Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mazatlán - Dia de la Revolución

We finally made it to Mazatlán. Between our car getting rear ended in La Paz just before we were planning to leave and the early season northers that kept blowing in, we arrived about two weeks later than we had originally planned. But we're finally here at the Marina El Cid, which is lovely, and we're enjoying it a lot. One of the great things about Mazatlán is the bus system. For only $7MX (~$.50US), you can get pretty much anywhere you might need to go. Tuesday was el Día de la Revolución, so I hopped on the bus to go downtown and take some pictures.

The parade was at least twice as large as the one in La Paz - it ran for about four miles along the Malecón. As in La Paz, it featured a lot of schoolkids, but also had dancers, bomberos (firefighters), cheerleaders, karate schools and more. Many of the groups would stop periodically to put on a little show. The firefighters even had an actual fire to put out:
I'm pretty sure this isn't OSHA approved - note the large bottle of gasoline in the arms of the guy on the left. This got sloshed onto the fire every so often to keep things sufficiently dramatic.
What better place to demo climbing/rescue equipment than the back of a moving truck?

The coolest thing was the towers many of the groups built. The bomberos used their ladders to help:

This tower from the maritime academy continued to march - and play their instruments -  even when they were three levels tall:

Of course, there were lots and lots of kids

Folkloric dancers:

There was a group of older people marching with INAPAM (the federal agency that serves people over 60)

And, lots and lots of cheerleaders. This was my only successful shot of one who was actually airborne:
It was a little worrying to watch these girls being tossed above the concrete street, but no one fell.

The parade lasted nearly five hours, and it was a hoot. We're planning to be here through January - possibly longer if we can renew our visas here instead of La Paz, in which case we'll also go to Puerto Vallarta before we return to Baja in the spring. Vamos a ver.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Yesterday afternoon in La Paz, it rained. A lot. I was outside grilling shrimp as it got darker and darker. Then it started raining, just a little at first, but in about three minutes it was pouring. Art came out and held an umbrella over my head while the shrimp finished cooking, and then we fled inside. Judging by our impromptu rain gauge (a pyrex pan left beside the barbeque), we got more than 2" in about 45 minutes.

The house we are house-sitting for the summer isn't normally waterfront property, but yesterday afternoon, it was riverfront. These views are from our second floor balcony looking out at what is normally the street:

If you look at the cement wall in the center of the picture, you can get an idea of how brief and intense this storm was - the wall didn't even get entirely wet:

New Toy

While I was back in the US recently, I bought a lensbaby kit. I have some experience using a view camera, where you can alter the angle between the film and the lens (among other things), and thought it might be fun to be able to do something similar with my SLR. It is:

I'm going to need a lot more practice with it, but I'm looking forward to using it in Mazatlán this winter.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Whale Watching (this time, with actual whales)

Having heard from our friend Sharon, who went up a week earlier, that there were definitely whales in Bahia Magdelena, we set off for a second try.

Tuesday morning, there was no fog. We got out on the boat with Enrique at about 8:30. There were tons of whales. I'd estimate we saw at least 70, probably more. They were everywhere. This is a very different experience than watching whales in California - you're in a panga, which is maybe 28' long, v. a fishing party boat, so your boat is actually smaller than the whales. The whales come right up alongside, and swim under the boat. The water is so clear that you can see them doing this. It was amazing.

One thing I learned: It is really freaking difficult to photograph whales. I was out there with my SLR and my new spiffy long lense and I didn't get much.

Mostly, I got tails:

One shot of a whale breaching:

I got a few others, but they weren't in great focus. I was whirling around with the camera so fast that I'm amazed he was in the frame at all.

Magdelena Bay is gorgeous, and it was a beautiful day:

When we got back to the launch area, it was almost low tide, and the wading birds were out in full force.

Spoonbill Egret:

Great Blue Heron:

Egret in flight:

The beach at low tide is covered with sea grass that is almost unimaginably green:

It's also incredibly spongy, so I didn't walk out very far, for fear of being sucked in.

I finally got some good shots of the nests I saw last time - the ones on top of the power poles. This one is on a platform. Look closely - the eagles have the best punk rock haircuts.

And they're gorgeous flying:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

La Loupiote

La Loupiote is a French boat. Her crew are circus performers, and last week they put on their show, to which the boat is integral, here at Marina Palmira.

It was an amazing show.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Christmas Agave

Wandering around La Paz one day the week after Christmas, I came across this agave, all decorated. I'm pretty sure it was the best Christmas decoration I saw all season. Whoever did it just took the cap/hook piece off of several glass Christmas balls, and inverted them over the spikes of the agave.

(I took the picture with my phone, so the image quality's not the greatest)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

(Not) Whale Watching at Bahia Magdelena

Magdalena Bay is about 1/4 of the way up the Baja peninsula.

