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October 20th 2009
Published: October 20th 2009
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View North From ArroyoView North From ArroyoView North From Arroyo

These are the hills that collected the rain water and sent it rushing down towards the coast through San Carlos, creating a new arroyo (streambed). This one is a couple of hundred yards wide
10/12/2009 11:33 AM

Well, "soon" (last phrase of my post of 10/4) turned out not to be so soon after all! Even that last post was photo-less; I just put some on there, so you might want to check it out one last time...

At least all the major stuff involved in settling into my new digs is out of the way. I have even been approached twice, unsolicited mind you, about doing carpentry work. If there's one thing that this trip is teaching me, it's that anxiety over things like money, shelter, and food are a kind of masochistic insanity. I suppose that if I found myself in a strange land, knew nothing of the language, had no friends, and the locals were antagonistic to strangers, I might have a legitimate reason for being worried. So then, I compare on one hand all the time and energy and pain I've spent worrying about those things throughout my lifetime, (funny, that seemed to happen sometime shortly after getting married and having kids,) and on the other hand all the time I've actually been in situations where the worry was justified. My conclusion: 99.99% of my materialistic anxiety has
Arroyo NNE ViewArroyo NNE ViewArroyo NNE View

A little closer and a bit to the east of the same hills. See the little white speck to the left of the power tower?
been unadulterated insanity. It might have made sense at the time, but in retrospect it was just plain stupid.

So, a bit about the damage from the storm. I took a long walk one morning early last week. The road I'm on, Avenida Cuatro, heads north up towards the hills, so I decided to see how far it goes. I ended up giving up once the road became a path and the brush started closing in. I was in shorts and sandals, not exactly good brush hiking gear. That's OK, it's not going anywhere. But I shouldn't have thrown out those old Red Wing boots with the Vibram soles, my fourth pair almost as many decades. Even though the soles were separating from the uppers, I could have gotten them repaired here for cheap. Oh, well, I'll just have to see if I can scrounge up something suitable here. Those hills are a-calling me.
I did make a discovery before I hit the limit of my tolerance for skin contact with I-don't-have-a-clue-what-it-is vegetation. It turns out that there is a small settlement of 4-5 houses back up in the canyon there. As I was walking through it, a couple
Arroyo CloseupArroyo CloseupArroyo Closeup

I walked about 1/2 mile up the arroyo for this shot. That white speck turns out to be a warning sign.
of guys were trying to jump-start an old sedan, so I helped give it a push and it fired up. My fellow jump-starter owns one of the places there. He thanked me in Spanish and we chatted a bit as well as we could. His name is Faustino. I met his wife and one of their kids. He built the sturdy concrete block house himself. (All of buildings around here are concrete block, and it makes a lot of sense, too.) His house runs off of low-voltage powered by solar panels, and when they need extra wattage for appliances, a generator. Ruben and I have a date for a hike, so we'll go back up there soon and see Faustino and learn more about his set-up. You could see the arroyo not 100 feet behind the houses across the road/path from his place, where the flood waters raged down through the canyon and into the Ranchitos area where my place and Ruben & Julia's are located. Faustino's place and the others in the settlement are on higher ground, and since this was a 40-year flood and caused no damage to his property, he's not too worried about the next one.
Warning Sign "No Dumping"Warning Sign "No Dumping"Warning Sign "No Dumping"

My translator renders the Spanish to say, "No depositing garbage and scrap in this place. Offenders will be punished diligently by the Police Commission of San Carlos. Report incidents to 82-6-1600." The people here appear to be very law-abiding: not a piece of trash in sight. A few days earlier I trekked up the canyon above this arroyo, and what did I find around the bend up and to the left? I suppose the piles of refuse strewn all the way up the canyon were technically legal. Since they were out of line-of-site of the sign, they were actually not located "in this place!"

As to the damage back around our neighborhood, the Ranchitos, I got to see more of the results of the flooding on my route back down from the canyon. I met Miguel, who told me that people call him "Mosquito." The storm waters hit his property square on. In one photo here, he is pointing to the water level against the wall of his bodega, which many families have on their properties, a kind of storage building that they use like most of us use our garages: for stuff, not vehicles. In the distance photo of his house and bodega, the camera was level with the height he indicated, so I put in a line in the photo to mark that height to give you an idea of what the flooding was like. The photos don't really do the scene justice, because they don't capture the differences in elevation between the untouched areas next to the swaths carved out by the water as it raged down to the coast.

I've now met at least a dozen of the neighbors, mostly thanks to Ruben. He talks to everyone. It's made me more confident to approach people like Faustino and
Downstream Path of New ArroyoDownstream Path of New ArroyoDownstream Path of New Arroyo

This shows the new arroyo in the direction it headed, south towards the Sea of Cortez.
Miguel, even in spite of the language barrier. Although there is usually someone that speaks English at the stores and other businesses you go to, (after all, San Carlos is basically a tourist/retirement town,) there are very few who do so elsewhere here. But I'm armed with online translator and Spanish/English dictionary on my Pocket PC, which goes everywhere with me. I'll be yakking it up in no time, haha!

