Water water everywhere. That’s Kay’s swan song, with arroyos washing out roads along the entire peninsula. She wasn’t even a strong hurricane – a category 2 in her heaviest moment – but she was grand – huge arms nearly 600 miles across. Her winds ran as high as 72mph in various locations, but her water. The rain. The desperately needed rain came all at once, the ground crusty dry. No way to absorb, but rush and run down the mountain faces and arroyos.
Multiple towns took hard hits. The Mulege river once again breached its banks, flooding everyone and thing in proximity. San Felipe, usually a dry sandy desert, found itself with streets of rivers, more suited to kayaks or canoes.
The major effect of Kay was on MEX 1 the transpeninsular highway that transits between Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas. The road cut in so many places that traffic and commerce were actually halted for three days. Today, the 13th of September, most roads have some measure of passage, and the large double tractor trailers could be seen heading south. Below, some photographs, borrowed from various posts and publications, communicate what my words lack.
Close to home, or the home I cannot yet reach, the highway between Insurgentes and San Juanico washed out first in Insurgentes, and then the bridge was obliterated over the wash a few miles outside of town.
The townspeople came together, and with shovels and arms full of rock and mud, began the process of crafting a crossing. It’s this spirit of ‘can-do’ which continues to fuel my love for Baja.
“On the way into San Basilio on Saturday, Martin Castro and I were informed of a very late turtle nest hatch after 72 days of incubation (normally they hatch from 45 to 60 days). We hustled over to the nest site, where we have installed protectors that were designed by Martin to protect the nests from coyotes and raccoons, who can smell the buried eggs and will dig them up and eat them.
For the next three hours or so, We watched as Martin, who is the Director of the Sea Turtle Sanctuary at San Basilio expertly helped them through the hatch and to get into the sea successfully. His knowledge and care is really impressive! Over 60 hatchlings made the transition to their new environment.Since the late season hatches are almost exclusively males, this is the last time they will ever be back on land during their lives.
Under Martin’s leadership, this effort has seen over 500 hatchlings survive this year, up from only 88 the first year. I have seen this before, but never watched so many actually hatch, breathe for the first time, have their bodies expand into their normal shape as they take in breaths, and then launch out into the world, where only a few will survive to adulthood.”
Dogs seem as much a fabric of Baja life as the sand and the sea.
When I first purchased a home in Loreto, I was surprised that it ‘came’ with two dogs, Negrita, a black short legged German shepard mix, and Medici, a tall typical Mexican kind of gal. I had never had dogs. That was my sister’s gig. I was a cat person, a long story about dogs not liking me, but no matter, the dogs had been left behind by their owner, and stared at me expectantly.
I did exactly what any new home owner would do: moved them outside, along with their sandy paws, dusty dog hairs and food bowl.
That lasted? Well, not too long before I realized that I had bought ‘their’ house, and simply opened the door to the house, my heart, and all the dog-love they were ready to share.
Over the years, more dogs were added to the pack, as puppies and strays were tossed into the ‘gringo’ neighborhood. At one point, seven pups in various sizes, shapes, colors and attitudes wandered my property and the beach front. Yes, they guarded the property, and yes, they all became my best friends.
The last two who joined the pack were some kind of poodle mix, a blonde and a grey, who surprised us by delivering five puppies. “NO MORE DOGS!” rang out my war cry, and I quickly had them placed two with locals and found homes for three of them in the states.
But there was this one pup, the one male, the brown faced puppy who from the first began ‘mind-melding’ me with a kind of Doctor Spock energy. “I am your dog,” I kept hearing. “You are my person.” The seven other dogs could have cared less. They were fed daily, had a beach to run and a house to protect. But the puppy? He wiggled his way into my heart, and because he was little and could not fend for himself, became bi-coastal and somewhat bi-lingual. Buster gained residency in the USA, but kept his roots in Loreto, Baja California Sur.
Sweet Buster, aka Bubby, Buster Brown, Sugar Pop, etc., owned my heart for the next 13.10 years. He was my constant companion, a certified ESA traveler, and when he left me in February, 2021, my heart was in pieces.
Over the years, the other dogs had passed, and I said to no more to dogs. The heartbreak so deep, so emotionally disabling. And then there was this dream.
