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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Isla San Jose, Las Perlas

14-17 January 2009

Isla San Jose is a very large privately owned island with a big bay and white sand beaches on its eastern side. We had some swell in the anchorage but not enough to break out the rocker stopper. We anchored in one lobe off a small beach while Patrick and Rebecca of Brick House were anchored to the SW off the big beach. Over drinks that evening they told us about a trailhead at the palm tree grove which leads to a gravel road. There is a very old sign saying, "Privado, No Entrada" but it was upside down so we took that to mean the owners might not be too serious about trespassers.

BH had warned us about the ticks and scorpions they experienced so we covered up with shoes and socks and lots of DEET. Even so, it was creepy walking through the tall grass and I wished I'd worn long pants and my heavier hiking boots for protection. John carried a small stick for knocking out any errant spider webs. Once we got to the "road" (more like a gravel driveway)and turned right, it wasn't so bad. The lanes were tree lined and shaded by the tropical deciduous forest which covers this area. There are many lush, "Cousin It" trees interspersed with an equal number of trees missing their leaves during what is now the dry season. The "Cousin It" trees are what I think are trees buried under a heavy layer of parasitic vine, but I haven't gotten close enough to any to verify this yet.

We hadn't walked far when we reached a fenced field of banana, papaya, avocado, and orange trees. The barbed-wire fence was also wrapped with cloth, we assume to prevent the resident pigs from entering. There was a small hut with no one about, but a fire was smoldering where brush had been burned. We had turned off the gravel road onto a smaller dirt lane covered in dry leaves when a burst of rustling noise in front of us made us freeze. We were shocked to see a 5' snake racing across the road right in front of us. It was black with lighter color on its belly (maybe yellow) and as thick as a child's arm. What a way to get the adrenalin pumping! I was sorry we saw that right off the bat because we jumped at every noise for the rest of the walk. John soon found a longer stick with which to sweep the dead leaves out in front of us as we walked.

It only took about 15 minutes from the beach through the grass to the road and in another 30 minutes we were at the one room shack visible from Punta Popa de Barco as you enter the bay. Along the way we also passed a grass airfield (which was active during our stay; there were one or two landings each day) where we made another right turn; we saw two more snakes, but these were thinner and longer than garden snakes, and one was dead; and we noticed leaf cutter ant trails which led to an entire city of a dirt mound. The shack has a split personality because it looks like a typical shack from a distance. But up close you can see that for such a simple structure, a lot of care went into building it. The porch and interior floor are tile covered, as are the floor and walls of the unfinished bathroom. The exterior walls are of tightly placed small bamboo pieces and the wood frame is in good condition. The typical tin roof is steel framed and looked water tight. It looks as if it's been there quite awhile, but not as if it's been occupied yet. The walk was very pretty and not hot at all since we were in shade most of the time.

The day after the birthday walk (John celebrated his 45th on January 15) we washed the car and trimmed the hedges. In cruising life this means we took the motor off the dinghy, rowed it to shore, turned it upside down, and scrubbed all the green growth off the bottom. We are still trying to get rid of the barnacle butts left over from Bahia de Caraquez where, even though we raised the dink out of the water each night, the marine growth was horrendous. John heroically scraped off all the barnacles before we left Ecuador, but they leave a footprint that he dubbed barnacle butt. He thinks they make it easy for a new barnacle to start life on the dinghy, so it's important to get those off too. As for the hedges, that involved taking a scrub brush and green scrubby pad to Nakia's waterline. The boot stripe (the dark blue painted stripe which separates the bottom paint from the white hull) is a magnet for growing strings of green mossy grass and scum. Although it looks very shippy when it's clean, we'll probably do away with the boot stripe next time and just bring the bottom paint all the way up the waterline.

Later that day we took a ride down to the bay south of Ensenada Playa Grande to see the resort buildings. There's a large two-story long house with an impressive tin roof overhanging the wrap-around porches, a few modest individual cabins, and a boat house full of jet-skis. A few sport fishing boats are moored in front of the resort, and the guidebook says they host fishing tournaments. The anchorage is more exposed there so after taking a quick look, we were happy to return to our calmer bay for one more night.

Linda and John