Whale Time

We’ve been stacking up a lot of great days in the Baja. Even though its often quite windy and the sand is flying, the sun is also shining and each day brings something new & interesting. We’re settling back in to having less than stellar produce, sometimes looking through more trash than we’d like to see for the beauty that is all around us and cracking up at all the funny things that happen. Traveling together with Sandie & Karsten has been a blast and makes it all more fun.

Great camp spot at the old salt wharf
A huge flock of Willets hung out on the beach

When we first got to the town of Guerrero Negro, we spent a couple of days at an old wharf & lighthouse set way out on a spit of land where the ships used to pull up to for the exportation of salt from the Salt Works. A few years ago, they opened a new wharf closer to town. Used primarily by fishermen now, it also makes a great spot to camp. We believe they were doing some scallop farming nearby. The Baja scallop is really big and they use the empty shells to fill potholes on the dirt roads. We had met a new truck- StepsOver and decided to do the whale tour together all 6 of us and it took a couple days to plan it. The area is also part of a nature reserve and the birdlife is truly amazing. We took some really nice walks from there. I have never seen such variety of seabirds in my life and the funny thing is they were all sort of mixed together. Pelicans with willets, plovers with curlews, gulls, herons & ospreys everywhere. There was a huge flock of willets that would cram together on the shoreline just next to the truck. One morning Jon took the drone out and got some overhead shots.

I don’t think it’s very common to see 3 trucks lined up like this at the whale lagoon

Since we do have our own trucks, we didn’t need to set up a full tour and could just go directly to the whale lagoon- Ojo de Liebre and camp beside it. Nearing the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1917, the new Mexican Constitution returned land to the peasants in the form of community based ejidos which are essentially cooperatives from how I understand it. The lagoon in Guerrero Negro where the whales migrate to is one of them. In choosing the spot we did, we were able to get an escort through the salt works so we could see it and then camp for 2 nights at the lagoon which was really special. Even on the approach, we could see all the spouts, breaches and shiny backs of the whales in the water and then we just pulled right up to the beach within easy eye-shot of them. Sitting on the sand dunes, we could hear them breathing and watch them spy-hopping all along the horizon. Crazy to see so many whales piled into one spot. This is one of 3 lagoons in Baha where you can see them.

We looked into a lot of whale eyes that day!

The next morning, we boarded a panga and headed out a couple of minutes to go pet the gray whales. Mostly moms & babies come up to the boats and socialize, rolling around and swimming under and next to you. There were the 6 of us and then another couple on the boat also, less than half capacity to allow for spacing. When the whales were up against the boat we could reach out and give them a rub and we were often given a good blast of whale breath spray for the full effect. Of course, the moms aren’t eating and the babies are nursing so it didn’t compare to the fishy whale breath that we used to smell on ocean passages. Nearing the end, the whales were bumping the boat so much it was lurching around and there were so many vying for attention that our captain started to get a little flustered. It was a beautiful, calm day and the whales were very happy and social. It’s a bit of a quandary trying to get photos and a little video to capture it but not forget to just live it.

Cannonball Blue Jelly

We got back to our trucks so excited from the experience that we decided once didn’t need to be enough. So we signed up to go again the next morning. But it dawned cooler and windy so our second go was less exciting. The whales were less casual, didn’t feel like being patted and they weren’t rolling around bumping the boat either. We do think we saw a pair mating. We took some nice walks, saw some coyotes (who would later dig up our vegetable compost) and then Sandie made awesome pizza dough and we cooked them over at our place.

Sunrise at the whale lagoon Ojo de Liebre

We had all been dying to see the gray whales and it was a wonderful experience. We snorkeled with humpbacks in Tonga which was fanstastic and the crystal clear blue water and the singing males made it extremely moving. We all agreed though that seeing them here needs to be by boat because there are so many of them, you’d really be in the way if you got in the middle of them!

We’ve decided that we really want another camera with a decent zoom. There are too many times when we see something and can’t get a good enough look at it because we’re too far away. It’s a shame we couldn’t have gotten a better shot of the cute coyote we saw on the banks of the whale lagoon.

Skiing anyone?

On the way out, we got a driving tour through the Salt Works to take some pictures which was an interesting landscape. Begun in 1957, it is the largest open air salt mine in the world. The most impressive part is the mountain of salt that looks like snow. A massive amount of salt is extracted from irrigated salt pans and then orange trams carry the salt to the processing equipment. It was a bright sunny day and the colors were really striking. I kept feeling like there should be flamingos around but I guess this isn’t a place they can be. We parted ways with Simone and Lucia on Steps Over because they’re heading north and we’re southbound. They have a popular Italian Youtube channel that requires a lot of their time to produce videos for earnings so they couldn’t join the four of us much.

