DOLPHINS! at Honeymoon Cove

Less than 5 miles from Puerto Escondido, on Isla Danzante (Dancer Island), is a sweet little anchorage called Honeymoon Cove. It has three small bights for just a handful of boats. We got lucky and were the only ones around for a couple of days.

The cove is quiet and well protected from all winds except from the south, but it’s a fairly deep anchorage, so you have to watch your depth and swing – giving plenty of room for the beachy shoals on one side and the sharp rock cliffs on the other.

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Relaxing in Honeymoon Cove

The wildlife was incredible here – all hours of the day and night – the mobula rays were jumping, flying fish were flying, and our last day, we had a large pod of dolphins enter the cove and swim around and around our boat for more than 3 hours. It was one of the most beautiful things to witness: they created circles and bait balls to catch their prey, slapped their tails to stun the fish they were chasing, showed the babies how to do it, and then jumped for joy after they had their fill, occasionally swimming so close to the boat that all we had to do was walk laps on the deck for our front row seat. I came close to grabbing my snorkel and mask to jump in with them, but I had some trepidation for several reasons:

  1. I didn’t want to disturb their feeding frenzy
  2. Okay, the water is still pretty cold, and I’m now a super cold wimp
  3. They had babies with them, and I wasn’t sure how they would view my presence
  4. I was quite enjoying watching them from the comfort and dryness of the boat
  5. And, maybe I chickened out – not knowing what they would do with a human in the water in the middle of their bait ball – no regrets, though!

We had friends from the Catamaran Sea Rose join us for the show – they were anchored south a ways and took their dinghy in when they saw the huge pod approaching like an underwater army marching north!*

One night, we heard a ton of splashing and went out with our flashlight to see the mobula rays swimming under our boat, jumping out of the water, and wrestling their prey. Three of them (about 3-4 feet wide) came so close to the boat that they splashed us on the deck!

The only wildlife we didn’t like here were BEES. They weren’t aggressive, though, and they were mostly honeybees in search of fresh water. They literally swarmed our boat in the morning when the dew gathered on our lines and decks in the shade, and they swarmed us in the evening before the sun went down. We had to go to our “happy place”, shut up the boat (after the first night about 100 bees were trapped inside!), and play cribbage!

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Playing Cribbage in Honeymoon Cove

*We met Brian and Sue in Agua Verde; they have been sailing around the world since 2000, and in talking to them, we realized that I actually met them when I was in the Panama Canal aboard the Sea Shepherd, and they are also friends with one of my Sea Shepherd crewmates, Henri! What a strange, small world this is….

SAILING NORTH: San Evaristo, Agua Verde & Puerto Escondido

San Evaristo (May 10-11)

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Trash drop off with a seashell holding donations (at the base of sign in the old tire)

Continuing north, we found several great spots to anchor and tuck in while the SW winds were blowing. We arrived in San Evaristo – a tiny fishing village – to spend a night in a protected cove. There was a restaurant, and although it said it was open, it was closed. We asked the locals about it, and they said (as they usually do), “maybe mañana?” They have an honor trash bin, which means you can drop your trash and recycling off while leaving a tip – money just sits out in the open, and no one takes it.

This is Mexico 🙂

The small tienda (store) had a few things, and we bought delicious pears that were just delivered from the US – a real treat!

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Flying north at 7+ knots with new friends aboard Linda Marie & Wishlist

Agua Verde (May 11-13)

We sailed north to Agua Verde on a strong S wind which pushed us into a beautiful cove where we spent a couple of nights. The green water against a backdrop of mountains and white sand beaches is quintessential Baja and quite hard to describe the peacefulness.

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Agua Verde – looking out over the Northern Anchorage

We met quite a few other cruisers there and had an impromptu BBQ/bonfire on the beach. The next morning, we took a 5 mile hike up into the sea cliffs to see cave paintings/petroglyphs with incredible sea views, an ancient cemetery and a secret little oasis with fresh water and palms – it reminded me of one of our favorite hikes  just outside of Palm Springs.

In Agua Verde, they have a small restaurant run by a start-up all female co-op funded by the Mexican government where women and young girls learn how to cook, run a business and serve customers. It was a great little spot, and we were happy to give them our business. When we ordered something that they didn’t have on the menu (e.g. beer or soda), they just popped over to the store nearby to buy it for us.

There is a small tienda here that sells a large selection of fresh fruits and veg as well as local goat cheese – all of the goats live free in the mountains and you can hear the tinkle of their bells or their sweet bleating as they climb up and down the hills in search of their next meal.

Puerto Escondido (May 13-17)

I had work to do Monday morning, so we were seeking a spot with wifi. We heard that it could be found at an anchorage in Los Candeleros with a large resort nearby, but we didn’t want to risk it, so we went into Puerto Escondido, a hurricane hole just south of Loreto (confirmed later with friends that wifi signal is in fact strong there!).

