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Sea of Cortez

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S: Cruise West Sea of Cortez and Copper Canyon February 7-21, 2007

BC: Urique Canyon

FC: Cruise West Sea of Cortez on the Spirit of Endeavor with Copper Canyon Extension

1: We checked into the Posada Real in the early evening and were surprised and happy to find out that it was an all-inclusive resort. After taking our luggage to our room we went back to the dining room for dinner.

2: We spent the next two days exploring the property, walking into town, reading on the beach, watching the whales breech off shore, and even went horseback riding on the beach. Our horses names were Lemon and Royal. Lemon liked to take the lead!

3: One morning we got up early to watch the sunrise and take a long stroll on the beach before breakfast.

4: A shuttle picked us up around 2:15 to take us to the hospitality area at the Hotel Marina Cabo San Lucas. We took a walk around town and started to become acquainted with some of our fellow passengers. We proceeded to board the Spirit of Endeavor and found our stateroom. Upon embarkation we attended the safety and orientation meeting. | Mandatory muster with Deborah

5: We cruised past Land's End enjoying the spectacular scenery of the Cape. | The arched rocks are stacks, isolated arch-like rocky islands detached from the tip of the penninula by wave erosion. And at sunset we actually saw the "green Flash"

6: While we were enjoying a leisurely breakfast the crew was busy setting up chairs on the beach of Isla Espiritu Santo. This is one of the most biodiverse islands in the Sea of Cortez. Our DIBs landed on Playa Bonanza, a pristine strand at the southern end that extends over two miles in a crescent-shaped bay.

7: We decided not to snorkel but went beachcombing, fascinated by the abundance and variety of shells and sun-bleached fish skeletons washed ashore.

8: Jeff took a nature hike with Paulino, a member of the exploration staff who lives in La Paz. They walked into the desert amid the gigantic cardon cactus. They saw snakes and lizards but not one of the black jackrabbits that exist only here and on neighboring Isla Partida. He returned after a full day of exploration tired but happy.

9: The Spirit of Endeavor pulled anchor and sailed into the sunset | We joined our cruising companions for snacks and drinks in the lounge before dinner. Raven, the bartender took good care of us!

10: During the night we had sailed to Puerto Escondido. There we met our motorcoach which took us across the peninsula to the lagoons radiating from Bahia Magdelena. In early winter hundreds of grey whales migrate from Alaskan waters to Baja's Pacific side lagoons to calve and mate. We travel across the colorful, jagged mountain peaks of the Sierra de la Giganta. The peaks are high and rugged on the eastern side, and then the entire landscape gently slopes downward toward the Pacific. As we approach the lagoon region, we spot giant osprey nests atop power poles.

11: Although it had been sunny and cloudless in Puerto Escondido it was foggy, cool and windy on the western side of the penninsula. We were glad we had listened and brought our jackets! We grabbed lifejackets and headed to the dock. There we waited our turn to step into our panga. Pangas are small, traditional Mexican fishing dinghies.

12: The panga drivers know where the whales are to be found within the lagoon. Although most do not speak English they were very friendly and accomodating. Here in the lagoon the whales birth their calves and nurse them to size and strength. We saw several moms and calves within a few feet of our boat. Male whales stayed further away frolicking in the surf.

14: Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos | Where we picked up/dropped off our life jackets, used restrooms, etc. | The towns Mission | Police Station | Ellen touches a grey whale

15: After the exhilerating two-hour whale watching adventure, we were quite ready for lunch. We took a five minute coach ride to the Ballena Gris (Gray Whale) restaurant for a seafood lunch. It was a palapa, a covered, thatched structure with a dirt floor and the best, albeit only, restaurant around! After lunch we traveled back across the penninsula to the waiting Spirit of Endeavor.

16: The next morning was spent cruising for wildlife. A blue whale was sighted! | The volcanic cone of Isla Coronado rising above the horizon. | Porpoises playing in the sea. | Knife-edge of island

17: After a BBQ lunch on the Sun Deck we took the DIBs over for an afternoon of beach activities on Isla Coronado. | We kayaked and then tried some snorkeling. Unfortunately the water was choppy and visibility poor.

18: The ship anchored just offshore from Loreto, the first Baja city settled by non-natives | After being shuttled ashore by DIB we were amazed at all the birds taking over the fishing boats at the dock.

19: Mission Loreto, was founded on October 25, 1697 Established by the Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra, this earliest successful mission in Baja California is sometimes considered "head and mother of all the Spanish missions in Upper and Lower California." | Our guide, Sophia, was a wealth of information

20: Mission steeple seen through the Ficus arch | We were able to walk through the church and sit in the pews. The mission is still Loreto's principal active church.