We missed it on the way down - the Baja Ha Ha didn't stop there, presumably because needing to check 180 odd boats into Mexico would have seriously overloaded the small immigration office in Puerto San Carlos. It is a huge, mostly quite shallow bay that has enough deep parts to also be one of two deep water ports on the Baja peninsula (Ensenada is the other).

We went up with the idea of seeing some whales. We'd seen in El Sudcaliforniano (local paper) that the whales that migrate every year from Alaska to Mexico were early this year. We called the Hotel Brennan (the hotel in San Carlos that appeared to have the best reviews) arranged for the neighbors to watch the cats (thanks, Julie and Bill) packed up the car and drove the three and a half hours north to Puerto San Carlos. Of course, we forgot a few things, doing this on such short notice. One of those things was the dry bag for my big camera, so that wouldn't be making the boat trip with us (this turned out not to matter). We also forgot our inflatable life jackets, which also turned out not to matter, as the conditions on the day we were out on the water we so calm it was like a lake. The drive up was gorgeous, but there is no shoulder and few pullouts on MX1, so I didn't take any pictures. Next time, now that we know how long the drive takes, we'll spend more time dawdling, looking for turnouts.

The first surprise when we checked into the Hotel Brennan was that there was no fridge in the room. There are rooms with fridges, but believing for some reason that all of the rooms had them, we hadn't specifically requested one, and none of the fridge equipped rooms were clean. Valuing getting started exploring over having a fridge (and having a cooler,) we decided to let having a fridge go. Then we asked where we might go for a late lunch/early dinner. Whoops! Possibly nowhere, as it was New Years day and the owner didn't actually know of anything that was open. We drove around a bit, and eventually found a place about a block from the hotel, called La Cocina de Tere.

Absolutely delicious food - I had fried shrimp, which were possibly the very best, freshest, shrimp I have ever had, and Art had a seafood assortment of octopus, scallops, shrimp, fish and clams. That and a couple of beers each set us back about $25. We talked a bit with a Canadian couple who were also eating at the restaurant (their presence was actually what tipped us off to the fact that the place was open).

Back at the hotel, we realize that the nice Canadian couple are also staying there and are also planning to go whale watching the next day. That's great, as it means we can split the cost of the boat. They tell us they've already talked to Enrique, the guide, who will be at the hotel at 7:30 to pick us up. That's a little early for us, but it will do.

The next morning, it is incredibly foggy. We literally can't see the building across the street. After waiting in the lobby for a while, it's apparent that no one in their right mind would take a boat out in these conditions. The fog doesn't lift much, but we wind up going out at about 11:00. We, the Canadians and a third couple follow Enrique down to a beach where his panga in pulled up.

We all climb in and set off into the murk.

It is still really foggy, but the water is pretty shallow and really clear, so it's fun watching all the rays take off as the boat passes over them. It's so foggy that I decide to turn on tracking on the GPS on my phone. I think about offering it to Enrique, but figure out he's been doing this a long time, and if he needed a GPS he would either have one or ask for the phone. (he does realize that I have it, and asks me whether it's a phone or just a GPS, but doesn't take it when I offer it - he clearly knows this area like the back of his hand.)

So we drive around. There are no whales. To be fair, one of the ways that you would find whales is by seeing them spout from far away, which pretty much isn't possible when you can't see but a quarter of a mile. It's fine, it's nice being out on the water, and the fog is shifty enough that we can see bits of the shoreline. The little bit of Mag bay we got to see was amazing.

This area was used to process whales for oil - it's been unused for that purpose for many years obviously, and is currently a fishing camp.

These pelicans are sitting on the walls of a floating tuna nursery. The resulting tuna are shipped, live, to Japan (presumably for sushi).

Of course by the end of the day, the fog was gone (at the top of the bay - who knows what it was like out at the entrance, where the whales should have been...)

After we got off the boat, we were chatting with Enrique for a bit. He mentioned some casitas on Isla Margarita (only accesible by boat) and the possibility of getting lobsters and other delicious sea life to barbeque at said casitas. I think we'll check this opportunity out when we come back, probably in March, which he said is the most reliable month to see whales. He also told us about a restaurant that we probably never would have tried. In fact, he not only told is about it, he had us follow him there. Unsurprisingly, when we went there the next day for breakfast, we ran into him. It's a very small town, Puerto San Carlos.

The second night we had dinner at a place called Los Arcos:

We both had shrimp this time. It was very good, but I think the shrimp at the first place was a little better. Stuffed to the gills, we waddled back to our hotel for the night.

On the drive back, I got a few shots of the hawks' nests on the power poles beside the road.

Some of them are on platforms built for the purpose:

Some aren't:

The fog and desert made for a pretty surreal landscape:

Despite not seeing any whales, we had a great time. We really enjoyed Puerto San Carlos, and Bahia Magdalena is fascinating. We're already plotting a return trip, hopefully with more whales, better weather, a fridge in the room, more pictures, and less forgotten stuff.