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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Es-cape-ing Reality

On top of the Cerro looking South from Cabo Fraile

It was tough to say goodbye to our acoustically ideal spot but we wanted to get out to calmer waters and more spear fishing. We left our burned out Villa and set our sights on more bumpy roads, clunking along the washboard, hurricane washed out, East Cape Road towards Cabo Fraile. 
 Motoring past more massive mansions, separated by idyllic hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we continued to spot whales breathing in the distance, sometimes pointing their flukes skyward and diving deep for scrumptious mouthfuls of krill. 

East Cape Road going towards Cabo Fraile
Cabo Fraile is a large crescent bay accented by a large cerro or hill on the South side. The middle of the arroyo was filled with campers staying for varying times. We went to the center heading down a road that looked promising. A multitude of fisherman surrounded a small cocina, or kitchen where a garrulous fellow tried to convince me that I needed a shark jawbone for 20 pesos. While it might have made a nice headplate for Arnold Marshawn Beast, I politely declined as we really didn’t need it. The boys spread out looking for camping and we found a secluded area with some beautifully shaded spots on the south side of the arroyo.

A nice couple from Michigan informed us that the price was free and the only rule was that dogs were not allowed. The rancher who apparently owns the land finds that dogs attract wild dogs and those feral dogs kill his calves! We decided not to tell them about Josh and thanked them for lending us a pail to pull up water from a local well

After lunch James and I jumped out in the bay with the Hawaiian Sling intent on bringing home dinner; food supplies were running low and we needed some protein. Luckily, with a national marine preserve to our South the waters were teeming with fish. James struck first putting the spear through a mystery fish, edible and good according to local fisherman but unidentifiable by our fish booklet. We happened upon a school of lisa and James went to work spearing fish whilst I held the fish against the sandy bottom while James dived down and put our dive knife through the top of the heads or through the gills with a twist. 

The fish were as wiggly as could be so we had to work in close synchronicity to make sure we secured our speared fish. Switching roles for a time, I took the spear and dove even with the school of lisa, around 8 ft down and waited patiently slowly swimming up to the school and shooting into their midst. 

First shot, one miss, second shot, another miss, third shot, yet another miss, finally on my sixth or seventh sling, I hit a fish! I was not prepared for the quick wiggle as the fish shot off the spear and rejoined the school. I patiently dove again finally spearing the midsection of a fish and pinning it to the sandy bottom. James dove down to secure the kill and we added her to our home fashioned creel, a nylon rope piece with an old hose clamp tied to the end. Makeshift but effective, we hauled our load out of the water and onto shore. James resumed hunting while I presided over our catch, shooing off persistent seagulls and pesky pelicans. 

The catch

Eventually we had plenty of fish, six lisa and one unidentified grouper and we returned to camp de-scale our catch and filet them. As we started filleting, Doug and company cruised into camp in a beautiful van outfitted for anything. High clearance, solar panel on top, pop top, massive black PVC pipe shower tank on one side, and tons of space to boot made the rig one of our dreams. James and I jealously eyed the van while Doug jumped out to check out the fish. He mentioned that he was looking for some friends and he loved fish. He got out his identification book to help us figure our unidentifiable fish and while we failed again, an awesome conversation ensued. Doug and his family are from Ithaca, New York and are traveling indefinitely with their twoish and four year old, son and daughter respectively. They started four months ago and plan on traveling until they do not want to travel anymore. Doug's wife has her own company which somehow helps doctors navigate the world of new pharmaceutical drugs, we didn’t quite understand what she does but she is apparently able to run the company and schedule conferences from the road. When we met the family she was actually at one such conference back in the states for the week so it was just Doug and the kids, who were meeting up with some “friends” aka Doug’s mom and step-dad who were traveling in Baja with them. His parents happened to be camped right next to us. James and I ended up talking with Doug for an hour while Josh and Brian headed out to do some incredible snorkeling. We filled a bucket of saltwater with filets, to get them ready for the evening.

When Josh and Brian returned we started making dinner. We were our t of tortillas so we mixed up a fresh batch and started to roll them out when the pump on our stove went on the fritz. The leather gasket on the pump was too dry and not sealing so we started soaking it in motor oil.

While we took a break from cooking and I headed out to the beach and the classic beat of Shaggy’s “Angel” drew me over to a group of local fishermen. I felt the beat and started singing along and ended up meeting the fishermen. We bullshitted for a bit and I learned a new word, verraco, which essentially means horny young man, a good piece of slang to file away for future conversations. An arrow in my slang quiver!
Back at camp we turned the six lisa and one unidentified fish into fried fish tacos. Additionally we had cumin-thai chili spiced beans and Spanish rice along with large margaritas. We were happy campers once again.

The next day we wanted more fish so James and I headed out again with Brian. However, this time a fisherman worried for our health due to incoming fishing boats and asked us to move out of our prime fishing grounds. We thanked him and headed out to a different area which sadly lacked schools of lisa. Thus we only brought back four fish, still plenty for dinner. Feeling sun burnt and exhausted, James retired to camp whilst Josh and Brian who had been working on reorganizing the car, tightening screws in the car, and getting rid of unneeded items, went out beach golfing. I headed up the massive cerro or hill that overlooked the bay. The view from the top was astounding and I met some more awfully interesting folks, this time from Olympia and Port Townshend, Washington.
View of Cabo Fraile with an elephant tree in the foreground

On top of the Cerro
The next day we headed north to Santiago and further along to Agua Caliente only to be disappointed by the so called hot springs. This was the first time we paid to camp the entire trip and the hot springs were lukewarm at best. Despite these facts, I was secretly happy to be there as we planned on doing a small hike up the canyon into the Sierra de Laguna Mountains. I had dreamed of setting foot in these mountains because they allegedly held incredible diversity. As night fell we prepared Golden Curry, thanks to the Kusanto family in Portland! (Mama and Papa gave me the curry squares when I headed to Colorado last summer) 

We nestled in under fan palm woven shelters. A light rain fell all afternoon and we thanked the skies for tapering off as darkness fell. As the darkness came, the spiders came out. Thousands of daddy long legs spiders seemingly popped out of every nook and cranny. James became exterminator especial, smashing spiders left and right. They climbed up our legs while James claimed his extermination plan had an impact. The impact may have existed but their numbers were too great. Josh set up a hammock off the car whilst James, Brian and I set up tents to keep ourselves protected from crawling spiders. As we set up the tents a scorpion came right across the area we were planning on putting the tents. 
Rattlesnake friend

Once the tents were up, we retired to read. In the meantime a small rattle snake slithered across camp, climbing up one of our camp chairs. Whew, the gnarly poison triple threat; spiders, scorpions, and snakes!
The hike the next day exposed a staggering diversity of vegetation, we moved from cactus succulent zones, up through thorn forests and reached some stands of massive oaks- allegedly we would have hit pine forests, and eventually cottonwoods in the highest reaches had we continued. Along the river massive layers of white speckled granite dominated, surrounding layers of pressurized metamorphic rock. The granite would have been at home in Yosemite! Following the hike we headed towards La Paz where we had a ferry to catch!
Trekking up the river
Pretty, pretty
Josh the climber

Palm groves

   Elliott Finn

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