After the saltworks tour we quickly restocked and headed out to some sand dunes for the night. We use an app called IOverlander to find campspots, water, fuel. Best in other countries besides the US, it’s really helpful and based on reviews, you can tease out some lovely spots. Sometimes it’s just a quick one night stop. Other times you find a gem and it’s hard to leave it. We complete reviews ourselves to contribute. We have been getting filtered water at Agua Purificados which are plentiful.

The following day, we headed to the town of San Ignacio for a “green fix”. The desert can be so different depending on where you are. The stretch to San Ignacio that day was pretty bleak. We saw a panting coyote and a few bony free range cattle. How they find enough to eat to stay upright we don’t know. The sun seems to be getting stronger by the day and we often use the AC while driving. So glad to have it working and to be able to seal out the flying sand and wind. We quite like how nice our cab is set up to be comfortable. It’s funny to think back and remember when we’d emptied it all out and the interior was fire engine red with brown trim. Piece by piece, it all went back in, a shade of black or gray and it looks quite smart we think.

The Mex 1 highway is narrow with no shoulder much of the time. If you have someone behind you, it is customary to put on your left signal to tell them if the way is clear for them to pass. It feels counter intuitive but it works just the same. Having the new air horn is great. It makes just the right low pitched sound and its easy to give a friendly toot. We sometimes get asked to honk the horn and now we don’t feel shy now about doing it. The roadbed is built up pretty high in some spots and if you wander off of it you could be in trouble quickly. The truckers are very polite though and move as far over as they can for us. In San Ignacio we strolled through a cemetery together and saw several graves that were short lived, figuring it could well be from a bad day on Mex 1! So not fun to travel on necessarily, but it isn’t busy and the destination is worth it.

San Ignacio Mision

San Ignacio is an oasis town full of date palms, a spring and a beautiful town square surrounded by indian laurel trees, a mision and a few places to get some good food and drink. We found a lovely little campground within walking distance and given our trucks were all salty from the beach, we asked if we could wash them there- no problem! The owner Juan brought us out a plate of scallop ceviche to eat while sitting on the benches under the trees. It was delicious. It was so fun walking around a cute little town for a change with colorful bougainvilla, cute puppies to pat, a pet rabbit at the checkout of a little store and they even had a racoon to give a scratch to- hey, its all here in San Ignacio! We topped off the afternoon with a few delicious margaritas and then made our way back to our trucks on foot. We remembered that in Mexico, they don’t skimp on the tequila!

It felt good to get the trucks cleaned up and one of the campground’s little puppies kept us company. She likes to eat the fallen dates and then she spits out the pit. One morning a thin horse was beside the truck scratching at the grass. After the truck wash we rewarded ourselves with shrimp & scallop tacos and ice cream on the plaza. The scallops were delicious and tasted a lot like a whole belly clam. It was such a beautiful spot that we plan to revisit San Ignacio on the way back.

This is the volcano we set out to climb
Further up our path we finally had to turn around

We’re going through mountain hiking withdrawals. Mexico is not unlike many other countries we’ve visited where someone (either private or government) gets an idea, builds a building, starts a business or sets up an infrastructure and then the whole thing fizzles out for one reason or another and then the skeleton of that endeavor is left standing, at least until it falls in. So about an hour outside of San Ignacio is a group of old volcanoes called the Tres Virgenes and there used to be an eco lodge in the vicinity and trails to climb it. But the eco lodge isn’t operating anymore and apparently there is no way to access the trails because of a gate. But that didn’t stop us from staging ourselves by driving out a lonesome dirt road, finding a desert campspot and then setting out early in the morning to try and climb it without a trail. We got 3 hours up a wash and then encountered an avalanche of unstable boulders that we didn’t feel comfortable trying to climb over. So we had to abort the plan but got in a good 6 hours anyway before getting back to relax in the shade of our awning. It feels good to finally be able to use it. I’ve read that the further south we go the better the hiking gets so we are excited for that. It is so peaceful being camped out in the desert with no one around for miles and to share it in the company of fun friends. It’s becoming Spring and the plants are leafing out and some cactus are blooming.

Yesterday we moved back over to the Sea of Cortez side and we’re camped on the beach with crashing waves. It still feels unnerving. Did we drag? We have met up with some of Sandie & Karsten’s friends. Hoping to be able to get in the water some and use the kayak (it’s a constant goal but we rarely seem to manage it) once we move further into the bay where its calm. However, it dawned on Jon & I that we have an assortment of wetsuits, our masks, snorkels and then oh darn, we don’t have our fins!!!! We do have our snowshoes though. How did we forget those?! I guess we’ll have to work on our kick!

One Reply to “Whale Time”

  1. Loved the pictures. The drone shots really add perspective. You’re seeing a part of the Baja that we didn’t during the year we spent there on Slip Away. Brings back lots of wonderful memories!

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