Wednesday, December 14, 2011

San Blas and Matanchen Bay

We arrived at Matanchen Bay on 12/10 after a one night trip south from Mazatlan.

We had a beautiful night passage. Gentle, warm southerly winds propelled us deeper into the tropics under a glorious full moon (the small flashlight, in all her glory).

We rolled so gently in the swells that I was actually able to see the rings of Saturn when I lifted my binoculars to one of the tiny flashlights twinkling down from the east.

In a tank top and shorts, I laid on the deck at midnight listening to Mozart, Brahm's German Requiem and the B-52's "Love Shack" -- all with a big silly Cheshire-cat grin on my face and a tear streaming down my face.

The moon was so bright that the frigate birds silently circling the boat could probably see my teeth glowing in the sparkling darkness.

The next morning, I saw what looked like a brownish blob floating at the surface of the ocean. As we approached it, the "blob" lifted his head and took a deep breath of air.

Sea turtle preparing for a long dive

I was so surprised to finally see my first sea turtle of our trip on this spot, because we were still several miles out to sea! These little guys are hardy souls, and can swim for miles and miles.

Matanchen Bay is famous as it was the place from which Father Junipero Serra sailed north to convert America to Christianity. Little did he know how successful he would be.

Me exploring beautiful Matanchen Bay

The bay is about 3 miles across, and no more than 20 feet at it's deepest. It is very protected and we slept like a baby 3 nights in a row. There was only one other sailboat in the harbor when we arrived.

We had been warned that Matanchen Bay is awash in jejenes (AKA "no see-ums"), tiny little biting bugs. We deployed our bug screens on all of our hatches and went ashore.

Chris in Matanchen Bay Village

As you can see from the photo, we are now in palm tree country. The town had several tiny family owned store-fronts that sold coconut milk, banana bread, cornbread and coconut sweets. All around families burned coconut husks as an insect deterrent.

In fact, my only complaint about gorgeous, friendly Matanchen Bay is the rain-forest covered hills were obscured by a Beijing-like veil of smoke at all times due to the constant coconut husk fires. Ah, place is COMPLETE paradise, right?

The next day we took the bus north into San Blas, only a few miles away.

San Blas has a harbor that is famously challenging to enter due to shoals, and it has tiny but new and well-kept marina.

Charming tin-roofed house in San Blas


More typical Mexican homes here in San Blas

San Blas also has a great history. Before Mexican independence, this town and harbor were the major hub of the Spanish Navy for the entire Pacific coast.

Remnants of old church where Father Serra prayed for our future California souls


This is a good time to point out the obvious: if you are planning an extended trip to Mexico, the more proficient you are in Spanish, the easier, happier and more relaxed your stay will be.

While the Mexican people (as in all of Latin America) are famously friendly and easy-going, the fact that I speak Spanish is making everything go more smoothly. You can see their shoulders relax and their faces lighten when they realize I am able to show them the small yet meaningful respect of communicating in their native language.

Plus, I can make them laugh. Which is always a plus!

When we returned to Matanchen Bay, we were thrilled to see that our friends Rick and Dena aboard "Talaria" had arrived from Mazatlan and dropped anchor.

The next day the four of us took the Jungle Tour. This is kind of like the Disneyland Jungle Cruise except, well, it's REAL.

Disneyland Jungle Cruise

The real thing in Matanchen!

And at 10 bucks a head, I can tell you that our Matanchen jungle cruise was not only much more dramatic than the one at Disneyland, it was incredibly economical.  Unfortunately, our guide Augusto, while very knowledgeable, did not tell jokes in English OR Spanish as they do on the Disneyland version.

Weaving deep into the rainforest on our jungle cruise


A crocodile! And YES, this is OUR photo!

Deep in the rainforest, we passed some jungle huts which had been built a few years ago for a Spanish language movie. Look who moved in!

A squattor iguana enjoys rent-free real estate with a view                                     

At the end of the river, we came up to a spring which emptied into the river. The locals gated it off rendering it safe for swimming. Welcome to paradise:

We swung and dove into the crystal pool

Wow. We could not believe the beauty. While the entrance to the river was gated off to protect us from crocodiles, we wondered what kept crocs from simply crawling into the pool from the other three sides.

Rick thought maybe they posted signs around in the jungle (in crocodile language, naturally) which say:

"Humans only. No crocs allowed."    LOL...

Happy after our amazing swim in the crystal pool

After 3 days in San Blas and Matanchen Bay, it was finally time to pull up anchor and again head south. It was a day sail (20 miles) to the next anchorage:

Chacala Beach


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