Whales!

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Okay, I could die today and be happy.  We booked the whale-watching tour to Laguna Ojo Liebre (Jackrabbit-eye Lagoon), a 45 minute drive across the salt flats of Guerrero Negro.  We were loaded up in a small panga (12 to a boat). Accompanying us was the six-year old adorable daughter of the captain, who goes out with her Daddy whenever she’s not in school.  She knows whales by name and calls to them and they come to the boat.  They seem to love children. 

The grey whales come to the Baja coast (Pacific side) every winter to give birth in the Laguna, Bay of San Ignacio and Magdalena bay.  They spend the winter there, with the strongest adults guarding the narrow entrance to keep predators out. In the spring, the adults form a circle around the babies and they take the long swim north where they spend their summers, then they repeat the cycle the following fall, returning to Mexico. 

Marine biologists estimate approximately 700 whales in Laguna Ojo Liebre this year and we must have seen about 50-60, mostly in the distance, spouting, surfacing and twice breaching.  About 2/3 of the way into our venture into the Bay four whales (three adults and a baby) came up along side our boat and the accompanying boat.  They were curious and surfaced, lifting their heads up, and let us pet them.  Mama playfully splashed us and then spouted water all over me.  Three dolphins accompanied them, though the dolphins never lifted their heads out of the water.  The whales hung around our boat for about 1/2 hour.  After they had enough of head petting and belly rubbing (just like cats) they turned and swam off in the distance, spouting.  The highlight of our Baja trip thus far!

After the whale watching trip, we briefly toured the saltworks, the largest exporter of salt in the world. While driving on the hard packed dirt road, this huge critter blocked our path and stared us down.tarantula web

I was thrilled and got down low to the ground to take this photo, my companions, including the recent Italian marine biology graduate were not as thrilled. Our driver swerved around “pepe” and we were on our way. We checked out of the hotel late and crossed the desert for the Sea of Cortez coast.

As we approached the coast we gingerly drove down the very scary Pie de La Cuesta, the steep road hugging the mountain side with few guardrails on the downhill side and what appeared to be sheer drops of thousands of feet. Luckily, we were on the uphill side of the mountain, but I am already dreading the return trip when we will be on the downhill side while large 18 wheelers barrel toward us in the opposite direction. The view was spectacular until ugly Santa Rosalia came into view. An old mining town full of abandoned equipment an old quarry serves as the town dump, this is as ugly as it gets. 30 years ago, when I drove the Baja with some Mexican friends, we actually overnighted in Santa Rosalia. We must have gotten in after dark because I never would have agreed to stop there otherwise.

We blew through town and continued on to the river oasis town of Mulege. Still tiny. We couldn’t find the B&B by the river because the usual road was still washed out from the flood several years ago and settled on my second choice – La Serenidad outside of town. This was probably once quite the hotspot, with celebrities jetting in on the private airstrip just outside the hotel gate. But the grand dame shows a lot of wear. The hotel is reminiscent of an old hacienda, with low slung white-washed adobe brick buildings, expansive patios and plenty of rustic Mexican charm. But the bathroom was scary. The hotel made up for its somewhat with its famous Saturday pig roast. It was sad to see so few guests though, where once this place was probably hopping with rowdy partiers hurling shots of tequila while the Mariachis sang in the background.

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2 Responses to “Whales!”

  1. Teresa L. Says:

    Wow!….you got to experience the very large to the very small all in one day. I love the pictures. Glad you survived the uphill mountain ride (happy to not see pictures of that!), and wish you a safe return down the mountain.

  2. squirrelmama Says:

    Ha, ha Teresa. The tarantula not so small. He was bigger than my hand.

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