Baja Day 4 and 5: Pelican Rescue and Los Luchadores del Lobos

Baja Day 4

Saturday began with sleeping in- a small luxury that I am taking full advantage of. Then I motored (and by that I mean biked) over to the Palapas Society to meet Eric Ochoa, a well-known local painter, the President of the Palapas Society and the instructor of the Saturday art class I was to help out with from 9-12. (A dog did bark at, growl and pursue me for about 20 feet before slinking back into the shadows of a palm on my way into downtown.)

I arrived and the pearly toothed, grinning Eric met me with a firm hand shake and we mixed paints and chatted in the inner courtyard that served as the classroom. The kids were working on primary colors and color theory that day and tables, chairs and wooden canvasses were waiting vacantly for them in the pleasant drench of warm, coastal sun. After the kids arrived, two bringing flowers as gifts for Eric and Gloria (the other instructor who for whatever reason did not arrive that day), it became clear that I was not going to be necessary for the program. Eric had everything under control and my “helpfulness” was most likely going to get in the way. Therefore I asked Donna what I could do and she had me creating an art display for the kid’s work. I spaced and nailed nails into boards on the walls and hung the kid’s pictures up. Very high tech, but I managed somehow. Donna immediately became engrossed in a meeting and so after asking Eric for a third time if there was anything I could do for him (I was there to help with the art program afterall) I found my own project: the junk room. The junk room was an abandoned walk-in shower that had been functional when the Society had been a house. Now however, it was a miserable tangle of extension cords, plastic cups full of rusty nails, boxes and boxes of miscellany, cob webs, dust and cockroaches. Sensing the thrill of challenge, I rolled up my sleeves and dived in. By 12:00 noon the junk room was now the organized-cleaned-and sorted-through junk room and everyone has left the Society half and hour earlirt. But I was feeling satisfied, and like I wanted to wash my hands really well before eating lunch. So I locked up and biked home.

That afternoon I went on a hike and three of the dogs, Charquitos, Pantofla and Juliette, followed me. One we got to the beach, Pantofla and Julietta descended upon a flock of pelicans and one wasn’t fast enough so the dogs took it down. It was then that my parental instinct kicked in and I, still along the cliff-y path leading to the Playa del Muerte, threw my backpack onto the dusty path and sprinted down the trail and across the beach to save my pelican. The Mexicans skim boarding near the shore (wait– I thought this beach was unswimmable….) watched my crazy gringo self tear down the beach, yelling the dog’s names and waving my arms. I warded the dogs off the beleaguerd bird, saving it by a feather (hah–bad)  so they, of course, commenced to terrorize the next flock of birds a ways down the beach. Already feeling badly about the near death of Peli #1, this was borderline too much so I coaxed the dogs back along the beach and onto the cliff-y path home. Away from the scene of several potential avian murders. You’re welcome, Audabon Society.

Baja Day 5

This morning began at 6:45. I soon found myself at Punto Lobos beach, the point where the majority of the local fisherman launch their crafts to fish. (Fun Fact: Fishing sustains most of the local economy of Todos Santos and has for decades.) Molly, Bryan and John and I were going fishing today, led by nuestro capitan, Profrierio, and his masked side-kick Daniel. (No really, he wore a hood, sunglasses and a bandana over his mouth the entire 4 hours we fished.) We launched presently, a feat involving being tethered to a boat already in the water and having the water-bound vessel tow you off the beach and through the on-coming surf. By the way, the shoreline isn’t flat; it actually terminates in a rather sharp monocline, causing the waves to break heavily and quickly on the shore. It is an exciting launch.

We fished for about….ug, I lost count. I don’t mind admitting that I thought to myself, “If this is fishing, get me out of this damn boat. I’m bored as hell and queasy.” But then we caught something: a gorgeous Blue fin tuna. John’s catch. Daniel hooked it once John had fought it in and plopped it head first into a cooler filled with ice chunks. It thrashed until I put the lid on. All of a sudden, fishing was fun. I grabbed my rod which I had abandoned and eagerly cast into the surf, full of anticipation. I was rewarded shortly with a formidable yank on my line and I eagerly worked my line and reeled the puppy in. It was a strong fish, requiring me not to let up in the struggle to claim its life for the sake of our dinner. Got it.

A brief exposé of the rest of our fishing expedition goes all follows: Molly caught a fish (tuna) and had trouble reeling it in; a sea lion (el lobo) had the fish in its mouth and ate it, sending a bloody, chewed-upon head back to us on the line. (Molly had some choice words for the satiated lobo.) Next, I caught another tuna (el atun) and we plopped it along side the other in the cooler. Molly then caught another. Then I got another bite. This one was a fighter. I had both feet braced up against the upper hull of the boat, reeling like mad and struggling to hold my ground. The rod was nearly bent into a full arc and the line was quivering like a guitar string. The line was pulled nearly under the boat, and all of us were yelling, I, mostly grunting and yelping with exertion and excitement. Then the rod snapped in half. Daniel quickly grabbed the line to cut it loose from the flailing rod. That was no fish; the sea lion had claimed another catch. We had un lobo muy inteligencia on our hands: we catch the fish, lobo eats the fish. It was now the PhD sea lion, we agreed. No wonder I was losing. I was trying to reel in a several hundred pound bull sea lion.

Soon after, Molly was working our last remaining rod. She got a bite. We saw the sea lion perk up and glide over near the boat. Profrierio started the boat to drag our catch, hopefully, out of bite of the bull lobo. We were yelling excitedly at Molly to reel it in. She was braced back in the boat, rod jerking wildly, she, reeling to pull it in before the lobo arrived. I peered over the side of the small craft to watch the drama unfolding in the sea beneath us. I catch a glint of silver-blue, the blue fin, and right behind it, the 10 foot bull sea lion hot in pursuit! We all saw it and all begin screaming wildly. Molly’s so close to bringing it in. The fish and the sea lion disappear under the boat. Then a flash of silver near the surface– and Daniel swoops in with the hook and snags the frantic blue fin and drags it in. We break into hysterics. We relate the saga to each other again and again between belts of hearty, adrenaline charged laughter for the rest of the morning and for the rest of the day to anyone who will listen. Molly and I are dubbed Los Luchadores del Lobos for wrestling with the voracious creature, but it was really a group effort. With five blue fin in tow, huge grins on our faces, heavenly high spirits, and newly toned lobo wrestling muscles we fly back to shore (and literally onto the beach– we went full speed right at beach which feels very wrong, to beach yourself fully on the shore. I think I swore when we made contact. But the landing was graceful.)

Carrying the fish back to the car in trash bags we thanked our trusty Mexican crew and drove off. I later learned how to filet fish and one, we discovered was 12 pounds. We had a delicious sashimi dinner on the veranda this evening, complete with more rehashings of the lobo stories and a magnificent setting sun, dripping tangerine, dropping below the horizon in the distance.

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2 thoughts on “Baja Day 4 and 5: Pelican Rescue and Los Luchadores del Lobos

  1. Let’s see, besides learning and living Spanish on a sunny and warm Mexican beach, you’ve embraced the culture of Todos Santos, learned how to fish, surf, play futbol, rescue pelicans, and teach English! What next?

  2. That is a fish story you will tell for the rest of your life. And you told it so well. What a Senior Project!

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