Everything Here Will Kill You

Hello, readers! We’re still in the Sea of Cortez, sometimes hunkered down against weather, sometimes snorkeling in clear waters, sometimes hiking through rough and tumble arroyos and scrambling over rocks. What we aren’t doing lately is updating our position page. It’s not that we are going dark on you, at least not by choice. It’s that our illustrious Iridium Go, the unit we pondered over for months before making a decision, the unit that has given us updated weather while at sea, has allowed us to post to Facebook while off grid, that dependable unit, has gone bad on us. One day it worked fine and I posted an update to Facebook. The next day it began an ‘Initializing’ loop and refused to connect to the satellites. The magnitude of our irritation cannot be overstated here.

Cordón Cactus

This is a significant piece of communications equipment for us and while we should be grateful this didn’t happen in the middle of the fricking Pacific Ocean, its steadying presence keeping families apprised of our position, the ability to send them emails, and the ability of family to contact us if necessary is sorely missed. There is no cellular service in the Sea of Cortez unless you are close to a population center. The population centers are few and far between. If there is anything we have learned in our travels here so far, it’s that most people who live in this region live a very remote life. Back home you have to travel pretty far to be ‘remote’. Here, it’s a matter of a day of sailboat traveling. It’s easy to minimize this fact when you are looking at a map, or when you are talking to people who come here on their boats but hang out, really, at the population centers like La Paz or Mazatlan.

We’ve been making way toward Loreto, where we know we can get cellular service, so we can work with customer service on this Iridium Go! issue. Meanwhile, since we have no way except VHF radio to contact the outside world, we’ve been grateful to notice other boats here and there and to stay in VHF contact with some of them. At least we know that in an emergency, we could get help if necessary. This is not an unimportant point since everything in this environment is made to kill or maim, if not through active aggression, then through passive resistance to being touched or encountered. You have to be careful out here. All the time and energy spent stocking our medical cabinet was well spent.
We like to hike the arroyos, scrambling over rocks, doing small amounts of chimney climbing, giving our old bodies more of a workout than they are accustomed to.

Mike views the cactus with the awe it deserves. And keeps his distance.

During one of these forays into the hot desert Mike found an interesting spider web, a dessicated lizard caught in its sticky web. He began poking the web with a stick, hoping the spider would come out. In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Oh great, this is a spider that is big enough to eat a lizard, we’re out here completely alone and my husband is poking the thing with a stick to make it come out and defend its territory.’. I compelled him to stop. I’ve seen the Harry Potter movies. I know how big spiders can get. We moved on.

The rocks here are magnificent. I love them almost as much as I do the ones in our Four Corners area of the desert southwest of the United States. But they will maim you and if you are not careful worse things could happen. Actually, even when you are careful things happen. That’s why they call them ‘accidents’. On another one of our scrambles up an arroyo my knee punished me severely for pushing off a rock to reach another rock. It wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong. I had apparently just done too much of a good thing and it decided enough was enough.

One mile up the canyon, I felt a disconcerting pulling sensation which immediately, in my brain, translated to, “Shit! This is going to hurt later.”. The word ‘later’ here means in about 60 seconds, when it truly registered that I had hurt myself in the middle of a hot pile of rocks. Make that ‘in the middle of nowhere’. Calling for help would not have been an option. Why? Because the damned Iridium Go! was useless, bringing home to me just how vulnerable we were out there in the desert. The mind began to wander towards Mike having to leave me there and go get help, helicopters having to land in the Outback to transport me to the nearest medical facility, tears running down my leathered cheeks. Thank goodness we bought that DAN Diver’s Network emergency evacuation service. I told my mind to shut the hell up and,  blessedly fortunate that I could technically still walk, ‘spider monkeyed’ down that arroyo on all fours mostly and back to the boat. I’ve given birth to a 10 pound baby. This was nothing to me.

