Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bahia de Tortuga (Turtle Bay)

Turtle Bay seems like an outpost in a desolate spaghetti western. Surrounded by steep hills with little vegetation, the town itself is dusty, cobbled together and poor. A dirt road on the outskirts disappears into an empty horizon that, one hundred or so miles later, leads to the main highway that bisects the Baja. It’s remote, to say the least.

Sunset at Turtle Bay - this type of landscape surrounds the area

Yet, as you walk through the grungy streets, the sound of children’s laughter rings out from the little homes and schools (we counted 4!). Shiny faces and well-fed bodies, in well-pressed and spotless school uniforms, these shy kids took quick glances of us as they hurried home for lunch. Others, on bicycles and in groups, gossiped and played like kids anywhere. The tiny houses, though dusty, rough and mostly unpainted, were tidy. Housewives must have full time jobs keeping out the dust that swirls everywhere. As we passed through the streets, we began to recognize how carefully these women used their water. Wash yourself, wash the clothes, wash the floors, then throw it out in the yard to keep down the dust. Everywhere was the smell of clean clothes drying on the line. There were a couple village dogs, but other than that, no visible domestic animals. I don’t know why I expected chickens! Or even a little garden. We did, however, encounter many 4X4 vehicles in various states of age and repair – we could imagine how difficult it would be to maintain these machines. There were probably more automotive shops than anything else in Turtle Bay!

Dusty streets in Turtle Bay

Each crooked street seemed to have a small tienda stocked with a variety of canned goods, toilet paper, a bit of tired produce and meat. Staples seem to be avocados, roma tomatoes, quezo fresco (a mild mozarella-like cheese), eggs, Bimbo white bread and tortillas. Luckily, I had provisioned well enough in San Diego that we did not really need any food, though a few fresh items after two weeks was pleasant. Our real quest was for a matamosca (fly swatter) as some pesky non-biting flies had begun to show up in the boat. We were eventually successful and, I don’t know exactly what kind of mojo it came with, because as soon as I brought it aboard Ka’sala, the flies all disappeared. The matamosca proudly stands on guard by the companionway steps and we haven’t used it once!

tienda at Turtle Bay

There did not appear to be any industrial area in the town, though the remains of an old cannery is on the beach. Fishing seems to be the principle economic endeavor. Pangas roar around the bay for most of the day and larger ocean-going fish boats come in on a regular basis. In talking to one of the fishermen, their primary catch is lobsters supplemented by a variety of white-fleshed fish. One explained to us how they netted sardines close to the village to use for bait in the lobster traps that lined the huge bay. Other than fishing, it was difficult for me to figure out how the people of Turtle Bay made their living.

Harbour at Turtle Bay - looking toward the town

The town sits in a little cove at the top end of the bay. In the middle of the cove is a long, high, very rickety pier that juts out about 400 meters. At the end is a fuel source and down some decrepit steps, a floating dock where we tied our dinghy for $2US a day. When we landed on the dock, the young men that met us where quite courtly, handing us out of our dinghies and offering to give us a tour of the town (for a price, of course!). On either side of the pier is a small beach with a few washed out cantinas. Business was definitely not brisk as there were only a handful of transient boats in the bay. We went ashore with Lori and Mark from Thor to find the panaderia (the bread will be ready at 4, maybe 5, okay it will be ready at 6, oh, lo siento (sorry), come back tomorrow morning at 8am- it will be ready then) and ended up having fish tacos served by Dolores and her niece, in a little cantina overlooking the cove. I later just baked my own bread aboard Ka’sala – a lot less fuss and, in the end, probably a lot more fibre than the white buns we would have bought.

Fuel pier at Turtle Bay

Other than the one trip to the village, I stayed on the boat. Doug went back in with the jerry cans for fuel – which turned out to be very clean – and discovered that we should have allowed the young men to deliver it for their tip. They weren’t particularly happy with him. Later, a panga came by Ka’sala and the man aboard asked if we had aqua (pop) or if he could do anything for us. In the end, he took away our small bag of plastic garbage, 20 pesos and a can of ginger ale. We were able to get some internet coverage from the school and so spent a few hours catching up on emails, checking the weather and the news from home as well as posting the blog.

Practicing Spanish at the cantina

We were listening to the weather quite closely because we knew our next passage to Bahai de Santa Maria outside Bahai Magdelena could be a long one – 245 nautical miles. Doug listens to two reports on the ham nets in the morning – Don on the Amigo net and Gary on the Sunrisa net. With the information off the internet as well, we decided to leave after our second day. Thor did as well and both boats weighed anchor at first light.

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