Being Here Now
20 February 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Jay and I left La Paz and headed up into the Sea of Cortez one week ago. Already, we have had many experiences and visited several places. Today we are at Puerto Escondido, our fourth anchorage. Tomorrow we will go into Loreto. Saturday we pull anchor again.
Below is a story about the first two anchorages.
BEING HERE NOW
Raising my children in southern California, I often took them to the Santa Monica Pier. This was the California version of my memories of Atlantic City. Our family lived in the New Jersey area, close to Philadelphia. We lived in suburbia and my cousins lived in the country. Our big summer treat was a trip to Atlantic City. At that time, there were no casinos. There was no gambling. The beach was the main event, but the boardwalk, made of wood planks, also held a multitude of delights for a child. It had vendors selling foods and souvenirs. There were games, rides, and of course, the much-loved cotton candy. It was those fond memories, of frolicking in the surf with my cousins and eating cotton candy, that caused me to want to share similar experiences with my children.
The Santa Monica equivalent of Atlantic City's boardwalk is a cement path designed for tourists and locals who want to bicycle, walk or roller blade along the beach. Vendors set up their shops, selling trinkets, ice cream cones, and cotton candy. There are tattoo parlors and there are pubs. The amusement park is located on the pier. There are several different rides, mostly gentle ones, aimed for a younger audience. It has a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round. Popular restaurants dot the pier along with small food shacks and the requisite games where you can win the stuffed animal of the day. There are also the small rides for toddlers, like you might find outside a grocery store (or used to find, anyway). These are the ones that are usually an animal, like a horse, or maybe a carriage of some sort, on top of a big metal spring. It costs a quarter and a small child can have a ride safely, back and forth, for about one minute.
This is where I took my daughter when she was four years old. On the pier, just outside of the arcade we found three tiny rides. Just Talia's size! There was an elephant, a horse, and a buggy. Her eyes lit up as she squirmed out of my hand and went running toward them. She circled all three, then tried each one before I caught up to her and got my quarters out.
"Which one would you like to ride, honey?" I asked.
"This one! This one!" She said as she got up on the elephant. I put the quarter in. Immediately she squealed in delight.
"I want to go on that one!" She said, pointing to the horse, while riding the elephant.
"Wait, honey. Enjoy that one first. Then you can ride the horse."
She cried out again, "But I want to do that one!"
"Enjoy that first. It's going to..."
The elephant stops moving. Her smile falters.
This is Talia's first lesson in "Be here now."
I kind of feel that way about the Sea of Cortez. There are so many places to visit. So many coves with villages and mangroves, salt ponds and beaches galore. Once we arrive at our destination and put down the anchor, I'm so excited by the beauty and awed by the majestic nature of the surrounding mountains that I am already pulling out the cruising guide, planning our next leg. With the same excitement of my four year-old Talia, I say,
"I want to go here! Oh, I want to go there! That bay sounds lovely. Which one should we stop at next?"
But Jay reminds me to stay focused on the present.
"Whoa, Terri. We just got here. We can plan that later. Let's see what's here first."
This was in San Evaristo. We had already spent two nights in Caleta Partida. This is the place I mentioned in an earlier blog. The cove lies at the south end of Partida, just north of Isla Espiritu Santo. There is a sand spit which practically connects the two islands. It is so close, one has to row through it on high tide to believe there is actually a separation.
While on shore, we explored a fishing camp. It was vacant at the time, but looked like it could house maybe twenty or more fisherman. The "houses" or huts were made from whatever materials they could gather. Mostly made out of various sizes and pieces of wood, there was also some metal and plastic used. Old iron chairs sat outside on the "porch." A few even had satellite dishes! And all had an ocean view. (See photo above.)
Getting out of the kayak, I had noticed a big fish swimming by in shallow water. It turned out to be a Dorado and we believe he was dying. Of what, we don't know. He was acting strangely, fluttering about in the shallow sea, and then beached himself over by the fishing camp. There were no fisherman to claim him but I found a guilty sea gull with a very red beak running from the scene. Not long after, he called in all his friends for dinner. Such is the cycle of life.
Our friends, Casey & Diane on sv/Inkatu, and Ed & Barbara on sv/Barbara Ann, joined us for this part of the journey. We had two evenings of full moon nights and took turns hosting dinner and cocktail hour. It was great fun as on Friday evening we toasted to Valentine's Day and watched the moon come up perfectly framed by two sides of the mountains over the sand spit. To finish the day with finesse, Jay serenaded me - and everyone else in the bay - on the trumpet with one of my favorite songs, "My Funny Valentine."
