A week in Baja California, page 2

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    Perhaps because we had taken the room with a hide-a-bed off the kitchen in Guerrero Negro, we were given one of the cabins recently upgraded from cots to beds.  Sleeping bags had been replaced with comforters, and we did not have to use the sheets we brought.  One pound of our precious luggage allowance wasted.

Enjoying the hammock at our cabin.  The generator house can be seen on the right.

    The roofs of the cabins and palapa had a light palm thatch through which we could see patches of sky by day and stars by night.  We were glad to be here after the rain, even though we are assured it is rare.

The central palapa and kitchen

    One morning we set off to gather clams for our lunch.  We started with a 15 min boat ride, then a hike across a little peninsula to a bay with good clamming.  The boat would pick us up on its return trip to LA Bay for supplies.

    We hiked up through a small slot canyon and over the desert for about 30 minutes.  In the millions of years since the Sea of Cortez divided Baja from Sonora, several species in the two deserts evolved differently.  The most dramatic was the cardone cactus, which is even larger than its Sonoran relative, the saguaro.  We saw only a few small brown birds in the desert, and identified none of them.  There was evidence of cactus wrens (nests) and woodpeckers (holes).

A cardone can get up to twice as large as a saguaro

    Ocotillo and mesquite were typical of the desert here.

    The tide was out and the tidal flat revealed.  Anywhere you put your hand into the sand, you could find a clam!  At first we took only the chocolate clams.  Pronounced cha'-co-la'-te, these were only about 1 out of 20 clams we found, and it took half an hour to fill a five gallon pail.  The trick is to bounce on your toes across the damp sand just above the water line, looking for spurts of water.  The white clams (vanilla?) would sometimes spurt a little, but the chocolates would spurt up an inch or two, depending on your weight.  We then waded out to ankle deep water to harvest white clams.  Chris got lucky.  He pulled up chocolates here on his first two tries.  One double handful yielded five white clams!  It took only a few minutes to fill the second pail with whites.


    The water is so pristine here, no shipping or industry, that the seafood is clean and safe.  We sampled the clams on the spot while waiting for our boat.  We even found a few oysters on the exposed rocks and ate them raw too.  Oysters were too scarce and hard to harvest to bring back any.

Kevin, our cook, Tom and Chris at breakfast.

    For lunch we had three clam dishes; chocolates raw with hot sauce, whites steamed and, since they were the easiest to open, chocolates filled with vegetables and baked.  Delicious, and so many that we suspected that the leftovers would appear later in a chowder.

John and Ann

  That afternoon one group went by boat to the southern point of our cove to swim with the sea lions, but we went with John and Ann and another couple by sea kayaks around the northern point to a small beach sheltered from the wind to sun and beach comb.

Sunrise at La Unica

    All good things come to an end, and before we knew it, it was time to pack and leave.  For the first time the wind stopped and it was hot.  The boat ride back only took 45 minutes in calm water, and several people made the trip in shorts.  We were able to take a more leisurely look at the blue-footed boobies and other birds on the small island rookery we had passed on the first windy trip.  There were fewer birds on the Cortez side, but boobies and magnificent frigate birds were life birds for us.

Preparing to depart LA Bay. The Russian relic can be seen behind our Cessna.

    After a short stop at Bahia de Los Angeles (I bought a tee shirt), we took a van to the air strip.  The LA Bay air strip had been nearly empty when we arrived midweek, but now over a dozen planes were parked and the runway was busy - the Flying Doctors were in town with their Bonanzas and twin turbos.  At the strip was the remains of one of the old Russian planes that were sold cheap at the end of the cold war.  A little smaller than a DC-3, many were purchased as a substitute for that venerable old plane.  The FAA never did certify them so the owners could not use them for commercial flights, and this one was abandoned here.

    The flight back was smooth and beautiful.  One of the twins took off after us and passed over us, which we wouldn't haven't noticed except for his courtesy "no factor" radio message.  We pushed right on up to 12,500 ft. for a fast return.  We saw snow on the mountains about half way back, where they go to 10,000 ft.  We said our good-byes at Brown field and drove off to our motel near the airport to await our return flight.

    This was a trip to remember.  We hope to return, but current plans call for June in Provence; Greece and Turkey again next spring; and a return to Oaxaca first.  And it has been 10 years since we returned from living in Japan.  Our vacation goals will exceed our time until retirement.


In Memorium:  On March 29, 2000, two weeks after our return, a group of scientists and students from UC Davis, along with guests from Japan, capsized in rough waters in the Sea of Cortez.  Five perished.  Among the dead were Gary Polis, one of the world's foremost experts on arachnids, Michael Rose, a graduate student, and Kyoto University ecology professors Takuya Abe, Masahiko Higashi and Shigeru Nakano.  They had been studying scorpions in the Midriff Islands and were returning to Bahia de Los Angeles.  We dedicate this website to their memory.

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Baja Air Ventures has offered a discount for referrals.  Just mention that you are friends/relatives/co-workers of Pat & Steve Bottorff or John & Ann Howard when you make your reservations.


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This page was created by pjmoyer and sbottorff.
The last update to the page was on January 12, 2005.