About Us

The Pack Family Journal is a place where we gather text and images of our lives, adventures and travels. This is a very personal site, written openly and honestly. Enjoy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Baja California Sur.

Rachel and I wanted to wish you Feliz Navidad and the very best wishes for the New Year. We've included a few picture we took this week, just for giggles.

John & Rachel Pack
Mexico Living


Christmas Cai getting into the spirit.


Rachel and Cai on the shore of Bahía de los Sueños (the Bay of Dreams), recently changes from Bahia de Los Muertos ("Bay of Dead Men"), so named for the giant “dead-men”anchors used here to moor barges in the early 1900, guess the people building the HUGE mansions along the shoreline didn't like the dead thing...


Here I am napping on the beach, while the fishermen catch the bait with nets.


Cai sporting her San Felipe t-shirt with Rachel as we cross the bay.


In the early morning looking out at the bay before we put in...


Burros grazing along the roadside...just seemed cool


We went to the orphanage last week to pass out gifts, and the kids just loved Cai and our friends dog Ivy...

Hope you enjoy the pictures. Feliz Navidad

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 2009 - Gypsy Journal - If You Love Shrimp, Like I Love Shrimp . . .

I love shrimp. I think the best tasting shrimp in the world comes from the northern Sea of Cortez. I've had shrimp from other parts of the world. I ate more than my share when Rachel and I lived along the gulf in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Bubba said it best, "Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That . . . that's about it."

Bubba forgot about the San Felipe bacon-wrapped blue shrimp, the single most common recipe of the annual San Felipe Shrimp Festival, now on it’s 17th year. The smell of bacon is carried on the sea breezes as you walk the Malecon past the many vendors of this shrimp delicacy, so prevalent you’d think they were caught that way.

If you love shrimp, like I love shrimp, you’d travel 800 miles for a couple days of these tasty blues, and many do. The event has become an annual Baja pilgrimage for many, including Rachel and myself. Shrimp season is a great time of the year on the northern sea: great weather; returning friends; and wonderful, wonderful shrimp.

Every time I think of shrimp, I think of a trip Rachel and I, and our friends, Gene and Darcy Jensen took. We spent a week at Alfonsina's on Bahía San Luis Gonzaga, or Gonzaga Bay as it’s commonly referred. A wonderful little hotel and restaurant on the shores of the bay and longtime stopover for off-road racers and adventurers.

On the beach Rachel and I found an old, molded kayak, it was tandem with an open deck, sort of resembled a canoe, something you might use on the lake. It belonged to the hotel and they said we could use it, so we decided to explore the barren rocky cliffs and the cactus that cling to them. We had paddled nearly to the bay opening, examining the rough terrain and the sea life that moved in and around the rocks below us in the crystal blue waters, when we noticed three shrimp boats making their way into the bay. By the time we paddled our way into the center of the bay to investigate the boats; they had already anchored and gone ashore.

When we got to the shore, Gene had mentioned the fishermen were making their rounds selling shrimp—hallelujah! I immediately scanned the beach up and down like a junkie looking for his dealer; I almost felt ashamed, but that quickly passed when I noticed the soldiers and their machine guns just a couple yards away. Apparently, while my mind wondered about shrimp a federal boat had landed with about a dozen armed soldiers, they too were looking for the fishermen.

The fishermen returned shortly thereafter, they were empty handed. The soldiers on the beach were there only to watch the boat, and while they and I waited, their comrades had found the fishermen and purchased the last of their load.

I was disappointed as I watched them walk by with empty boxes. I asked one of them, “¿Tiene más de camarón?”—Do you have anymore shrimp?—and he replied in English, “No, but we will trade for some chocolate.” They then continued to the shore and their waiting dingy.

“Did you hear that?” I asked Gene, more as a statement, than a question. “Let’s go get some chocolate!” We both leapt to our feet and headed to Gene’s truck and the area’s only store, where we stocked up on Hershey bars and anything else we could find dipped in chocolate. Of course, it hadn’t dawned on us how we were going to make the trade. Were they going to wait for our signal and bring their dingy ashore, or did we have to go to the boat?

When we got back with candy in hand, one of the boats was already leaving the bay and there was no way we would be able to signal them from their distance; swimming was out of the question; we had no way to keep the chocolate dry (as if that was really an option); we were left with only the molded plastic kayak.

This kayak was not meant for the sea, and although this was the bay, the swells were building and white caps could be seen near the bay mouth. The kayak was still sitting on the sand where Rachel and I had left it.

“Come on Gene, let’s take the kayak!” Gene looked at Darcy, as if waiting for her to give him an excuse why he shouldn’t go, but none come. Gene climbed in up front and I pushed him out into the water and climbed in back.

“How much do you weigh?” Gene asked me over his shoulder. I knew he was looking at the weight capacity label attached on the molded plastic in front of him. “Don’t worry about that,” I replied, “we were over the limit before you got in.”

As we slowly paddled our way to the nearest fishing boat, the swells were rolling into the boat. Our combined weight had the deck of the kayak about even with the waterline, so every swell would put a little more water into the kayak. When we got to the boat, I was surprised to see it was in worse condition than it appeared from shore—surprised because from shore it looked like it had seen better days—but along side it, I wondered how it floated. The hull was nearly all rust; in places I could see where the rust had eaten all the way through. Fortunately for them it was above the waterline.

I grabbed a rope hanging over the side and hung on as the swells rose us up and dropped us down. The same fisherman we spoke to on the beach leaned over the railing and grabbed the candy. The whole time I’m trying to keep from rubbing against the boat in fear of getting scratched or cut by one of the many sharp, rusty edges. The candy cost us about $10, but we had no idea how much that would get us in shrimp. “Hell, he could bring back two,” I thought to myself. “What would I be able to do about it?” Moments later the fisherman was back, and when he reached over the rail this time, he had close to three kilos of beautiful, frozen Gulf of California blue shrimp. We said thank you and slowly and carefully turned our nose back towards shore.

By the time we made it back to shore, the kayak was half filled with water and both Gene and I were exhausted from protecting our bounty, while fighting the growing swells. But, if you love shrimp, like we love shrimp, it’s all worth it. We made it to shore and that night we had a shrimp festival of our own on the shore of Bahía San Luis Gonzaga.