It is Saturday, February 15th and now we are in San Evaristo. Jay is a little disappointed. I think he expected more. There is not much here. The hillside has a handful of houses. A desalination plant sits on the beach. So does the only restaurant, but although there are people there, we are told it is closed. They have no cerveza. It is Sunday and we see a family gathered together on the beach. The children are swimming, along with the dogs. It is very hot and dry.
We find the tienda. This is the little market that is the front room of someone's home. (Like Mrs. Wizzy's candy store in Trenton!) Three men stand/sit outside on the porch. Hesitantly, I call out, "Esta tienda aqui? "Si." They answer. "Esta tienda abierta, por favor?" "Si. Beneca."
Inside we find a room about the size of a large dining room. It has shelves filled with a little bit of a lot of different things; canned goods, dry goods. There are beans and rice. Flour is available. Bread too. And of course, the ever present cleaning supplies. The produce sits in boxes on the floor. Soft drinks and water are for sale, but no beer. I hear voices from the back, behind the curtain that divides the two rooms. It doesn't quite cover the opening and, not wanting to be nosy, but still curious, I peak through.
It is a kitchen with a little girl about six years of age sitting at a small wooden table eating what looks like a bowl of cereal. Two other women are there. One is probably her mother as she is fussing about the stove. The other women takes a seat in a kitchen chair by the wall. Maybe it is her sister who has come to visit? A little boy, not much older than his sister, runs in from outside, excited, saying something in Spanish. Feeling self conscious, I turn my attention to the vegetables. We buy one avocado, two potatoes, four tomatoes and ten limons. We pay our 35 pesos to the old man at the register and leave asking him the way to the school.
We walk along a dirt road. Jay mentions that they must have laid down some oil to keep the dust from rising. The houses all seem deserted. Where is everyone? We pass the school. This is a welcome surprise in that it is in fine shape compared to the rest of the village. It looks rather new and well groomed and has a fence around it. We hear there is a woman, Charlotte, who teaches here. She lives with her husband, Steve, on board a boat in the bay, called Willful Simplicity. She asks for donations from the cruising community. They are in great need of notebooks and pencils and crayons. We have brought some, but she is nowhere to be found. Not even her boat is anchored here at the moment. I am hoping we get to meet her on the way back. I must confess, though, it is not only to give her our donation, but I would love to speak with her about this village and its people. Who are they and what is their daily life like?
We wander up a hill and find an abandoned house. It has a foundation with some walls and a partial roof. The windows are holes. No screens. There is a cement rectangle protruding six feet from the ground. Is it to catch rain water and/or to be used to wash laundry or people? I'm not sure as I don't think there is much rain here. Maybe they bring in water from another place.
We notice some beautiful pieces of tile that lie on the concrete. Someone had plans for this house. Toys lay scattered about too. Broken Barbies and bath toys. What was it that took the children away from this house so quickly that they left their most prized possessions? Or are these toys leftover from the village children who come up here to play house? I can't help but wonder.
My favorite part of our walk is when we go over the north hill and see the salt evaporation ponds. I have never seen salt ponds before. But it isn't just that. The view from the hill is spectacular. It's a clear day and we can see for miles up the Sea of Cortez. A huge expanse of blue water with Baja on one side and a scattering of islands on the other side. Following the road down the hill, there are several homes, protected by wire and wooden fences, and decorated with beautiful date palms that line the lane. This bit of green is refreshingly rich in color.
The valley below holds dozens of ponds lying just before the beach. Jay tells me this is where they let the water dry out and catch the salt. Then they gather the salt, clean and sell it. The water that leaches under ground is gathered too. In fact, we witnessed a Sunday family outing where they were piping some of this fresh water into a huge container loaded onto the back of their pickup truck. It would be taken home to be used for showers and such. This is what they told us.
Later, we ran into that same family. Only now they were at the beach to greet their fisherman. The boys had caught a Manta Ray and a Benita, and were cleaning them up for this weeks' meals, no doubt. Meanwhile, the children were running around the beach, playing and splashing with the dog.
So it seems this is how they spend their days. Simply.
Back at the boat, Jay and I leave the present just long enough to chart out the next few days. Tomorrow we will pull anchor and head toward Los Gatos. At least that is the plan. Once we are out there in the here and now, who knows?