Wednesday, June 2, 2010

La Paz steps up!

Many personal bests or first-time catches of species were there for the taking for the fishermen in the group . photo by Greg Neiman

With only six months of planning, the city of La Paz successfully hosted the Outdoor Writers of California (OWAC) Spring Conference. The best of the best was brought out for the nearly 50 writers and their guests showcasing the city and the multitude of outdoor activities that are available in the city and the surrounding area. I cannot even begin to name all of the companies involved in making this a conference of such superb quality; only a few of them are mentioned below.

For four days, from early morning to late afternoon, the city's guests fished, snorkeled, dived, kayaked, golfed and explored offshore islands. Then at night they sampled some of the finest restaurants and retired to some of the best hotels in the city.

Each night Ricardo Garcia, Subdirector de Turismo and Relaciones International, and his team of five highly-efficient assistants arranged outstanding, mouth watering dinners at four different venues. Upon arrival, the writers were greeted by the team at Papa’s and Beer Restaurant, where they enjoyed casual outdoor dining on an open patio perched on the sandy shore of the Sea of Cortez where the colorful, gorgeous La Paz sunset welcomed many first-timers to Baja.

The following night, Ray Novelli owner of the five-star restaurant, Palermos, hosted the Awards Banquet in a room that could only be described as awesome, with a picture window waterfall and beautiful decor. The third night, a delicious array of hors d'Ĺ“uvres, deserts and drinks were served at the outdoor bar of the Costa Baja Resort and Marina Beach Club where once again, we enjoyed the breathtaking sunset.

Our final night, we enjoyed a Fiesta Mexican at Playa El Coromuel hosted by the Chef Association of Baja Sur…special Baja dishes served while we enjoyed the artistic program with music, mariachis and folk dancing.

In spite of the recent reports of 'up and down' fishing, it was as though someone threw a switch and the fishing turned on! Many personal bests or first-time catches of species were there for the taking for the fishermen in the group who fished at both Las Arenas and out of La Paz with the Mosquito Fleet, the Baja Pirates and the Fishermen’s Fleet. Each night when the group gathered for cocktails, the anglers recounted their exploits on the tranquil waters of the Sea of Cortez. Dorado, roosterfish, jacks, grouper, and pargo were only some of the eighteen different species caught.

Even the whale sharks cooperated, and those that chose that activity with Tim Means of Baja Expeditions were not disappointed. Carrie Wilson, WON Columnist, described swimming along with the huge animals as an 'OMG' moment that she would never forget.
A dozen writers and guests described the day they spent at Balandra Bay as THE best kayaking experience ever. BOA, owned and operated by Ben Gilman and his wife Alexia, definitely delivered on the promise they have emblazoned on their business cards, “paddling in paradise".

Fourteen attendees were visiting Baja for the very first time. I asked each of them one question; with all the recent negative press that has appeared recently in the media, what compelled them to come to La Paz at this time?

Alexia Retallack: "The adventure of being outside of my personal comfort zone in Baja was intriguing. After I arrived, it was obvious many of the myths that had been circulated were just not true. Besides, I wanted to go diving."
J.J. Mays : " I was a little nervous but knew that most of the bad stories were near the border. Baja reminds me of the line from a Jimmie Buffet song about 'Latitudes and Attitudes'. I wanted to see the beautiful beaches. I found that it’s a kick back place that can be all you want it to be. Baja is great."
Keith Lair: "We travel quite a bit and crime is common in many places…even in our own backyard in South Los Angeles. We knew that most of the trouble has been along the border and we have felt safe in La Paz and have had a great time!"

John Burk: " I had some concerns but my research confirmed that the crime was no more an issue than at home."

Barbara Steinberg: "I had not heard about the crime problems until the trip was already planned. Friends' eyebrows rose when I told them about the trip, but I was never worried. I had heard so much about Baja and I was sure it would be a good fit…and it is! I feel like Baja is the other California."

A family town, La Paz has one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S. OR Mexico. The remarkable diversity and the surrounding areas offer outdoor opportunities for everyone. The people are friendly, helpful, and go out of their way to make sure the visitors' every need is met. To please half the writers, or even 75% would have been a very good ratio, but to a person, the attendees of this conference all agreed that while it was the first OWAC Conference ever held outside California, it was one of the best ever!