We were ready to leave La Paz and get out to somewhere a little more natural so we headed north to the islands. We got some skinny from fellow cruisers who had just returned from the island that Ensenada Grande was the shiznit so we picked that anchorage to start out and north we went.
Over the last two years of planning and preparation for this journey, we've read tons of blogs and none have been more helpful than Gary and Marianne from the good ship Gallant Fox. We've never actually met them but have traded several emails. They have been awesome with helping us prepare for what to expect down here and several of their emails to us were so cool and full of good info, we posted them on the blog last year.
As we pull into Ensenada Grande, we notice one other boat in the anchorage. Of course, it's Gallant Fox (no kidding - we run into way more people that we know in Mexico than we ever did in Seattle). Our first meeting was shouting introductions boat to boat as we circled them in the anchorage. We immediately dropped the hook and ran the last of our beer from the Pacific Northwest over to our fellow Pacific Northwesterners. We spent the evening trading tales and cruising tips. Christy went over to GF the next day and Gary taught her the finer points of making both flour and corn tortillas. They don't call him the Propane Chef for nuthin', folks.
We also got word of a great hiking trail in this anchorage. We pulled up to a beautiful beach and found a promising sign marking the trailhead. We wondered back on the trail as it peetered out into an arroyo (dry creek bed) that zigzagged it's way up the western slope of the island. We spent several hours scrambling up and over boulders, shuffling and kicking the gravel all the while to warn off the snakes and keeping a sharp eye out for scorpions and lizards. We arrived at the eastern end of the island which terminates into a cliffs that drop several hundred feet down into the Sea of Cortez. After climbing back down the "trail", we got back to the boat to find the anchorage emptied out. All hot and sweaty from the hike, we shucked off clothes and jumped into the crystal clear water. We still can't get it in our heads we're skinnydipping in December.
After a few days, we weighed anchor and made a side trip to up to the very north end of the islands to a couple of bird shit covered rocks known as Los Islotes. We've seen plenty of bird poo on rocks but what makes this place special is the sea lion rookery. And not just any sea lion rookery. These sea lions have been visited by humans for long enough that they've grown not only tolerant of people but will actually play with them.
After dropping anchor and dinghying over to the rocks, we tied off to a mooring ball a 100 feet off the shore. We donned snorkel gear and hesitantly slipped into the water. I think I half expected this to all be some knee slapping joke the pangueros play on the gringos and that these sea lions were of the man-eating genus. Have you seen the teeth on these things?
After swimming for 10 minutes or so, I saw a little guy swimming along the bottom underneath about 20 feet down. And just like that, he came rocketing up towards the surface, swam a circle around me about a foot away and shot off like a dart. Show off. The next hour we spent bobbing around in the water as a few of the younger sea lions came out to swim around us. Most of them didn't pay us much notice but a few of them had to check us out. They would dart around us, poke their heads above the surface and stare at us, and were all sorts of fascinated We spoke with another boat that kayaked around Los Islotes. At one point, one of the sea lions grabbed the rope on their kayak and pulled them around. Once he was done pulling them around, he hopped right into the kayak! To be fair, he was probably tired of pulling them around and why couldn't they do a little bit of the work, ferchrissakes?
Of course, our awesome waterproof camera died right as we pulled up so no pics. But we'll be back there to be sure so we'll post more later.
After getting our share of sea lion love, we headed south for a few days of relaxin' at Caleta Partida, the ex-volcano crater that divides the two islands. We met up with Stepping Stone and host of other boats that we met in the Baja Ha Ha. We dinghied around to the east side of the island to check out sea caves. Christy had some folks over for a cheese and yogurt making session. We got wind of another norther coming in and decided to head back to La Paz before it showed up to take care of some admin stuff, load up on fresh fruit and perhaps enjoy a taco or two at Super Burro.
Besides, you can never really escape La Paz.
Gary from Gallant Fox teaching Christy how to make tortillas.
Hello World lying at anchor in Ensenada Grande.
Christy scrambling up the arroyo.
Taking advantage of what little shade the desert landscape has to offer.
Enjoying the view at the top of the cliffs that make up the east side of the islands.
Sunset over Ensenada Grande.
This place is heaven for rock nerds.
Christy landing a black skipjack. Fish tacos for lunch!
Guano frosted Los Islotes.
Dinghying over to the east side of the islands.
These islands have some crazy cool geology.
I apologize in advance but y'all are probably gonna really sick of sunset pictures. We can't seem to stop taking them.