Thursday, October 18, 2012

Misión San Javier

On one of our rest days of diving we drove up to Misión San Javier. The last time we went up there (a number of years ago) it was a very rough dirt road. Now it's almost all brand new paved road, better than the highway. There's not much there besides the impressive old mission church, but it's a scenic drive into the mountains. And it's pretty impressive that they built such a place in 1758.

We intended to bring my sisters up here, but got rained out. This time we made it before the hurricane hit!

Here are a few photos I took of the mission and around it.

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Photos Around Loreto

Here are some miscellaneous photos from around Loreto, including some of the hurricane weather and its aftermath.

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* Shelley has lots of photographs of me taking photographs :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Diving from Loreto

This is our fourth trip to Loreto and one of the prime attractions for us is the diving. There are other places in Baja with good diving (e.g. Cabo Pulmo) but we love going out with Rafael from Dolphin Dive, and we enjoy staying in Loreto. Our connection with Joel at Baja Kayak Adventures makes Loreto even more attractive. (We went on a sea kayak trip with Joel in BC a few years ago, and this coming week we're heading out for six days of kayaking with him here.)

Baja doesn't have big coral reefs, but it has lots of fish and soft corals and other sea life. And seeing the dolphins and sea lions and whales is a big treat in itself.

I'm still struggling with underwater photography. I have a decent camera (Canon G12) so now my main limitation is light. I use the camera's built-in flash with the underwater case's diffuser, but it's still ugly lighting. I've resisted getting better lights because of the added size and complexity, but I'm getting tempted! Occasionally I get a shot I'm happy with, but mostly I wish for better. It's especially frustrating when I see something awesome and I'm unable to capture it in a way that does it credit. But, to be honest, I often have the same feeling on dry land!

Nonetheless, here are the results from our six days of diving. I hope they give a feel for the incredible underwater world here.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Ends of the Day

On our rest days from diving Shelley has been going out running early (to beat the heat). I've been going out and photographing the sunrise (which is at an almost civilized time of 7am). I also took a few shots at sunset while having a drink outside Pasada de las Flores. Enjoy.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Volunteering can be an Adventure

Yesterday we volunteered to help out with a five kilometer open water swimming race. Unfortunately, there was a strong wind and the water was rough. There was some discussion but they decided to go ahead with the race, warning the swimmers that the conditions were for experts only.

Shelley and I were in kayaks, accompanying swimmers. The guide for our upcoming kayak trip had asked if we wanted to help since they were short of volunteers and we said sure. We imagined a nice sunny calm day of paddling but that did not happen.

Just launching the kayaks was a little rough (at least for us) and I spent the first few minutes pumping the water out of the kayak from waves breaking over me.

From our experience with adventure races, we know how hard it is to get everything coordinated. This race was no different. The kayaks were supposed to wait in a group and pick up the swimmers as they came by. But it wasn't clear where we were supposed to be and several groups of kayaks developed, none of them really in the right place.

To their credit, the race started on time at 8 am. I picked up one of the first swimmers, partly because he was wearing a florescent green cap that I figured would be easy to spot (and it was). (If you want to be seen bright colors are definitely a good idea - people in black wet suits are very hard to spot.) It turned out to be a lucky match for both of us since he spoke English (he was from California). Shelley and I had been a little nervous about how we'd communicate with Spanish speaking swimmers.

The hardest part of the kayaking was keeping in position beside the swimmer. I've never tried to follow a swimmer in a kayak and it's a little tricky. Most of the waves weren't breaking, just big swells, although the occasional one would soak me and add more water inside the kayak. I heard someone said the waves were about five feet.

It would have been a lot drier with a spray skirt, but because some of the kayak volunteers were inexperienced they decided not to use them. Trying to stay within about ten feet of my swimmer didn't leave any breaks to eat or drink, or even to pump out the kayak. He only stopped once, briefly, about half way. He asked for water and I gave him some of mine. I'd wondered whether they got anything to drink during the race. Certainly in a two hour running race there would be water stations.

From a kayak, low on the water, it was hard to see to navigate. For the swimmers it was even tougher. The route was quite simple - from Picazon to Coronado Island. But in between there is a small island that you can go around either side. Last year the course had gone around the south side since it's slightly more direct. But they had run into a strong current so this year they had stressed to everyone that the course would go around the north side. Except somehow the markers ended up leading to the south side - confusing.

