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~ Chapter Twenty ~
Las Animas to Bahia de los Angeles
I got up at sunrise and was disappointed that it was still windy. But the wind did not seem quite as bad as the day before so I thought I would at least take a gander out of the cove to see if I could take the boat further north today. I knew I could always come back to this protected bay if I needed too.
As I left the cove and headed up the coast I began to question the idea of leaving the cove. The waves were smaller but still significant and the going was tough. I looked on the map and set up several 'bail out' points where I could tuck in and wait it out if things got worse. These pit stops were each a good 10 miles apart so I put myself at risk for a considerable distance between them. But nature seemed to cooperate and each time I hit a safety point I decided to continue north to the next one.
I soon motored past a picturesque fish camp called Las Animas. I had heard about this remote village along with a story about the 'Naked Girls of Las Animas'. Seems a high school teacher from southern California takes a caravan of his senior students to this beautiful beach each year to get in touch with nature and learn about flora and fauna. Although it is mostly a controlled learning event, the 'Naked Girls' rumor does help him sell Baja calendars to help pay for supplies for the annual trek.
The wind was not getting better but it was not getting worse, so I continued towards my next 'safety net' at La Unica. La Unica is a wilderness resort of sorts where adventurers get dropped off on an empty stretch of beach with minimal improvements and supplies in a spectacular outdoor setting. The mile long beach is protected by a beautiful offshore island, and I have had the opportunity to stay there twice before. I always considered La Unica (translation: the one and only) one of my favorite places in Baja, and I hold special memories of the time I spent there with my family.
The last time I stayed at La Unica a group of us went out on a boat for a sunset cruise and found ourselves surrounded by a pod of huge finback whales. They were literally all around us as the sky turned orange and yellow from the setting sun, and it created a memory I have never forgotten. I had also been to La Unica once before when the wind came up, even worse than it was today, and I became (probably) the first person ever to surf the breaking waves in front of the usually waveless open air restaurant.
Tex and I swung in the cove on the inside of the island and slowed the Vaka Viti down. There was a lone kayaker sitting on shore and I could not tell if he was alone at the camp. I gave him a big wave and he waved back, then I completed my loop around the island and continued my northern quest. I was less than an hour south of Bahia de los Angeles and it was beginning to look like I would make my destination after all.
As I rounded Punta Malo just east of Bay of LA the waves and wind diminished and I was able to pick up a little speed. I was cruising so fast that I went right past the entrance to one of northern Baja's most protected hurricane holes, Puerto Don Juan. In the past I never had the opportunity to check out this beautiful cove, and now was my chance. The natural harbor was roughly a half mile long and a quarter mile wide and the water inside was perfectly calm. I rounded one sailboat at anchor in the middle of the cove and then headed to the south end of the bay were a sandy beach was too much to resist for a pair of kayakers. This was a perfect half day kayak adventure from 'downtown' Bahia de los Angeles.
I headed back out of the bay and continued west towards town. My destination was Guillermo's, a pretty slice of beach at the south end of town with a bar, restaurant and a reasonable walk to the closest gasoline. I pulled the boat up on the beach and started walking towards the main street with my gas cans. I got about 50 feet before 2 young men from Colorado on quad-runners asked me if I needed a lift. They took me to a house just north of town where gasoline was sold from 55 gallon drums, and off they went.
Jose Luise Ortega was a warm and friendly man and happy to be of service selling me gasoline. As we chatted we realized we shared a common friend in Los Angeles. Sid Syverson is the owner of the huge real estate franchise Re/Max of California and buddy I had shared many Baja stories with over the years. Jose had developed a close relationship with Sid and his wife Diane over the many years they visited their home at the south end of the Bay. Jose asked me to tell Sid and Diane hello when I got home, and I assured him that I would. He topped off my tanks and gave me and my gas a ride back to the boat in the back of his pickup truck.
The sun was still warm as I pulled up a chair under the palapa at Guillermo's for a cold beer, chips and salsa. I chatted with 3 people at the table next to me and we all enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. I had heard that there was a small hotel about 2 miles south of town called Larry and Raquel's that offered satellite Internet access, and thought it might be fun to check my e-mail. I had walked about a quarter of the way to the hotel when a Volkswagon camper pulled over and offered me a ride. It was the same three people I had sat next to at Guillermo's, and they gave me a ride all the way to the hotel.
It takes a lot to make regular dial-up Internet access connection look fast, but the satellite Internet access at Raquel's did the trick. It took me forever to pull up my Hotmail account and I asked the girl at the front desk if the service was always this slow. She said the service was usually not too slow, but sometimes the satellite access slowed down when the winds picked up. This made absolutely no sense to me, but then again I know very little about satellite technology. Hell, at this stage in my trip I was having a hard time holding a beer and eating chips at the same time, let alone try to figure out how the wind affects the Internet. So I trudged through my mail at a snail's pace and then decided I had had enough technology for one day.
When I arrived back at the beach I was surprised to see the Vaka V. sitting on solid ground. The tide had gone out...way out, and my girl was sitting there listing to one side, obviously quite embarrassed by having her underside fully exposed for the world to see. Tex just sat there in a trance at the front of the boat, not caring one way or the other. Guys. I new it would be at least 4 hours before the boat would be floating again, and I didn't want to sleep on her at such an awkward angle. Having another beer at Guillermo's and a bite to eat seemed like the perfect way to kill time. But as I walked up from the beach a small Mexican woman approached me speaking in Spanish. My Spanglish is not good, but I did understand that she was inviting me, the lost soul from the panga, into her home for dinner. I was honored at the request and entered her little casa just as the sun went down.
Rosa's husband had died years ago and she lived alone in her modest home on the beach. She had no electricity so she lit candles so we could see our meals. She served me a warm plate of 3 tacos, fish, beans and rice. Not only was the food delicious but I was able to avoid spending a lot of gas money for non-essential fancy food at Guillermo's. Her home became dark as evening enveloped the small village and I thanked her for a wonderful meal. She waved goodbye as I headed down the beach to Guillermo's for an after dinner drink.
Things were starting to heat up at the bar at Guillermo's and I could smell a party brewing! The 2 guys from Colorado were hoisting a few cold ones, plus a crew of 3 Irish kids (2 gals and a guy) got in on the act as well. Pete, a retired football player, joined the act and the next thing you know I was headed back to the Vaka V. to grab some C.D.'s and my stereo. The Irish party offered me the use of their shower which I gladly accepted. Back to the fiesta, the party evolved from the bar to the restaurant to the beach. We brought the music out on the sand and sang and danced and laughed until late. It was hard to believe I was stuck in a deserted cove when I woke up this morning!
The 2 guys from Colorado were playing their cards with the 2 Irish girls and I could sense it was time for me to hit the sack. The tide had come up and the Vaka Viti was floating again, just as I had hoped. Dreams of my next destination, Bahia de Gonzaga filled my mind. Would the wind finally be gone?