Cabo Pulmo is a pretty little town with sandy paths for streets, solar panels on every palapa roof, and wild horses meandering the palmed beach. The social and economic hub of the village seems to be the dive shop for the Cabo Pulmo Divers, which is now decorated with one of Bella's murals, which she had been painting in exchange for free diving.
Not a bad deal for either party. Peliu and Henry are the wonderful couple who run the shop and they were very generous. Within a few mintues I was all geared up in multiple wetsuits, tank, BCD, and the whole works. The only paying customers were a couple from Dallas, who seemed to have about as much dive experience as me (barely any), and spent a good half hour figuring out how to put their masks on. The whole mess of folks and gear was finally loaded into a panga and with a stiff push from the fender of a 4x4 pickup, the panga slipped off the beach into the water. Panchito, the boat captain, soon had us expertly flying across the top of the waves at 20 + knots with the 80 horse 4 stroke Yamaha singing like a sewing machine. This is how the other half lives! That same chop would have had Sula burying her bow and down to an uncomfortable 2 kts. Henry the divemaster is a dashing Dutchman who is not un-Cousteau like with his wild bleached out Rod Stewart hair and ratty french wetsuit from the 80s. The first dive was El Islote, a stone pinnacle that rose from 60 feet depth up to a rock that stuck above the surface. It had been almost 7 years since I'd been certified, but I wasn't about to let the tourists from Dallas look more "jacques-like" than I, so I quickly tried to remember all the different ways to die underwater and how to avoid them. After a few minutes of near panic I was finally able to get my mask to seal, while Bella chased down my drifting fin and strapped it back on for me, and finally calm down. Once I was breathing air, things were awesome. The fish and corals and rock formations were beautiful and it was great to be really diving again in warm water. We spotted a large school of Manta Rays, flapping slowly, flying in a perfectly geometric formation like a squadron of stealth bombers, cruising into our hazy blue world from above, and then quickly fading back out again. We made another dive in similarly great conditions, and I had nothing to fear looking like a novice as the Texan couple were such a disaster that even I looked like a dolphin in comparison. The woman had a specially made Buoyancy Control Device with integrated lead weights to try to get her to sink... which it barely could. At some point after they actually manged both get hauled into the boat like dead whales, they both started puking over the side. The man was also bleeding from what looked like his eyes and groaning like he was dying. I don't think they saw the Mantas either. The both turned out to be fine and had pretty good attitudes about their ordeal.
The next day Bella and I had a great side trip up into the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna, the high mountain range that forms the spiny crest of southern Baja. We drove on beautiful meandering dirt roads high into the "thorn forest" and then a short hike up a canyon to a beautiful waterfall.
It was an interesting area to begin with, each tree and cactus, more beautiful than the next, with green mountains rising all around, and then to come upon a scene as perfect as this cascada, defies description. I would love to spend the whole day exploring around this area, as the river above the falls was lined with perfect little sand beaches and a chain of clear pools that led who knows how far up into the mountains. I'd like to do some more hiking in this area later next month. There is a network of trails that go up into the cloud forest that caps the high moutnains. Those wetter regions harbor "relic" plant species that were more pervasive in the lowlands thousands of years ago when the entire region was more wet, but now only survive in islands around the mountaintops.
Then, after the hike, a rave! What could be better? Bella's clan in Pulmo is a great, diverse group from all over the world. Jimena y Tonguy y Ingrid y Pelieu? y Henry y Bella y Ramon and those two guys from Idaho who stumbled into the party... thanks for such a fun time. Muchas Gracias para todo. I hope to see you guys somewhere around the world again.
Bella has decided to stay in Cabo Pulmo to work on her art, so I'm alone aboard Sula now for the first time since Seattle. It will be a good chance to get things shipshape again and relax before a trip back north.
Happy holidays to everyone. I hope you're surrounded by your loved ones and enjoying the fruits of December wherever you are.