Thursday, 29 November 2012

now we're really up the creek

Looking out toward the Sea of Cortez
As the crow flies, it wasn't very far. We did have to walk through swarms of mosquitoes at first. We then had to scale unseemly boulders to get past the first pretty waterfall.

Walking down the dirt road toward the canyon
I'm talking about the Tabor Canyon hike near Puerto Escondido. (This canyon is also referred to as the Steinbeck Canyon.) We set out from the marina one sunny morning, accompanied by our friends Trisha and Derrick (SV Interabang). To get to the canyon, you must first walk about a mile down the road to Highway 1. Cross the highway, and follow a dirt road for about a half a mile. (To the left of the dirt road, next to the highway, you will notice a power station.) This is where the mosquitoes begin feasting on you. A good repellent is a must! (It was particularly true in our case, because of the somewhat recent rainfall due to hurricane Paul.) Eventually, the dirt road meets a river bed, and you follow the river bed. At one point, Trisha and I began to hear water rushing underfoot. We stared down at the dry riverbed in amazement. We both laughed nervously, as we began to walk a little more quickly. Eventually we saw evidence of water. And the rocks grew larger. The canyon walls rose high, and we oohed and aahed our way in.

The first waterfall
We reached the first waterfall and pondered how to get over it to continue our hike. At that point, our buddies decided to call it quits, and head back to Puerto Escondido. Rick and I scrambled up the boulders next to the waterfall. Thank goodness, someone had set up a rope partway up. As we reached the top, we looked ahead, we could see the riverbed meandering up between towering cliffs, ringed with palm trees and green shrubs. The landscape was striking.

Rick climbing past the first waterfall

Nature in its Mexican glory
As we negotiated the rocky terrain, the hike just kept getting better, water rushed by us, butterflies teemed around us, and the sun was shining. The river was already beginning to dry up when we were there – we noted areas that had only recently dried out. Yet, there was still plenty of water, including waterfalls and shallow pools. We hiked to a lovely multi-layered waterfall, with a nice pool at the bottom. We had read somewhere that you had to go through a crevasse to continue on – we couldn’t find it, and after much climbing and crawling, we wondered if some of the boulders had blocked the passage during the intense rainfall. (The rock we had to get past was some 30 feet high.) While Rick found a tricky way to get by, he suggested we hang out there for a while and then head back, which is what we did. We both braved the chilly waters, albeit briefly, and enjoyed lunch to the sound of water spilling over smooth rocks, before making our way back to the Sea.

Another view of the Sea

This looked more striking in real-life, the
boulder on the right-hand side rose up about
30 feet.

Rick, cooling off his toes

Tired muscles, a couple scrapes, and only a few mosquito bites later, we arrived back at  the highway. A pair of friendly young Mexicans offered us a ride , and we gladly accepted. 

This hike was one for the books. We highly recommend it.

Happy hikers
Tabor Canyon: A magical place

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

embracing my inner voyager

A different kind of nature from the PNW

What is it like to leave everything behind? I could give you a stock answer. It’s freeing. It is an occasion to start fresh. It is a chance to try new things. Certainly, it includes some of the above, but it is more complex than that.

On the practical side, we left an art studio, a marine services business, our loving families, and a tight-knit group of friends, (most of who have come to see us in Mexico). The closest I have ever come to have roots anywhere, is Victoria. Yet, in all the years I lived there, I never could shake the desire to travel to parts unknown.

Growing up, other than family visits to France and the rare road trip, my exposure to traveling came in the form of narratives from visiting missionaries. My catholic parents befriended missionaries who would entertain us children with stories about their lives abroad. Descriptions of the tropical heat and unbelievably giant bugs, a tale about pigs holding court in a church, and anecdotes about cultural misunderstandings, sparked my initial thirst for adventure.

At the age of 8, my teacher asked us to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew myself as a missionary. When my parents asked me why, I clearly remember saying: “So that I can travel around the world and learn to speak other languages.” At the time, it was the only way I knew how to justify exploring this planet we call Earth. I personally find it funny that it had nothing to do with any kind of religious conviction. As an adult, I don't believe in imposing religious beliefs on anyone. But, to this day, I have always connected with my early desire for inter-cultural exchanges. I simply endeavour to observe, respect, and learn.

