We really were fortunate in landing at Ensenada. It was beautiful there, and it turned out to be a sort of resort/park that the locals and people in the area would come to when they wanted to get away. There aren’t too many cruisers or American tourists who come to this area – and we were in fact, the only gringos around.
First we explored the coral reef behind us, which was the first coral reef we’d actually encountered on our trip! There were many soft corals fluttering in the wave action, including purple fans and sponges of all shapes and sizes. We saw two eels, and some beautiful tangs, both large and small. There were a lot of spiny sea urchin hunting these grounds, and I wondered if they were in part responsible for the deterioration which was also obvious on the reef. Even as my children and I gloried in the amazing sights we saw, I knew that this was probably only 1/3 of what it used to be. You could tell because of the dead corals, algal growth, and in some areas, minor bleaching.
Still, it was fantastic and I saw soooo many great things that I never saw before! And the girls were just amazed and thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling and exploring this special area. After we came back to the boat, we had even more fun beneath the boat! Some sea urchens have shorter spines and you can handle them – it’s similar to holding a hedgehog. You wouldn’t want to squeeze it… but picked up delicately you can enjoy looking at these beautiful creatures and watching as their many feet reach between the spines to suction onto your hand. It sort of tickles! There were contrasting colors and even a few that were solid white! We also found some beautiful sea urchin shells – some of which held onto the striped coloring.
That afternoon, we went ashore and found that what had appeared to be an open air market, was actually a long long row of restaurants serving various seafood dishes that were caught daily by the owners of the restaurants. We wandered amongst the stalls, looking at the lobster and crab – still living, laid out on long tables. Paint proclaimed the number and name of each restaurant. I stopped and talked to various people as we walked along, asking them about their dishes and when did the party start? Everyone I spoke to was very nice and welcoming, but there was something that really connected with me when I met Dona Niulka at restaurant number 17. She took a lot of time to explain to me what the exchange rate was, how much things cost and gave me a card for her restaurant.
After we’d wandered some more and realized that the rows of open restaurants continued to the end of the beach – the only difference being a few played very loud music. There weren’t many people there, and as we observed all the space that seemed to be ready – we wondered what it all meant. We decided to get some ice cream from a passing motor bike and then headed back to Niulka.
The ice cream was deliciously cold and sweet, and a bit more expensive than I’d thought… but we enjoyed it and then sat down at Niulka’s where I proceeded to both practice my Spanish on her and start to learn a little more about the place we were in. I asked her about how to get to town, where we could buy fruits and vegetables. At first she told me that we could right here, but I had no idea what she meant by that. Then she said it was 5 minutes in a car – I pointed out that being as I was from yonder sailboat (which I learned is velero in Spanish.) She was intrigued that we came from the sailboat and seemed pleased to have our company. She said we could rent a car, or if we like, her husband, Domingo, would drive us to town. We assumed he was going anyway and we’d be catching a ride there and back… so we gladly agreed and squeezed into his small, four door truck.
It was such an adventure to be going to town with a local, who brought us past his beautiful house and then straight to the grocery. He told us they
would change out money into DR $, however the lady there seemed a little reluctant – so I only changed over $40. We bought some needed fruits and vegetables and then – since Jay saw the Barber shop, he decided it was time to get a haircut! Domingo wasn’t able to get us into the first shop – they were too busy. The second was closed… but the third said no problem!
We waited inside a garage, noting the pinup girls on the walls, as our young barber finished the customer ahead of us. While Jay stepped up to the chair, suddenly I needed to use the toilet and found myself ushered into the house to which the garage was attached. This was a striking reminder of how different the country I am in, is from where I am from. The house was similar to an unfinished garage itself. The bathroom was tiled half way up , but none of the walls were finished and curtains separated the rooms. There was no sink, I was instructed to wash my hands in the shower, but I wasn’t able to turn it on and used the water in the bucket – which I am not sure was clean or not. The toilet flushed, which was different than at the restaurant, where I paid a quarter for a cinderblock stall and a bucket of water to pour in when I finished.
It was all so interesting, and everywhere I went I took the time to greet people with “Hola” and tell them my name and ask how they were. The responses were all so warm and often began brief conversations about children or the boat we’d arrived on. Jay’s hair cut was very precise, with the gentleman using straight razors to achieve a very tidy and short cut. We talked and laughed and had a good time while we waited and then Domingo – who stayed with us throughout our adventure, ushered us back to his truck. There was no charge from him – he was just kindly helping us, and apparently he had no reason to go to town other than to please his wife by helping the gringos. He was more quiet than Niulka, but he was also a kind hearted person that we enjoyed getting to know better.