Everyone I meet here seems to have the time to chat, even when they are in the middle of something. Rafael, who did most all of the alterations and tile work to the house I'm staying at, was digging away for a new electrical service post at his house just down the road when Ruben and I walked by one day. We gave him the customary (and mandatory) greeting appropriate to the time of day, "buenas tardes" in this case, and Rafael greeted back, still digging. But when he realized that Ruben wanted to talk a bit, he smiled and stopped and gave us his full attention. No hint that we were interrupting anything. That's typical with people here: they always seem ready to talk, interested to hear, and
Arroyo South ViewArroyo South ViewArroyo South View

Another view showing the home and bodega of Miguel "Mosquito" whom I was soon to meet.
especially to tell stories. I remarked to Ruben one day that the communication style here is very different than the staccato kind of information exchange I'm used to in the States. It's like everyone here converses in stories. Rather than shooting bits and pieces of info back and forth and making points to each other, they tell little stories to illustrate what they want to say. That makes the conversation cycle a lot slower, and I find that I have to bite my tongue. (Katie and the boys will get a kick out of that. They always tell me I'm interrupting, when all that I think I'm doing is providing supporting comments and asking clarifying questions, he he!) What stands out to me in all of this are the smiles I consistently see on people's faces as I approach them.

I've asked around quite a bit and now have a pretty good feel for where the good diving spots are. Ruben and Julia took me out for my first dive early last week. The silt from the storm still lies pretty thick on everything under the water close to shore, and it ends up clouding up visibility to the
My Buddy MosheMy Buddy MosheMy Buddy Moshe

These photos didn't capture it very well, but the top of the debris pile behind Moshe was the approximate height of the water during the storm. It looked a higher in person.
5-10 foot range, 15 feet at best. Even so I saw quite a few fish, though I never hit one with my Hawaiian sling. Turns out that Hawaiian slings are trickier to aim than I thought, and I'm a really poor shot with them. For my second dive I went on my own, in the same area but in a different direction and further out. At the last minute, I realized that I couldn't find the spear shaft for my Hawaiian sling. So I bit the bullet and bought a regular pistol-grip spear gun from Gary at Gary's Dive Shop. I'm glad I did, too, because that dive the water was much clearer, visibility in the 20-25 foot range, and I would never have gotten close enough to the fish to get them with the Hawaiian sling. I rode Ruben's bicycle, on indefinite loan to me, the 20 minutes it took to get to the spot, climbed down the bluff, and was in the water. A few hundred yards out along Punta

As it turned out, I got 7 fish that afternoon, 8 if you count the puffer fish I hit but let go. I didn't realize it was
Moshe and ArroyoMoshe and ArroyoMoshe and Arroyo

The elevation difference between grade next to the arroyo and the stream bed behind Moshe was about 6 feet. Again, the photo doesn't capture it very well. I asked Moshe to smile this time.
a puffer when I shot it. My spear only partially penetrated its skin, so I tried to push the spear through so that I wouldn't lose it. They are tough little buggers: I gave the spear a good shove but it just wouldn't penetrate any further. That's when it puffed up into a balloon and showed all those nasty spines everywhere. I wasn't sure if puffers are OK to eat, and I was pretty sure the little (less than a pound) guy would be OK given the slight damage, so I let him go. Boy, they sure move fast and look funny doing it, given their fat little torsos are stiff as boards and those little fins do all the work.

I stringered the first two fish I shot and tied them up to a rock so I wouldn't lose them like I did the nice fish my son Kevin and I shot last year, left up on the rocks in a goodie bag, only to come back and find that I hadn't put them up high enough and the tide had taken them. This time I kept them in the water, only to come back an hour later
Moshe and the 'HopperMoshe and the 'HopperMoshe and the 'Hopper

Just after snapping the last photo, a huge grasshopper winged its way by. I tried to catch it for Moshe, a specimen almost 4" long! Unfortunately, this is what they do if you don't succeed in grabbing BOTH rear legs at the same time. Moshe thought the leg was cool, though.
to find that something had bitten through the nylon cord and made a nice little meal of them, about 3-4 lbs of fish! I later saw a 4-foot green moray eels gracefully slithering around, and again later yet just as I was getting ready to call it quits and head for shore. A couple of folks I've told about the purloined pair of fish think that the moray was probably the culprit. The second time I saw the moray, it was close enough to shoot, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it: so large, so beautiful a creature. Besides, it probably weighed 15-20 lbs, a bit more eel than I want to eat before it starts to spoil. Gary at the dive shop told me that it was a good thing I didn't shoot it. Morays are a two-man job. Gary shot one once and it bent his spear into a pretzel and turned on him. Good eating if you're willing to risk it, but I'll satisfy myself with the 1-2 lb fish that are all around. I'm thinking that maybe I'll stringer up a couple more right off the bat the next time I'm out and then
Arroyo N ViewArroyo N ViewArroyo N View

One more shot of the arroyo from the location where we caught the grasshopper leg, showing the canyon, the no dumping sign, and the power tower.
hang around to see what comes after them. If it's not a shark and not a moray, I might have the makings of a good block party with barbequed fish back in Ranchitos!

