buttes and bonfires

November 2, 2018 | Bahía Tortuga, Baja Sur, Mexico

27°41’48.0″N 114°52’36.0″W

We woke up early to catch the sunrise and set out to hike up to the cross overlooking Turtle Bay.  A few people in town were up too—women washed their homes’ windows, men walked to the sea snail and abalone cannery cooperative. The night before I’d asked local girls how to reach the cross and if it was safe. In the morning, I asked folks along the way how to find the path. Asphalt turned into dirt and dirt into large gravel. We felt assured when we met exercisers returning from their usual butt-busting hill trek.

sunrise over a calm bay, pink wispy clouds
pelicans take over a moored panga boat, church on land in background
sea snail and abalone cooperative gate, hand painted sign with sea snail can, diver logo and abalone can
amphibious dive boat with shark teeth painted on the waterline

It felt good to push the ground away from my feet, to sweat, to feel my lungs. Boat life doesn’t require aerobic effort, and my farm body wanted to work. We smelled piney desert bushes and Sophia chased her tiny tennis ball while we hiked along the steep ridge. Turtle Bay, the town, the fleet stretched below us. To the north we could see beautiful desert mountains and to the west we saw the next bay around the point.  We giggled at the top, proud of our gumption to explore. And we had the summit all to ourselves. 

pano midway up hike, Turtle Bay in the distance, hikers in the foreground
pano of summit, sun above the peak, bay in the background
desert peak in foreground with expansive desert vista in background, blue sky
sun above the summit, glimpse of beach and bay

With grumbling stomachs and great care, we descended. Maria’s restaurant called her siren song from her beachside perch.  We pulled out a few plastic chairs on the patio overlooking the glittering bay.  Waitresses with plastic flower crowns greeted us and cooed at Sophia, whose full name is of course, Sophia Maria.  Our waitress stressed her name is Nora, so now that is in the permanent record here. Breakfast was simple and satisfying huevos rancheros, with proper refried beans and those transparent, chewy yet tender flour tortillas. Diane cradled Sophia in her arms and danced to Mexican oldies. Colorful flag garlands (papel picado) joined her. 

one white horse faces chestnut horse, in wooden pen
silhouette of vulture with outstretched wings on top of humble house
hand painted sign that says
plate of half eaten huevos rancheros with folded flour tortilla and side of refried beans

I took a sweet, dreamy nap on Celtic Song before we re-anchored to be closer to the afternoon’s beach party. Shelly, Diane and I snorkeled to the beach, there was no visibility underwater but it felt refreshing.  Local vendors set up tents against a sandstone cliff. They sold us delicious fried shrimp tacos and lime orange margaritas on a dirt-road access beach.  The beautiful butte rose up in the distance, north of the beach, in line with the marshy river.  A great blue heron and a white heron set off towards the butte in the warm afternoon light. I’d been fascinated with the rock feature for the past few days—grand, full of presence.  I just wanted to stare at it and never look away.

butte in background, marsh and marsh plants in foreground

Again, classic rock blasted from portable speakers.  We wore name tags, played guys vs. girls tug-of-war (we won but the guys let go so we fell on our butts).  The party was mellow and we rowed our dinghy back before sunset. 

fried shrimp tacos in flour tortillas on styrofoam square plate
Me kissing a carved palm totem man in foreground, butte and marsh in background
Diane pouring out some Pacific into Sofia the chihuahua's mouth

A bonfire glowed against the cliffside, sending up shadows and light along the face. As the fire died, every boat’s anchor light took its place among the stars and shimmered in the black water. I meditated on the scene and felt connected to history’s sailors—thankful for the people before me who built boats and went out to sea together.  I felt lucky that our crew got along and realized that it would be hard to see them go.

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