Pop Goes the World


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Published: May 26th 2019
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The Flying MobulasThe Flying MobulasThe Flying Mobulas

...they fly through the air with the greatest of ease...
Wanna go see the Mobula jump?

What a silly question. Of course I do. Nothing is more amusing than watching thousands of rays the size of dinner plates hurl themselves out of the sea, to soar like birds.

It's unknown why they do this, but theories abound.

Some believe it is some kind of mating ritual. He who smacks the water the loudest gets the most Mobula action?

Theory number two, it's a tactic used to scare the shit out of their food. Third, it's to rid themselves of parasites that don't appreciate aerobatic maneuvers. Fourth, they are trying to outsmart their natural predators. And lastly, they do it for the sheer pleasure of it.

I'm going to go with that one.

I swear the Mobula splash down with a sheer glee. Do fish really have feelings? I'd say yes. From a boat, they look like they are smiling as they soar.

Here on the Sea of Cortez you see the darnedest things.

Jacques Cousteau christened this place "The World's Aquarium", and truly it is. Not only is the area rich with biodiversity, but its stunningly beautiful.

Flying Rays or Mobulas are close cousins to the massive Manta Rays. They swim in schools around the Baja feeding on zooplankton and tiny crustaceans when the ocean temperatures change in May and again in November. These little buggers are super amusing and absolutely essential to the ecosystem, but like everything else, are under serious threat. They often get caught up in the illegal drift nets and tossed back as by-product waste. Seeing they only give birth to one pup per year, they will easily be the next on the endangered species list.

Poaching and Pollution and Over-Fishing are literally killing the Sea of Cortez. Fast.

So much so that Greenpeace has posted one of its Sea Shepherd vessels to oversee and witness this crisis. The ominous MV Sharpie moors near my house in San Jose del Cabo as it conducts harassment sorties against the local fishermen who are just trying to eek out a measly living. It's a heartless battle with no winners.

Again, it comes down to the privileged rich against the struggling poor, a familiar war waged within Mexico. The drug war had that exact formula, and look how well that went. As long as there
Too Cool for SchoolToo Cool for SchoolToo Cool for School

They guys float under the surface with such grace
is an insatiable demand for illicit drugs or endangered fish in North America, Mexico is doomed to be bullied and aggressively destroyed.

Ok so! Off my soapbox for now.

Another perfect day here on the Baja. Blue skies, sandy beaches, and turquoise seas. My friend J and I decide it's time for an adventure. Usually nothing gets me out of my hammock midday, but the Mobula? I'm packing my cooler. Vamos!

It's also the day before Easter weekend, or Santo Semana as it's known in these parts, and it is kind of a big deal. Kids get a week off school and I'm pretty sure every family has one thing in mind. Vamos a la playa! Any spot along the coastline of Los Cabos resembles a mini carnival. At Shipwrecks, an elaborate flotilla of tents goes as far as the eye can see. There are gangs of elderly women cooking in military grade kitchens, set up with precision under gigantic blue tarps to block out the sun. No one ever ties anything down properly. The smell of charred meats wafts along the horizon. Someone actually drove a water truck as far as they could before it
Another Tequila sunsetAnother Tequila sunsetAnother Tequila sunset

Such a beautiful site at happy hour on the Marina in SJD.
got stuck. As expected, there is a music competition between the families. Who can play their favorite song the loudest? I'm not entirely sure why, but there is a huge freshwater wading pool dug out in the sand, lined with black plastic. Everywhere you look, young men in black with white socks and shower slippers are drinking beer and digging out vehicles stuck in the dunes. Gangs of kids run amok in beach gear. Someone is making useless announcements over a loudspeaker from the Cielo truck that meanders along the roadway. Family pets travel in stray packs looking for handouts. It's all stimulus overload.

But I prefer the solitude and serenity a little farther out.

Cabo Pulmo is that perfect spot. From San Jose del Cabo it's about an hour and a half drive East on the two lane highway, headed for Los Barriles.

You could go the other way...the old road is a twisty bumpy dirt track that skirts the scenic edge of the sea, but it is mostly washboard and potholes that will jiggle your wobbly bits in an unsightly manner. Or worse, flatten your beer. Plus it takes forever.

The quicker choice takes
Cabo PulmoCabo PulmoCabo Pulmo

Welcome to the national reserve for marine life
you through the middle of the Baja Sur, past the Tropic of Capricorn (a small rest area with monument officially marks the spot) drive until the turn off for La Ribera appears. After going through town you'll have to backtrack the old dusty roadway to get to Cabo Pulmo, which takes about half an hour.

