A Very Special Place
03 March 2014
February 19-21, 2014
We instantly fell in love with Agua Verde. Jay and I were trying to figure out why. Why is it there are some places that, upon arrival, one just feels good? All is right. It is not only that it is visually beautiful, but it as if there is a positive aura that permeates the air. Good karma. Agua Verde is one of these places.
The bay is quite roomy and has several nice anchorages. We tucked into the north end in about 24 feet of water. We were mostly surrounded by hills with one “window” just to the northeast. This is the sand spit stretched across from one hill to the next, giving us a front room view of the Sea. To the west of us was a tall hill with a (quite precarious) road leading from the hunting lodge on the sand spit, to the village on the south side of the anchorage. At the time of our arrival, there were no boats anchored in the south anchorages. There were five boats in the north end, including Cadenza.
Originally, after leaving San Evaristo, our plan was to go to Los Gatos, cove of the red rocks. But after hearing from our friends on El Tiboron that they were swarmed with bees and the water was full of puffer fish, we decided to skip it for the time being and head up to Agua Verde. Besides, we wanted to take full advantage of the weather window and get up as far north as possible.
The weather has been spectacular. Not sailing weather, but warm days with calm seas. The Sea of Cortez is some six hundred miles long between Baja and the mainland. We have seen the winds kick up some nasty waves as they build along this stretch of mostly open water. For now, though, and for the next week, they are calling for good cruising weather. This gives us the opportunity to move up into the sea quickly knowing, should a norther arise, we can always sail, more easily, downwind.
It was nearly five by the time we settled in at anchor. We sat back and relaxed in the cockpit, deciding to head into shore in the morning when we had more time to do some exploring. Meanwhile, we watched the sun set, had a nice dinner, and headed to bed early, as usual.
“Is that someone knocking?” Jay asked, as he was fixing coffee.
It was, in fact. Fatima, was her name, (“Me.” she said pointing to her chest, “Fatima.”) and she came calling on a kayak. She was a big girl, but couldn't have been more than fifteen. I had seen her earlier, playing with some younger children. They were singing as they were moving from one strand of beach to another, jumping from rock to rock, trying to stay out of the encroaching tide.
“Hola. Trash?” She asked.
“What?” I couldn't understand her accent.
“Oh, trash!” I said, realizing she came to take our trash away for a price.
“Si! Yes!” I said, glad to be rid of our trash. “Tres bags, ok?” I asked in my Splangish.
I gave her thirty pesos and three bags of trash which she sat in her kayak.
“Chocolate?” She asked.
“Oh, yes, si!” And I went below to get some of our last stash of chocolate.
Satisfied, off she went to visit the other boats, collecting trash and earning her days wages.
Having had breakfast, it was time to lower the dinghy and go exploring. But first, we would stop and visit our neighbors, checking in with old friends and meeting new ones. Emma Belle was anchored just in front of us. We had first met these sailors in Turtle Bay. They are the ones from Ventura; Eric and Pamela, who own the Columbia 32', and their friends, Kevin and Tyler. Only Kevin and Tyler were now in La Paz, having bought their own boat, and with it, a whole lot of chores. Today it was Eric and Pam, with their dog, Ketch, who we saw diving and swimming off the stern of Emma Belle.
We reminded them who we were and got to talking. Before long, they offered to show us around the village and take us to the goat farm. They had been there yesterday and enjoyed it so much, were anxious to go back. Eric told us about how they use dogs to care for the goats. They put a puppy in the pen with the baby goats and she/he feeds on the mother goat, all the while growing up with the babies. The puppy, having only known the life of goats, becomes one with the herd and from thereafter protects and guides them. They call this dog a Chindero. Excited to meet this clan, we took off on the dinghy to visit with some more yachtees while Eric and Pam got ready to go on shore.
The village was similar to others we have seen, yet was different. It seems most fence their homesteads, marking their territory. The fences are made with limbs of trees and wire. Most families take care of their space, even sweeping the dirt around their homes. There are homes made with pieces of wood and some cement.
What is different about this village is the feeling of a cohesive community. Other villages are perched along hillsides, where this one is nestled in the valley along flat ground. They have manicured lanes. Walking through the streets, I feel like I am in a neighborhood. There is a center square. Nothing is there. No buildings. It is just open. I suppose it can be used as a park for the children or a gathering place for the families. The little blue church sits off this square, as does the school.
There are three tiendas in town and I am told they work as a coop. One of the tiendas was Maria's. We stopped here and bought some boxed cream. When we got to the counter, Maria proudly showed us some kerchiefs she had made. They were embroidered with the names of the days and a fruit. Domingo had a pineapple, Miercoles had strawberries and Lunes had grapes. These were all the days of the week that were left. We didn't really need a kerchief, but how could we refuse? This is how they make their living and Jay and I decided it would be a good souvenir. We chose Lunes. Because of the grapes, of course.
The goat farm had a tienda too. That is where we went looking for fresh goat cheese. They didn't have any at the moment, but Francesca (I am told that was her name.) said she would make some for us. Could we come back at three? Of course! How could we not want fresh goat cheese? Did we want a kilo, she asked. Well, no. I made that mistake before. A kilo is over two pounds. I asked for a medio kilo and Francesca agreed.
