Our first week in La Paz has been very taxing. Every day, we're up early to have breakfast and engage Alicia in some morning Espanol, then off to escuela for cuatro horas of intensive vocabulary enhancement and verb conjugation. When we get back in the early afternoon, we have a little break then another session of homestay language practice over lunch. Our evenings are spent in the room doing a bit of homework and massaging our aching heads, random Spanish words leaking out of our ears.
Practicing "las compras" (shopping) en Espanol in Todos Santos
So when the "fin de semana" (weekend) finally arrives, we feel rested enough to take a day-trip south to Todos Santos, a beach-side town recommended to us by Felipe, our Spanish instructor. It's about an hour's ride away from La Paz, and the road winds up and down the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. Lots of fun!
Bringing forth the Mayan Apocalypse...
Misione de Nuestra Senora de Pilar in Todos Santos
Musta forgot the rosary beads in the car...
Lobby of the Hotel California, Todos Santos
Yes, this is *THE* Hotel California, made famous by The Eagles song. I was a bit disappointed. I think I was expecting a real dive of an establishment, the kind of place a washed up, disillusioned Don Henley would check into and muse poetic about the twisted lives of the hotel's mysterious occupants. We walked through the lobby and halls, but no Mirrors on the Ceiling, no Pink Champagne on Ice. Just a very trendy, expensive hotel that steers visitors to the very large gift shop selling "Hotel California" souvenirs.
We didn't spend too much time there...
Edit: Seems we have been misinformed. The Eagles have never stated that the Hotel California in Todos Santos was the inspiration behind their song. Thanks to Michael S for pointing this out!
Getting ready to hit the beach
What we're really here to see are the pretty beaches just outside of town. It's about a 10 minute ride through some gravelly and sandy roads, and I'm glad that we unloaded most of the heavy gear off the bikes. Even so, we wobble our way through heavy sand to reach the beach's parking lot. Stupid, crappy Tourance tires.
How to take pictures of the waves coming ashore
Picture of waves coming ashore
How not to take pictures of the waves coming ashore
Felipe told us that a popular attraction in Todos Santos is the Turtle Release. The beaches here are an important nesting site for sea turtles, especially the endangered Pacific Leatherback. Unfortunately, the beaches have become home to all sorts of human activity - dune buggies and other powersports, and people taking their (hungry) dogs out for a walk. All of which destroy turtle nests buried in the sands.
Checking out the incubation greenhouse
Between the nesting months of October to April, volunteers comb the beaches at night and relocate the sea turtle eggs to a protected incubation greenhouse, providing a better environment for hatching success. The sites with the round fences around them are nests that are ready to hatch soon. The fence stops the turtles from trying to instinctually head for the waters, and allows the volunteers to gather them up in the late afternoon.
This baby is seconds old! It just crawled out of the sand having broken out of its egg!
The project is aimed not only at replenishing the sea turtle population, but also to educate visitors, who are encouraged to "assist" the baby turtles to make it to the waters without being trampled on by dune buggies or joggers, or eaten by dogs or birds. The early evening right before the sun sets is the safest time to release the turtles as all the birds have left the beach.
We each "adopted" one baby turtle and walked them to the edge of the shore
My baby! Feeling a bit paternal here...
Sea turtles live to about 100 years. I got a bit choked up when I realized that we were here on their Day 1, helping them increase their odds to make it to Year 100. The odds are still stacked against them, even when they make it to the waters unmolested, they'll have to face aquatic predators, but at least we're evening the imbalance that we caused in the first place.
Day 1 of 100 years
SO CUTE! These little guys know exactly which way the waters are
And they're off...!
A line was drawn in the sand so that we didn't leave deep footprints on the shore that would impede the baby turtles' progress to the waters. And also to stop us from accidentally trampling on them, as the incoming waves occasionally pushed the turtles back on shore. I wanted to walk my baby turtle all the way into the water, but we are told that it's good for them to struggle on land as it prepares them to swim in the waters.
Off into the sunset, goodbye baby turtle!