On our way there, we had one of the most rewarding wildlife days since we have been sailing. There wasn’t much wind, so we were motor sailing, and we happened through a huge pod of bottlenose dolphins – hundreds of them swimming and jumping from west to east, so we turned the boat around and paralleled their path so as not to bother them but in the hopes that they would join our boat (which of course they did). Dolphins seem to love interacting with people. They enjoy swimming in the bow or wake of the boat, but our observations are that they stay with you longer if they can see you – I always jump to the bow of the boat and wave to them, talk to them, and they are always on the side of the boat that we are on – when we move, they move. They are simply the loveliest creatures alive, and with a brain larger than ours, and language more complex, I’m almost certain that they are more intelligent than humans. <PLEASE DON’T PAY TO SWIM WITH THEM & DON’T VISIT A DOLPHINARIUM>

The dolphins swam with us for about 30-45 minutes, swooping in and out, jumping and spraying us with water from their blowholes as they surfaced next to us. They are such adroit swimmers that when we sped up and turned, they sensed our movement before we made it, and with a flick of their tails were quickly out of the path of the boat. Immediately after we turned away from the dolphin pod, a baby humpback whale surfaced, slapping his tail on the surface of the water.

Then, 10 minutes later, we were greeted by a large manta ray feeding at the surface, gliding in and around the boat as we slowed, which then caused us to see 3 pilot whales just off the starboard side of our bow. It was an incredibly rewarding day and reminded me of all we have to be grateful for on this planet and how much responsibility we have to protect it!

Puerto Escondido is tucked into a hard to see harbor, protected on nearly 4 sides of mountains and low lying land – if you needed to escape from a storm or hurricane, this is just about the best place to do so. There is an office with wifi and meeting room, a restaurant, a small market, and an honor laundry where you pay the office for how many loads you do. They have a small chandlery and haul out as well as a small tour office for diving.

The bay is a field of mooring balls – easy to pick up and tie off. For those of you who have never done it before, you simply pick up the line in the water with a boat hook, tie off one end of your dock line to a cleat on the bow of the boat and then string the dock line through the loop on the mooring ball and go around the bow to create a V (or bridle)

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Looking east through one of the two “windows” in Puerto Escondido, tied to a mooring ball

and then tie off the other end on the other side of the boat on a cleat. We doubled tied ours with two docklines just in case. We asked the office when they had been last inspected, and they assured us that they were safely attached and secured.

 

We like being on mooring balls – it’s easier and more restful than being at anchor and yet you are still free and clear of other boats and people to have a quiet experience. There are supposed to be 117 mooring balls (1-40 for boats under 40’, 41-112 for boats over 40’, and higher numbers for really large boats), but we didn’t see that many – we tied up at #106.

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Kirby changing engine & generator oil while in PE

Loreto

If you want to visit Loreto, this is the best place to stay and leave your boat, as Loreto doesn’t have protected anchorage or a marina. And, if you want to get into Loreto, the best thing to do is arrange a car rental. The car rental will drop off your car at the marina office (Alamo) and pick up the car when you are done. We had a Volkswagen with A/C for $40/day including taxes and fees. If you get a taxi to take you to town and back, it will cost almost double that rate. With a car, you can load up on supplies and run any errands. We did some sightseeing but also ran some errands.

The mission and plaza are the highlights here, as is the Malecon. You only need a couple of hours to see the town, and it’s lovely with everything you’ll need to provision from an Autozone to grocery stores. You can reload/recharge your SIM cards in several markets (including Big markets) as there isn’t an OXXO in town.  There is also a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings in the plaza, and the BEST bread in town can be found at Pan Que Pan – delicious and light with a staff that is friendly and speaks English. You can also enjoy their fresh juices named after Superheros.

THIS PLACE IS LOUSY WITH TURTLES

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Sunset from Lodos

We were looking for a place to anchor and hide out on our way north with protection from the Coromuels (SW wind, similar to Lodos in Turkey), and we stopped at a national park called Isla Partida, which is just north of Espirito Santo, another national park. As we approached, there were leaping Mobula rays all around us and as we got closer into the island, we noticed so many turtles. I joked to Kirby that this place seemed to be just “lousy with them”! 🙂

After anchoring here for a couple of days, it turns out that we were right.

Isla Partida and Caleta Partida (our anchorage) is a sunken crater created from an ancient volcano. It’s a beautiful lagoon with a sand spit that you can dingy across in high tide, with numerous sea caves.

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The turtles are magical here. Dozens of them circled and swam near our boat each day – the sound they make when they surface is similar to an old man coming up for air after being below water for a long time. We watched a research group out of La Paz operate here, too; they have a camp on the beach with surface nets that they would drop and then check multiple times a day. We watched them haul out turtles, take them to camp, measure and tag them before releasing them. Each time they would see one in the net, a cheer would go up.  To me, it’s proof that when you protect a place, nature can rebound immensely!

There are a couple of fish camps here, too. There is a little old man on his fishing boat (panga) that makes his rounds each day asking for stuff from the boaters. Yesterday, he asked us for triple A batteries and today, a gallon of water. Paying the karma forward, we happily give these fisherman something and hope it helps them look kindly upon the people that use the waters that they claim as home.

