Cabo Pulmo & La Ventana

Cabo Pulmo is an odd place, where it is clear that without the presence of the coral reef here, there would probably be no town at all. This place is built purely on tourism, in the middle of nowhere. When we arrived here it was still grey skies and a bit windy, not the best conditions for snorkelling, which this place is renowned for. Still having some time to kill that afternoon, me and Lee walked down the beach to the imaginatively named ‘Tacos & Beer’. Not the cheapest of places, but this is to be expected anywhere you sit down in Baja and are completely surrounded by Americans. We ordered two fish tacos as a snack and a couple of beers, they were pretty good tacos at least, for being one of the more expensive ones we’d had. Trying to pay our bill afterwards, they completed missed charging us for the beers and although we did try and explain, we eventually gave up due to the large language barrier as kept thinking we wanted more beers!

Wandering back through the town, it was inundated with scuba rental places and snorkelling tours.

There wasn’t much else really, a very small supermarket which was also the village water supply, and a bar or two. This definitely looks like a day tripper kind of place. Lee eventually managed to buy cigarettes, and we wandered back to our camp spot.

As the sun set, a couple of exceedingly battered trucks pulled up and we braced ourselves for the inevitable music. Unfortunately, we were proved correct, as the bass started blaring out across the beach around 9pm. This seemed like it was another one of those nights, if you can’t beat them, join them. We had noticed that the local bar in town was having a karaoke night and decided we would rather be awake voluntarily there than against our will in our campers.

The place was very small, with a hatch by the kitchen that was also the bar. There was some very enthusiastic and very untalented locals singing various Spanish songs as well as some classic rock and roll. Lee and John spent a good half an hour agonising over their song choice, and in the end went for a very awkward rendition of Flight of the Concords which no one understood. Still the locals were politely enthusiastic, and the night continued one for a short while longer before stopping at around 10pm with a dry bar. With little else to do we headed back to the camper, thinking that by this point the mariachi music was probably in full swing rather than quietening down. Luckily for us, we returned to a quiet beach and were able to call it a night.

The plan the next morning was for some of our group to go out snorkelling, however it was still not the best conditions, the sea was quite murky and it was another cloudy day. We noticed that there was a track the climbed a big hill behind where we had camped on the beach, and while it wasn’t the most inspiring looking of walks it would probably offer a nice view from the top. Luke and Emma were all set to go, and we decided to join them along with Jerome and Ina. As we started to climb, it became apparent that it was quite humid. The last steep section, we puffed our way up the hillside to reach a mast at the top, while the other fitter members of our party strode in ahead. The views were indeed worth it.

After catching our breath at the top we stopped to enjoy the view for a little while.

After our short break we were ready to begin our descent, this time choosing to use the concrete conduit that covered the lines from the mast running down the hill. This was a lot more stable than trying to scramble down the steep loose rocks of the path, but was still a little slow going due to the very steep incline.

Completing the final section on an easy track back down to the beach. You can just make out our four campers parked up on the shore in the background.

Back at the van, we made the decision that we wanted to head out that night. Ina had been snorkelling and seen some good fish, while Luke and Emma said the sea was too cloudy to see anything on the other side of the bay. We had no gear, and while others had offered it didn’t quite seem worth it at the moment. It was also a Sunday (Mexican party night), and knowing that we were parked up in the local hangout we didn’t fancy our chances of a relaxing night. After filling the others in on our plans, they too decided to head out with us. We had a quick swim in the sea, where Jerome had just forced Leni, their dog, to have a swim too. Although we wanted to have a shower, we weren’t in quite the same state as the dog which had apparently just rolled in some human diarrhoea judging by the anguished cries and horrible smell coming from the camper next door. A bit late and a bit cleaner, we had just enough time to get to Los Barrilles before sunset, and set off again on the dirt road leaving Cabo Pulmo.

It was a pleasant surprise, when after only a few miles, the dirt road gave way to tarmac, and we could once again drive on a smooth surface. We didn’t get to go much faster however, as some of our convoy is pretty slow, but it was nice not to have to watch for constant rocks and potholes as we drove along.

We reached Los Barrilles, just before sunset and pulled up on the free parking right on the beach. There wasn’t all that much space, as continuing any further would have definitely required 4×4. This meant that we parked our 4 vans up, two on either side of the one car that was already there. I do feel a little bit bad. The other car had a couple clearly trying to have a romantic moment. They were both dressed to the nines as they sipped their Tecate on the hood of the car. Probably not expecting to have their nice isolated spot suddenly filled with 4 campers, a bunch of tourists and a load of animals all running around, they smiled a little uneasily as we set up camp and it wasn’t long before they left altogether leaving just a big space that I doubt anyone else will park in!

I have heard that Los Barrilles is a nice place to visit, but for us this time it was little more than an overnight stop. We stopped off for groceries the following morning, before continuing on to La Ventana. Jerome and Meli left us that morning for La Paz, as they had already visited La Ventana before. There was however, a plan in place to reunite on Wednesday in La Paz for Jerome’s birthday, so for once we said goodbye knowing we would see them again.

