Pellucidar’s bow parted the glassy waters as she headed from Balandra Bay toward Puerto Escondido. We normally grab a buoy in Escondido (because the Captain is cheap) but our niece and nephew were flying into Loreto from Texas in a day or two and the dock makes loading and provisioning so much easier.
You may remember last year on our way north we met a wonderful Land Rover named Sterling and his two lovely passengers from England, Paul and Chrissie, while anchored in Punta Chivato. They had been traveling across Canada, up to Alaska and just worked their way down the Baja to Punta Chivato. This is back when you were allowed to travel!
You can follow along with Sterling as he drags his passenger through some really fun and exciting adventures. https://defender-adventure.com
Due to Covid they have been kinda stranded in Mexico so we located them in Loreto. We had a few days to kill and on our last visit they did not get a chance to see the boat. We contacted them and made arrangements to meet up. Sterling agreed to bring them out to the marina as long as we kept our distance and did not give him Car Owner Virus. We visited on the boat until we all got hungry then followed them back into Loreto with a rental we had acquired for a nice lunch. It was fun catching up and learning how they have kept themselves entertained during this time. Surprisingly even though Mexico is a lovely country it is tough to stay entertained when you are restricted just like everyone else in the world has been but they seem to be making due quite nicely.
The plan was to pick up our guests at the airport, grab some groceries then take the next week sailing South toward La Paz. The old missions in Loreto and up the mountain in San Javier are some of the sites on Joe’s must see list so we could not resist hanging out one more day. I believe the Jesuit mission in Loreto was the first started in Baja California founded in 1697.
I can’t say enough good about the rental car company in Loreto. They deliver the car to the marina all the way from Loreto about 14 miles away. They are very accommodating and easy to work with. I just made a phone call letting them know we would like to keep the car for an extra day and they accommodated our request immediately.
Joe and Eleni arrived at the airport but it took a while to clear customs. You know those passengers who never fill out their paperwork on the plane? We finally picked them up from the sidewalk and stuffed their luggage and bodies into our spacious Nissan March! Then we whisked them away to Loreto for a quick bite and tour of town before we headed back to the boat.
The rule with visitors is they have to be willing to bring us either parts, supplies, or cookies we cannot get in Mexico. Unfortunately we had lost track of the number of requests we had made. They ended up having to bring an extra suitcase just to pack all of our requests! It was just like having Christmas early! Not sure how Captain Cook survived without visitors bringing him stuff. If I remember correctly trading with the locals did work out so well for him. But I digress….
The next day we poured back into the March and headed up the mountain to San Javier. It’s not that far but the road is narrow and winds up through the canyons.
The landscape is amazing. The vision for this location started not long after the mission in Loreto was established. Lead by father Padre Piccolo a small group forged a footpath up the steep face of the Gigantas mountains 20 miles up into the valley still known today as Vigge Biaundo. One of the few names still remaining from the original Indian inhabitants. Construction began in 1744 and it took approximately 15 years to complete. If you imagine back when this mission was opened in 1758 you have to marvel at the construction and how they got all the materials up that mountain. As our sturdy March navigated the mountainous terrain we saw goats, horses, donkeys, and iguanas as well as many types of birds.
The mission is dripping with history and still very active to this day. Mass is attended weekly. Between December 1st and the 3rd, hundreds flock from near and far to the site renewing their faith. The largest pilgrimage of these various festivals is a 20 mile trek up the mountain to San Javier. From the Golgotha cross outside the church many pilgrims make the journey on their knees to the alter to pray to San Francisco Javier.
I was surprised at the number of lit candles at the altar in San Javier. We were here in 2019 and this picture represents 10 times what we witnessed during the same period last year.
Outside the mission are small vendors selling Carmel sauces and wine all produced on site. As we walked behind the church we passed by part of the farm where they grow produce for the community.
We were then “invited” to visit the old olive tree planted by the original Jesuits and a tour of their source of water. Of course our young tour guide expected a “propina” (tip) oh, and what about my little brother that tagged along? We were happy to oblige. With COVID these small towns have been hit very hard due to lack of tourism.
We “Marched” back to Puerto Escondido and prepared for an early morning departure.
Leaving Escondido even under an overcast sky did not dampen our enthusiasm to be out on the water. The air was warm and the seas calm. Once we cleared the harbor the poles came out and it was game time!
With no wind to sail and Aqua Verde only a short distance away we wound our way through the various rocks and islets trying to snag a little dinner. Our efforts although entertaining were not productive but we had fun anyway.
The sun finally appeared and Eleni was working hard on her tan while Joe had to scrub the deck.
Aqua Verde did not disappoint. We dropped the hook in emerald green water early enough to allow for some exploration. The girls grabbed their snorkel gear and headed for the reef while Joe and I tried to entice one of our finned friends over for dinner. No luck with the fish but that only allowed us the opportunity to enjoy fish tacos on the beach. We enjoyed our first night at anchor as the sun faded behind the mountains to the west and a million stars blanketed the sky overhead.
Next morning we hoisted anchor, dropped the lines in the water and headed for our next destination, Los Gatos. We are visiting some anchorages we did not get to visit last year. We could spend years down here and still never visit all the anchorages available.
As we rounded Punta Cantil Colorado staying off enough to clear the reef the red sandstone formations of Los Gatos opened up before us. We tucked Pellucidar up tight to the north end where she was protected from the swell coming in from the sea. We launched the dingy and went to shore for a closer look at these beautiful sculptures created by wind and wave.
We scrambled around for some time just admiring the various shapes and colors of the sandstone and taking photos. I looked toward the horizon and saw a familiar looking sail on the horizon. Kim and Jamie from Amazing Grace III were pulling into the anchorage. They saw us on AIS and diverted their trip from Aqua Verde to come hangout with us.
As the sun disappeared behind the hills, dusk enveloped the anchorage accentuating the reds and pinks of the sandstone cliffs. We headed off to our separate floating hotels to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast. Our menu was a bit limited but we found some pork chops and shrimp to throw on the BBQ and really it’s more about the people you enjoy than the food anyway. Just as Linda was prepping the pork chops for grilling and young gentlemen came alongside offering us some fresh langosta. (Lobster) We bought 4 large lobster and that coupled with the shrimp made an exquisite Thanksgiving celebration. Pork chops will wait for later!
The story goes that Los Gatos received its name due to a family of Puma’s that lived in the valley. It also was rumored this family of large kitties cats no longer inhabited the area. So both crews landed on the beach and armed with this trustworthy knowledge and leaving no witnesses onboard we set off hiking up the arroyo in search of adventure. It was a nice walk among cactus and scrub.
We followed the tracks up and around and over the hill. We did come across some wild animals but not necessarily of the cat variety. We came across this little cow family. They were a little wary but soon got used to us wandering around as long as we kept our distance.
After a nice long walk we came back to the boat and began looking ahead for the next few days. We had weather coming in so we made a plan to head straight for La Paz the next day. That is a run of about 75 miles which is a lot for one day. We hoisted anchor early and made ready for a long day. Wind was at our back so it would be a bit of a sleigh ride and sleigh ride it was! We had 1 meter following seas at about 6 seconds so it made for an exhilarating passage. Joe fished for the entire passage and it was really exciting when we had a fish online. We were sailing between 6 1/2 and 8 knots for most of the passage so even a little skipjack made the fight exciting.
We arrived in La Paz and docked at Marina Palmira just ahead of the weather. It blew hard the next few days and we were glad to be on tara firma. We spent their remaining days touring La Paz and sampling good food and margaritas.
We were sad see the kids jump into a taxi on their way to the airport but will look forward to next year.