This might sound airy-fairy, but the dream was so real as to sit me straight up in bed. It was Buster, telling me that i had to get another dog. That he could not see me so sad, and he knew I was against, it, but he had found the next dog. Here he is, he said in the dream (in dog language of course), and showed me exactly the dog i was supposed to find. I searched shelters as far east as Arizona and far north as Oregon, and none of the pictures matched the image in the dream.
Finally, I did a google image search, and found the dog – in Australia! Which of course, due to COVID, was in lockdown and not shipping puppies. They suggested I try a breeder in Colorado, and in June, 2021, Loki the Lokster was born. He came home in September, and quickly became a challenge, a joy, a giggle, a smile and filled up that heart. He’s not Buster in temperament or in size – YIKES he got big!
But the Australian Cobberdog has come to roost, in both his Laguna home and his digs in Loreto.
“If it were lush and rich, one could understand the pull, but it is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we know we must go back if we live, and we don’t know why.”
Imagine waking to the gentle slapping of sea water on cobble and sand. Hearing the chatter of terns overhead as they search for fish. Watching a flotilla of pelicans glide inches from the surface of the sea.
Imagine, your days transport for fishing or island hopping, a pangero, pulling up on the sand in front of your Casita.
More of the magical ways to begin a day in Loreto.
It’s true for all of us – worldwide – global. Life as we knew it changed with rise of an invisible, silent, and killer virus transmitted between humans by vaporous breath.
Baja did not go unscathed, but at the time of this writing, my sweet “Pueblo Magico” of Loreto, has survived with zero cases. The population has maintained its physical health through many of the same strategies practiced in other parts of the world: social distancing, mask wearing, and for those entering town, temperature taking and confirmation of residency. A cadre of devoted volunteers insured that the local hospital was fully supplied with masks and PPEs, should the need for treatment arise.
Airlines stopped carrying passengers in and out of Loreto in April, but now, come June, weekly flights are again scheduled. Alaska Airlines has added Saturday only flights, and those are carefully booked to provide distancing between passengers. It is my understanding that masks must be worn from check-in to disembarkation. Seems smart to me.
Loreto, like the bulk of cities and towns in Mexico that depend on tourism, has been badly hurt economically. Food drives developed through grants and donations provided both locally, and under the aegis of the International Community Foundation, have assisted with keeping food in the mouths of the most affected and needy. Eco-Alianza de Loreto, through the overwhelming support of their donors, initiated a voucher program, that will continue to provide much needed assistance throughout the summer.
June in Loreto. Restaurants slowly begin to offer more than take-out service, and shops other than grocers open their doors, while everyone looks toward a change in the season.
Hot and sultry – those are the marks of summer on the Sea of Cortez, the fishing shifts to those species that like warmer water: yellowtail, dorado, marlin, wahoo. Seabirds move more slowly. Life is steady and calm. Easy days on the hammock for reading material consumption. Cold beverages in the afternoon.
Slowly, we inch toward our new normalcy.
Hopefully, we will remember some of the insights gained by being forced to stay still. Hopefully, we have expanded our ability to hold open our hearts, increase our empathy and personal understanding of both our frailty and our strength. Hopefully, we are ever more aware of our shared humanity.
While most thoughts of Mexico in the winter are of sunshine filled days lazing or frolicking on the beach, there are still those that sneak in – like this morning – cloud filled and gorgeous – and yes, chilly.
The beach walkers bundled up in sweatshirts and even down jackets. Ugg boots, or at least fat socks and tennis shoes, instead of flops and beach shorts. Their pace is a little quicker to fend off the cold.
Winter in Baja.
A place where pelicans, boobies and arctic terns dive for bait fish in the shallow waters close to shore. Where egrets and herons patiently hunt on the shoreline or in the estuaries, side by side with sandpipers, godwits and occasional killdeer. Where offshore, orcas, fin whales, dolphin, and dancing mobula entertain guests and locals, while we wait for the arrival of the blue whales.
A place and time for contemplation. The hunkering down that winter begs of the body and the mind. A hibernation of such, so that when spring unleashes her torrent of renewed growth, we are fresh from rest and ready to press forward again.
The map has linked to dive, photo and snorkeling sites on the islands – with descriptions of each location. A wonderful informative tool for understanding all the wonders that our 5 main islands contain.