Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Heading North

We are on our way home! In some ways we are happy. In other ways, we are sad.

After leaving Mexico we had two nights in Santa Barbara to pick up our paragliding gear (Thanks, Lorenzo, for the storage space!) and we were hoping for one more day of flying. Unfortunately, we both felt sick! And, of course, we got a message from Chris in the morning that Pine was on! The place we really wanted to fly while we were here.

There was no way it was going to happen though. Andrew, who pretty much has to be on his deathbed before admitting he doesn’t feel well, spent the entire day in the hotel room. I drove to Ojai and headed out to Pine with other pilots but there was no way my stomach and head were up to getting into the air. I figured a retrieve driver would be appreciated and I wanted to see the area and check it out for a hopeful “next time.”

But flying didn’t work out for the others either. We enjoyed the view and “parawaited.” The winds were wonky and even the birds weren’t flying smoothly so after a couple hours we gave up. The guys thought a ridge near the landing zone might be flyable but, after hiking part way up, determined the wind direction was wrong for that too. Chris managed to scrape out a short flight on a small hill but with various bushes and dead trees in the way (I heard him say "oh shit!" as he got close to one particular obstacle) and wind not really the right direction, he set it down fairly quickly and no one else gave it a go. 
The launch at Pine Mountain is just below the road.
Fabulous view from Pine Mountain
The next day we left Santa Barbara for the start of the train ride north. The first part of the trip closely follows the coast and we had great ocean views. The following day, going through northern California and Oregon, we took in views of Mt. Shasta and other freshly snow-capped peaks, forest, lakes and rivers. Beautiful!

I love the look and design of the train station in Santa Barbara.
It was built in 1905 . . . 
. . . and has been beautifully restored and maintained over the years.
Beside the station is one of the largest Moreton Bay fig trees in North America. It was planted from a seedling in 1826. The circumference of the tree is 41 1/2 ft, the average crown spread is 176 ft and the height is 80 ft. (As measured in 1997.)
The view from the train.

Panorama of the train while stopped at San Luis Obispo.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Baja - Scuba Diving Videos

For Christmas last year, Andrew gave me a GoPro (Hero 4 Silver Edition). Since then I've been making videos like crazy! It's a lot of work but fun at the same time. With diving, it's fun to be able to show people how the sea life moves in addition to showing them Andrew's photos.

I try to keep all the videos around 2 minutes or less to avoid boring anyone. Our attention spans (mine included) are so short these days!

We started our dive holiday in Loreto.

Loreto Sea Lion (:21) - A few sea lions dove down to check us out but didn't stay long. Sadly, the sea lion and dolphin population has decreased the past few years. Rafael thinks it's due to disease of some sort.

Cliff Jumping at Carmen Island (1:08) - Another diver, Sarah, was quite a character. She was in Loreto with her uncle. She convinced Rafael and her uncle to jump off a cliff into the water.

Guitarfish in the Baja (:26) - It's not very often that you see a guitarfish so I did a separate video just for him.

Diving Loreto (2:15) - Some of the other sea life we saw while diving around Loreto.

Next, we moved on to La Paz and did a 3-day, 2-night dive/camping trip. We got three dives per day as well as a night dive.

Sea Lions Just Wanna Have Fun (2:17) - The sea lions here were much more playful than the ones at Loreto! So humorous!

Mobulas (:36) - The night dive was to see the mobulas. A bit "gimmicky" with a big light put in the water to attract the plankton which in turn attract the mobulas, but still fun to see.

Fang Ming Wreck (1:45) - Lots of interesting sea life around this wreck as well as a resident turtle.

Diving La Paz (2:09) - Some of the other sea life we saw while diving around La Paz.

Lastly, we headed to Cabo Pulmo. We were scheduled to dive six days but, due to high winds, only got in four days. I would say this area had the clearest water of all the three locations so video is a bit better.

Jewel Moray Eel (:46) - Usually the eels are just sticking their heads out of some hidey hole but I loved watching these ones out and about amongst the fishing nets of a wreck.

Diving Cabo Pulmo (2:19) - Some of the other sea life we saw while diving at Cabo Pulmo. Love the sting ray at the beginning of the video and some of the fish that let me get so close to them.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

San Jose Del Cabo

With our diving in Cabo Pulmo cut short due to high winds, we had a couple extra days to enjoy San Jose Del Cabo. Returning to San Jose turned out to be quite easy and we definitely lucked out! The transportation company, TransCabo, was able to immediately come and get us. And then when we just showed up at Casa Natalia they gave us the same great rate we'd gotten when I booked ages ago (about $100+ less than present rate) AND they upgraded us! Sweet! :-) 
Flower display on the bed in our room at Casa Natalia.
Our own private little balcony.
San Jose is the “old town,” a more historic and laid back area compared to the newer, commercialized and highly tourist-focused Cabo San Lucas.

We toured the art district and came upon a gallery that featured several Canadian artists, including Saskatchewan’s Denyse Klette. I recognized her work immediately from seeing it at the annual Sun Dog Arts & Crafts Fair. 

