Feb 2012

Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 24 Comments

Slaying Fish and Saving Babies

I had been standing on the beach for an hour, the bungee cords holding my dive knife to my leg cutting off the circulation to my foot.  The nefarious no-see-ums of San Blas dined gluttonously on my flesh as I stood with my fishing pole in hand, line extending into the surf.  It had been over three weeks since we reached the ocean, and I still hadn’t caught a fish.  The only thing saving us from starvation every day had been the miracle of commerce.  I was clearly no fisherman.  That is, until I felt the ever so light tug on my line.

Could it be? I wondered.  I waited with my eyes concentrated on the tip of my rod.  Yes, something was tugging on my line.  I had all but decided that this ocean was completely devoid of life until this, the tug of my line, proof that life does exist in the ocean.  The scientists are right!

I quickly reacquainted myself with the functionality of my reel, as I was until this point unpracticed in reeling anything in.  With each feeble twist of the little twisty handle thing I pulled the sure-to-be behemoth sea monster of a fish closer to shore.  Closer to our Dutch oven, which would be especially retrieved from Nacho’s cabinet just for the occasion of this abundant fish dinner.  As it neared shore, the ocean exploded as if a giant wave were crashing ashore.  Moments later, as I reeled the fish onto the beach, I realized that the commotion was indeed a wave crashing ashore.  My fish was lacking.  Flaccid.  An anticlimax.  My throat began to close up with the swell of tears at my ongoing failure as a fisherman, but I held it back.  Just because everyone else catches big fish doesn’t mean I have to.  Come on Brad, I thought, don’t ride the bandwagon.

Moments after I finished chopping up the tiny fish into bait for future failed fishing ventures, I heard a squeal of joy wafting up from the beach.  I looked up and saw Sheena very rapidly flapping one hand at me in a motion that I assumed was intended to make me come to her.  As I approached, I saw a tiny rock next to her feet having a seizure.  Upon further scrutiny, I realized that the tiny rock was actually a baby sea turtle instinctively, slowly, making its way from its nest to the ocean.  The hyperventilation and the look of utter bliss on her face.  The genuine satisfaction and eye-popping joy.  This must be how it feels to catch a fish.

After two nights of beach camping in San Blas, the witnessing of the miracle of life, the surfing, and the reminder of my perpetual failure as a fisherman, we pointed south.  Everyone we had encountered had spoken highly of Sayulita, a small and quirky expat surf town where the jungle-covered mountains meet the ocean just north of Puerto Vallarta.

We pulled into Sayulita, a compact town with cobbled dirt roads and lots of color.  We hadn’t seen many tourists in Baja, nor had we seen many in Mazatlan after tourism’s recoil due to occasional violence between drug cartels.  San Blas had a few retired expats, but not many.  Sayulita was a different story.  Most of the signs and almost all of the voices we heard were in English.  If the Americans left, the town would be gone.  At first it was a put off, but then we decided to roll with it.  We’re far from home, so we might as well have the taste of home when we can.  We proceeded to drink espresso, eat banana pancakes, and speak English.  Later, I proceeded to fall off of my surfboard and shove an ice axe-like rock right into my heel.  In my scramble to find my board I took three sea urchin spines in the same foot.  I swore out loud, in English.

When it came time to find a campground for the night, we were told where to find it.  We found the beach front property surrounded by a tall brick fence and dotted with palm trees, and inquired about the price.  $35.  You must be out of your damn mind I thought.  $35 to park for the night?  We cursed our American brethren and the economic fortune they’d brought on this small town, and decided to head north a few miles to the equally small, but relatively undiscovered town of San Francisco.

In San Francisco we drove down the main street until it dead ended in a very small parking lot at the beach.  A small river emptied from the jungle into the bay next to where a merengue band played while people danced.  Couples sat beneath palm trees and watched the sunset.  We walked over to a lady who ran a small restaurant and asked her where we could park Nacho to camp.  She twirled her hand in the air and said “anywhere’s fine”.  I pointed to the van.  “Right there?”  She nodded her head and said something about it being a public space.  The spot was pretty perfect; a thick canopy of trees overhead, the beach a few yards away, a quiet dead end with little traffic.  I asked a passing police officer if it was really okay.  He thought about it for a second, looking a little confused, and then said, “sure, I don’t see why not.”