My swimmer ended up depending on me for directions which wasn't really my role and made me uncomfortable because I wasn't sure the best way to go. I made a judgement call and led him around the south side. The wind was from the north so if nothing else it was slightly sheltered. Luckily there was no current this year. It was a toss up, Shelley followed instructions and went around the north side. From later reports it sounds like south was possibly slightly better.

One treat along the way was a bunch of dolphins that probably came to see what was going on. They never got too close, but they hung around for a while. The swimmers saw quite a few sea turtles, probably because they were looking down into the water. I didn't spot any.

My swimmer was tenth to the finish, in just under two hours (out of about 100 swimmers), which was pretty good since he was 67 years old. I have nothing but admiration for the swimmers, young and old - I wouldn't be up to it in calm water, let alone in these conditions.

One of the kayakers was the son of a swimmer. He lost sight of his father (easy to do in these conditions) and in the process of looking for him he got flipped over by a wave and was unable to get back in his kayak, not surprising as it can be tricky in the best of conditions. As he was bobbing around, he was joined by a swimmer who was throwing up. (Either sea sick or from swallowing sea water, or both.) They were picked up by one if the motor boats and he was fine, but he felt bad for failing at his duties and was quite worried until his father made it to the finish.

As the morning went on, the conditions got worse and they decided it was too rough to kayak back from the island. We waited quite a while as the swimmers straggled in and then as boats ferried all the swimmers and kayakers back. One women was missing and Shelley and I went out in one of the boats looking for her. It was very difficult conditions to try to find someone in the water. The boat was rocking and rolling and we were getting drenched in spray and waves. We didn't have any luck. They still hadn't found her when we went home. The next day we heard they had found her on the wrong side of the island after five hours in the water - yikes! I've never had anyone lost for that long on any of the adventure races I've organized, but I can imagine how stressful it must have been for the organizers.

Even the boat trip back to shore was exciting. Again we got bounced around and totally drenched from waves and spray. It's a good thing the water and weather were warm. It was too rough for the boats to land on the beach so we had to jump out and swim the last 100 feet through the surf. A bit of a challenge with a hat and sunglasses on and a dry bag in one hand. Luckily the waves pushed you in so swimming wasn't really required.

Although we only kayaked for a few hours (albeit in rough conditions) we were exhausted by the end of the day. Liberal doses of ice cream and beer pulled us through :-)

For Shelley's viewpoint, and some photos see: 2do Cruce a Nado

Friday, October 12, 2012

Morning Coffee in Loreto

Happily, the coffee shop next to the square (Latte Cafe) is open when we arrive. The sign says 8 am but that just seems to mean sometime after that, maybe 9, maybe 10. And being open is just the first hurdle, you also have to find someone to serve you. It's run by the same people as the restaurant next door (Cafe Olé) and I'm guessing since its still the off season it's not worth paying someone to work there. So sometimes you get a guy who I think is the owner, and sometimes a woman with a baby or two, probably his wife. A couple of tourists just came by and eventually gave up because they couldn't find anyone to serve them. (The trick is to get the attention of someone at the restaurant.)

It's a rest day so we have time to relax over morning coffee. Shelley is a keener, she'd dive every day but as a concession to my shocking lack of motivation and stamina we are only diving two out of every three days :-)

It's just the perfect temperature (around 26c) to sit outside and have a coffee and watch the world. Later it'll be too hot even in the shade.

There's a little dove pecking around in the street. I take its picture although it's as common as the sparrows it's still cute. And of course there are sparrows chattering away noisily in the trees.

A hummingbird is flitting around although there are no flowers so I'm not sure what it's up to. There are quite a few here but coming from Saskatchewan, it's still a treat to see them.

Several butterflies pass by. There are tons of them around but they never sit still so it's hard to identify them, let alone photograph them. Occasionally one agrees to pose, but they are temperamental super-models. Apparently this is the season for butterflies but I wonder if the recent rains make a difference too.

Shelley is reading her book (Kindle) and normally I would be too, but instead I'm just enjoying the coffee and watching what's going on. (At least until I decided to write this.)

