Balandra Bay, Baja California: "Mushroom" Monument Marks US Woman's Death
Balandra's Beauty Seduces ManyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mushroom Rock Plaque Records Anguish
Balandra’s Peaceful Mien Conceals a Tragedy.
The Answer Can be Found on Mushroom Rock.
As writers and travellers like myself experience other lands, we find spots that leave an indelible memory and which we often return to, conjuring up a vision of the place in our mind’s eye. What a wonderful thing is this thing we call memory that can bring back sights, sounds and even smells of previous times. Sometimes it makes us happy, at others, blue, with some of the bittersweet times we have lived and people gone forever.
Balandra Bay, near La Paz in South Baja, is one of the bittersweet kind for this author. Many times I had swum and clammed there and shared a salty kiss under the lowering cliffs. But Balandra also represented failure to me: the time I fought like a gladiator to get permission to open a business there, only to loose all interest, as my son, who I had done it all for, decided it wasn’t for him and returned to Mexico City.
Balandra Bay is a large, horseshoe shaped cove, about 20 miles from La Paz, just before you get to the popular Tecolote Beach. As you will see from the photo, it is incredibly beautiful with azure water and a pretty beach. It is very popular with locals, too, who bring their partners of the moment here to make out in the concealed cave-like underhang of the small cliffs and cool off afterwards in the limpid water.
Just as Balandra has meant triumph and disaster to me, it has done so in a far more dramatic fashion to at least one other visitor.
One afternoon, about 25 years ago, an American and his wife steered their boat into the mouth of the Bay and dropped anchor. The lady decided to take a swim, as it turned out, her last. Something else was enjoying Balandra and environs that fateful day. It may have been a Great White Shark, or another member of the shark family not put off by human flesh. Some say it could even have been an Orca, a Killer Whale, who mistook the swimmer for a sea-lion from the nearby colony on Isla Espiritu Santo. In any event, the woman was taken by some large predator and never seen again.
Her distraught husband decided to commemorate her loss by adding a plaque to an unusual rock formation just along the beach. Known locally as “Mushroom,“ or “Balancing” Rock, it resembles a mushroom, resting on a slim leg that time, wind and tide have carved out. It is actually composed of pebbles naturally cemented by fine deposits over thousands of years: this is know to geologists as “Conglomerated.“ The Mushroom fell down in a storm some years ago, and was lovingly restored by the local council, this time, the slim rock support strengthened by a piece or iron. The plaque was also replaced; it describes the couple involved and the happenings on that fateful day, although the last time I was there it was hard to read. It may well have ended up on eBay by now, so much does these days. The Rock has rapidly become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Mexico, if not the world. It is a shame that the story of the tragedy played out on that fateful day seems to have become lost, as few observers ever mention it.
City officials play down any talk of large predators in the vicinity of La Paz or nearby islands. But professional divers know the true story. The area is visited by Great Whites and other large sharks, as well as Killer Whales, the infamous “Orca Gladiators.” The are here, no doubt, to keep an eye on the Sea Lion colony aforementioned. If there have been any “Jaws Type” events, we are not told about them. I don’t personally know of any. Man is not the natural prey of any of these predators and there must be a sufficiency of their natural prey around here to obviate their need to feast on human flesh. One hopes so, anyway. With a weather eye on the warning at Mushroom Rock.