One of the main reasons for going to La Ventana, is the natural hot springs on the beach. This one was supposed to be good as it had not been turned into some kind of commercial venture yet, as often seems to be the problem, especially in the US. Now three to our convoy, we were the last to arrive after spending some time trying to fill our shower and looking incompetent in the village. Our group had parked up around half a mile from the springs themselves, as it was a flatter spot to make camp. We got there with around half an hour before low tide which is meant to be the best time to visit, the springs themselves are only accessible for a few hours either side of low tide, we had been told. After packing some snacks and deciding it was about time we drank that nice bottle of white wine we had been carting around since September, we set off down the beach.

There were a few other families already here when we arrived, and masses of different pools that different people had built out of the rocky shore. Trying one that looked fairly well assembled and full, I nearly burnt myself on the water in there which was scalding hot. Seeing that the only way to do this, was to make a pool which would mix partially spring and sea water together, we set about building one up. We sat in this for a good while, eating Ina’s guacamole with our tortilla chips and drinking our nice wine in a pool which was often either far to hot or far too cold. As the sea pulls out for each wave, it draws in hot spring water from under the rocks and sand on the shoreline, then as the waves come back they wash in cold water from the gulf. There is probably a way to do this and create a perfect harmony of temperatures, but we hadn’t found it yet. We also found that you have to keep moving with the tide as it comes in, or you lose all the hot water completely. The pools here are also not the cleanest, there was some rather odd looking fishy slugs under some rocks we moved and lots of crabs. The water was a bit cloudy and seaweedy too, which is something I could have done without. Nevertheless it was good fun, especially in a group of people and we stayed for a while before heading back down the beach.

I had recently applied to a company called VIPkid, that allows you to teach English to Chinese kids online. You don’t have to speak any kind of Chinese, and all you need is a degree and an internet connection. We were quite excited about the idea of having a small income on our trip, as we know when we return to the states that money will be tight. This is also a flexible way of doing it, you can book classes when you want and do as much or as little as you like. It sounded perfect to us, already being teachers and Rachel had sent me an invite, so I applied. I had now received a response about my application, but didn’t have enough signal to download the email, so I spent a while wandering around on the hill above the van trying to find some. As the sun set, it was a good time to get a picture of our little group, nestled at the bottom of the hill.

Finding enough signal, I read the response which basically read that my application had been declined. This lead to more wandering around as I tried to reply to their message and query the decision. Eventually sliding my way back down the hillside in the dark using my phone torch, and narrowly missing all the various plants that were incredibly spikey, I made it back for dinner.

That morning, still having a day left until we were due to meet in La Paz, we decided we should have another go at the hot springs as we had driven all this way for them. We headed down again around 10am, but at this point the tide was still too high for the springs to be visible. It took around an hour or so to get to the point where you could actually make a pool and this time we had the beach to ourselves. Lee, Ina and John set about building a pool underwater, for when the tide dropped to the right point, while I went back to the van and packed away so that we could leave afterwards. That evening we were going to camp nearer La Paz. I also got a chance to finally do my Pilates, which I hadn’t done for around a week. We have been surrounded by super thin, toned and tanned people who seem to do very little to maintain their physique. They drink, eat and sunbathe with us, and still look like swimwear models. Then there’s us, a little chubby and very pasty, wobbling away, trying to do a workout with no grace or prowess. Not really feeling like putting this show on for everyone, we had put it on the back burner, just as I was starting to feel like I was finally toning up! Now with a chance to do this without an audience, I was quite happy.

By the time I arrived back at the springs, the others were relaxing in a decent looking pool. This time the water was crystal clear and the rocks clean, which was definitely nicer. Perhaps this is something to do with sitting in the pools on a falling tide as supposed to a rising one. There were several other potential pools for us to move into as the tide fell, each one requiring a bit of maintenance. Despite the fact that these were used only yesterday, the tide knocks them back on a daily basis as it turns.

I don’t think any of us intended to stay for so long, but we had pool making down to a fine art and ended up spending all day lounging around. We were both a bit tired, as it had become apparent for the first time that Aimee was on heat and she had spent a large portion of the night howling and waking us up followed by the rest of the day stalking Tonto, Luke and Emma’s cat. We therefore enjoyed the peace and quiet and despite the cloud, me and Ina still managed to catch the sun. Towards the end of the day, some more people arrived, and I measured the water temperature of some of the pools we had started off in that were now isolated from the sea. Here the temperature coming out of the ground is at 60 degrees Celsius and its little wonder that you have to dilute it.

We finally got out of the water as the tide was on the turn at around 4pm. Us and the Seaward Shuttle decided to do the drive up to La Paz that night, as the downside of staying on the beach here was the large amounts of flies. Luke and Emma decided to stay put another night and meet us all the following evening.

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