Winding Down in La Cruz

More on La Cruz… because we are still here!

Cruising alone has brought us to a different place. Coming to a town where we already have a small cohort of friends who are part of the community has enriched the experience exponentially. Instead of walking through town without actually engaging anyone, I now see children I recognize from the school, or from the afternoon English classes in Octopus’s Garden, where locals 5 to 50 and maybe more take lessons from permanent and temporary ex-pat locals. I cannot really say enough about how different it feels here because of this new connection; whether it’s me or the town remains to be seen. 

I remember reading one book when I was just starting to explore the idea of offshore cruising. In it the author described spending a lot of time in the Caribbean, and learning the importance of getting to know the locals. Taking cooking classes from women in their own homes, searching out the families who had the best produce and were happy to sell, learning the words for the things you needed and wanted to talk about… the best experiences were the deepest, when one explored beyond the gringo stores and restaurants, and took the time to be participants rather than observers.

It’s hard… we are generally not outgoing people, and although I understood at a cerebral level the benefits of getting really involved, my gut told me that it was easier to hang back and just watch.

Which is why coming to La Cruz became so important to me. I have friends here… they are very involved with the community. Knowing we wouldn’t willingly jump into a town full of strangers and start from scratch, I decided that La Cruz would be my training wheels. And what a ride it’s been! 

From Spanish lessons at the marina, to helping at the schools.. sidewalk restaurants that offer up wonderful home style Mexican food…a Sunday market.. a fish market that sells fresh fish that could not be better if I caught it myself…

It feels like home and I see why people come here and stay.

But we are travellers…cruisers with no mission, except to explore. So we will make the most of our time remaining and then carry on with part three of our adventure… Cruising the Sea of Cortez. But meanwhile ….

Saturday we took some of our friends out on the boat. We hoped for a great day on the sea, we wished to see whales, but we had no expectations beyond having a good time on the water. Well, within minutes of gliding past the breakwater and getting up to speed, we were treated to humpback whales leaping and jumping and generally being impressive. Close enough to take pictures, far enough away to feel safe… we enjoyed the show and then resumed our travels. Sun, low swell, good company, some yummy snacks… everyone agreed it was pretty much perfect. And then we came across a group of whales that were determined to get real up close and personal. They barrelled towards us and we were awestruck by their size and power and I was a bit nervous by their proximity. They determinedly kept heading towards us, and as Lawrence tried to maneuver away from them, they adjusted their course and continued.. right at us.

It was awesome. We squealed, we clapped, we shivered, we were struck dumb …

It was one of those moments that you don’t know what to do, snap a photo, just watch, video… you lost sight of them and then you heard their breath on the other side…and they reappeared, so close you could see them powering under the water, white from their flippers gleaming through the aqua water. And we saw dolphins, porpoises, a flock of small rays…

Truly a magical day. Mind you, the stabilizers hanging down under our boat and the proximity of those big bodies were making me a tad nervous. No bumping though… whew..

In between cetacean sightings, we also did some singing and guitar picking, and in some cases some napping. Everyone’s reaction to a sunny day on the water is different, and if falling asleep is what your body wants to do, better not to fight it!

It was a great day, and we loved sharing our boat with friends and seeing such an amazing display.

Sunday the message came through on Facebook … Turtle release Feb 18 at 6:30. Finally .. enough warning that I could make plans to attend. I printed out maps of where to go, (the sanctuary is on the beach off the end of the airport), questioned my friend who had done it before about particulars on getting there…and at 5:15 Lawrence and I found a taxi to drive us. Bit of a leap of faith… especially when he pulled off the highway and started bumping down a back road through jungle. The fact that we saw other cars comforted us but we didn’t know where we were, in relation to the PV airport. Eventually we saw the crocodiles and we relaxed. Around a few more bumpy corners, the driver assuring us that the airport was indeed over there…we arrived at the beach. A long row of palapas, many cars, and hundreds of people, mostly Mexicans, playing and eating and having fun – even if we didn’t find the turtles, we had found a great place to watch the sunset. Our driver questioned someone sitting out back of a restaurant, and after much back and forth and scratching maps in the sand he came over and I used my very rudimentary Spanish to figure out that we had indeed come to the right place. All we had to do was walk back down the beach a bit and we were there. At that point, he was supposed to leave us, as he wasn’t really allowed to do a round trip. But after telling us we could ask one of the people there to phone for a taxi, I think he took pity on us and decided he could hang out and eat his (late) lunch and enjoy himself while we played with turtles. What a nice guy!