After the sun set, all of the cars left and we had the place to ourselves.  We popped the camper top and made ourselves at home.  We heard some beautiful music coming from the street outside of a café a stone’s throw away, so we walked over and ordered a couple of drinks.  The music was wonderful; the melancholy voice of Portuguese fado, coupled with simple guitar and a hand drum.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to finally pull out our digital recorder for a song.  Turns out it was Argentinean folk music played by a couple from Argentina.  I’ve embedded the audio below for your listening pleasure (click to play).

Argentinean Folk Music – San Francisco, Mexico

After a few songs we headed back to Nacho and called it a night.  We paid a beach front restaurant owner $3 to plug Nacho into her electricity for an overnight battery conditioning, pulled the curtains, and slipped away to sleep.  No brick walls, no neighbors, and $32 cheaper than the alternative.  Bandwagons be damned.

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  1. Cat

    That close-up of Sheena made me tear up! Hugs.

    Comment by Cat on February 1, 2012 at 5:53 am

  2. Khoa

    Very proud of you brad! What a monster of a fish!!

    Comment by Khoa on February 1, 2012 at 6:58 am

  3. Miguel Pacheco

    We also listened to Argentine music played by an Argentine, in Los Barriles, Baja. It was a real treat. Thanks for posting that. It was a nice way to start my day.
    Yes, Sayulita is a gringo town for sure. Can’t believe the 35.00 price tag. There are two little campgrounds surrounded by a brick wall in Sayulita. They are within 150 yards of each other. One is owned by ‘El Aleman’ and, the one closest, or actually in town, is owned by a guy named…….Nacho! This is likely who you got the 35.00 price tag from. He can be very unpleasant, but as I discovered, his bark was louder than his bite.
    Thanks for the lively posts and keep on trucking!

    Comment by Miguel Pacheco on February 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm

  4. Unibagel

    Love your witty and self deprecating wring style Brad, it makes following your journey even more interesting! Keep it up. What happened to your transponder? The map is no longer updating. Godspeed.

    Comment by Unibagel on February 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm

  5. jbmccandless

    Great call on the digital recorder! I have not seen other overlanders use one, a nice alternative for documenting your trip…people’s voices, city and jungle sounds, etc.

    Comment by jbmccandless on February 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

  6. jbmccandless

    Great call on the digital recorder! I have not seen other overlanders use one, a nice alternative for documenting your trip…people’s voices, city and jungle sounds, etc. Oh, the story and pics are great also!

    Comment by jbmccandless on February 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

  7. Barb Wieber

    So good seeing you both again. Sheena your beautiful freckles are showing. Get some sunblock!!! I can tell the turtle is happy, in good hands with nature lovers. Hey guys, you should have thought about bringing Geo along. He probably could have done some fishing for you or Chelly either one could of be helping you fish. Looks so inviting and peaceful where you are at. The music was really nice listening too. The atmosphere of the music just draws to where you journey is taking you. Living in the moment and stillness of capturing whatever comes in your way. Enjoy seeing you both on skype and your blog is one of a kind. Luv you both Mom

    Comment by Barb Wieber on February 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm

  8. Pat Van Orden

    Sheena, I was thinking the same thing! Look at those freckles, and I do agree that you need sunscreen :o) Looking good you guys. Wishing we could be part of your experiences, but more than just to be reading about them, living them, like the 2 of you.

    Look forward to hearing from you and laughing along with you and your problems of trying to catch that fish.

    Be Safe, Love you, Dad and Pat

    Comment by Pat Van Orden on February 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm

  9. Cool post, and thank you for including the song recording! Makes me feel like I was there.

    Not sure when you are fishing, but it looks pretty bright out…try fishing at dusk/early evening. It’s the only time I’ve ever caught anything surf fishing. Also, watch for other wildlife, like seagulls/other birds. If you see them about and active, especially on/above the water, there should be fish around. If you don’t see any birds around, chances are the fish aren’t around either. My dad taught me that one. :)

    Comment by Gus The VW Bus on February 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm

  10. clark ferrill

    Your stories are too long and lacking content.its as if you are getting paid per word.so glad when you quit saying welcome to mexico everytime something doesn’t measure up to your standards.please lower your standards and enjoy your privilige

    Comment by clark ferrill on February 1, 2012 at 10:30 pm

  11. Ada

    You should be in an ad for baby turtles, Sheena. That picture is great! And how manly you’re looking with your fine catch, Brad! Don’t worry, am regularly clicking the ads, as promised. I love your stories!