Sailing in the northern Sea of
I like to think of voyaging as welcoming the unknown. I’m not just giving things up or leaving things behind; I’m opening myself up to receiving. Of course, sometimes I wish I could be back in Victoria with my posse, enjoying “boat nights”, working on some crazy art project, or going on midnight bike rides. Yes, I miss the holidays, when we reveled in the chaotic and messy joys of family and stuffed ourselves with food and stories. I miss hikes and jam sessions with my long-time friends on Quadra Island. I miss the Moss Street market. I miss my studio. I miss coffee shops and art galleries. I miss the beauty of Canada’s west coast.

While I hold all that dear, I am also embracing new people, different adventures, varying landscapes, and telling and hearing new stories. I am challenged here. I am discovering different facets of myself I had not previously known. In the year I have been away, I have mourned, celebrated, and struggled. I have surprised myself, and disappointed myself. From afar, I have let go of some relationships, while finding renewed intimacy in others. At times, I have felt terribly lonely, yet I have also known indescribable joy. Not bad, for just over one year of voyaging.

So how does it feel to leave everything behind? The question should be how it feels to live a life of passion and adventure. It’s messy, it’s fulfilling, it’s complicated.

And sometimes, it feels just right.

Sun rises, night falls. Sometimes the sky calls. Is there a song there? And do I belong there? I’ve never been there, but I know the way. – Gonzo, “The Muppet Movie”

Sunday, 25 November 2012

indulging in the visuals

Just another smattering of photos from Isla Danzante.

Aiming for the top

Bright colours make my day

Beautiful waters...

Yes, cacti are alive and well

Partway up the hill  (Nyon is in the background)
This one drew my attention

Sitting on top of the world, err, the hill - and feeling happy

Tiny Nyon down below

Friday, 23 November 2012

under its spell

Anchoring in Honeymoon Cove: We had a welcoming
committee, do you see them?
We love dolphins

A thousand nautical miles and five months ago, we were here. Right here at Isla Danzante (Dancer Island). We have completed the loop, and have now rejoined a familiar path that will lead us back to La Paz.

Rick and I loved this island before, and we love it now. Sure the beaches are rocky, and jumping in the water takes your breath away at this time of year, but its appeal has not diminished for us. We’re not exactly sure what it is. This is the kind of island one wanders across in the early morning hours. It buzzes with the sounds of insects and the yelps of hikers, (or should I say one hiker in particular, when she accidentally became intimate with a prickly bush). Did I mention that there are a lot more plants here since our last visit?

Early morning light
A lovely shade of blue
I had been feeling out of sorts for a couple of weeks. A little bit blue. Rick and I have not been feeling particularly social lately, yet I was still trying to be. I like people after all. However, when our friends scampered away to their next planned destinations. We stayed put and decided to hang out, just the two of us. It’s been a long while since we have been alone. We loved buddy-boating this summer, but sometimes, too much of a good thing is just too much. We are still trying to figure out just the right balance. We're just not very good at it yet. Since we decided to spend a little more time here, on our own, I have felt my mood shift for the better. 

Spidery home
Snorkeling here is no longer a 3-hour affair. We’re lucky if we last an hour. The water is decidedly cool. Rick is more determined than I am to go in the water. I had to rescue him with hot tea and blankets after a particularly bad case of the shivers. He is on the lookout for a used wet-suit. I hope we find him one soon, because this water baby likes to hang out with the fishes and would be lost if he got stuck above water for too long.

Today, my legs and arms are sore, not from hiking up the nearby hill, but from two wipe-outs over loose rocks and a close encounter with that bush and its one-inch long needles. Don’t fret: I only suffered a few minor flesh wounds. I’m told it builds character or something like that. But I know that’s just the side-effect of Kyras going on hikes. When we arrived at the top, we relished the beautiful view, while quietly chatting and counting grasshoppers. (Photos in next post.)

Yep, this island has put a spell on us. And we don't want to break it.

Enjoying the early morning hours

The sun is warming the island up, as morning

Beautiful, in a prickly way

ballandra, it's you again!

