Monday, 21 May 2012

a stop in the place where stories come from

When I was young, I often read a comic called Lucky Luke. Stories abounded about this cowboy’s adventures in the Wild West, who could, amazingly, "shoot faster than his shadow". The comic was full of stereotypes and might be considered politically incorrect nowadays, but what I remember are the illustrations of the desert: The scrubby bushes, the cacti, the flat-topped mountains. When we arrived in Bahia San Carlos and wandered up the sandy road to Timbabiche’s Casa Grande, the scenery was exactly like the comic book I once read. 

Nopolo: A different kind of small
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Earlier that morning, we motor-sailed out of San Evaristo. On the way north, we passed the tiny village of Nopolo. Tucked in at the base of the Sierra Gigante mountain range, this little village is only accessible by boat. I wonder what it must be like to live in this kind of isolation with so few neighbours. We would have stopped, but the anchorage was open to the south, (and southerlies were predicted). In the blink of an eye, we had passed the village and continued sailing next to tall desert mountains.

A happy Rick
After we dropped the hook in Bahia San Carlos, we jumped in the water for a refreshing swim following a sweaty passage. We then got ready to go ashore. That’s when we met Manuel – we were still aboard Nyon when he came by in his panga. 

Manuel is a friendly fisherman with whom we shared stories. We eagerly accepted to buy a fish from him, and he kindly fileted our dinner for us with our embarrassingly dull knife. (Note to self: Sharpen your knives if you’re going to ask a panguero to clean your cabrilla for you.)

Casa Grande, still standing tall

We could see a deserted small fishing camp on the beach, but there was no one else in the bay.  As we looked south, Timbabiche and Casa Grande were barely visible. Casa Grande is mentioned in our cruising guide. We were curious about the story behind it. In the 1920’s a boat-less fisherman found a large 5-carat pearl. And while he was cheated of its real worth when he sold it to pearl merchants in La Paz, he did make enough money to build a large house and acquire a fleet of fishing boats. The home is now in ruins. After he died and the money ran out, his heirs did not know what to do with it, so it just sits there uninhabited, stripped of its reusable construction materials. The beginning of this story is reminiscent of Steinbeck’s novella, The Pearl. Whenever I think of that novella, I get a sinking feeling. It was so depressing (and did not end with a casa grande) – Yet, I still wonder if this real-life fisherman’s story might have been the initial inspiration for The Pearl?

Sky-view in the casa
After we rowed to the beach, we wandered through the desert, toward the Casa and the tiny village of Timbabiche. A few small dwellings scattered about, corrals for cattle and horses, and a couple pick-up trucks, that was it. Does that make a village? Apparently, it does. The casa, was in the middle - abandoned, missing its second floor, its roof. It seemed bitter-sweet to stand inside and see the sky above.

We followed a different path back to the beach and cooled our feet in the Sea as we walked back to our dinghy. There is something in the air in Timbabiche. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wanted to hear stories about the past inhabitants of the Casa Grande and about the villagers who no longer fish for pearls. Yet the place was eerily quiet, and so were we.

Heading back toward the water
A panga at rest

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