Jul 18, 2012

Puerto Balandra, Time to Snorkel

When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.
Anais Nin 

Where the desert meets the Sea of Cortez
After a slow sail getting out of Puerto Escondido, we glided some waves at 8 knots, having to slow Déjàlà down a little before arriving at Puerto Balandra. We are in another beautiful anchorage, this time at the north end of Isla Carmen.

Calcareous formation - somewhat resembling corals
Calcareous formation - somewhat resembling stalactites
The hills surrounding us go from pure white (calcite or gypsum?) with stalactite/coral-like formations to the dark orange of pumice stones, from the stripes of green serpentines to the pink of soft rocks veined with deep purple along with the dark charcoal of some volcanic extrusions. The desert here is extremely rich. Plants are abundant for such a parched area and many have exquisite aromas of sage, camphor, myrrh, or various resins.
Mangrove area near anchorage on way to salt ponds
Hello cardon!
Cardon fuzzy 'fruits'
Cardon and Mike
Difference between cardon and saguaro?
Saguaro only has arms coming from main trunk
Cardon has arms coming from main trunk and 
branching from other arms just like a tree
Looks like Organ Pipe cactus but not sure
Ooze from Torote Blanco tree - it smells very resinous
Snorkeling allowed us to see many colorful fish; we are finally part of the aquarium instead of being only the observers thanks to the warm waters… Deep purplish-brown fish with purple eyes, black ones with electric blue heads, brown ones with white dots, orange and green or black and yellow striped ones, etc. Rays, red molting crabs, hermit crabs, and starfish are common. For the fishermen and old timers coming for another visit, they lament that there are few fish left to see in the Sea of Cortez, they have experienced what over-fishing has done to the area. To us, newbies, it seems like quite the bounty still. In our meanderings we also see the remains of a steel boat buried near the beach – not sure what its history has to say.

Back view of Mr. Crab
Side view of Mr. Crab
Front view of Mr. Crab
Interesting greenish star fish (Heliaster) - 23 arms.  Estrella del Mar in Spanish
Mature individuals have between 19 and 25 arms
Nikki comes swimming with us. She found a new passion for chasing crabs instead of lizards. The swimming is easy, the coming out of the water isn’t. With fur as long as hers, she weighs a ton when she comes out of the sea’s buoyancy and it is difficult for her to walk around until she shakes the water loose. It is rather comical to see her wobble out but it is good exercise for the mutt…

Salt ponds to left, Salinas anchorage to right
Salt ponds
Collared dove
Seed pods changing color
Other type of seed pods rustling in the wind
Green seed pods with 'skirts'
There are quite a few trails around the area. We follow one all the way across the island to some salt ponds. The changes in topography help keep it interesting in the heat of the day. From deep ochre rocks dotted with caves to crunchy pumice stones we mostly follow a riverbed full of small stones and few boulders. We watch a hawk circling overhead, buzzards playing in the air currents, doves resting on high branches, and a hare hopping about. When we reach the summit overlooking the other side of the island and the salt ponds, a very strong breeze cools us before we head back down.

Remains of goat in cave
On the way back we climb up to check out the largest cave we see only to find the remains of a fairly new carcass of a goat. Why do animals (as humans) like to hide in caves to die? No sign of bats here either – we keep looking everywhere we go – we miss seeing bats. On the way back, just before reaching the mangrove at the edge of the beach we see the remains of a house foundation, a water trough, another wall. Not sure if at one time someone raised animals on the island before it became a park. All we know from reading about this area is that they still hunt desert bighorn sheep at times. I just don’t know where these animals find water to survive on. This area has been plagued with 3 straight years of drought and it shows. Many cacti are near death or sacrificing some arms, to give other arms a better chance to survive. Many other plants are struggling. Despite this however, we still see plants blooming in expectation of the approaching ‘monsoon/rainy’ season of the next couple of months. There are many trees covered with pods filled with seeds rustling in the winds – plants are forever optimists…

Greenish and purple stones
Walking back to the dinghy and to the boat
Heron waiting for dinner
One evening provides us a bright full moon rising while the sun is setting on the other side of the bay; another great day becomes night. July 4th is the anniversary of Mike and I meeting for the first time. This is a great way to celebrate having been together 23 years!

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