For the record, this right knee has been hurt many times. By the time you are our age, you’ve collected a number of injuries over the years and some of them create weakness in a body part. This right knee has to be babied a bit and I forget that in the joy of rock scrambling, which makes me feel really alive. So it’s very unlikely I’m going to give that up completely. It’s no good telling me to be careful. Just ask my mother.

Can you blame us for wanting this view?

This is such a hostile environment. You know, we’re from the Pacific Northwest. Barring an encounter with a disgruntled bear or cougar (rare as rare) nothing there is going to hurt you much. You can climb up rocks and scurry down paths without being cautious about where you put your feet, your hands, etc. Fortunately, my parents are both from Texas and growing up they instilled in us that you don’t put hands anywhere in the wilderness before checking first. In this desert, this is very good advice. Due to their excellent tutelage, and the solid memory of my mother grabbing my sister’s hand and running screaming down the hill away from a rattlesnake sunning on a stump, I am constantly on the lookout for snakes, but I’ve never so much as heard one here. Yet. I carry my snakebite kit. Perhaps they know this and move on. Their venom would find no purchase in us. I’ve seen the original  ” True Grit”, starring John Wayne. I know what to do. A whole generation of movie goers knows what to do.

Snakes are one thing, but even things that are not poisonous are sharp and pokey. From the tiniest little grass-like plant to the scrubby shrubs, everything is protecting itself from something else. Hiking up a hill, it’s sometimes necessary to use a small shrub or tree to stabilize yourself. Look first, touch second here. Otherwise, you are likely to get a nasty surprise.

Beautiful flower. Don’t touch.

Even the fish have spines and stingers. Shuffling my feet through the shallows, I’m grateful for my time as a child at the beach at the Gulf of Mexico where I learned about stingrays. We don’t have those in the Salish Sea. You can walk a mudflat without worrying about anything worse than hypothermia.

Here we’ve seen all kinds of rays, all of them with stingers we never want to encounter. (I understand my snakebite kit is useful for stingray stings as well, but I don’t want to test that.) We shuffle through the sea with abandon. The sea here is glorious, full of life and with water warm enough that you can encounter creatures previously enjoyed only through the efforts of Jacques Cousteau. Just don’t touch anything if you don’t know what it is. Snorkeling on Isla Espiritu Santo we saw 5 Moray Eels in one day. The next day it was two octopi, plus eels. It was the best snorkeling ever. Mike got ink-squirted by an octopus. He’s the ‘chosen one’.

Thanks to Curt Brownlow on S/V Slow Motion for taking this photo of us in the blistering sun. Why yes, I actually do carry this parasol with me on hikes. The sun will kill you, too.

Anyhoo, as I write this up we’re sitting pretty in Puerto Escondido with the gang all here. Kevin Baerg on S/V Blue, whom we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving back in San Diego, is here. Hurrah! His mate Cressie will be back on Monday and we can’t wait to see her. Curt and Lynn Brownlow on S/V Slow Motion are here. They tried to escape us but we keep finding them. The folks on S/V Passport and S/V Grey Goose are both here. Nice to see them, too. Just when I think I can’t go another day without being in touch with something or somebody familiar, we enter a port and find a ready group of good friends. What a blessing that is. I say to Mike it’s like being in college without the threat of school failure if you don’t spend more time studying. We’re so glad to be here.

Puerto Escondido will be seeing a lot of Galapagos. We love it here. There is just enough ‘civilization’ here with the nice little tienda selling gringo stuff from Costco, plus some fresh fruits and vegetables; the wonderful pizza restaurant up top, the helpful staff at the marina, where you can rent a car for 40$ a day all included (except gas). Loreto is just 14 miles down the road. The islands are close enough to touch. The water at the dock is potable and the pumpouts are free. It’s like living in a medieval fortress with the one narrow entry, surrounded by tall mountains and the sea. It’s absolutely the best place we’ve been so far. I think we’ll stay awhile.

Mike considers: Will this sea cave eat us up? Or will it play nice? It was a nice cave, but we didn’t tempt fate.