13 September 2012

Three, Two, One, Taganga!

Ensenada de Gayraca has been our favorite of the bays so far. It is calmer than the others and the snorkeling was good. Its one drawback (for us) is that a small settlement of fishermen lives there. We almost met a couple of them as we reconnoitered the bay in our dinghy. They saw us and beckoned us on shore, but it was too steep and too rocky to run our dinghy up onto. It would have been impossible to explain that from a few hundred feet away...over a noisy outboard motor...in Spanish. We hoped we didn't--but suspected we did--come off as rude, but it couldn't be helped.

We saw the fishermen come and go during our couple of days there. Another cruising myth disabused: no one tried to sell us any fish, dang it. As appealing as it seemed to stay a while  longer, we still had two more bays to visit before both our food and room for garbage ran out. Jane stowed a few things, but didn't make any excessive preparations since the next bay, Ensenada de Chengue, was literally around the corner of a rock formation. I did a quick, "pre-flight" engine check. From down in the starboard engine room, I could hear her talking to someone and knew it wasn't any of the cats since she has never conversed with them in Spanish. It turned out to be one of the guys who had motioned to us the other day. Jane was having a merry little chat with him. He had paddled over in what I guess is the coastal Colombian version of a mango wood boat, only minus the leaks and, sadly, any fish.

Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I was frustrated by not being able to speak the local language. Even from what little Spanish I understand thanks to Sesame Street, to Claudia, our maestra, and to all that time spent at the grocery store, I could tell he was an interesting person. Jane's somewhat competent Spanish notwithstanding, the conversation was limited to the aquatic life of his bay, how unpleasant Taganga and Bahia Concha are (drugs, AIDS, prostitution, banditos, etc.), our cats, and his children. He wanted to know if we had a boat card which was odd, I thought.  Then out of his mochila, he pulled a baggie with what must have been 500 or more boat cards. They were from people from all over the world, he explained. And now, it gives us a little joy to be able to say, he has ours as well. Then, having exhausted all we could say to one another, he bid us adios and paddled away. We pulled up our anchor...and pulled up our anchor chain...and pulled up more anchor chain, a lot of anchor chain, and headed around the corner to what started out as the calmest but then turned into the rolliest anchorage, so we could drop it all down again.

JOY bobbed around all evening and through the night. The next morning over breakfast, we decided we couldn't take it anymore. Jane wanted to go for one more snorkeling trip (evidence of her penchant for harassing small fish to follow), we wanted to take a walk along the beach on the west side of the bay--the first uninhabited stretch we'd come across yet--and then we'd head for the much deeper, and therefore calmer, we hoped, Bahia Concha.

I intended to add to our ever-growing collection of lovely nature shots while Jane snorkeled. Our "land" camera, has been acting weird lately, but I brought it with anyway in case it was in a kindly mood. I also brought my iPad so I'd have something to do after spending my customary eight-and-a-half minutes communing with nature. One look around told me Chengue offered no new possibilities for lovely nature shots, so I decided to try an experiment I'd thought of a few days before. These bays, while not good for shelling do have remarkable rocks. I'd already come across a bag's worth if I'd collected them all. We obviously have no room for a bag of rocks, much less all the bags of rocks that would accumulate if I kept it up around the world. Instead of keeping the rock itself, I thought, I could take a picture of it, Photoshop it into a thing of perfection and collect the photos.

When I came upon a perfect specimen, I decided to give it a try. I found a handsome piece of driftwood whose tawny, brown, and black shades were enhanced by the surf that washed over it periodically. I turned the camera on and waited for it to regain control of its electronic brain. It never did. It turned itself off and on repeatedly as though suffering from a personality disorder. I turned it off and back on, which is to say I toggled the switch back and forth, and then it didn't go on at all. Finally, I gave up and went to where I'd put my gear to get the iPad. As I was walking back, a wave washed up over the driftwood log and took my rock with it.  I found another one right away though, so I proceeded with my photography project. I put it on the driftwood, took a couple of shots, moved it to another part of the driftwood, took a couple more shots, waited for the surf to come up next to it to enhance the composition, missed a couple of times, got it once. 

After all the time I spent on my project, I fell in love with my "model" and brought it home anyway. I might need to switch to photographing boulders.

I made a bargain with Mother Nature: if I could have some of her shells, I would also take away some of the garbage that had drifted onto shore. Then it occurred to me that I didn't want to pick up garbage without gloves, so already I had welched on the deal since I did keep the shells...and the rock. I know from watching a margarine commercial that it's not nice to fool Mother Nature, so I fear her act of retribution. I must really like that rock.

I was in the process of learning how to sew clothes from palm fronds and other natural fibers by the time Jane came back. Had her camera not run out of battery, I might have had time to teach myself architecture as well. We went back to the boat, had lunch, then headed for the far shore for our last Chengue excursion. Rivera, the boat card collecting fisherman from Gayraca, mentioned that there was only one person who lived in Chengue, but thus far, we hadn't seen any signs of habitation. When we landed on the western beach, we found his home. He had himself tucked into a perfect corner, out on a small point. Of course, we were fresh out of cameras, so I didn't get a picture.

Jane has determined that the new dinghy landing approach we were experimenting with is not appropriate for non-swimmers as it evidentially requires jumping out of the dinghy in waist-deep water and wading to shore. Standing in waist-deep water is something I am uncomfortable doing even in a swimming pool where there is not the possibility of being rear-ended by an oncoming inflatable vessel. We reverted to our old, run-it-up-on-the- beach technique. It was a sandy one. I'm not sure how we'll handle rocky beaches.

The land was uncharacteristically flat for a long way back from the beach before rising up to the mountains. We discovered that there was a swamp about a quarter mile in but didn't go off to check it out because we weren't dressed for it and besides, why would we? In the few minutes we spent on the beach, the swells had gotten so high they rose above the dinghy. Good thing it wasn't my first dinghy ride, I said to Jane, 'cause there'd be no getting me back in it if I thought it was always like this, life jacket or no.

A consistent problem we've had in these bays is how closely to the hills they shelve up. In the Bahamas, we could anchor in seven feet of water as close to or far from land as we wanted. Here, we practically have to scrape the slopes to anchor in anything less than thirty feet of water. That means having at least one hundred fifty feet of chain out and to make sure we don't swing into a wall of rock with a wind shift, we have to be so far out into the bay that we get hardly any protection from wind or waves. So it was with Bahia Concha. We made a drive-by around the bay, but there really wasn't a good spot to be had. What there was was for us the least desirable situation: a lot of people on the beach and no wi-fi signal . All in all, not enough to inspire us to stay in what would assuredly be another uncomfortable anchorage.

That left us with a choice. We could either stop off at Taganga, which is on the way to Santa Marta, or just go to Santa Marta directly. Again, Internet access was the deciding factor. We knew we'd get a good signal in Santa Marta; Taganga was an unknown. Only one way to find out. I fired up our signal booster while Jane drove into the bay. If we could get a good strong signal, we'd stay; if not, we'd leave. We did and we did.

Taganga was a bizarre combination of environmental events when we arrived. The water was flatter than any we'd had since leaving the marina, but there was a wind swooping down from the mountains above the town so strong that its howling was driving us to distraction. It died down sometime yesterday.  Good, because we really would like to see Taganga before we go, but I think it's unlikely if we move back to Santa Marta. 
Taganga from JOY. All you can really see from here is the Internet.

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