Saturday, March 04, 2017

Agua Verde

[Kyle]Our first day in Agua Verde, as we were rowing ashore past another boat, the owners come out and asked us why we were anchored way back in the swell instead of up by the beach. When we explained our transmission issue, they called up the power boat in the anchorage, Sand and Barnacles, and explained our predicament to them.

Sandy and Barney (get it?) have, get this, satellite internet. Barney needed internet to keep in contact with work, so he bought a satellite dish, which he carries around with them. When they are anchored for a while, he takes it ashore and sets it up. It’s powered by a solar panel and a battery and transmits WiFi to their boat so they have limited internet in places like Agua Verde where there is no cell phone coverage at all.

They offered to let us use it if we needed to help sort out our issue. It was a tremendous help. We were able to download a parts catalog, find exactly what we needed and start emailing distributors in La Paz for prices and availability. The rest, we can hopefully do over our ham radio between here and there. Otherwise, we may have had to wait until we started getting cell phone coverage near La Paz to get the ball rolling. With the long lead times to get things delivered in México, Sandy and Barney may possibly have saved us a month at a marina and kept us from having to delay our departure to the South Pacific. A BIG thanks to them for that!

While we were aboard Sand and Barnacles, Sandy gave us the rundown on the things to do in the area and even drew us a map. Maryanne has been keen to see cave paintings since we got to México and Sandy’s map told us how to get there.

We started with a walk over a hill into the adjacent valley, where we stopped at a small graveyard. From there, we dove into a palm forest for a while before exiting at a giant, deserted sweep of a beach. Way at the other end, a lone tree marks the beginning of the trail up the mountain to the caves. We climbed up, entered the caves and searched and searched, but we couldn’t find anything that we were sure could be cave paintings. Only when I went to sit at the entrance for a rest before the long walk back did I see them right above my head like a sign above a doorway. For some reason, we were expecting to be deep inside, where they would be better protected from the elements. The paintings were simple; mostly handprints with a few other marks around the edges. Maryanne guessed that it may have been to indicate the number of people in the group that lived there.

The amazing route to the native cave art

The caves were accessible from Agua Verde, but it seemed a stretch to say they were in the Aqua Verde area. From up there, we could see that our journey was going to be several miles back, much of it on sand. We were tired from the walk and the heat, but buoyed by finally getting to see some petrograms. By the time we made it back to the graveyard, we felt like we were on the home stretch. Well, rather than do that, we took a right and headed across the desert through more sand.

We were trying to find a back route to the beach behind where Begonia was anchored. There was a small restaurant there and we had been invited to join nearly everybody from the anchorage for dinner, so we were trying to save some time. The swell had made a beach landing undesirable and we had originally intended to walk there from where we landed the Pudgy (on the calm beach) before we got distracted by Sandy’s map. It was a bit of a slog through a dry and inhospitable land, but we eventually found a road. We had seen RVs camped on the beach, so we knew there had to be a road to it. We climbed a rise and emerged at a spot overlooking Begonia, which meant we were going the wrong way. We turned around and followed the road as it descended back into the valley before climbing another ridge behind our target beach with the restaurant. A little bit more mooshing through sand and we were there fashionably late.

Technically, the restaurant needs more advance notice than they had for me and Maryanne, but they were able to make do and accommodate us, although it seemed to be at the expense of the others’ portions. The other gusts had all known each other for a while and it was very nice of them to include us. We swapped stories back and forth. One interesting tidbit: each of the four men at the table was a pilot of some sort.

View from the beach restaurant where were joined fellow cruisers

The tide was low, so we were all able to walk back to our dinghies along the shore, rather than having to take the long way on the road. The erosion of the sandstone made a nice little shelf almost like a sidewalk cut out underneath the cliffs. Along the way, there were tide pools to peer into and shells to admire.

After rowing home, we’d had yet another long, tiring day, only this one was much more fun.

For day two in Agua Verde, our goal was to buy some cheese.

Cruising in a boat can be a strange lifestyle sometimes. On the surface, in many ways, it can seem like an exercise in extreme simplicity. We don’t have a car. We don’t have a yard. We hardly have any stuff. Even though I often complain that our boat is full, most of Begonia’s contents are tools, spare parts, safety equipment and items necessary for the running of the boat. Maryanne and my personal effects are limited to our wardrobes, our computers and a few small souvenirs.

However, when anchored in a remote place like Agua Verde, doing something as simple as buying cheese can turn into an all-day expedition. This can sometimes make our really simple life seem ridiculously complicated.

We started the day with a row to the beach. When we got there, we completely forgot our cheese goal and started poking around the tide pools along the shore. We did that until we ran out of accessible shore, then we found a trail.

The trail climbed up one of the local wumps, giving us great views of the whole anchorage and had an impressive variety of prickly Baja plants at which to marvel. I remain continuously amazed at two things about Baja; it’s arid crumbliness and the fact that every single living thing here is prickly. Nonetheless, it’s beautiful and endlessly fascinating to see how many different organisms have managed to thrive in such an apparently hostile environment.

We descended back to the beach where we landed the dinghy and then joined the road for the long way to Aqua Verde village. I know we were in no real danger, but looking around, it seemed like such a crazy place to be. Away from the beach, there were no cooling breezes. Heat just radiated up from the sandy ground. Thorns and cactus needles provide no useful shade. If it weren’t for the road, there would have been no sign of humanity at all. It seemed far too easy to forget that, over the ridge, we were only a quarter mile from a bunch of RVs and boats gathering on their respective sides of the beach and imagine being lost in a trackless and inhospitable desert. Neither of us imagined we would have much chance having to spend a night out there.

The road left the baking valley and crossed over the ridge toward the village. Things suddenly seemed less dire then, although we were beginning to get weary from our cumulative mileage. We had been told we could buy goat cheese from somewhere way on the other side of the beach. Once there, we could see no signs of a store or even any people. We took a right and headed inland a bit until we started to see a couple of kids playing with a worn out soccer ball. They were playing in front of what might have been a house, but might have been a store. We went in and asked about buying some cheese. The woman told us they didn’t have it, we had to go somewhere else. She then gave us directions in super-fast Spanish, which ended with her saying “Derecho” (right), but pantomiming a straight ahead and turn left while doing so. We hedged our bets by going straight out. (It turns out I had it wrong; Derecho means straight. The direction 'right' could be derecho or derecha, depending on context, but usually derecha.)

We soon passed a very busy household with an outdoor cooking area that could well have had a side line of making cheese so we engaged in a conversation with them. We were then sent back on the other side of the store. She yelled something to someone and soon we had the whole village herding us to the goat cheese man.

Fun around Aqua Verde

He was in a pen with a whole lot of goats and told us he would be out in a minute. He then took us to his house, where he produced a big wheel of cheese for us. We bought half for 50 pesos (about $2.50 or £2).

The tide was low enough by then for us to take the shore path back to the dinghy. It was still pretty far, but at least we could see our goal the whole way.

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