21: Museum displays included this carved cross, hollow log boat and sugar cane press. | This Museum's Cross, made of natural roots, was displayed in the courtyard. The trees in the courtyard were decorated by "orange art" done by the museum gurards.

22: At El Canipole restaurant we learned how to make our own tortilla and bake it on a traditional comac as well as mix a ceviche. We then savored the results along with other Mexican specialties.

23: The restaurant was full of "Mexicana" decor!

24: Loreto is a sleepy, clean, friendly little town with great Spanish/Mexican architecture. There were colorfully painted doorways, pottery adorned windows, and outdoor cafes next to Internet shops. | City Hall | Bell marking beginning of Carmino Real | Trimmed Ficus Tree arches along Salvatierra

25: After exploring the town we returned to the mission for a reception featuring wine, homemade cheeses, and local fruits. | Local entertainers performed. | The group joined in the dancing. The singer and Jeff put on quite a show.

26: During the night a storm came up forcing Captain Kirk to cancel our planned snorkeling with the sea lions off Los Islotes. Instead he headed straight for the shelter of the three-lobed cove at Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida. | You could glimpse the rough seas off the island point. | Ensenada Grande is at the head of a large arroyo, where gigantic boulders have fallen from either side. | Driftwood on the beach. You can see the ships seeking shelter in the background.

27: Wall of limestone | On the side of the arroyo and several coves are sandstone cliffs created from a conglomerate of volcanic ash and rock. This material is easily eroded and the wind and water have undercut the cliffs, creating unusual shapes and textures all along the shoreline.

28: Normally this would be the perfect place to kayak and snorkel; the cove is known for colorful tropical creatures. But the storm had churned up the waters. So, in the afternoon we took a nature walk with Allan Morgan, guest lecturer for our tour. He has worked as a naturalist and expedition leader since 1976. He shared his knowledge and experience as we further explored the island.

30: Snorkel gear was returned while the crew is docked the ship at an alternate dock- the main dock of La Pas was unavailable because we were arriving just in time for Carnaval Week! | La Paz - City of Peace The capital of Baja California Sur, La Paz remains a faborite vacation spot where Mexican tourists outnumber foreigners three to one. We headed out early for an Artisan Tour before returning to the ship to get our luggage out to be transferred to Los Arcos Hotel, where we will stay the night before heading to the airport in the morning to start our Copper Canyon adventure.

31: The artisan shopping tour focused on local crafts. We visited an active weaving factory to watch the weavers at work. At a pottery factory craftsmen painted colorful designs onto ceremics. | Jeff tried his hand at weaving

32: From the Nuestra Senora de La Paz Cathedral there were many attractions within easy strolling distance. | These included a mural on a four-story building, a variety of sculptures, and a Square by the Library of the Californias.

33: Old Government Building with an exhibit of Carnaval costurmes was inside | Statue on the waterfront malecon which wanders for several miles. | Seashell Performers

34: Cruise West's exclusive Mexican fiesta offering traditional Mexican food, music, dancers, and pinatas.

35: The passengers joined in the fun!

36: Los Arcos Hotel was our home for the night- a very nice hotel and only steps away from the waterfront and Carnaval activities. | La Paz Carnaval One of the most colorful and prominent celebrations in Mexico | This polka-dotted tree stood in front of the best ice cream store in La Paz

37: We had a very early start in the morning so didn't stay for all of the revelry- but did stay long enough to see the fireworks. | We loved seeing the bands, colorful vendor booths, and street performers.

38: We departed the hotel at 5:00 A.M., with our "breakfast-to-go" bags, for the airport to catch our flight to Guadalajara. There was a layover in this larger airport before our flight to Los Mochis. Upon arrival we were met by Edwardo from Turisomo Al Mar, our guide for the remainder of the trip. We had refreshments at the Hotel Santa Anita in Los Mochis and time for a quick walk. Unforturnately one couple in our group got lost so departure was delayed. We did have time, however, for the scheduled stop at the Mayo Indian village of Tehueco for a traditional dance performance.

39: Tehueco was founded in 1648. This is the tribal center for Mayo religious fiestas. The Mayos live self sufficiently, raising crops including corn and beans, wheat and tomatoes.

40: We journeyed on to El Fuerte where we stayed the night at the Posada del Hidalgo Hotel, a beautiful colonial mansion. This attractive structure was built in 1890, by Senor Rafael Almada, who over the course of five years, spent 100,000 gold pesos on its construction.

