Dec 26, 2011

Puerto Los Cabos Where Great Art and Good Food Meet

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
Roger Staubach 

Roundabout at entrance of Puerta Los Cabos
Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo only 15 miles from Cabo San Lucas but seemingly eons away. The marina is spotless with gorgeous xeriscape (there is also a cactus farm just around the corner) all around dotted with beautiful artwork from surrealist Leonora Carrington, an artist who died a short while ago at the age of 94 and who befriended people such as Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst. Pictured below is myself sitting on one of her sculptures.

Cactus farm
Leonora Carrington's Horse Ride sculpture
For the same price we paid for anchoring in noisy, bumpy Cabo San Lucas, we are quietly docked in this safe marina. The winds are persisting and upwards of 23 knots but we are faring much better than other sailors in La Paz and other places on the East side of Baja where we had planned on being by now. We are thankful we are here rather than experiencing 40 knot winds at anchor. Since the weather is also cold (for here only 59-75 instead of 65-85), we decided we would stay a little while to let yet another cold front run its course. We had planned on going north towards Los Frailes, La Paz and Santa Rosalia but if it does not warm up we will go towards Mazatlan and South when we leave here possibly in mid-January.

First day here we were welcomed by the sailors we have bumped into along the way. They had waited for us to celebrate someone’s birthday the night before but the winds didn’t favor us arriving until dawn.

We walked to “old San Jose” with its town square (Zocolo) which is very quaint and colorful but affected by the slow economy. Since 2008 tourism has really slowed down around this area and several places are closed. We met with locals and the theme seems to be to have 2-3 jobs to make ends meet: Interior designer also working at an art gallery and attending Saturday Farmer’s Market for example.

A long bridge spanning an estuary leads you to town. That area is very green and inhabited with horses, cows carrying bells around their necks, white herons or cranes, mules, and stray dogs. They seem to each live in their respective niches and do not bother each other.

Christmas ads are not as heavily imposed on everyone as in the US, although holiday theme songs and decorations are present, thankfully, they do not take over all other Mexican elements. Most stores are open on Christmas day and several people are working.

Each Thursday evening is an art walk – we attended for the first time the other night. There is a vast array of styles from crafts to true world renowned art. Mexican art is rich in weavings, embroideries, colorful paintings, while the crafts have more to do with religious symbolism of decorated crosses and Madonnas, baskets, small musical instruments, knife sheaths, and paper art from various tree barks/fibers, etc. Mexican amber (much less known than amber from other parts of the world) and fiery opals are prevalent in the local jewelry designs.

Each Saturday morning is an organic farmers' market (not always easy to find in Mexico but the awareness of such products is expanding) obviously catered to the tourists. No Mexicans come here to purchase goods. Good variety of produce, cheeses, tamales, etc can be found but certainly at a tourist price rather than local pricing.

We visited the small hilly town overlooking the marina (La Playita), composed mostly of shacks and very small businesses along unkempt dirt roads. Many have for sale signs and are waiting to be bought out by the marina as it expands although that has slowed down a bit with the ‘recession’. The contrast between these shacks built as the money comes in (a few rebars and concrete blocks at a time) and the multi-millions $ vessels in the marina is huge. Some shacks are made of corrugated steel; others where cinder blocks are missing have these holes patched up with T-shirts, palm leaves, cardboard, etc. Many have missing windows but with such mild weather it doesn’t seem to matter much.

Roosters, chickens, and cats roam the streets sometimes chased by kids but in the heat of the day they are mostly left alone. Dogs are all curious about Nikki – the new girl in town. Roosters are heard from the boat every morning - - - feels like we are in the countryside.

One of the many signs to another Mini-Super
For such a small area, possibly only 12 square blocks, there are probably 15-20 mini markets (also called mini-super). I don’t know how each survives but they seem to do ok. There you can get some basics like eggs, water, milk, dry meat, handmade tortillas with hand written labels, a few types of fruits and vegetables and of course beer and other drinks. Four to five restaurants are located at the edge of town nearest the marina. They also offer liquor, free wi-fi access in their attempt to lure the few customers roaming around.

Virgin altar
We visited Ali’s Restaurant the other night because it advertised they spoke French as well as a couple of other languages. As it turns out, the owner (you guessed it: Ali) is a Berber from Algeria who has been here since 1974. Africa meets Mexico.  Visiting him that night was a French chef who has had restaurants in Mexico for nearly 20 years and a Canadian of German origin who has spent each winter in Mexico for the past 30 years. Although not technically true locals/Mexicans, they have each been here long enough to know the area quite well so it was nice to chat with them for an evening. Great stories were shared and we were invited for free coffee the next morning. I asked the European chef why we haven’t seen Europeans in Cabo and he said most Europeans go to Cancun as it is a 6-8 hours shorter flight to that area.

We have ‘filled-up’ with what seems to be taken for granted when you are connected to the grid: water, propane, and soon some gas; have purchased some provisions but still working on that before heading to more remote areas.

Pangas trying to sell their fresh fish bait
Very early in the morning I finally figured out what the pangas do at dawn. They hurry up to catch small fish as fresh bait that they try to sell to the large fishing boats as they leave the marina. Sometimes 3-4 pangas jostle for attention around the larger boats. It makes for very interesting maneuvering to watch and of course several birds intermix, trying to get a free bite as well.

The main modes of transportations are buses and taxis. To go to town, a bus gets you there for about 75 cents/person, a taxi for 6 people, $5.00 for the same distance. It is quite cheap but you do have to request pricing before accepting the ride.

Meeting sailors from Australia, New Zealand, Holland, and the usual west coasters. Some have no fridge so we are picking their brains as to how to survive without one as it seems to be the largest energy hog on the boat. The further south you go, the more it uses energy.

All sailors had a great pot-luck on Christmas day. We used Ali’s restaurant and invited him and his friends to partake in the meal for which they were grateful. Invited also was one of the marina staff working that day. Mike and he chatted for a while and this gentleman used to live/work in the US but with the slow economy there, he moved back here to earn a living while his family is still in the US. He earns about $1100/month – a pittance if you have to support your family up north. He still however seems very grateful to have employment. A main criterion to be hired is to know English. The brewpub we went to the other night also featured ads for hires that required 70% knowledge of English to get a job…

Clever Boat Names: Dream Ketcher, Jobsite…

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