Monday, 17 March 2008 – boat trip from San Carlos
It all started as planned: Alarm clock off at 5 a.m., meet in reception by 5:30 for 55 km drive to San Carlos, breakfast at the cafe of Hotel Brennan by 6:15 and our host for the day, El Capitan Jose Soto ready to whisk us away at 7:00 and on the boat by 7:15. Except: as we drove into San Carlos, Ian (today’s driver) asked if he had been spitting on the windscreen. No!? Well, in that case it’s raining! And sure enough, this time no fog but a light drizzle that grew stronger as we went on. Jose had warned us that it was not until we reached the middle of the Bahia Magdalena that he could be sure that the conditions were right for today’s program. When we reached the spot, we could see for ourselves that the weather was not good. El Capitan suggested that we could find shelter under the shore of Isla Magdalena, go as far as Puerto Magdalena where a friend could take us by car to the cemetery that Alain and I had visited last month. Fine by us, although Ian and Eunice looked a bit green around the gills and would have readily agreed to go back and spend a day in front of the telly.
At Puerto Magdalena, where every male person we met was called Jose, El Capitan Jose introduced us to Jose the Driver who also seemed to be Jose the Chef in the restaurant that was at the heart of this fishing village. His car, a Ford pick up, had seen better days, but managed to get us all on board and coughed its way along the beach. ‘Stop!’ Eunice had spotted a Dudleya and Agave. She hopped out to take a quick picture, but was persuaded to come back for more on the way back. We had only gone a few hundred meter farther along when Ian spotted Mammillaria (Cochemia) halei in flower as well as the endemic Opuntia, O. pycnacantha. The Agave is supposed to be A. margarita, but when you Google this name, all I got was page after page of a cocktail called Agave Margarita. Let’s not bother going all the way to the cemetery, all that we want to see was here.
We climbed the hills overlooking the Bay and found numerous clumps of M. halei, mostly in flower. Here, it was the most common cactus. Eagle eyed Cliff spotted a large red fruit, with Peniocereus (greggii?) attached. Without fruits (or at night, without flowers) this plant is almost impossible to see as the thin stem winds through the local shrubbery. A good spot indeed, Cliff!
We walked back to the car where Jose & Jose were patiently waiting for us. ‘We’ll walk back to the village’ we suggested as there was plenty more to see on the way back. As they drove off, it began to rain again, quite hard. Who cares when there are cacti! Well, we do in a way, because the light was less than perfect for photography. But the shower passed over quickly and we took more pictures of Dudleya and Agave, which had magnificent teeth lining the leaves. ‘Dudleya Girl’ Eunice had moved on to the restaurant when the rain started and was now busy persuading Jose The Driver to take her back to the Dudleya / Agave spot for another picture session.
The rest of us enjoyed a coffee / chocolate drink watching the waves go by, remembering what holidays used to be like once upon a time. When the Dudleya party returned, El Capitan Jose explained that we needed to be on our way at 12:30 when the tide would turn, creating larger waves than were safe. He suggested that one of the local lads could guide us on a 30 minute hike to the other (Pacific) side of the island and that Jose the Chef would prepare lunch for us in the mean time. And so we went off with Young Jose, the guide (although Eunice may remember his real name).
Isla Magdalena is quite long – more than 70 miles! – but very thin. Our walk from Puerto Magdalena to the hills above the rocky west coast was about 1 mile. The northern bit seems to be mangrove covered tidal sandbanks (we didn’t go there, but the boat followed the coast for a good while) while the bit we were on, the rocky bit at the south, rises to about 160 m. although our walk was through a saddle of about 80 – 90 m.
We were rewarded by one more taxon to our tick list as I spotted Echinocereus barthelowanus. Not a very common species in cultivation, and if the half dead clumps that we saw were anything to go by, I can see why. The plant I have / had at home resembles a miniature E. brandegeei.
Our food was waiting for us when we got back and was worth another picture. But we had to hurry to get away with the tide. It’s amazing how quickly the sea here changes from quite smooth to quite rough. We did see a couple of spouts from passing whales, but as the tide was at its lowest, they were limited to the deep channel between island and main land and this is where the waves were going to be at their strongest, and had drifted quite a distance, so we did not hang about too long waiting for the whales to surface again.
Back at the Hotel in Ciudad Constitucion by 3 ish, we decided to have a break and just chill out, which for me meant down loading images, writing today’s Diary and chatting on Windows Life Messenger with Angie, while Cliff was resting and diabolical Mexican music came from the ever-present TV.
Tomorrow we head south for Todos Santos.