    Comment by Ada on February 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm

  12. Gabe McCarter

    I love to read the comments from “random” people, you do not know who you are BTW. The details of yours posts are appreciated.

    Comment by Gabe McCarter on February 2, 2012 at 12:09 am

  13. Clark, I’m sorry my blog doesn’t measure up to your high standards. Perhaps you misunderstand a few things. I’m not paid by anyone to entertain you. It’s on the house. Also, I have done nothing but praise Mexico, its people, and the culture. I apologize for bringing to light the fact that my eggs tasted like fish one time. If my writing continues to displease you, I would suggest that you find someone whose writing style better matches your taste.

    Comment by Brad on February 2, 2012 at 1:03 am

  14. @Unibagel: The SPOT transponder stopped working in Mazatlan. I’ve been working with their customer service dept to try and get a warranty unit, but they seem a bit out of it. They don’t seem to understand that I don’t have a mailing address :) I fear we may end up tossing it in the trash and calling it a $300 mistake. Hope not.

    Comment by Brad on February 2, 2012 at 1:25 am

  15. Brad, my good fellow, you must recall they call it fishing, not catching! There’s a reason for that. Keep up the good work (keep up the good vacation?)
    Keep on!

    Comment by Keith on February 2, 2012 at 1:30 am

  16. Barb Wieber

    Bradley, You are so special and outstanding writer and story teller. So many years when you and Sheena live in Wales. I read your journey what you and Sheena were doing. Before I started reading I was probably kind of sad or down and you cheer me up with your funny outstanding wording of just how you described your experience. I would be reading what you were talking about and I was rolling in laughter. Keep on writing….. You have a very special gift and I believe their is somebody special in your life that you got that gift. (Someone who is tall, a very special lady who you would dance with and she had a rose in her mouth.) I wonder who???? Somebody I know who was your first teacher. (Her Major was English) Mom (Barb)

    Comment by Barb Wieber on February 2, 2012 at 1:36 am

  17. Dad

    Brad, thanks for being so diplomatic with Clark. I was going to say something. We really enjoy the updates. Have fun and be safe.
    The advice about the time of day and especially about the birds is great. You may not be a fisherman yet, but those birds make a living at it.

    Comment by Dad on February 2, 2012 at 2:18 am

  18. Marena

    I absolutely LOVE the Argentinean folk music :) I can only imagine how beautiful it would have been to be there with all the scenery as well.
    Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful experiences!

    -Your favorite little sister.

    Comment by Marena on February 2, 2012 at 3:56 am

  19. Nice going! When you don’t like the answer, just keep going till you get a different one. I anchored on the other side of the point, at Punta de Mita for a few months on the boat. Nice little right hand point break. Pretty mellow and mushy wave – good for beginners.

    Places to park there as well. The family who runs the whale watching pangas and whose house is one of the last on the beach front is super nice. They’ve got little mercados to stock up on some food stuffs too. And man, I miss the taco lady feeding all the fisherman in the morning :)

    Happy Travels!

    Comment by Todd on February 2, 2012 at 6:41 am

  20. Ya Sayulita sucked, We drove in there for about 15 minutes, walked around, saw the overinflated prices and jackass tourists, turned around and headed south. Glad you finally caught something!

    Comment by James on February 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

  21. leroy

    i wouldn’t worry about that clark guy i’ve seen him on other web site and he’s a real jerk. i think you guy do a great job and keep it up. we all wish we could follow along with you. thanks

    Comment by leroy on February 3, 2012 at 1:27 am

  22. Miguel Pacheco

    I agree, your posts are entertaining and well written. I’ll be watching for the duration. I’ll have contacts for you in Panama and Argentina (my homeland.) I also have contacts abroad, that I will share with you as you progress.
    Keep on trucking!
    Miguel in Durango, Colorado
    91 Syncro SVX Adventurewagon (Fritz, slowly becoming my dream ‘around the world’ van)

    Comment by Miguel Pacheco on February 3, 2012 at 1:57 am

  23. ben

    just got myself an 87 wolfsburg. living the dream – great blog!

    Comment by ben on February 3, 2012 at 2:42 am

  24. Jayme b

    Beautiful and inspiring post as usual. I greatly appreciate taking this journey with you.

    Comment by Jayme b on February 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm

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