Walking around the goat farm was a joy. There was much to see. The baby goats were in a pen made of tree limbs and wire. All huddled together, they cried out to us as we came upon them. “ Ma! Ma!” They would stumble over each other trying to stick their head through the holes of the gate to see us. Or they would trip over each other while trying to reach up to us as we leaned over the fence.
I was looking over the fence, when I felt this tiny fur ball of energy walking over my feet and licking my leg. It was the Chindero! The puppy had somehow squeezed his way out of the fence and was now on the outside looking in. When he wasn't basking in our attention, he was staring at the fence, wondering how to get back to his family. The little minx couldn't have been more than six weeks old. At most. So cute.
Not far from the goat pen was a family of pigs. Mama sow looked exhausted as she lay flat on the dirt with six baby piglets either feeding or sleeping by her side. There were other pigs strutting across the grounds too, as well as roosters and chickens and the older goats.
We left the farm and headed for the last known open tienda. This one had beer. We bought a six pack and headed back to our dinghy.
Back on the water, Jay headed for Roca Solitaria. This is a massive rock that stands upright about 300 feet just outside the bay. (One must be careful when sailing these waters. There are many a rock like this one.) Eric and Pam had said they thought they might go snorkeling over there and spear some fish. We thought we would check it out.
Bam! Just like that Eric speared a hog fish.
“Good enough for dinner!” he said, as he put it on our boat.
“Wow! Really? Great. We'll trade you a couple of beers.” (Just happened to have some fresh from the tienda on shore.)
We sat there, floating in our dinghy, watching Eric and Pam search for more fish, checking out the sea life, and dodging the rocks. What an amazing way to live. Jay and I often talk about how great it is to see young people (Eric and Pam are in their late twenties.) enjoying life in this way. More to the point, they are living off the sea; harvesting sea urchin for lunch and spear fishing for dinner, living on a budget and surviving. Really great.
We continued exploring by going ashore on the sand spit. This is where the hunting lodge is located. We have heard that people who are willing to pay $50,000, can shoot a Bighorn Sheep. In fact, rumor has it someone got one the day we arrived. I find it strange that they are hunting these sheep at all as I have read that they have been endangered and are trying to build up the flock. I guess that is why it costs $50,000. Personally, I can think of a million other ways to spend that money rather than to take a life. I just don't get the hunting thing. Not for sport, anyway. But I digress.
The hunting lodge is an open building with a cement floor. It has a fence around it with a dog. No one is there but the dog. He has some water but he looks tired and hot. He doesn't bark when we come up to him so I don't think he is meant to be a guard dog. If he is, he's not doing a good job.
We walk over to the north side of the sand spit. It takes just a few minutes. From here we have an incredible view, looking north into the Sea of Cortez. A little insight to where we will be headed next.
It is getting close to three now so Jay and I are off to collect our goat cheese. Our neighbors from Rhiannon asked us to pick up a half kilo for them to. If there is enough. It turns out there is.
Francesca has made a kilo of goat cheese. We find it in her back yard on a cheese press. She gives it one more squeeze and releases it from its bondage. She shyly agrees to allow me a photo. Jay and I stand outside while she goes into her kitchen to package up the two half kilos. We are standing on dirt between two cement, one room buildings. The passage between the two is very narrow. I peak in to the left of me where Francesca has gone inside. On the south wall there is a small kitchen. On the north side of the room is a bed and dresser. Probably a chair.
My attention is drawn to the children outside playing. They are playing with a wooden bat and a ball. Not sure what the game is as it doesn't look at all like baseball. There are no video games or iPhones or iPods. They actually communicate with the VHF radio. I was wondering why I heard children's voices on Channel 16.
Jay nudges me and tells me to look to the right inside the other building. This room is her children's room. There are bunk beds and another dresser. There was art, children's drawings, hanging on the wall. There are no doors on either building.
Francesca brings out the cheese and asks for forty pesos. Twenty pesos for each half kilo. We leave, giving her fifty pesos and tell her to keep the change. She smiles shyly and says, “Gracious.”
I can't say enough about the people of Mexico. The people of Agua Verde have been especially nice and helpful. When we landed our dinghy on the beach, a young fisherman came over to help us pull it up. A few minutes later, while walking along the path to the goat farm, we ran into a very old Mexican man with no teeth but a huge smile. He taught me how to ask for goat cheese in Spanish.
We also ran into a herd of goats taking a walk with their Chindero close behind. It looked like a bunch of mother goats - probably taking a much needed break from their kids. Some things never change. No matter which species you claim.
It is a quiet night as the sun sets. It has been a wonderful day full of new adventures and now we are back on Cadenza, nestled behind the mountains, rocking gently in the cove. We are finishing the last bites of our fresh fish dinner. The stars begin to appear as the sky gets darker. After a very hot day, it is a cool breeze that brushes against my face. The rich desert aroma wafts through the air. I am content.
Auga Verde is truly a very special place.