We love Ballandra. It's an anchorage on Isla Carmen. Undoubtedly, our friend John likes it even more than we do. (Last summer, he stayed there far longer than any other sailor I know.) We enjoyed another side of Ballandra - we don't last long snorkeling these days, so we hike. Following are photos from our meanderings on the island. (Warning: There are many boring flower photos. Sorry, I can't help it.)

Time Piece in an artsy moment

Lovely lushness

Nyon, looking good

The guys lead the way

Pretty flower

I like butterflies

The obligatory self-portrait

Another lovely flower
The ruins of an abode built in 1921. (Rick couldn't help saying
"Kyra, are we on the show "Lost"?)

See? I told you so

Nice view from inside the house

More greenery, and caves! Many caves!

He's had better days...
(Findings in a cave)

I like the colour

Looking inland from the beach, after the hike

Saturday, 17 November 2012

the hills are alive

We have been amazed at the greenery we have found upon our return to the Baja coast. A few months ago, everything looked dusty, and beige. I love flowers, plants, greenery. I got my fix.

View of the south end San Juanico

Purple poppies! So pretty

The boys (Thirteen year-old Nick joined us for our
walk in the hills)

Friday, 16 November 2012

home sweet boat

Enjoying a warm afternoon on the beach
The Sea of Cortez feels different. Or maybe it is I that has changed. When I think about it, we both have. Now that it is mid-November, the air is obviously cooler and the northers have begun nosing their way into the Sea. As I am writing this, the skies are overcast and the wind is blowing hard. (Mind you, there are still mostly warm and sunny days.)

I am sitting at the table, holding my favourite mug, steaming with warm goodness. When the weather is cool, I drink what my mother calls “kinder tea” – children’s tea: black tea with milk and sugar. On the stereo Mumford and Sons’ new album is playing – Rick is off fishing, so I have it turned way up. I like to fill the cabin with their music. This moment reminds me of winter days in Victoria, when our cozy cabin was a haven from the cold and grey. That was home, and so is this.

What I’m realizing is strangely how at home I feel wherever I am now. The idea of home has become more about a state of mind than an actual place. While the boat gives me a sense of familiarity and comfort, I welcome whatever sights I see out of my portholes as I wash the dishes in the galley. It doesn’t matter where I am. When I’m aboard Nyon, I am home. Before Nyon, I had never spent more than 4 years in one residence. It’s been 5 years since we have moved aboard. It took an itinerant dwelling for me to stay put.

November in the Sea also feels different because there are far more boats around. Winter is the busy season here. When we first arrived in San Juanico there were quite a few boats there. They left. Another influx came by, and they quickly went away too. We are now at our third influx of boats. We don’t know most of them. The intimacy of summer (even if it’s just recognizing a boat name,) has gone away with the accompanying intense heat. It is taking me some time getting used to the crowds, or as John puts it, to: “Being back on the highway.”

Taking the dinghy for a walk - rowing along
the beach, we came across a sand bar.
No problem
Yet, San Juanico is worth every minute we have spent here. The waters are very clear, and in spite of the stinging jelly fishes, we couldn’t be kept out of the cooling waters. We’ve eaten well, and we’ve played well. We did hunker down for a day or so, when those northerlies came whipping by. It wasn’t much of a bother, except for when we decided to hike in the nearby hills. That day, the forecast called for diminishing winds in the afternoon, but when it was time to return to the boat, the winds had built to 25 knots. Rick was exhausted from rowing back and forth all the way to the boat, as we were unable to make headway rowing straight into the wind. It’s only in these rare moments that we think an outboard wouldn’t be so bad after all…

Yes, he's wearing long-sleeves
Gab fest and fire poking

The changing seasons in the Sea, have brought about a new obsession: Bonfires. The evenings are cool enough to light a fire, and sit around its proffered heat as the sky fills with stars. Interabang started it. They reminded us of the joys of beach fires by organizing more than one while in San Juanico. The only lament is that Mexican marshmallows are just weird and I miss roasting marshmallows. There, I said it.

Troublemakers, all of 'em
(L to R: Rick, Derrick, Trisha, John)

Card games and gab sessions have been the rigueur with the Interabang and Time Piece crews. Life has been pleasantly full and relaxed at the same time… We are in no rush to leave.

Cake - Just because
(Trisha - SV Interabang, John - SV Time Piece)


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