Lighthouse Renovations

IMG_4320-1A welcome investment of over 14 million pesos of federal and state funds have gone towards the renovation of our long neglected yet incredibly wonderful lighthouse, a major tourist attraction as well as a popular workout space for residents here in Mazatlán. The design plans included a transparent, cantilevered overlook, and there was talk about a zip line to Paseo del Centenario as well.

While the lighthouse walk was closed for a while, it is again open and just as crowded as ever with happy people out for a walk in the fresh air. Most of the way up the formerly dirt path is now covered with concrete and faced with rock—it looks really nice. I feel for the workers who have to haul their equipment plus the sand for the concrete up the hill. I guess they will be in shape once this project finishes!

In most areas there is a two to three foot wall protecting visitors from falling; in one key area, at the last major turn to the right up the hill, the wall has not yet been built. At the bottom, before the stairs, there is still a lot of walkway that remains concrete and has not yet been faced. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

 

At the bottom of the trail they have installed a rock wall in the roundabout and are in the process of building a nice sign. At the top, they have completed a round viewing platform, with stepped seating for visitors to take in the view. Supposedly they will install a statue of a whale in that space, which I find a bit confusing as it will block the view.

 

The lighthouse keepers will be moving to a new building just to the west of the lighthouse; the lighthouse building itself is scheduled to be turned into a museum. I have noticed a whole lot of trash from the renovation project. Hopefully workers will be cleaning all that up before they finish the job.

What I don’t see any sign of, yet at least, is a transparent, cantilevered overlook. Likewise there has been talk that the zip line is history. If you haven’t climbed up in a while, now is a good time. I find it interesting to watch projects as they progress, and adding some safety and beauty to the natural beauty of Cerro del Crestón is very welcome.

The Best Views in Mazatlán

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Looking back at downtown over Goat Island from the top of Deer Island

Where are the best views of Mazatlán? Atop the lighthouse? From up top of the Freeman? I believe that the views from atop Deer Island rival even those taken from the air in a helicopter. They are some of the most glorious vistas our fair city has to offer.

If you’ve taken a kayak, catamaran, or any other kind of lancha over to the islands, or if you’ve swum, you know that. The water around the islands is so crystal clear—the color of turquoise—and you can view Mazatlán in its entirety, from north to south, with the Sierras as a backdrop. Click on any photo to enlarge it, or to view a slideshow.

Then, as you climb up the island from the beach, each hill reveals new views and surprises. I have climbed up the first hill before, but I had not done a trek of three of the four hills, as we did this past Tuesday. I have not gone to the backside of the island, and looked out from different elevations. It is truly stunning!

Petroglyphs in Mazatlán. No, not Las Labradas. Here in Town.
And, on Deer Island, in a cave on the back side, there are petroglyphs. Not just those north of town, in Las Labradas. There are petroglyphs right here in Mazatlán!

When our friends saw the photos, they said the petroglyph of the footprint looks like proof that aliens were here. Right next to the foot is a petroglyph of an animal with a long tail.

Footprint petroglyph on Deer Island, Mazatlán on the right. Modern-day pedicured foot on the left. ;)
Footprint petroglyph on Deer Island, Mazatlán on the right.
Modern-day pedicured foot on the left. 😉

Our Photo Class
It’s a funny story how I discovered this. I’m taking a (wonderful!) photography class with Salvador Herrera, and loving it. Well, he invited us to Deer Island for photography practice. He advised us to wear tennis shoes, and to bring sunscreen, a lunch, and water. He also said we’d be home by 2:00 pm. Little did we know that we’d be hiking all day, in quite precarious conditions, seeing the most spectacular views imaginable, and then even rappelling down into the cave with the petroglyphs, to return home after 5:00 pm! You gotta love Mexican communication style and spontaneity! It was an incredible day!

One of the students in our class is a cheerleader. He had a friend visiting him from León, and she’s a cheerleader, too. They were kind enough to do some jumps and flips for us, so we could practice our photography skills. Take a look.

Where is the Cave?
The cave with the petroglyphs is on the back side of Deer Island, just below the crest of the third hill. You climb up from the south side of the island, on the southern end of the beach. From the top of that first hill, you’ll proceed along the crest of the island, down and up two more hills. Then, on the top of the third hill (not the fourth or northernmost, the second from the north), you turn west and hike down in altitude a bit.

