Puerto Penasco, Mexico – January 5, 2006
We spent a couple of days in the desert in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Organ Pipe cactus, unlike Saguaro, is rare in the U.S. They’re cold sensitive and grow here only on the Mexican border on the south slope of the mountains. These cacti, like Saguaro, have hard woody skeletons, like whale penis bones, which remain behind after they die of old age. Their waxy surfaces hold in water during the day. At night they open their pores to breathe and bloom. Long-nose bats dart from flower to flower spreading pollen.
Most of the scenic roads close to the border have been closed in the monument. Drug smugglers and “coyotes”, who smuggle people, use Organ Pipe extensively on runs North, creating new roads and litter. A few park rangers and border patrol agents have been killed here in skirmishes so they try to keep the tourists and the smugglers separated in a balancing act. The park rangers are more offended by litter than by smuggling.
We cross the border and drive 60 miles though the sandy desert to the northern tip of the Sea of Cortez at Puerto Penasco. There are $2 margaritas at the resort next door during Happy Hour. We drink some and dance a little.
The sea is tranquil and very blue in the hot Mexican sun. I expect a big tide since the sea is shaped like the Bay of Fundy in Maine and like Cook’s Inlet in Alaska. At low tide a big expanse of white sand appears.
John from Montreal catches me trying to photograph a “green flash” at sunset and stays to help and offer advice. He’s an old diver too with a French accent. He likes to spearfish. He thinks the water is too cold at 60 F. We spent two hours talking about diving. He's sailed his 33 foot sailboat to South America, the Azores and along the coast of Europe...he's 69 now...drifting south though Mexico until Montreal warms up...he shot himself, like Hemingway, with a "bang-stick" hunting a big Bull shark near Cat Island in the Bahamas...broke his leg in 4 places with the 44 magnum...he shows me the scars...
We have some Coronas with lime slices placed in the bottleneck at a restaurant built on pilings in the Old Port. Corona is pronounced properly with a rolled “R”. The beaches here are lined with new million dollar condos built for American boomers from California.
Black dogs run in packs on the beach in the morning. They have adapted to life here. They forage on the beach for food washed in by the tide. I see a few going though garbage cans that they can knock over. As the sunlight comes the dogs change color from black to brown and white.
The whales from Alaska winter here. At dawn the reflections on the wet sand beach are golden.