Thursday, March 8, 2012

Exploring Barra

Our stay here in Barra may be an extended one.  After removing the busted transmission we decided to go ahead and pull the engine, too.  This was a good opportunity to fix some nagging oil leaks from both front and rear seals.  On further inspection we found a number of other issues that led to my decision to rebuild the engine as well as the transmission.  The good news is that when it's all done we'll have a practically new motor.  The bad news is that it will require a lot more time and money.  Both engine and transmission are currently just a heap of parts on a workbench here in Barra, and I'm trying to work out the best way to get the necessary parts down here to begin putting it all back together.  In the meantime, we'll try to make the most of our stay.

Mom and Dad flew out for a visit last week and we've been showing them around and exploring some of the nearby beach towns.  I think we've managed to patronize just about every tourist shop in Barra, as well as many local restaurants and bakeries.  We certainly haven't missed any meals.

On Sunday we took a taxi to the little town of La Manzanilla on Bahia Tenacatita.  La Manzanilla is a very cool seaside village at the base of lush jungle-covered hills dotted with luxury homes.  It is also home to a crocodile sanctuary where we walked along a raised wooden platform and got close-up views of some very large and toothy crocs.   We then strolled down the beach and found a palapa for some shade and a beer. 

Near the anchorage in Tenacatita is the entrance to an estuary where you can take a dinghy tour through the lush mangroves to a beautiful jungle lagoon.  This is one of the highlights for cruisers to Tenacatita and I was hoping to check it out.  I had originally planned to sail into the bay and take our own dinghy into the lagoon but, given the fact that my engine is currently a pile of metal parts, I decided to go with plan B -- hire a panga to take us there. 

So, while Mom, Dad, Millie, and Colin sipped drinks under the palapa I walked into town to find someone who could point me in the right direction.  I was soon following a very helpful local man back down to the beach where some fishermen in a panga were unloading their catch.  They said they could take us in an hour and we agreed on a price. 

An hour later we helped push the panga over the rocky beach and into deeper water before jumping in and motoring across the bay.  The afternoon wind was filling in so we motored at a slower pace to keep the spray down.  As we approached the mouth of the estuary we could see the tide was too low to get across with, maybe, a foot of water showing.  Our captain said it was a rising tide and suggested we motor around to the point at Tenacatita to wait for the water to come up. 

So, we motored around the rocky point, past the deserted Playa Tenacatita, and over to a group of rocks called The Aquarium -- a great place to dive and snorkel.  Unfortunately, we neglected to bring any diving or snorkeling gear.  Instead, we took a water tour around the rocky point and along the quiet beach currently closed to the public. 

Until recently, Playa Tenacatita was alive with local families and tourists enjoying a day at the beach.  Following a bitter land dispute the beach was cleared and the local businesses forced to evacuate.  The only people enjoying the beach on this day were the police and thier families.  What a shame.

Soon we made our way back toward the estuary and with a little more water under the keel the captain drove the panga into the mouth where we jumped out and they pushed it through.  We boarded again on the other side and started our tour up into the lagoon, winding through lush mangroves as the sides begain to close in and envelope the boat.  We slowly made our way through until it finally closed us in and we could only turn back.  That was enough fun for one day.

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