Beware. There isn't much in Cabo Pulmo. A few dive shops, a handful of restaurants that open when they feel like it, a tiny Tienda that charges Gringos mucho dinero for snacks or beverages. You are better off stopping in La Ribera for supplies, or I highly recommend bringing your own food and drink from Los Cabos. Make sure you have enough Gasolina too.

Cabo Pulmo is completely off grid and they desperately try to conserve electricity, and water, and nature.

I rented us a typical Mexican casita with a palm frond roof for $50 a night through Air BnB. It was basic, basic. Translated: one step up from a tent. However, I appreciated the nice hammock on the breezy second floor and a fridge to store my food. And the heated showers. But they shut the electricity off in the night
Seal SelfieSeal SelfieSeal Selfie

Playful wet dogs, I find they try to eat my camera . Don't know why.
to conserve it, so that means no fans, no charging the iPhone, and all the freezer stuff was melted by the morning.

In 1995, the Mexican Government set Cabo Pulmo aside as a National Marine Park Reserve. Thank God. It's one of the last places left on the Baja that is still in fairly pristine shape. Subtle changes have been going on everywhere else. For example, all the majestic Cardon cactus on the Baja have been dug up and stolen for landscaping projects. Here they still stand stoic. In Cabo Pulmo, plenty of turtles still crawl out of the sea every summer to lay their eggs, in the Los Cabos region, there are none. Here, at least twenty road runners will cross in front of your vehicle. In Los Cabos, they're all flattened. But, best of all, in Cabo Pulmo there are gigantic schools of Mobula that play in the surf every evening. They sound like popcorn popping as they simultaneously hit the surf. In Los Cabos you may see the odd confused Mobula jump, probably looking for his campadres.

J slips our ex-fisherman guide Samuel some pesos and he goes to fetch his truck. The Don Chuy
Los ArboritosLos ArboritosLos Arboritos

The best little swim beach in Cabo Pulmo
is backed out into the waves, and I take up position at its bow. I'm watching keenly as the Panga glides through an ocean of glass. The sun has started its dip towards the horizon. It's happy hour for the Mobula. Same for us. We crack a few beers while we scan.

And right on queue. There they go.

Popcorn!

J and I both start to giggle, we'd been listening to that song from Men Without Hats on the drive up. Pop Goes the World. After their mesmerizing show, we slip into the ocean to do a little snorkel with them. Underwater it looks like a flock of birds soaring on a breeze. I never want to go but we have to. We return inland just before the night falls.

Cabo Pulmo is a ghost town. Everyone is at Tito's for his Thursday night Americanized buffet, but J and I decide to have dinner at El Caballero. It's a bit rustic but the food is very tasty. I had Chili Rellenos stuffed with seafood, and the red sauce was to die for. J had a whole seasoned red snapper. Lots of margaritas and lots of
Stop following me you AssesStop following me you AssesStop following me you Asses

The wild burros just seem to know when I have carrots in my pockets.
chats with the locals before we walk back. In the desert where there is no light pollution, the star display overhead is unbelievable.

I'm always surprised at how many divers are here from France but then I'm like, oh right, Jacques Cousteau. We can hear a party of about 30 of them drinking wine and nattering away in the big courtyard garden next to ours. My rusty French translates some pretty excited verdicts of their day, Cabo Pulmo dive sites are c’est magnifique!

I wish we could join them, but J doesn't have his Padi and I'm trying to save money for my next big trip. We spend the night in our hammock imagining what it would be like to live in Cabo Pulmo full time.

The next day we discover not all is as it seems in Hippy-Ville. Two Expats are yelling at each other over a comical two foot high fence. I lay there contemplating an intervention but the colourful language is actually amusing. One Expat is accusing the other Expat of going on FB and spreading lies about him. From what I can gather, the Expats that live on the ocean's edge have built
Last of the Great CardonsLast of the Great CardonsLast of the Great Cardons

Sadly, all the native cactus are being dug up and sold to resorts, there are hardly any left.
cement walls to block everybody's access to the beach. Newsflash: They can't do that. In Mexico all beaches are public property. So as retaliation, the offended Expats rolled gigantic boulders to block the offending Expats cars. So now they can't drive up to their ocean front properties. That's pretty funny. Then they all argue about it on social media. Until it boils over. Which brings us back to 7 am today.

Sounds peaceful. No thanks.

Since we're up, we might as well go for a hike into the scenic desert before the sun gets too high in the sky. The hiking trails are close to town, well marked and easy to follow. It is important to watch where you walk, a lot of things want to kill you out here. But the panoramic views are so worth it.

Wild Burros follow us back towards town. J can't figure out why, until he catches me sneaking carrots from my backpack. My reputation as the burro whisperer, blown.