A quad just went by on the mostly pedestrian street in front of the coffee shop. And then a whole parade of dirt bikes on the main street - probably an organized tourist "adventure". I know I'm in the minority, but if I was king of everything I'd get rid of all noisy motorized "sport" vehicles. I hate 'em. Of course, as usual that's somewhat hypocritical since you could argue that includes the boat that takes us out diving :-(

One of the sparrow lands at my feet and chirps loudly at me. Probably looking for crumbs. I ask him "¿que pasa?" but like most locals he doesn't understand my Spanish and just looks at me quizzically.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

La Paz again

We stayed one more night in La Paz on our way back from San Jose del Cabo to Loreto. Thankfully, the highway was not under water this time! We stayed at the Pasada de las Flores since we hadn't tried it before. Penny and Clare had stayed there prior to meeting us and liked it. And of course, we like their hotel in Loreto. It is quite small (eight rooms) but it has a wonderful second floor outdoor seating area with a view of the ocean, and a tiny pool to cool off in. The only (minor) drawback is that it is quite far north on the malecon. Especially since our favorite coffee shop (Cafe Exquisito) is at the south end!

We tried out Café Corazón for supper. It had been recommended to us and we had a great meal. They have a nice courtyard and a few more vegetarian options than Las Tres Virgenes.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Turtle Release Photos

I finally finished going through the hundreds of photos I took of the baby turtles. We stumbled on the turtle release by Tortugueros Las Playitas purely by accident. We'd seen information that it occurred here, but we assumed the timing wouldn't be right. But we arrived at the right time and turtles were hatching every day so we went back the next day with my sisters so they could see them. We were also approached by someone in town offering to take us to see the baby turtles, for a fee. We were smug that we had discovered them by ourselves for free.

I think these are Olive Ridley sea turtles, judging by the signs that said "tortuga golfina". At first we thought they were Leatherbacks but they didn't look like the pictures I found online. The web site says they release Olive Ridley, Black (aka Green), and Leatherback sea turtles. Olive Ridley's are listed as endangered. They are one of the smaller sea turtles, growing to less than a meter in length and 50 kg in weight. They are found in warm waters all over the world, but the west coast of Mexico and Central America is one of the prime nesting areas.

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed seeing these amazing creatures at the very beginning of their lives. This initial sprint to the ocean is the last time they'll see dry land, until the females return to nest. It is incredible that something so small and so inexperienced can make it through the surf and survive in the wide open ocean.

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Coffee in San Jose del Cabo

I searched for coffee places in San Jose del Cabo on the web but didn't find anything. Of course, Cabo San Lucas has coffee places, including Starbucks, but we prefer the old town. But don't despair, there is a nice coffee place - Cafe Calafia. It's not fancy but the espresso was good. The guy who made my coffee (the owner?) was very friendly, took care in the making of my lattes, and asked me if it was ok. They advertise some food as well, but I only had coffee.

It's located just near the Casa de la Cultura on a side street off the plaza. Easy to find if you look for it, but easily overlooked if you're walking around.

The sign said they opened at 7am but the one morning we went early, they didn't open till 8am. But it's still off-season, so that might explain it.

I later saw the guy who served me riding around on the mountain bike I'd seen parked outside the cafe - to me that's extra brownie points :-)

PS. Calafia is a fictional warrior queen who ruled over a kingdom of Black women living on the mythical Island of California.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Photos from La Paz

Some photos from La Paz. We enjoyed our stay at El ángel azul bed and breakfast. (first time staying here) It has a lovely courtyard full of plants, a cat and a dog, lizards, and hummingbirds that visit.

We took a boat trip to Isla Espiritu Santo to see more sea lions (biggest colony in Baja) and to do some snorkelling and kayaking. The water was a little rough, but it was a good day. Definitely cooler out on the water than in town!

We ate supper at Las Tres Virgenes in their outdoor courtyard. We'd eaten here before and enjoyed it.

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Liberación de Tortugas

We walked down to the beach at sunrise this morning (about a 30 minute walk from where we're staying in Todos Santos). We ended up getting to helping release newly hatched baby sea turtles! For a turtle lover like me, it doesn't get much better than that. More photos to come.

I think the organization is Tortugueros Las Playitas