We went for a walk through the Estuary. Unfortunately the paved paths are a bit worse for wear (but starting to be repaired) due to the hurricane last year and even some of the non-paved paths were under water due to heavy rain this year. It was wonderful to see so much bird life though . . . ducks, geese, egrets, ibis and a blue heron. 
Repairs are being done on this section of path ruined by the hurricane last year. 

We rented a car for a day and went out to Flora Farms. They are well known for their restaurant (fresh, local, organic food from their garden and ranch). Supper was so good that we went back the next day for lunch before we had to return the car.
Overlooking some of the gardens at Flora Farms
The Wirikuta Cactus Garden is a regular stop for us and now includes a sculpture garden. As seems to be common with sculptures . . . some of them were a bit strange. To my way of thinking at any rate!

Humorously, a group of cows wandered through and went straight to the pond to have a drink.

The nursery at the Cactus Garden has several hundred species of cactus.

We also had some really tasty meals while in San Jose Del Cabo. The Tasting Room (formerly known as Casianos) and Don Sanchez were both excellent. While certainly far more expensive than more, the quality was worth it. We also enjoyed our usual favourites, the French Riviera bakery and Cafe Calafia. 

Cabo Pulmo

From La Paz, we headed to San Jose Del Cabo where we had arranged for transportation out to Cabo Pulmo.

Cabo Pulmo is a 1 ½ hour drive north inland and then south along the coast. The last several miles are on an unpaved, bumpy and sandy road. This helps to keep it off the “beaten path.” The town is very small, essentially just the Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort with about 30 small bungalows (most of them privately owned and rented out), along with several other privately owned properties and five restaurants.

While it got busy on the weekend with people coming out from Cabo San Lucas for the weekend (diving and snorkeling are the main attractions), it was otherwise very quiet.

We were fortunate in our timing as the wind had been very strong and there had been no diving for the three days before we got there. It was still very rough on the water our first two days of diving but the second two were better before the winds came again and diving was cancelled.
Our little bungalow - Andrew mastering the technique of getting comfortable in a hammock.

Lovely bougainvillea.
Despite how close Loreto, La Paz and Cabo Pulmo are to each other, the diving is quite different and we saw different things in each place. One thing that was constant though was the sheer number of fish in each location. Which is a great indicator of the perseverance of the people who are trying to protect the areas from over-fishing and other environmental concerns. 

Cabo Pulmo National Park in particular is very strict with their rules for diving and other water sports and, along with locals and non-locals alike, have managed to fight off several attempts to establish huge resorts in the area. 

The Park also does not allow for docks to be built so getting the dive boats in and out of the water was an interesting procedure! 
Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort - office, dive shop and restaurant
A windy day - no diving.

With 29 dives in three weeks, we weren’t too disappointed that our final two days of diving were cancelled due to high winds. We headed back to San Jose Del Cabo and enjoyed some extra time there.
We enjoyed these humorous paintings on some of the buildings. 

LaPaz and Isla Espiritu

The island of Isla Espiritu, which is where most of the dive sites are, is about a 1 ½ - 2-hour boat ride from La Paz. We’ve done this before, just for a day, so when we found that Fun Baja had a 3-day, 2-night diving/camping trip we quickly signed up.

We travelled out on a small boat with the captain, Angel (Pronounced An-hell), and dive master, Maria.  It was a windy day, which meant a rough ride in such a small boat. But we were happy to be on our own.
Clam shell sculpture along the malecon in La Paz.
LaPaz sunset.
The ferry from Mazatlan.
Isla Espiritu landscape.

The camping was much more elaborate than what we’d imagined. Tents big enough to stand up in, a cot on each side and a small plastic “dresser” in the middle. There was a water bucket outside the door for rinsing sand off feet and a doormat. There were also toilet and shower facilities in addition to well-staffed kitchen. 

The camp was busy with all the competitors from a free-diving competition also there. It was interesting to learn about their sport. 
Our "glamping" accommodations.
We even had showers!

Heading out to dive.
The sea lions were very playful!
Without the long boat rides at either end of the day, we were able to do three dives per day as well as one night dive. We loved the sea lions, as they were very friendly and playful. Andrew got some great photos of them and I was pretty happy with the way my video turned out. 

The night dive was to see the mobulas. The dive operation hangs a big light down from the boat to attract the plankton, which in turn attracts the mobulas. It was amazing how many there were! 

While wreck dives normally aren’t our dives of preference, the Fang Ming wreck had lots of sea life around it including a resident turtle that moved only a few feet the whole time we were there. 

This video includes a variety of sea life from our other dives around Isla Espiritu. I especially love the jawfish and the bullseye electric ray. 
The pelicans have marked their territory.
We're even seeing fish in the sky. This is a trumpetfish. 
Going for a hike.

We really enjoyed the first two days with Angel and Maria. Unfortunately, on the third day we got shuffled to a slightly larger boat with four other divers (with another dive master) and then to yet another even larger boat with another 12 people for the ride back to La Paz. Luckily we didn’t lose any gear in all the shuffling of equipment between boats! 

We stayed at the Posada de las Flores in La Paz (a beautiful old hotel on the malecon) and wished we’d taken an extra day to relax and enjoy it before moving on so quickly. We have to remember to take a holiday during our holiday!
Leaving the bay where our campsite was.

Arriving back at LaPaz marina.