a water-filled week on the Sea of Cortez

21 Jan: Just after we got back to sleep in the early morning hours on a Mexican beach, Ginni woke us up to paddle. We paddled only half as far as she’d hoped – only to “Bird Poop Island”, covered with white, as one would expect, and emitting frequent chirps and squawks in the predawn light. Bioluminescence that has swarmed around our paddle strokes faded by the time we reached the island. Even fish gliding in the deep had been visible in the still black waters. The sky was beginning to lighten as we turned tail to it and began our return trip. On the mountains in front of us, shadows began to appear. Periodic glances over our shoulders revealed a mellowly beautiful sunrise sporting peach-colored wisps of clouds scattered on a deep blue pallet that lightened toward the horizon.

Two storks glided past only inches above the rolling surface of the water, gliding up occasionally to flap their wings, then returning to skimming along the swells. A sea lion poked her head up to look at us. Then a turtle followed suit. Boobies (birds) glided overhead. Two tiny points pricked the surface then disappeared. Two sets of points showed a moment later then disappeared. A group of mobulas, cousins to the manta ray, were feeding on plankton just below the surface.

It was a beautiful morning. We spent the day in town doing errands. Just another developing country small town with its partly finished buildings.

27 Jan: On the way home already! Amazing how fast that time went.

Day 2 (21 Jan): After the errands, we had dinner on the beach with Ginni – soup around a fire. Sandi and I slept in the tent on the beach again.

Day 3 (22 Jan): We awoke with the sun again after a decent night’s sleep and ran about 4 miles around Ligui and the harbor being built. By 9am we were packing kayaks, and on the water by a little after 11am. Amazing how much junk one can fit in the hatches of kayaks!

Aunt Dorothy picked up paddling quickly, sharing a boat with Mom. Dad and Ginni paddled singles. We saw the tips of mobulas’ “wings”, a type of ray that glides just beneath the surface, occasionally poking its wingtips above the surface. Other times, they leaped with abandon high out of the water, flapping their wings as they flew. The weaker leaps ended in a tail slide back into the water. The best leaps resulted in a resounding slap of a flat belly flop. It seemed to be a game of highest leap and flattest landing. It went on sporadically through the night and into the early morning, seranading us with “slaps” at random intervals.

We lunched on fresh shrimp and veggies on Honeymoon Beach on Danzante before crossing to C Island and the lighthouse beach. Caves provided protection from the drizzle as we dined in the fading daylight. We slept that night better than we’d slept in a long time.

Day 4 (23 Jan) Ginni paddled back to her truck for forgotten sunglasses, returning beneath a rainbow just after sunrise. It had taken her less than 3 hours to cover twice the distance we had paddled the entire preceding day!

Morning brought relaxation then snorkeling. Afternoon and low tide invited a hike, despite the heat and blazing sun. Sally Lightfoot crabs scrambled away at our approach. We traversed the beach Ginni had planned to camp on, then hiked up for a good view all around. Whales passed noisily by on the far side of the deep channel.

Several of us continued on to a cave then up to the Indian well, a 4-foot wide, about 10-foot deep round hole built to collect water after rains. Several trees shaded it in the narrow passage of the arroyo. We traversed the desert plain direct back to the beach in effort to sooner escape the heat. A quick swim/snorkel was in order upon our return. We dined that evening in the shade of tall rocks, serenaded by a swarm of honey bees and wasps. Stars appeared in force that night.

Day 5 (24 Jan): Darkness shrouded our departure in two doubles and Ginni’s single. We reached the end of Baja Point before the sun broached the horizon. Ginni took tons of great pictures in the fresh morning light. We also paddled into the cave we had hiked into the day before. Ah, the wonder of tides!

We packed up to return to Danzante for lunch on one beach and camping on a second. Wind and waves began to appear, a new phenomenon to us. En route to the second beach, Aunt Dorothy was the first to recognize the natural arch in the rock. Twenty feet high above the rocky ground, the arch stood just above high tide, which allowed us to hike to it in low tide that afternoon. Other times, we just admired it from our beach and from the top of the hike we took the following day. Both mornings on that beach we all admired the sunrise from the security of our tents.

The sun disappeared early because of the cliff behind the beach, and Ginni gave us a quick tutorial on the basic constellations, star names and planets. As I got up to use the bathroom throughout the night, I watched the stars now equipped with names march across the sky.

Day 6 (25 Jan): Breakfast was accompanied by a rendition of “Happy Anniversary” led by Sandi. Mom and Dad exchanged cards.

Parvin and Klaus’ visited unexpectedly. What a treat to meet more of Ginni’s friends and hear about their tales and lives.

We hiked to an overlook above our beach, ducking below the circling turkey vultures. Sandi and I continued to the far side of the island down a well-marked trail complete with signs designative types of plants. A quick dip cooled us off for the steep return hike.

Again, we swam/snorkeled to cool off in the afternoon sun. After dinner, the stars appeared again in similar positions as the previous night and we dozed off amidst the lulling crash of the waves.

Day 7 (26 Jan): Breakfast this morning was accompanied by “Happy Birthday” to Aunt Dorothy and Mom. We joked repeatedly about the age they claim to be and songs about the ages of various people in our group. After a great oatmeal breakfast, we packed up for the paddle home. A fishing boat stopped by to warn of impending weather. We thanked them profusely and continued stuffing stuff in hatches.

The trip around the southern point of Danzante was exciting with wind in our faces and decent waves in the tide race. At least they were head-on waves!

We cut the trip short and made for the nearest shore, hoping to hitch a ride with Klaus and Parvin. But when they were out, Ginni raced back at more than twice the speed we had held and successfully re-routed the taxi to the beach we were lunching on.

Ginni carefully loaded everything into the truck so that it all fit, hoisted the kayaks to the roof rack, and returned to the hotel for a long, warm shower after washing much of the gear and tucking it away in the “bodega”.

Dinner was at Pedro’s place in a deserted harbor still under construction. We constituted six of his eight customers for the evening. The hot tub, unfortunately, was out of order. Several folks stopped in to use the internet, however, so we met a few more of Ginni’s acquaintances, everyone of whom seemed to really enjoy her.

Day 8 (27 Jan): Amazing how we slept better in the tent than in a king size bed! Nevertheless, we rose early to run and hike to the cross atop the hill behind the hotel. From the top, we could see Ginni’s tent site on Rattlesnake Beach and the remains of an airport at the foot of the hill. How cool would it be to fly into there! The harbor also spread before us, dotted with sailboats.

We breakfasted, connected with the outside world via internet, cleaned stuff at the bodega, shopped at high speed for gifts for folks back home, lunched on fish tacos sitting on the airport lawn and bid Ginni farewell, marveling at how rapidly the time had passed.

Ginni caught my eye with just a hint of a tear in hers. Sandi’s also were moist. I hesitated long enough that she saw her look reflected in my eyes, then turned away to the screening machine. It was probably the closest we have ever been…

Donna Douglass
27 Jan 09

One response to “a water-filled week on the Sea of Cortez”

  1. Great story! Keep running. Karen ran (tho quite a bit slower than you, I’m sure) up until 3 weeks before the birth of our first.

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