Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Semana Santa 2013 – March 24 – 31

Technical Note:  In this post we have uploaded some video clips we took while playing with our camera.  They take some time to download.  Let us know if you find them more of an annoying hog of bandwidth than they are amusing! 

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To put this portion of our trip into perspective we should explain a little bit about the phenomenon of Semana Santa.  Semana Santa means the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, an important annual event in the Christian calendar.  And in a country where a large portion of the population self-identify as Catholic, Semana Santa is important as a religious celebration.  But the term Semana Santa is also used to refer to the combination of Holy Week and the week following (Semana Pascua) as a period of secular holiday-making.  Everyone in Mexico who is not employed in the tourist industry goes on vacation during this period.  We’ve been told that the first week (Semana Santa) is the week that workers are given off and Semana Pascua is when management vacations.  Schools and universities are all closed during this two-week period.
Our observations are limited to Semana Santa beach activities, so we do not have the full picture.  But at the beach Semana Santa something like a combination of a family reunion, 4th of July party and spring break – On Steroids. 

And it’s fun. 
But, unless you’re looking for a crowded, busy and noisy vacation or are interested in doing a sociological study of Samana Santa celebrations, we recommend that non-Mexican tourists skip these two weeks.  It’s fun to watch the party, but there really isn’t any room for us.  Literally.  Mid-way through Samana Santa we were told that no tables were available at an enramada (an informal beach-side restaurant) in Bahia Santiago.  In our collective decades of travel in Mexico, neither of us has ever been told that a beach restaurant is full.  This is the land of the entrepreneur: there’s always another plastic table that can be dragged from the back and set up on the beach, one more fish to put on the grill and more beers or Coca-Cola in the refrigerator.  To be told that there was no room meant that the enramada system had been stretched beyond capacity. 

So – enjoy visiting Mexico, but check your calendar before you book your flight and skip Semana Santa and Semana Pascua!

Ensenada Carrizal – March 25 – 29

Notwithstanding our dire warnings about Semana Santa, we were able to find one spot of relative quiet -- Ensenada Carrizal, a lovely little bay twenty miles south of Barra de Navidad. 
Our trip to Carrizal wasn’t all that pleasant because we had to use the motor for much of the trip due to low winds and high-ish (6 foot) swells.  But the trip had exciting moments:  We saw two orcas (killer whales), a mother and calf, shortly after leaving Barra.  Orcas aren’t often seen this far south, but we are sure of what we saw as their black and white markings are very distinctive.  Of course, like most of our sightings, you’ll have to take our word for it.  By the time we scrambled for a camera . . . they had swum gracefully past. 

Less thrilling but still exciting to us was the container ship that came within 2.5 miles of Abracadabra.  Container ships up close are really big, and because they are less agile than orcas so we got a picture of the one that came so close:

Really Big.  Close Enough.
We spent four nights at Ensenada Carrizal as the only full-time resident boat, but we didn’t feel lonely!  Carrizal is a destination bay for snorkelers, so from morning to dusk we shared the bay with from two to four small boats delivering snorkelers from hotels in nearby bays. 

This prompted Molly to go snorkeling -- declining Bryce’s offer to row her to the snorkeling spot because she thought it would be fun to swim to shore.  Unfortunately she failed to fully appreciate the effect of the current (against her) and forgot the truism that the shore always looks closer from the boat than the boat does from the shore (we’re not quite sure why this is, but it is true).  In ignorant, amnesiac bliss she struck off  . . . and after about half-an-hour of making little headway against the current and sucking down an unpleasant amount of salt-water she came to the realization that she isn't really a very strong swimmer and that she wasn't going to make it to her destination.  The next realization was that her options were to let the current drift her to a rocky shore from which it would be difficult for Bryce to retrieve her, call for help, or drown.  She chose to call for help and her knight in shining t-shirt mounted his poly-vinyl-chloride steed (the dinghy) and rowed to her rescue.  Totally humiliated, she was too tired to climb into the dinghy and had to  cling to the transom while Bryce rowed her to Abracadabra.    
The next day Bryce taxied her to and from the snorkeling spot in the dinghy and she took along a floating boat fender for floating assistance.  She saw lots of very pretty fish and sucked down very little salt water.  Lesson learned.  Our shopping list now includes a boogie board to be used as a snorkeling float. 

We decided we should head further south in order to meet the schedule(ish) that we had set for ourselves, so once the weather promised a good sail we left Ensenada Carrizal and sailed the six miles to the anchorage near the Las Hadas resort in Bahia Manzanillo (famous as the location of the movie Ten -- remember Bo Derek?).  We planned to anchor there because of the glowing reports about the location we had received from other cruisers.  Maybe it was the Semana Santa crowds – maybe we just have a different perspective – but after motoring around in circles trying to dodge power boats and jet skis and find a place to anchor we decided that there must be a better place for us to spend the night!
Bahia Santiago  -- May 29 to 30

We back-tracked about four miles to Santiago Bay.  We’d initially decided that Santiago Bay was likely to be too crowded due to the holiday crowds, but after the buzzing crowds in the small anchorage off of Las Hadas it looked just fine.

We spent the day wandering among the crowds on the beach.  The crowds were ten-people deep in the water, and as noted earlier, we could barely find a place to eat.  We ended up eating in the back of an enramada further along the beach from the one that was full, squeezed with other late-comers into the area at the back usually occupied by the person machete-ing coconuts and the staff’s children.  The area was still being used for the machete-ing of coconut and the staff’s children – we were all just squeezed in with them.     
Our day at Santiago Bay was fun in the way that going to a big fair is fun.  The guys that run the tourist boat ride concessions were totally cool about helping us maneuver the dinghy through the crowds of swimmers and onto and the off of the beach.  Beach walkers were universally friendly, wishing us buenas tardes.  Vendors were everywhere: elaborately carved fruit on skewers, platters of sweets, bathing suit stores on wheels, piles of blown-up beach floats, ice cream carts. . . etc..  There were strolling musicians, kids at play, and ongoing family dynamics (apparently if a male member of the family becomes too inebriated, one cure is to bury him in the sand and let him sleep it off). 

We were still enjoying the holiday spirit when we returned to Abracadabra.  We drank a beer and watched various banana boat rides (those long floats that are pulled behind power boats carrying up to ten screaming people) whip by or, on occasion, not:


and waved to the crowds on the rock-n-roll blaring tour boats
and the few intrepid (in that crowded bay!) paddle boarders. 

We even waved to people on jet skis (even though they consort with the devil . . .).  But after a while we tired of the competing wakes these boats/jet skis created, and began to pray for darkness, assuming that the concessionaires would quit renting jet skis and taking crowds on banana boat rides.
Darkness finally fell and the holiday activity was limited to the beach.  The waters of the bay became smooth.  We were tired enough that even the competing music venues on shore didn’t keep us awake. 

The next day we decided that, though we think we would like Bahia Santiago in a less-frenzied time, we didn’t want to stay longer.  We departed on one of our longer passages – 189 miles to Zihuatanejo.  More on that in our next post.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the videos! excellent commentary. Molly, were you hooting in the background? :-)