Jan 22, 2013

Back to the Jungle! The Land of Banana Chips

Happiness is when what you think, what you say,
And what you do are in harmony.

Black, white, and green rocks
We spent a very nice time in Mazatlán cleaning, restocking, visiting with friends, and resting from six months in the hot Sea of Cortez where we visited no places as large or diverse as Mazatlán (500,000 or so people).

Last time we were here, every local was gearing up for the all important Carnival (think Rio de Janeiro’s on a smaller scale), this time, about two months earlier in the year, every local is setting their sights on Solstice, Christmas and New Year.

Christmas carols in Spanish are song in the various small plazas, mostly by small smiling kids dressed in their clean pressed school uniforms. Decorations, although nearly not as abundant as in the US or Canada are present enough here and there preventing you from completely forgetting the upcoming holiday.

For us, Christmas is for kids and with the heat and no snow; it is hard to get excited about it. When asked where we’ll spend Christmas we can honestly say that we don’t know except that it will be in a nice, cozy, quiet, and warm place.

Returning to some of the same locations we had previously been to on the way south, it is the people we know we are looking forward to seeing again:
  • Bob, the fair and famous repair guy (who since then has left Mexico)
  • Gary and Lois, our hosts on an inland trip
  • Ismael the palapa owner where we had the best fish dish yet in Mexico
  • Oscar, his two year old grand-son
  • Marcel, the meat smoker
  • Miriam and Eunice, the office workers
  • The hunched over short old lady selling her precious cheese on a street corner near the plaza
  • Doña Maria, the ancient stooped one who is always smiling even though she has to sort through garbage to pick out recyclable cans to make ends meet
  • Ramon, Chayo, and Krystal, farmers in the Sierra Madres who became good friends after our short visit with them
We are quickly disappointed if some of them are not there. We are also a little saddened when some of the small businesses we had found helpful are already disbanded, only six months later but that’s the typical fast ebbing and flowing of Mexican businesses. Most new businesses last a very short while. There is little incentive to create customer loyalty or to last a long time. Easy government access to money to open businesses keep things moving for only very quick short bursts then die.

Winter solstice in Mantanchén Cove after a beautiful 36 hour sail from Mazatlán going from low 60°F in the morning to low 70°F and from 75°F water to 81°F. Now that’s the right temperatures for a winter solstice for us.

At 4 or 5 miles from shore, the depth is less than 90 feet. This area shallows far, gradually, and gently. Anchoring in less than 20 feet of water we are yet ¾ miles from shore, a long kayak trip to take Nikki out for her twice daily potty breaks but it keeps us moving and strong.

This time entering the cove, we do not encounter hundreds of pangas fishing or their numerous nets. Instead of concentrating on avoiding entanglements with nets or hitting pangas, we can concentrate on what the shoreline looks like at night. Our plan B had already been to sail away if nets were omnipresent, as in our first experience of this place, but since the bay is nearly empty of ‘traps’ we glide in quietly in the darkness of early night.

We anchor under the light of a ½ moon before it sets in the westerly sky knowing the bay is safe, very large and without rocks or reefs. We fret a little for our new radar quit working (another repair to add to the list – thankfully it’s still on warranty!) but have to remind ourselves people have sailed without for most of the history of sailing.

Only three other sailboats at anchor – two with anchor lights on – easily letting us know of their presence, one, unfortunately, without, but we were able to make him out under the night light.

We are glad to re-experience the jungle with its luxuriant greenery, intoxicating smells, countless birds, morning mystical mist and humidity, and stunning sunsets. Regrettably, it also means the return of murky waters and we already miss the clear waters of the Sea of Cortez. As well, we smell the nearly constant smoke of burning of depleted fields, old palm leaves of palapa roofing, or coconut husks to keep bugs at bay.

San Blas (town nearby) has been nicknamed ‘Bug Blas’ by people who don’t appreciate bites from the local miniature un-seeable “jejenes” that appear at dawn and dusk to feast on you when there is no wind to keep them at bay. Threats from these bugs keep ‘gringo’ tourism to a minimum but the locals don’t seem to notice. They flock here to swim, fish, picnic, or party.

Of note, Captain Norman, the eccentric/weird person every knowing sailor warns you about avoiding when sailing here has not been heard on the radio this time around. Did the new port captain have something to do with this? Unfortunately, Captain Norm had a way to negatively embellish safety and theft situations in a way that scared most cruisers from coming here. Without his constant radio reminders that “We have safety issues in San Blas” booming at regular intervals during the day; the place feels a lot more peaceful and friendly. It may be that he’s vacationing somewhere else for the holiday season – either way – we welcome HIS absence.

Christmas is indeed spent here at anchor watching life float by. Even on this holiday, a few fishermen have set their nets near the boat. They pull them in by hand bending over for each fish captured. Most of them are returned to the water and usually caught by the numerous pelicans encircling each panga in hopes of morsels heading their way. Once in a while a live fish is skillfully killed with a quick tap on the head by means of a short heavy stick or simply with a fist. Most fishermen are alone in their vessel; one is sharing this time with his son. Some are singing, one is whistling. They sometimes get close together between checking nets to exchange pleasantries. It’s all very laissez faire and friendly. We wave at them, they wave back – Feliz Nadidad (happy birth = Merry Christmas).

As a surprise and perhaps to remind me of ‘home’, I hear a loon (yes I said a loon) a little ways off. Not sure if another type of bird can sound like one but it was definitely the poignant ululating sound of a loon in the near distance. Not sure it some of them come here for the winter but I do love listening to these birds even though their sound is quite melancholic.

Time to eat some of the famous salty banana chips with hot sauce - - - they go really good with a cold drink.

Happy Solstice!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Mike & Marie,

    This is Chris & Anne-Marie (S/V) Starship. We're anchored at Punta de Mita and went to Mita's Pizza last night. Yum yum! Thanks for the recommendation. We also popped another dinghy wheel inner tube last night. If you have the room, could you bring us back 4 more of those inner tubes?

    Thanks so much!

    Looking forward to seeing you guys when you get back!
    Chris & Anne-Marie
    S/V Starship


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