Later in the afternoon, after a mandatory siesta in the hammock, we decide to drive to Arbolitos for a dip in the ocean. It's easy to get to. Head west, and follow the weathered signs. If a storm hasn't taken out the official park signage, that is. Follow a washboard track all the way down the hill. You'll have to drive though someone's ranch, and dodge a few cows and angry dogs. Don't worry, you have right of access. Everyone does. Most days, the rancher's son will be there with a clipboard, ready to take 40 pesos for you to park. Do it. It pays for the upkeep of the beach and gives you access to change rooms/bathrooms, and sometimes even a food vendor.

Usually, there is no one here at Arbolitos...but it is Easter weekend, so....

I can highly recommend this beach because it has a reef just off the shore. Many massive fish loiter and it's a real treat to see how large they can really get, when not over-fished. A few turtles bob around in the background. A seal playfully comes in for a better look.

For some reason, the ocean temperature has been quite cold this year, odd for April. Oh global warming, you made up crisis you. I'm glad I brought my wet suit with my snorkel gear. It was needed!
Beep BeepBeep BeepBeep Beep

The Roadrunner, or Corre Camino is a sneaky little bugger who likes to play chicken with your 4x4.

A local family who is tenting near us, come over with red solo cups full of freshly made ceviche. I take one gracefully, but worry the fish might be from within the national park, which goes against everything I was soapboxing about earlier.

While J and I are having an animated debate in English on this very subject, the father wanders over and reassures us he caught it this morning outside the park. He shows me on a map where. Turns out he is a chef at one of the restaurants in Los Cabos and talks about seafood sustainability with a passion. I stand down. Nothing is worse than being a hypocrite.

I'd like to stay in Cabo Pulmo for a few more days but we need to go back to Los Cabos. J has work, and I must continue my volunteering gig at a local community center.

Besides, Cabo Pulmo and the Mobulas will still be here when I return. I hope.


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


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Dry and HotDry and Hot
Dry and Hot

As April turns to May, the desert dries out and becomes brown and dead looking. But it is still as alive as can be.
Can't Count themCan't Count them
Can't Count them

Millions of Mobulas do circles as they socialize under the surface
Dirt track to Cabo PulmoDirt track to Cabo Pulmo
Dirt track to Cabo Pulmo

It is fun to go for miles and never see another person, not so fun if you get a flat tire or engine problems.
Hammock HeavenHammock Heaven
Hammock Heaven

After a day of diving a little hammock time is bliss
Our chauffeurOur chauffeur
Our chauffeur

The Don Chuy takes us out to view the mobulas
Keeping an eye outKeeping an eye out
Keeping an eye out

Dolphins are constant companions in the Sea of Cortez, they always seems to be overseeing what we are up to.


28th May 2019
Stop following me you Asses

Donkeeeeeys!
So many of your photos in this blog are fabulous, but I had to comment on the super cuteness of this one - love those ears! The only time I've seen flying rays was when we were on a dawn fishing trip off the coast of Mazunte. We couldn't believe what we were seeing :)
1st June 2019
Stop following me you Asses

Gotta love those burros aka donkeys. So cute, even if they are wild. Oh! you are so lucky to witness the rays jumping in Mazunte! Almost every Mexican town on the Sea of Cortez has this phenomenon.
28th May 2019
Too Cool for School

I would love to see that!
That looks so cool. It reminds me a bit of when we were in Mexico and saw whale sharks. That was before we began writing on Travelblog so you won't see any photos of that. /Ake
1st June 2019
Too Cool for School

Whale sharks and Manta Rays and Whales give me such a thrill every time I see them. I made a trip out to Socorro Island one year for a dive and I wish I had blogged about the great whites and hammerhead sharks I saw. Jacques was right, it is the world's aquarium.
29th May 2019

El Burro Whisperer!
Your cover was blown, lol! Lovely reading about the quieter, untouched part of Baja. I also hope it will stay that way for a long time. The popcorn ray experience must have been amazing 😊
1st June 2019

Thank you! I think in my next life I might need to get a job promoting the Baja. I can't not love this place. So much to see and do. You should go!
2nd June 2019
The Flying Mobulas

Utterly fantastic
An amazing day
2nd June 2019
Too Cool for School

Phenomenal !
What a photo.
2nd June 2019

The world's aquarium and so much more
Your love of this piece of the world shows through in your blog. Fantastic photos. Love those afternoons in the hammock.
2nd June 2019

Thanks for all the lovely feedback! I thought I'd do a little blog showcasing some of the things I get up to when I'm on the Baja. There is so much more than resorts and margaritas here!
4th July 2019

Great Photos!
Interesting write up and fabulous photos as always! Obviously another wonderful adventure among many for you!

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