Still trying to get a fix on whether I'm observing cultural differences or whether it's the observer that's making the differences. That's probably going to take some time. Someone asked about my "noble savage" comment in my last post. That's a term coined in the 18th Century as contact with aboriginal cultures outside Europe was increasing. There's a good write-up on it on Wikipedia at

Modern anthropology has shed a more realistic light on the "noble savage" idea. Please understand that I wasn't applying the term to anyone here in Mexico or elsewhere, just alluding to the romanticism of the people that made the "noble savage" notion popular centuries ago and wondering whether I might be under the influence of some of the same neurotransmitting brain chemicals. It's actually kind of a no-brainer, really, (yeah, I know, bad pun.) Of course I am, to some degree. You can't take a soggy Pacific Northwesterner, relocate him to warm and sunny climes, and expect him to
Mosquito and His HomeMosquito and His HomeMosquito and His Home

This is Miguel "Mosquito" who very kindly greeted us and showed us the storm damage his property sustained, making himself understood in spite of the language barrier. I drew a red line marking the water level he indicated that the arroyo reached during the storm.
see things through something besides rosy glasses! My question is just how rosy are the glasses, and what do things look like without them? I'll let you know if I figure it out.

A similar question was posed to me a little while back about my recent motorcycle accident, one of the events that triggered this whole little trek: I was asked, "Were you going too fast?" My response: "Of course I was, given the situation. Otherwise, I would have kept it up on two wheels!"

Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


Mosquito and the StormMosquito and the Storm
Mosquito and the Storm

Here Miguel points out how high the water got during the storm. This is the corner of his bodega, a common structure that people use for storing belongings they don't want in their houses.
Foundation DamageFoundation Damage
Foundation Damage

Miguel was very fortunate that all the arroyo did was undermine the foundation of his house a bit. The furniture shop just doors down from my digs was not so lucky. It's office and showroom sank about 3 feet due to the same erosive action.
Mosquito's Home and Water LevelMosquito's Home and Water Level
Mosquito's Home and Water Level

This is the same shot as the one several back, showing the arroyo water level that Miguel indicated.
Arroyo Take 2Arroyo Take 2
Arroyo Take 2

Miguel's home and bodega withstood the onrushing water, forcing it to both sides. Here is the stream bed the arroyo cut behind is bodega, between his property and the neighbor's (white house with arches seen in previous photos.)
Diving SpotsDiving Spots
Diving Spots

My diving routes and the location of other spots I've yet to try. I'm living in "Ranchitos" which is about 1 1/2 miles east on the main road (yellow) off the right side of the map. Don't fret, the third dive and the tour with Maru are covered in my next post.
Arch in the Punta Shangri La Arch in the Punta Shangri La
Arch in the Punta Shangri La

The cute little tunnel I swam through on my second dive.
Balloon Fish At EaseBalloon Fish At Ease
Balloon Fish At Ease

This is just how they look in the water. They don't move their bodies to swim, just those little fins that wiggle furiously just to get out a little speed...
Ballonfish Fully Pumped FrontBallonfish Fully Pumped Front
Ballonfish Fully Pumped Front

This is just how the little guy looked when I hit him. Besides the nasty looking spines, their hide is extremely tough. My spear didn't fully penetrate the hide going in. I let him go and he swam off. I think he survived just fine.
Ballonfish Fully Pumped SideBallonfish Fully Pumped Side
Ballonfish Fully Pumped Side

They go from ease to fully pumped in just a second or two. Back to normal is just as quick.
Panamic Green Moray EelPanamic Green Moray Eel
Panamic Green Moray Eel

I've seen one or two each dive I've been on so far. The first one was a startler. I was tempted to shoot the second one I saw; it was only about four feet away. Just too beautiful.
Panamic Green Moray Eel Panamic Green Moray Eel
Panamic Green Moray Eel

This is about the same size as the ones I've seen which have ranged from about 3 to 4 feet long. Graceful, powerful, and shy, but nothing to mess with.
Parrotfish Parrotfish

This is exactly how the one I shot on my second dive looked under water. My third dive, I got an Azure Parrotfish. I haven't been able to find consistent information on this species though. Some sources call it Bicolored, while others don't mention it.
My Catch--2nd DiveMy Catch--2nd Dive
My Catch--2nd Dive

All were great eating except for the unfortunate Giant Damselfish, far left. Apologies, little one, your brothers and sisters will be safe from me from now on...

26th October 2009

Making the most of your time
We admire the dedication of you entering a daily log of even your most simple experiences and turning into a very interesting travelogue for all your friends to read. Keep it up--we all have something to look forward to. The photographs of the fish were awesome as Moshe would say!

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