(note Caffeine Vignette: The Pole Dance? Is the beginning of this trip)
Some countries are best viewed from a train, while others simply cry for us to hold the wheel of the car while driving along charming estates, country roads and mountain vistas. Then there are places that short flights between key areas work best combined with walking, biking, boat or bus tours and perhaps branching out to rent a moped or scooter.
While enjoying the central colonial town of Loreto on the Sea of Cortez, I approached the tour desk at the Hotel Santa Fe hoping that a day in a van and on a boat would be like a day of rest due to my fall several days before. The following morning, I was in a passenger van with four other tourists on our way to Magdalena Bay. Gosh, I don’t like to call myself a tourist but sometimes the word just fits. It was about 3-hours across the Baja to the Pacific coast in a van with a cooler filled with water, sodas and of course lots of beer.
We passed an expat community, Nopolo Bay, a time-share, several Mexican towns and a lot of flat open ground. A jumble of above- ground wires lined the roads especially near communities. Phone lines, electric poles, high towers and wooden poles, all made me appreciate underground wires.
Magdalena Bay provides a safe harbor for gray whales and their babies. Gray Whales migrate south from Alaska every winter to birth their babies in the warm water lagoons along the pacific coast of the Baja peninsula. These whales make a 12,000-mile round trip journey every year that is enjoyed by whale watchers all along the Pacific coast.
My destination is a panga ride in the lagoon of Magdalena Bay with a stop on the Isla De Patos, a bird sanctuary that creates a good portion of the safety of the bay. Keep in mind that I am now under the influence of oxycodone from my ‘pole dancing’ incident and a van ride driven by a very chatty driver was less than relaxing although very informative.
Arriving in Puerto San Carlos, we had an early lunch, while the panga was made ready for us. Sadly, as we traveled over water we came close to the shore to view a dead blue whale that had grounded several days prior. The local fishermen had tried to tow it out to no avail.
Delight, laughter, a myriad of emotions filled our afternoon as we touched and petted whale noses, backs and baleen. Some whale mothers steered their babies away from us and several mothers cruised under our panga. They were about 35 feet long and we could see them under the water extending on both sides of the boat! Then, we paired up with another panga about 30 feet away and ‘baby’ and her mom traveled back and forth between us, rubbing our pangas and allowing us to rub them. Touching little hairs, wet slick skin, barnacles and baleen was a gift to our senses!
Baleen whales are bottom feeders and scoop up the muddy ocean floor; filter the sand and mud through their baleen to keep the krill and organisms for food, as the rest washes away. Seeing their baleen and being offered their noses and mouths to rub made me wonder about their gentle playfulness and curiosity.