profits developing the town - paving roads and establishing a municipal center with numerous services.
The next morning Gustavo showed us around the surrounding area, and drove us back up the mountainside for yet another harrowing drive - challenging his poor vehicle one more time... in fact we had to take a few breaks as his vehicle overheated a few times!
We took hundreds of photos, but there was no way to capture the spectacular scenery. We have selected a few in the accompanying gallery.
El Chepe Train is known as the Mexican equivalent of the 'Orient Express'.
It is a fabulous way to travel through the majestic, mountainous regions of Sinaloa and Chihuahua. Its comfortable cabins and dining car provide for a relaxing trip through spectacular scenery - we loved it! El Chepe made numerous stops along the way which provided opportunities for tourists like us to stop at various towns, purchase trinkets at the rail stations from indigenous artisans, or get off to set out on sightseeing excursions. Our next stop was at the summit - 8,000 feet above sea level. This marked the beginning of the highlight of our trip. More to come!!
Miguel also escorted us on a tour of the Mayo Indian Reservation of Tehueco. The Mayo are related to the Apache and Navaho Indians, and live a simple, traditional life in the countryside.
We were educated by a practicing Shaman about how local herbs are used to treat illnesses, and he invited us to wander through his property to see numerous animal carcasses and other materials he was preparing for spiritual dance costumes and ceremonial instruments.
At a nearby location we were introduced to an indigenous family who gave us a further glimpse into their traditions and culture. Two sisters demonstrated traditional food preparation techniques on stone oven cooktops. We watched them grind maiz (corn) on large flat stones, which were used to make the flour for tortillas. They served the tortillas to us for lunch on their open air patio, which was nothing more than a dirt floor, with a simple, hand carved wooden table and benches, protected from the sun under a canopy of woven branches. We couldn't believe how tasty these hot, thick, handmade tortillas tasted with a little local butter and spicy stone ground chillies - yummm!! Spicy too!!
After lunch one of the sisters demonstrated how to make pottery from mud and leaf stems. The tiny leaf stems are used to strengthen and bind, so it can be shaped by hand. Ants carry the leaves into their colonies, where they munch away at, and later discard the stems. They drag the stems back up to the surface, which are then gathered up by the Tehueco Indians, who incorporate them into their pottery. Fascinating!
Later, the brother was joined by the Shaman we met earlier and two other men, who performed traditional spiritual dances and music for us. We were extremely impressed at the workmanship that went into the dancer's costume and instruments. Butterfly cocoons were filled with tiny pebbles and sewn onto long ribbons, which were wrapped around and around the dancer's calves. These became percussion instruments as he danced. His fringed, leather belt was adorned by approximately 40 deer hooves, which swung around and knocked against each other during the dances, providing additional sound effects.
A deer head complete with antlers was tied onto the dancer's head, and was a key element of his costume. We were impressed at the stamina and skill of this 47 year old dancer who we were told would be dancing for 12 hours straight at a religious ceremony the following day. Religion is important to the indigenous Mayo people, and theirs is a unique blend of traditional spiritual beliefs and Catholicism, adopted after the Spanish influence of the 1700s.
See photo gallery...