A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

Baja's Blessings

Dolphin Jewels, Sea Birds, Desert Solitude, Ocean Gifts, The Contemplative Sailor

I have been noticing that at about seven a.m. my left eye starts to twitch. This is a certain sign of fatigue for me, and I have been running from deep fatigue for the last week. It is my turn to work nights, a twelve-hour marathon of delirium, dancing, clouded weariness and laughs. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m completely functioning and doing my job, but there are times when I find myself in depths of fog.
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However, my fatigue has its advantages. For one thing, I notice, appreciate and contemplate everything around me more poignantly. Many small morning moments become mesmerizing. For example, the reflection of the bow in the water this morning was a kaleidoscope of warping, twisting, oily reflections, and it is beautiful! I stare at it for uncounted minutes as I wait to call the weighing of the anchor.

I know my visit to this magical place is drawing to its end. I have a couple of weeks left on the Baja Peninsula. Inspired by this masterpiece of desert islands and ocean glory, I’ve forsaken sleep in search of scenic grandeur. My efforts have been well rewarded.

Dolphins in a Sea of Sapphire
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If a master jeweler were to craftily inset a perfect replica of tiny dolphins just underneath an irregular surface of a pure-blue polished sapphire, they would sell thousands of them. I would purchase several of these rings if they existed as they are in my mind.

For now, I will have to settle for my memories and pictures of the real thing.
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Earlier in the week, I was able to see dolphins bow ride on one of our Zodiacs. I was on the bow lying flat on my stomach on the front pontoon. The dolphins were three feet away from me, swimming effortlessly, and speeding much faster than our zodiac could go. Up close, I could see just how much power the dolphin’s tail fin has stored in it. A dolphin is a perfect example of a stream lined, efficient mammal, playing in its element. It was beautiful in every way. I made a mental note to check off another Baja experience on my list.
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Just after eight o’clock in the morning, I was thumping on my banjo in the crew lounge, enjoying a beer, and hoping for a whale show. I was given dolphins instead, and I ended my musical libation session and grabbed my camera. I headed up to the lido deck so I could watch the massive pod of common dolphins from an aerial perspective.
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It was one of the best dolphin shows I have seen, and the inspiration for my dolphin set sapphire. They were magnificent. The dolphins swam gracefully just below the surface of the blue water, and the distorted image of their bodies is locked into my memory.
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With a swing of the tail, the dolphin would take to the air, catching a breath, and showing off its power and grace.

Portraits of Frigate Birds and Pelican Dives
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While watching the dolphins from our highest deck, I was standing not more than 30 feet below a flock of magnificent frigate birds that were drafting just above the ship. It was very easy to compose several satisfying photos of these splendid birds.
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I also was finally able to photograph pelicans in a full diving fishing strike. Pelicans are amazing, and among my favorite birds. They would hover thirty feet above the surface, spot a fishy delicacy under the water and go for the strike. In a quick moment, the pelicans would flip upside down, stretch their bodies out into a very heavy narrow arrow and dive straight into the water at their prey. Their heavy beaks would break the surface punching deep with the bulk of their body and the fish had no chance. It was awesome.
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The Feel of a Good Desert

My hikes deep into the desert have been satisfying. I love the energy of the desert. I cannot explain what exactly what I am feeling, but there is something, clean and pure to a landscape that hasn’t been trampled by the progress of man. I love trekking through neighborhoods of the giant boulders, rocks, shrubs and cacti. The landscape is intoxicating. I tend to notice the harmonies of the landscape, and find myself feeling more than looking for the perfect spot to enjoy all that’s around me. There is a feel to such a spot that feels right.
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When I find the right place, I’ll sit down and look around all about me. I look deeply at the composition of the scene, I’m reassured that my positioning is correct. For whatever reason, I’m called to alluring landscapes, and if you were to look at where I’m sitting as if you were setting up a landscape photograph, you would probably place the human subject where I’m sitting.

I feel like this is hard to explain on paper. If you have any questions, come hiking with me some time, and I’ll show you what I mean.

Flying Fish and a Swarm of Mobula Rays

I finally saw flying fish. Flying fish, as you might imagine, are fish that take to the air and fly when threatened. It’s their special defensive technique, and a fun one at that. While cruising northwest on the west coast of the peninsula, we came into a couple of schools of them deep in the night. They were startled by our boat, and flew away right in front of us. These were just little guys, and couldn’t fly very far, but some flying fish can stay airborne for a long time.

While working one night on the lido deck, the chief mate and I looked over the side of the boat and saw a fast moving ball of large fish. At first, we couldn’t see what they were, but then they came to the surface in the light of our work lamps, and we saw that they were mobula rays! They looked like a bait ball, a swirling sphere of fish, except that they were large, perhaps two feet by two feet in an irregular diamond shape. It was awesome! We laughed and watched them bubble up to the surface, then dive deep and were joined by another ball of them. Then the giant mass of mobula rays surfaced and we estimated that there must have been fifty to one hundred rays streaking right beneath us. It remained AWESOME!