41: We, however, had to access our room from this side street- right across from the neighborhood basketball court.

42: El Fuerte was founded in 1564, by the Spanish conquistador Don Francisco de Ibarra, the first explorer of the western Sierra Madres. In 1610 the fort was built to keep the fierce Zuaque and Tehueco Indians, who were constantly harassing the Spaniards out of town. | The town's church is over 300 years old.

43: El Furto (population 30,000) is a member of Mexico's "pueblos magicos" program, which highlights small towns that maintain the charm and feel of yesteryear. | There is a quaint plaza and colonial-era City Hall.

44: The Chihuahua-al-Pacifico Railroad, known as "El Chepe", is considered one of the most spectacular feats of engineering in the world taking almost 100 years and 90 million dollars to build. The untamable terrain forced the railway to construct some wild twists and turns, including a complete 360-degree loop and a 180-degree loop turn inside a tunnel. | Our tour groups' luggage lined up waiting to be loaded. Edwardo made sure everything made it on the train.

45: The trip would take us through coastal plains from sea level up to 8000 feet, passing through five climatic zones, 86 tunnels running up to 6000 feet long, 39 bridges up to 1,638 feet in length, and crossing the Continental Divide three times.

46: The scenery on the ride was magnificent | Pink Amapa Trees dot the steep landscape | Crested caracara perched on cactus

47: The Sierra Tarahumara, into which we traveled, is an intriguing maze of 200 gorges that combine to form 6 interconnecting canyons that is bigger than the Grand Canyon.

49: We arrived at the train station in Divisadero, a shack on a dirt road, and were transported to our hotel situated on the rim of the Urique Canyon. The Hotel Mirador Five levels of rooms, each with a canyon view. Stairs in the back led to the rooms. We were greeted with drinks on the balcony and treated to a show of hummingbirds. | White-earred, blue-throated and Iridescent green Cuban Emerald hummingbirds

50: The rooms were comfortable but the views magnificent. We kept the curtains open at night to enjoy the unbelievable star display.

51: Front and back of the doors into the rooms The decor was interesting throughout the hotel.

52: The Copper Canyon range covers 25,000 square miles. Urique Canyon, at 6,136 feet deep is the deepest canyon in the range. Compare that to the Grand Canyon, which is 4,674 feet deep and covers 6000 square miles.

54: Tourist on the cliff gives size perspective | Manzanita Tree with smooth dark red bark

55: Rock Spire | Three diverse trees on rim

56: "Uncle" Bob and Jeff | The basketweaver and her daughter gave a demonstration and sold their wares | Dining area and "Gathering Hall" | Evening entertainment was provided

57: Sunrise from our balcony A new day begins!

58: After breakfast we traveled by motorcoach to Cusrare. We visited the Jesuit Mission, which dates back to the 17th century.

59: The new Loyola Museum is near the Mission. Resently restored 16th, 17th, and 18th century paintings collected by the Jesuits were on display. | Tarahumara man playing indiginenous chapareke instrument | Statues of Mary and Jesus in their respective niches

60: The Tarahumara women wear the traditional brightly colored clothes for which they are famous. These women make and sell hand made items at Aarareco Lake near Creel. | Tarahumara are an indigenous people of northern Mexico who are renowned for their running ability. With widely dispersed settlements, they developed a tradition of long-distance running through their homeland of rough canyon country for intervillage communication and transportation, as well as to hunt Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, they retreated to the Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental on the arrival of Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century.

61: Tarahumara prefer a self-reliant life in the mountains, living in caves, harvesting corn, beans, and squash, mining herds of goats, cattle, and sheep, and farming fruits.

62: Creel, with a population of 6500 is the largest town in the canyon. It is a small rustic town known as the eastern gateway to the Sierra Madre. The Artesanias Mission Store profits go to the Mission Hospital that benefits the Tarahumara. | Creel Square and Gazebo | The group bought school supplies at a local store to donate to the Tarahumara school. | Mission Store and Creel Church

63: The outside of the hotel where we were to have lunch did not look promising, but once we got to the restaurant door and inside we relaxed and had a nice meal.

64: Tarahumara School The school does not presently have boarding facilities. The children eat their meals at the school but walk to and from school everyday even though it may take hours and can be quite cold. Eduacation, learning to read and write Spanish, has become very important in order for the Tarahumara to maintain their rights. Their native language belonging to the Uto-Aztecan family, is in decline under pressure from Spanish, but still widely spoken. | When we drove by the school the next morning we saw the children arriving, coming out of the trees from all directions.