Next post(s): San Evaristo, Agua Verde (30-50 miles north) & Puerto Escondido.

CHURRO TOUR 2018: LA PAZ EDITION

Many of you may not know this, but I have a thing with Churros. Maybe more like an obsession. Now, I know what you’re thinking – those stale fried greasy dough sticks you get at a club store or at a kid’s birthday party?  No, not those. Not ever.

Like many culinary ideas that have been adopted and ruined by their mass production in the US, Churros done well are divine, and I’m constantly searching for the best ones. Kirby will tell you that I would beg to drive across the border at Tijuana while we lived in San Diego just to come back and get a bag of them while waiting in line at border control (for under $5).

Like most countries in the world that have some sort of fried dough treat, a Churro is Mexico’s version. There is controversy of who invented them – some say they were the invention of nomadic Spanish shepherds. Living high in the mountains with no access to bakeries, the Spanish shepherds supposedly created Churros, which were easy for them to cook in frying pans over fire. And, Mexican Churros are vegan (a plus for me!) with only 4-5 ingredients.

Churros at their worst are cold, doughy, chewy, stale, or hard – over sugared with fake cinnamon and lacking flavor or just the right crunch.

Churros at their best are HOT, crunchy on the outside, slightly soft/chewy on the inside with just enough fat so that the sugar/cinnamon melts and sticks to each side (and when the ridges can catch that extra sugar and cinnamon). They are best when an inch+ in diameter in a paper bag and eaten outside (preferably) while watching the world go by.

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Eating Churros on the street in La Paz

Churros in Mexico are usually a street food staple for kids or families. There are variations that are interesting:  you can get them with sauces on top or Churros Relleno (stuffed) with syrup or sauces. You can dip them in hot chocolate, and you can get them absolutely plain, or with sugar, with sugar & cinnamon, drizzled or stuffed with chocolate, caramel, crema or strawberry – my preference is with sugar and cinnamon.

I also recently visited one of the oldest Churro institutions in Mexico. Churreria el Moro in Mexico City is an 80 year old establishment that was serving up some mighty perfect servings.

Churros are also making a comeback as an authentic Mexican dessert. Celebrity chef/owner Enrique Olvera (featured on Chef’s Table), of Pujol in Mexico City (one of 50 best restaurants in the world) has reimagined Mexican street food as haute cuisine, and naturally, Churros are in integral part of his dessert course.

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Cross streets for Churros Don David in La Paz

Churros Don David at Revolution of 1910 1530, Commercial Zone, 23000 La Paz, BCS is the ONLY open Churro place left in La Paz. We visited two others that I found on Google and Yelp, but they were both closed and required a taxi or Uber to get there. These churros were good, not great, but they were warm, thin, crunchy, sweet, and popular – 6 pieces (about 12″ long) for 20 MEX (or $1). I hear that occasionally you can get them on the Malecon during holidays, but trust me, I was on the Malecon for every holiday (there were about 7 while we were there), and I saw NO CHURROS!

Onto our next stops – constantly seeking Churros – wish me luck! 🙂

 

 

PLAYING THE LOCAL

To truly learn a place, you have to dive in, participate, get involved and not just be a bystander. The potentially mundane takes on a new view as you feel connected to the community as a resident vs. tourist.

Kirby and I have been trying to do that wherever we go, so this feels less like a “trip” or even a “vacation” and more like our everyday lives, which is our intention. And, what I truly love in Mexico is that there is always a party or celebration happening. Nearly every week, there is some form of official celebration.

This weekend is Founders Weekend in La Paz.*  The date that Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico over 450 years ago, complete with a kitchy reenactment of Cortes walking off the ship into the water and storming the beach (followed by live music, fireworks and lots of food, of course).

Last night was an event similar to events we see in many American cities (e.g. “the bite of, the taste of”) – with culinary booths from restaurants around the city to show off their food and wine. It was a fundraiser to help feed low income kids and keep them in school.

We showed up and immediately knew that we had “missed the memo”. Everyone was in white, except for us and a few others. Apparently, in Mexico, wearing all white is another way to demonstrate cocktail or formal attire and is known as the “Mexican Tuxedo”.  Men were in their finest Guayaberas and all the women were in different flavors of white dresses.  It was easy to spot the “gringos” because most of us weren’t wearing white.

We have hosted or attended our share of “white parties”, but this crowd was so large, it was beautiful to see such a huge gathering dressed in this way. And of course, we felt a little foolish not knowing it in advance, but hey, that’s how you learn, right? The venue was equally beautiful – set on the beach in an old abandoned cement plant.

We were pleased to meet some new people, eat some great food, drink some great wine, and listen to some great music.

When traveling, how do you seek out new experiences and get to know the locals?

VIVA LA MEXICO!

*Just a reminder that Cinco de Mayo doesn’t mean much in Mexico. It’s not Independence Day in Mexico (that is in September). Cinco de Mayo is really only significant in a small town called Puebla from the Battle of Puebla against France. If anything the significance of Cinco de Mayo is an important reminder of how Mexico helped the USA to fight/win our Civil War.