The climb gets steep and is not for anyone without great balance as well as good strength and stamina. The final entrance to the cave involves a five-meter sheer drop. Agile climbers can find footholds and handholds, but we used a rappelling harness and rope for added safety.

The Three Islands/Las Tres Islas
Quick! Do you know their names? Starting from the south: Isla de Lobos/Wolf or Sea Lion Island, Isla de Venados/Deer Island, and Isla de Pájaros/Bird Island. Many people and websites erroneously call the southernmost of the three islands Isla de Chivos/Goat Island, but that is actually the island in front of the lighthouse.

The biodiversity of the islands in our bay is an incredible treasure. Four climactic zones are found within such a small area: semi-desert, tropical, coastal and mountains. Over 500 species of birds can be found here, including gorgeous waterfowl and my favorite, blue-footed boobies! 20% of the species found here are unique to this area—you can’t find them anywhere else! The islands are composed of volcanic rock, landslides and foothills. On the islands you can find cacti, agaves, lichen, and deciduous shrubs including lots of beautiful plumeria. Plus, of course, goats, lizards, a multitude of butterflies and other wildlife.

The middle island, Deer Island, is the most-visited of the three. Its attractions include its beach, with fine white sand and crystal clear water, rippling out from the beach in increasingly darker shades of turquoise. The north side is great for snorkeling, lobsters and scallops, and it makes for a terrific kayak trip. Deer Island is 2.3 kilometers off the coast, 1.8 km, long and between 250 and 700 meters wide. It’s highest point is 178 meters (and don’t my legs know it!), and it has an area of about 54 square hectares.

Bird Island, on the north, is 120 meters high and has an area of 48.5 hectares. Goat Island is pretty much inaccessible.

For Sale?!
While most anyone in town will tell you that these three islands are an ecological preserve, and I sincerely hope they are protected by legislation, there is currently an advertisement to sell these three natural treasures.I do hope it’s a joke!

Do You Know the Legend of the Three Islands?
It is said that the indigenous people of this area were suffering from a succession of horrible hurricanes and flooding. The Mazatl people were beside themselves with grief; they were exhausted and starving.

The village chief asked the curandero what he could do to put things right and bring prosperity back to his people. The curandero went into a trance, and told the chief that the only way to put things right would be to sacrifice one of his three daughters—one of the three beautiful princesses—in order to restore the welfare of the pueblo. The chief loved all his daughters dearly, and was distraught because he loved his pueblo, too. He just could not bear to sacrifice one of his daughters.

Unbeknownst to the chief, his daughters swore a secret pact. The three of them loved their home, their neighbors, and their father so much, that they would sacrifice themselves and thereby restore the prosperity of the area. One night, under a full moon, dressed in white and with the diamond their mother had given each of them when they were born, the three princesses held hands and walked into the ocean, drowning themselves for the sake of their people. One sister’s hand came free, and she was swept slightly away from her sisters, but the other two sisters hung onto each other tightly.

The morning after their sacrifice, the Mazatl people saw three gorgeous islands out in the Bay of Mazatlán! One island was located slightly to the north, on its own, while the two to the south were connected. That was when they discovered that the princesses were missing! Such an act of pure, selfless love!

Thereafter, the climate changed and the weather of Mazatlán became tranquil and pleasant. To this day the three princess islands continue to protect the people, sheltering them from winds, storms and hurricanes. It is said that in the heart of each of the three islands can be found a diamond.

Do you know the name of the annual swim out to Deer Island? Yes? The Travesía!

Even if you are not incredibly mobile, you can get out to Deer Island on a boat and enjoy the views from the beach. If you haven’t done so, I highly encourage it. Spend the day; you’ll feel like you’ve gone to a Greek Island. If you are fit, take a hike up, at least to the first hill. The views will astound you. If you want to go to the cave, I’d recommend you go with someone who knows the route; it’s pretty tricky, at least for my level of adventurism.

And, of course, we couldn’t have asked for a better day!

An update/adaptation of this post appeared in M! Magazine in October, 2015 under the title, “Three Time’s a Charm.”

A Lazy Saturday Bike Ride

Frigates wtih fish
After a most wonderful Mothers’ Day yesterday, which went from early morning till early this morning, we were more than happy to sleep in a bit. Thus we got a late start on a Saturday morning bike ride.

This is our favorite time of year: quiet, without crowds, perfect weather. The sky was blue, the air was warm with a light breeze. We biked down the malecón and around downtown to run a few errands. Below are a few of the sights that caught my fancy (you can click on any photo to see it larger, and then click through a slideshow if you’d like).