65: Edwardo presenting our gifts of food and school supplies to the teachers and children.

66: After waking to another beautiful sunrise we prepared to leave in our motorcoach for Chihuahua. But there would be some interesting stops along the way.

67: First stop - a suspension bridge across Urique Canyon | We were treated to some more amazing views. | Overlook on the other side of the bridge

68: We traveled down the mountains further inland toward Chihuahua.

69: The landscape gradually changed - and then we were in Apple Country. The apple industry, introduced to the area by a former Old Colony Mennonite, Enrique Wiebe, has contributed much to the rapid growth of the area Hail protection nets were covering all the orchards.

70: We stopped for lunch in Guerro in the San Antonio Valley. Casa Dona Carolina, a beautiful restaurant outside and in, featured specialties from the heart of Apple Country. The meal started with this lovely cheese presentation.

71: Warren and the girls leaving the restaurant Jeff and Ellen out front | Decor was bright, cheery and apple themed.

72: Another surprise- an Amish Farm In the late 19th century Mennonites who had settled in Canada felt persecuted by laws in Manitoba requiring they learn English, as opposed to the traditional German language of education in their community. Six Mennonites were chosen to seek out a new land for settlement in Latin America and they believed Mexico, despite its recent Revolution, would offer them a home. The Manitoba Mennonite settlement, the largest Old Colony Mennonite settlement in Mexico, located on the outskirts of Cuauhtemoc, 70 miles west of the city of Chihuahua, was established in 1922. The land consisted of 23,000 acres and was purchased from Zuloaga in the San Antonio Valley in 1921 for $8.25 per acre. They continue their lifestyle today with several reforms, such as the use of automobiles, although most use horse and buggy. They coexist, learning Spanish and English and living side by side with Tarahumara Indians in the hill country of the state.

73: We saw the animals, were shown homemade crafts, which were for sale, and given a snack of fresh cookies.

74: The painted rock cross on the side of this hill near Chihuahua could be seen from quite a distance | Chihuahua has always been one of the most important centers for Mexico's long struggle for independence and revolution - from the moment in 1811 when the radical priest Miguel Hidalgo first raised the cry for independence from Spain, until 1910, when Pancho Villa made it his headquarters for the revolution. | Chihuahua (population 698.500) is a city with an authentic Mexican feel, and a friendly atmosphere.

75: La Quinta Luz - Home of Panch Villa The hacienda is part shrine to one of Mexico's greatest heros, part monument to the history of the country's revolution. The most striking thing about Villa's residence is that it is unpretentious. His only luxury was a private chapel, and most of the rooms are simply furnished. The ground floor is stacked with personal memorabilia, containing his collection of pistols and sabres, uniforms and sombreros and the saddle decorated with a carved wooden head that is featured in all of his official portraits. There's the "Wanted Poster" put out by the American government after he razed the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17 Americans. In the courtyard is his limousine - a Dodge purchased across the border - which is riddled with bullets of his assassination in 1923. His widow, Luz Corral, lived here until she died in 1981 at the age of 90. There is a real feeling that this is still someone's home rather than a museum.

76: The beautiful baroque-style cathedral, built with pink quarry stone, overlooks the busy Plaza de Armas. The cathedral organ was brought from Germany along with sculptures from Italy. | Front detail contains a collection of monuments celebrating the twelve apostles, with a clock above | Altar of Carrara marble incorporated into larger one of local quarry stone | The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, of baroque and rococo design, is reached by a door in the south side of the nave.

77: Government Palace (City Hall) | Brightly colored statues of Chihuahuas decorated the Plaza | Pavillion and statue of Antonio Deza y Ulloa, aka Pancho Villa, in the Plaza de Armas

78: Edwardo hosted a wonderful farewell dinner held in the marble courtyard of the Westin Hotel where we were staying for the night before flying home. | After dinner we were treated to a show of traditional dances from various areas throughout Mexico. | Aztec dance from Central Mexico

79: Senorita dances with the evil senor until the good senor intercedes. Good and bad duel until good triumphs and wins the senorita.

80: Guerrero area Iguana Dance | La Paloma area Dog Dance

81: Margarita area Machette Dance | Chihuahua area Revolution Polka Dance

82: Veracruz area Water Carrier Dance | Traditional Mexican Hat Dance

83: Dance Finale Our farewell to Mexico

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  • Title: Sea of Cortez
  • 2006 Cruise West Trip
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  • Started: about 7 years ago
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