So, relieved that our ride back was taken care of, we wandered down the beach and in no time found the little sanctuary and lots of excited people.

After a lecture about what was happening, thankfully in English and Spanish to accommodate all of us, we were given a little turtle in a bowl of sand to name, to touch, to talk to and to give our best wishes to. As the sun set , we all took a giant step forward, bent down, and ushered our little friends onto the beach. My little Percy took off immediately – there were 90 in total .. we all clapped and cheered and gasped when the waves rolled the tiny bodies back towards us ( we were told to step way back to allow for that).. 

The predators were lurking around, frigates and other birds flying over, feral dogs waiting up the beach – but releasing them as the sun set and darkness fell gives them the best chance to make it through the surf and start their long journey.

It was pretty amazing. We walked back to our taxi, grinning from ear to ear. Our friendly and amazing driver was still waiting for us – and we headed back down the long and winding bumpy road. Us and hundreds of Sunday night revellers, as the palapas don’t have power and once the sun goes down everyone leaves. I used my little Spanish and learned more about our driver as we trundled along, being passed by crazies in trucks, the back crammed with people bouncing around.. passing caballeros on horses who were mostly used to the madness.. and stopping to check out the crocodiles.

By the time we got back to the marina I knew so much about our driver, and he insisted that we call him if we need driving anywhere. What amazing people live here.. we have been blown away by how helpful and friendly everyone is. We cleaned up quickly and headed back out to the La Cruz Inn for dinner, and to talk about our day. 

Our second foray out on the water Monday to view whales with friends was another successful event. It started slowly, the wind was up, slight overcast, so it was hard to see spouts and black bodies in the distance. But eventually the whale action started to heat up and what whales we did see, however briefly, put on a good aerial show. The guests oohed and aaahed and clapped and it was all good fun., especially when a few huge bodies started moving in close to the boat. It is truly spectacular to see these animals in such predictable numbers, and we were also treated to a manta ray sighting ( huge animals, big as barn doors) and of course the dolphins leaping and diving under and around our boat.We actually saw one of the mantas break the water, tips of his fins probably 5 or 6 feet apart.. stunningly close. The second manta was just a blackness in the water, huge, below the surface, gliding by. Eerie.

And now we are looking at what could be the last week of our visit. The plan is to find the first good weather window after the 23rd and head north. Unfortunately or fortunately ( leaving here will be hard) the weather prognosticator isn’t giving us much joy for the foreseeable predictable future. Wind aside, one thing we are noticing is the temperature – whereas here it is 21 C this morning, up in La Paz it is 14. Yeah yeah, and back home it is 26 below zero, Celsius. Whew, that is some kind of winter they are having up there!

We are making plans for the next few days before we think we will be leaving – more Spanish lessons, trivia at the Octopus’ Garden, helping with the English school… and exploring some of the local beaches. Our friends Fiona and Dave drove us up to see the surfing beaches, and then we parked ourselves in the sun and the sand and had a picnic lunch, a few cervesas, and excellent swimming in the surf. Seriously beautiful long beach…wonderful day.

For sure we are ready to leave. This is the longest we have stayed in one place ever! It’s been wonderful though… hanging out on the beach with friends, impromptu evenings at one of the many great restaurants here… Friday night rooftop dinners, morning walks, perusing the Friday and Sunday markets, kayaking into Banderas Bay.. it’s been great. 

It looks as though there may be a break Monday , which means we will leave Monday afternoon. A trip to Mega with our friends, some kitchen work to prep food for the crossing – boat has been washed, bottom will be cleaned tomorrow.. fingers crossed that we will soon be heading north and cruising the Sea of Cortez all March. Mind you, another week here is no hardship! And from all reports, it’s a good ten degrees Celsius colder up there than here, at least. However it’s still snowing and below freezing back home. So I won’t complain … instead of shaking sand out of our shoes we could be shaking snow!