El Nino seemed to be taking a nap. Thankfully! Sometimes being wrong is magnificent. Our ongoing weather anxieties included the dread of having to deal with and work around week-long strong north winds on our trek back to San Carlos. But during the first two weeks of our trip meandering to Puerto Escondido, we were blessed with exactly 11 days of perfect weather and only two back-to-back days of 25kts. THIS is what the weather is SUPPOSED to be like! Now we’re talkin’!
The 3rd night of our trip north brought us to Isla San Jose and the south anchorage of Bahia Amortajada. A long, pretty beach and expansive shallow lagoon, perfect for kayaking and wildlife-watching, beckoned. It was the first anchorage since we left La Paz that we had completely to ourselves. (Now we know why.) We anchored in lovely water and kayaked to the beach. The guidebook suggests navigating into the lagoon at high tide to avoid fighting the current; we happened to arrive at low tide - but the book doesn’t mention that low tide is so low it’s impossible to get in. We didn’t want to portage our kayak, so we ended up strolling the beach instead. The sun was out, the day was hot and bright, all was well with the world.
Back on the boat I decided to cool off in the 70degree pool water. It looked so inviting I just jumped right in…and was immediately swept 15 ft to the back of the boat. Startled, I quickly swam against this current and clung to the ladder, feeling the water rushing along my legs. What the heck? I’d never felt such movement before and should have known better. Indigo had stubbornly been pointing east out to sea, paralleling the bottom of the island, despite the several directions of light wind we had that day. We wondered in passing why this was so, but didn’t really think too much about it, didn’t feel the current when kayaking. Not until I was IN it. The current that flows down along the outside of San Jose must curve and funnel right in between San Jose and Isla San Francisco. We watched some flotsam pass by at an incredible rate and now I will be watching for flotsam speed BEFORE I jump into anything. Later, we heard a story from another boat who swore the current is so swift flowing in and out of the lagoon that it was impossible to kayak into during mid-tide, they couldn’t make any headway and gave up.
Land of a Thousand Bites
Don’t let the pretty pictures fool you…
While daytime was sublime, dusk brought a living nightmare. Silent but deadly swarms of teeny, no-see-um bugs called jejene’s (pronounced hay-hay-nay’s) flew out of the mangrove lagoon and attacked. Worse than mosquitoes (you can actually see and swat mosquitoes), these beasts are less than the size of the head of a pin. Almost impossible to see and lightning-quick, they therefore cannot be killed. How can you kill something you can’t see! They got everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
Sleep was impossible. At least with attacking mosquitoes, you can duck under the sheets – these got INSIDE our clothing, INSIDE the sheets! We tossed and turned and itched and scratched until I wanted to cry. Had it not been for our good screens (we think they only got in when we had to go outside), we’d have been mobbed…taken alive, probably perished.
We’re Getting Outta Here!
The morning sunlight did not dissuade them from crowding into our shady cockpit at first light. Unaffected by burning mosquito coils, the ONLY thing that got rid of them was LEAVING. But we regretfully took some with us. It wasn’t until 2 days later we felt they had all left the boat. But the itching remained a constant reminder of their terror attack. We sustained 2 more sleepless nights of less frequent biting and 5 days of furious scratching. After that, our irritation finally subsided enough to inspect with a more detached eye. I counted over 50 welts on one leg alone, that I could see. Multiply that by 4 extremities and add some for the head, neck, stomach…yeah…that should give some indication as to our sheer madness. Calamine lotion and poison ivy itch cream did little to relieve; I used face mask to dry them out, dabbing each welt with white paste - I looked like a spotted snake for days afterward.
I should have listened to Steinbeck. He wrote about this vile creature at Amortajada in his book, Log from the Sea of Cortez: “We were anchored quite near San Jose Island and that night we were visited by little black beetle-like flies which bit and left a stinging, itching burn. Covering ourselves did not help, for they crawled down into our bedding and bit us unmercifully.” This phenomenon is still absolutely true 76 years later. Fortunately, we have not experienced these little buggers anywhere else. The term “Amortajada” means shrouded, as in a funeral shroud… if you stay long enough that’ll be your fate.
You Can Visit, Just Don’t Stay
For the love of all mankind, do NOT attempt to anchor there overnight. While the guidebook specifically informs about jejene’s, their claim that mosquito coils and bug spray can be easily used as a deterrent defies our experience. If you absolutely must see the lagoon, abridge your exploring for a short daytrip. Then run right back to San Francisco or San Evaristo well before the sun goes down if you want to save your skin…and your sanity… for the next week. You couldn’t PAY us to go back. Ever.