Aug 1, 2013

Isla Carmen, the Other Side

Tourists don't know where they've been,
Travelers don't know where they're going.
Paul Theroux 

Delicate 5 petal yellow and red flower
Going north on the Baja side, we decide to visit the East and North sides of Isla Carmen this time around.  Last year we were on the West side a couple of times, one of them when hurricane Paul came through on October 16th, and were safe in Puerto Balandra.  The East and North sides offer: Bahia Cobre (Copper Bay), Painted Cliffs, V Cove, and La Lancha.

Find the white color lizard
Each one of these bays/coves is strikingly rugged and coarse, the kind of beauty we have come to appreciate and enjoy.

Rugged landscape surrounding our floating villa...  We look so little...
We slowly make our way to Isla Carmen’s Bahia Cobre.  The guidebook’s description is of a picturesque anchorage.  Probably named Copper Bay for the light green jagged rock outcroppings in a couple of sections, the place is craggy and beautiful.  The beach is of reddish brown sand so we make sure we go early mornings and late evening when it is in the shade; it keeps the heat much more than the usual white sandy beaches of this area.
Desert big horn sheep marking its territory after it encountered us.
On one of our hikes, we follow a dry stream bed until it cliffs out then we pursue what we thought were goat tracks.  We see hoof prints and many pellets.  We notice some pellets are fresh so we are on the lookout for an animal nearby.  We are so busy looking down at the pellets and tracks that we nearly ran into a desert big horn sheep, the actual owner of the hoof prints we’d just been following.  Judging by the size of his horns, he was quite young but looked very healthy.  He was about 50-75 feet from us, a rare thing for these animals are very skittish.  By the time we were able to get the camera out to show you what we saw, he’d already gone on the top of a ridge 300 feet away.  Once at the top, he took time to look at us, then proceed to mark his territory, the only time we were able to zoom-in to take a picture. 
The desert big horn sheep are hunted and bred to populate other areas in need of new blood.  Isla Carmen provides some specimens to other areas of Baja California and Mexico.  It was amazing to be able to run into one in the wild, something very few people get to experience.
We also saw white colored lizards, hares, and a new flower to us:  five yellow petals with a red center. 
Swiss cheese?
We have not spoken to anyone since leaving Topolobampo on the mainland side.  Even though we are close to Loreto, a sizable town, we have been alone at anchor each night.  It is the end of the season and most folks have gone ‘home’ or have headed further north already, which we will also be doing soon.

Raw landscape
Green and red cliffs - copper and ???
We visit Painted Cliffs cove by kayak – we find it not as interesting a place as Bahia Cobre but worth a look anyway.  The next day, we leave Copper Bay after a small rain shower kicks off the morning.  A rainbow glows faintly above the rim of the island’s ridge.  Eight miles further, we are neatly tucked in a place called V Cove, where only 1 or 2 boats can fit.  We see anything from 3 to 28 knots of wind but there is no fetch so we don’t experience wave action.  We are here for a couple of days since high winds are forecasted to last that long; possible remnant of a hurricane SW of Cabo San Lucas.  The winds are helping cool things down and make it a little challenging to kayak to shore, but we manage.  We see 79F in the cabin and 68F in the water – much better than the 94F and 88F we have seen lately.

More green/copper rock formation
No pictures could possibly illustrate the true beauty this place has when seen in real life.  Heavy blackened blocks of limestone tumbled at the base of pure white delicate cliffs bordered by light green or mauve rocks.  Tall and smooth white sand dune flanked abruptly by dark gray volcanic rock on one side and pure green vines on the other.  Soft limestone crisscrossed with hard lines at its surface, some of them so sharp, they can cut you.  Rocks so hard no sound are emitted when we walk on them yet others so delicate they sound like the tinkling of breaking glass when merely touched.  A flat mesa nearly barren of plants cut by deep narrow canyons so full of desert fauna one could not possibly walk through.  Tall overhangs tower over sea caves from which one can hear anything from tiny droplets to loud gushes and sprays of water. 

Nikki's prints in the beautiful sand
Sunset behind rock with human profile...
We find a road to Salinas about 4.5-5 miles away – we are nearly there when suddenly a couple of people come by in a backhoe to let us know this is private property and we cannot go further.  The Salinas salt flats are no longer used and the guidebooks say we can visit if we ask nicely but it just wasn’t the case for us.  It was still a very nice walk away from the boat but we don’t have pictures of the pure white salt crystals edging the old ponds…  The road we followed is not in the guidebook, not sure anyone knows about it.  We may have just lucked out in finding it. 
Mike and Nikki exiting one of the many caves
More kayaking for Mike and Nikki - the life!
We kayaked to La Lancha, the bay next to V Cove – it’s an arduous ride with many wind gusts over 15 knots.  Again, the geology is magnificent but we don’t feel the need to anchor here since there is no beach for Nikki to run on.  We now know what the place entails, should we want to be back. 

Four fishermen in a panga in the shade of one of the caves.  
They were there for half a day.
Our next destination will be the area of Loreto where we will be able to provision and be ready for our trek north winds permitting.  Winds, other than during the two days we spent in V Cove, have been nearly non-existent, making it a little hotter and difficult for us to move around. 

Don't you just love the color of the water!
Sand dune with green vines on one side and dark lava rocks on other
End of the road - boat in background 
Returning 'home'

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