Monday, September 19, 2005

The Island of the Holy Spirit

La Paz sits in a bay on the Sea of Cortez formed by Baja California to the west and a 40-mile long peninsula jutting north on its east. At the end of this peninsula is Tecolote Beach which has a few funky restaurants and boat services.

I jumped on a small panga that provided a four-hour circumnavigation of the huge Isla de Espiritu Santo directly north. (Please excuse the lack of accent marks and tildes where they belong. I don't know how to create them in this program.)

Joining me on the trip were a pleasant Mexican couple from Hermosillo, Mexico...

...and a glamorous looking pair of Italian tourists from Turin, Italy.

Our languages all afternoon were a funny mixture of Spanish, English and Italian as we tried to make ourselves understood.

Thankfully, our boat captain Sergio couldn't have been less interested in playing tour guide and hardly spoke three sentences all day. His looks reminded me, oddly enough, of the teenage murderer in Luis Bunuel's 1950 masterpiece about poor bad boys in Mexico City, "Los Olvidados."

There were a few times when we wished he was a bit more garrulous because without a word he would gun the boat for a sheer rock wall...

...and then veer at the last second into a cave filled with wildlife.

The only fact Sergio insisted we know was that Espiritu Santo was not one island, but two, with the smaller, more northern one called "La Partida." I tried to get the translation of "partida" from the Hermosillo couple and the best I could gather was "broken," which was an interesting concept, being on an island broken off from the Holy Spirit.

At the very north of La Partida were a pair of rock outcroppings where there was a huge sea lion colony and where we stopped to jump in the water snorkeling.

There were plenty of pretty fish to admire in the sea, but that's not what we ended up concentrating upon.

Somehow this particular trip had become a fad among Japanese tourists and we were surrounded by a dozen large boats servicing Japanese scuba drivers who glided below us taking underwater photos.

On the return trip south on the eastern side of the island, we stopped for a ceviche lunch on a deserted beach.

Though hotter than hell, it was extraordinary.

After our return to Tecolote Beach and several large beers...

...I jumped on a bus back to La Paz and chatted up a young couple who were diving instructors from Quebec and Japan respectively who were taking a very leisurely trip down the Pacific Coast from Long Beach, California to Panama with many stops along the way.

I remembered what it was like to be young, improbably beautiful and filled with adventure.

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