Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cabo Pulmo, Mexico

Road to Los Frailles
We marvelled at the blue and blue-green hues of the Sea of Cortez, framed by white crescent beaches as we approached Cabo Pulmo on the gravelly road. I wondered if this is what Hawai'i looked in the 1920s. I mean, the parts of Hawai'i that are dry as desert, because on shore looks like Tucson or Scottsdale in the 1900s, with rosy, rocky hills, cactus, and scrubby trees.

The "town" itself consists of some houses, five restaurants, and a few dive operators  On the main street, behind the yellow wall, we stayed at "The Jewel of Cabo Pulmo."

The main house consists of one big, tall, charming, room, maybe 600 sq feet, with a kitchen, dining table, futon couch and a couple of chairs. It is painted with cheerful, bright colors, and red-framed windows are everywhere. We spent most of our time on the outdoor patio/deck, under the grass roof, looking out into the mature gardens to the hill down the road. Birds entertained us, especially the endemic Xantus Hummingbird, which jealously guarded the flowers right in front of the patio.

On top of the room is a rooftop deck with views stretching to the water on one side, and the desert hills on other. Mornngs, we caught a fiery sunrise and one evening presented us with a moon halo. No light pollution here. Even with a 61% moon, we could see just fine after dark.

This time of year, the winds keep people from the best snorkeling on the beach. Fortuntately, seven kilometers down the road is Los Frailes, a huge, empty, white cresent beach. The north end is protected from the wind, so we snorkeled there two days in the clear water with enough tropical fish to keep us entertained. On shore, the sun and blue skies were enough, even if we could not have gotten into the water.

Sunrise from roof patio.
For future reference, the best time for snorkeling begins October 15, when the water is warm and the evenings begin to cool. April, we hear, is also a good time, although the water is cooler.

Five restaurants serve food. We had two dinners with Nancy, a sweet gray-haired old woman who shuffles more than she walks. She started the second restaurant in town, when she joined her daughter and son-in-law in Cabo Pulmo shortly after the road came to town 20-some years ago. Before then, people had to get here by boat. Nancy's employees cook some good food, good enough for us to come back a second time; shrimp guajillo was a winner.

Los Caballeros is the other top restaurant in town, directly across the street. Good fish dinner there. The owners descend from the original family that occupied the area. Apparently, there have been a couple of lawsuits in which the family alleged that they still owned some of the land across the street, occupied by expats who bought the land from grandpa years ago. The courts have thrown out the suits twice, according the Karl, a gringo who's been coming down here for 22 years, and has lived here full time for the last five years. Locals have noticed a rise in sea level. Visitors, like me, can see where the erosion is taking away land that is not protected by sea walls.

Cabo Pulmo is a long way from anywhere. That is part of its attraction. There's nothing to do but unplug, be in the moment, and enjoy what nature and a few adventurous souls have to offer.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Travel to Cabo Pulmo?

Located near the Southern tip of Baja, Cabo Pulmo is a sleepy town 60 miles away from the touristy area. Fewer than 200 people call it home.  But just step into the water, and you'll find the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortez, teaming with life. Decades ago, Jaques Cousteau called it the World's Acquarium.

Destructive bottom trawling and other unsustainable fishing practices nearly ruined it forever. Thankfully, in 1995, Mexico's President designated the offshore area of 17,560 acres a national marine park.   And it worked.  Between 1999 and 2009, the biomass - pounds of living things - increased 463 percent.  Recent photographs of the area provide a stunning tribute to a place, which UNESCO included within a world heritage site in 2005. Other photographs show rays breaching the water as if flying.

The reef should really be "reefs," plural.  Eight of them range located from close to shore to a short five minute boat ride into the bay, with depths ranging from about 12 feet to about 100 feet.

On shore is a desert landscape, which appeals to Oregonians this time of year.  So far, it retains an undeveloped beauty.  So, we figure, get there now, fit our feet into fins, and enjoy.