I always love to watch the fishermen and their boats or pangas. It reminds me of the Izu Peninsula, in Shizuoka, where I lived in Japan for so many years. Somehow, fishing villages worldwide share so much in common. (Again, you can click on any photo below to enlarge it, and then click through a slide show if you’d care to.)

Today there were so many birds out and about. They were loving the fishermen, and the tourists and others who were buying fish who were willing to feed a bit of their purchase to a poor, starving sea bird. As if…

The sun was just a bit too tempting for Greg. He laid down for a bit, enjoying soaking it in. Soon it will be too hot to enjoy doing this, but for now, it’s absolutely perfect!

Relaxing in the sun

 

Porqué Me Gusta Tanto El Amanecer? Why Do I Love Sunrise So Much?

Sunrise over the Sierras

Sunrise over the Sierras

Why do I love sunrise so much? Acompáñenme, por favor. Pull up a chair and join me, won’t you? Here’s the walk I took just after sunrise this morning. Get why I like it? There was quite a bit of fog over the city, as you can see. Vamos a comenzar el camino un poco después del amanecer. Caminaremos hasta arriba del faro. ¿Ven porque me gusta tanto? Hoy había bastante niebla sobre la ciudad, como pueden ver.

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¿Y desde arriba? ¿Como se ve? Aquí arriba no había nada de niebla hoy por la mañana. How did it look up top this morning, looking out over the city, and down on the boats? There wasn’t a bit of fog up here this morning.

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After a short break up top, I start the walk back down. Now I don’t have to turn around to see the view—it’s in all its glory right in front of me! Después de un pequeño descanso por arriba, comienzo la bajada. Ahora no tengo que voltearme para apreciar la vista—todo está esplendidamente enfrente de mí.

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Al fin, tengo que volver a casa, para comenzar el día de trabajo. Pero me quedan unas vistas más. Qué difíciles las mañanas aquí en el puerto, ¿verdad? Finally, I have to make my way home so I can get to work. But I still have a few things left to see; it’s such a difficult challenge living here in our fair port. 😉

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Thank you for joining me! ¡Gracias por acompañarme!

Update on Bicycling in Mazatlán

In June I wrote a post updating everyone in English about the planning for ciclovías/bike paths in town and the CicloNoches/night bike tours in this gorgeous port of ours.

I’m very happy to report that since that post, the city has joined so many other cities in Mexico and abroad, and has begun closing the southbound lanes of Avenida del Mar on Sunday mornings. Today was the second such Sunday.

Last week, opening week, we were joined by Governor Malova and Mayor Higuera, as can be seen in the video above.

The road is closed from Insurgentes to Monos Bichis, the Fishermen’s Monument. It gets closed about 8 am (though they’ve announced it’s from 6 am), and stays closed until about 10:30 or 11 am (though, again, it’s announced to stay closed till noon). Southbound traffic is routed to one lane, as is northbound traffic, both using the inland side of the Avenue. Thus, drivers are able to continue using the Avenida, and the bikers, skaters and skateboarders are safe in the oceanside lanes.

This is a wonderful chance to get out with the whole family, or with your friends and neighbors. Please take advantage of it! We definitely want to show the city how important this privilege is to us by having a good turnout. Hopefully this practice will continue long enough for citizens to learn about it and develop the habit of Sunday morning cycling, though we weren’t that lucky last time.

Something wonderful this morning was that police were loaning out, free of charge, 80 beautiful bicycles for people to use! Those wanting to borrow a bicycle were asked to leave their credenciál or identification card, in order to ensure they’d return the bike.

Regarding CicloNoches, they are now scheduled for the first Thursday of every month. September 6 will be the third such event. Meet in front of the Aquarium at 7:30 pm, for an 8:00 pm start. The plan this time is to ride down to the Escudo/the shield down in Olas Altas and back. It is a wonderful feeling pedaling the Avenida del Mar in the dark, looking out at the lights around the bay.

As in prior events, the road will not be closed for this event, but we should have a police escort and a wonderful turnout. We will be guided by a leader, and will be asked to stay only in the rightmost lane of the Avenida. You can see the rules here in the photo at the left. This is a group event, so participants are asked not to pass each other and not to go out into the left-hand lane, in order to protect everyone’s safety and enjoyment, and ensure that drivers can get by smoothly.