This was a unique moment, and one of the most interesting things I have seen on the ship. They disappeared as quickly as they came. It made me wonder about what else I wasn’t seeing in the night.

The Contemplating Sailor

This trip has been wonderful. I’ve marked off a few more things on my list of what I’ve always wanted to see. Beyond that, it has offered a lot of closure to many of aspects of my dreams and realities that I manifest. I know that last sentence is very deep, but it’s true.

Long ago, before I ever set foot on this ship, I had ideas and fantasies of what I pictured boat life would be like. Then when I started sailing the west coast and the reality of what I got myself into was established, I laughed at my naivety. Life rolled on. What I didn’t expect, was that some of those original daydreams are starting to come true.

It’s somewhat eerie. When I found myself living out my dreams, it caught me off guard for just a moment. Then I embraced it, and realized dreams can come true. They might not happen on your schedule, or when you pictured them happening, but they can happen. I’m not saying ALL of your dreams will come true, and extravagant dreams of defying physics probably aren’t going to happen. However, if you have modest dreams like I have, and if you have the courage to put them out there, it can happen.

I would encourage you to be patient, and don’t get too involved waiting for them. Like Mitch Hedberg said, “I’m tired of chasing my dreams, I’m just going to find out where they are going and hook up with them later.”

This has turned out to be good advice.

Cheers!

Posted by Rhombus 14:40 Archived in Mexico Tagged hiking mexico deserts oceans dolphins philosophy Comments (2)

Sublime Times in Mexico

Red Eye Flights, La Paz, Beaches, Kissing Whales, Punta Colorado In Pictures, and a Sunset

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I gave up my long johns for my adventure pants, and I’m back on the southern Baja Peninsula. My reasoning is that March is one damn fine month to be in Mexico, and a poor month to be anywhere in the northern United States. With that bit of logic, I agreed to work for four weeks on the good ship Sea Bird, my floating home of the last year and a half.

I took a red eye flight down to get here. When I agreed to fly the red eye, I didn’t know that it was going to stop at nearly every airport along the way. I flew from Spokane to Seattle. Then from Seattle to Sacramento to Guadalajara to Culiacan and finally to La Paz. I didn’t get any sleep at all on the plane, and by the time I landed in the bright sunshine of mid-morning in La Paz, I was a zombie. True, I was a smiling zombie, but a zombie all the same.

I took a cab from the airport down to the malecon along the waterfront of downtown La Paz and stumbled into the Crown Seven Hotel. The good people at the Crown 7 perked up when they heard I had arrived, as our agent in La Paz had told them of my “nightmarish flight.” They welcomed me, grabbed my bags, led me up to my room, practically tucked me into bed, and wished me a comfortable rest. It was sweet relief to plummet into a coma at 11 am in the morning with the soft breeze of the air conditioner lulling me away.

The advantage of taking this flight was that I had two days to spend in La Paz before traveling across the peninsula to San Carlos where I would join the ship.

La Paz
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I love La Paz. I should say I love the Malecon located in La Paz, as it is the only part of the city where I have spent my time. However, it is very charming. I woke up after a four-hour nap. I was still half out of it at first, but woke up enough to realize I was hungry. La Paz has several good restaurants, and I had plans on visiting two of my favorites while I was here. I decided on pizza. I stepped out into the cooling evening air, and walked two around the block to the restaurant. It was still too early for most diners, and I had the place to myself. I ordered a green pepper and onion pizza, and it was delicious.

The sky darkened with the setting of the sun, and I walked back to the hotel. I sat out on the fifth floor patio and looked over the Malecon. There were people walking along the boardwalk. The decorated streetlights winked on, and then grew brighter. The small waves lapped at the shore. Two dozen sailboats bobbed in the harbor, their dinghies tethered to the stern. The sunset left the western sky a dull orange smudge, definitely not the best sunset (that came later in the week), but still added to the scene. It was peaceful. It was another tranquil evening in La Paz.

I climbed back in bed, and slept a very satisfying sleep.

The next day was very enjoyable. There was no hurry to my day, as the bus to San Carlos didn’t leave until 5 pm. I had breakfast on the seashore, followed by a leisurely stroll. I had lunch at Rancho Viejo, and ate the best fish tacos I have ever eaten in my life. I went back to the hotel and met up with the guy who I was replacing. We had coffee and talked of the ship. The ship is a constant topic of conversation, among boat folks, and there was a lot to catch up on.

The ride across the peninsula was fun. I was a bundle of nerves, being both a little bit nervous, and quite excited about seeing my friends and the boat once again. I sat far back in the bus as we whizzed through the inky desert night. It was kind of like being on a plane with a lot of turbulence, but for some reason since I knew I was connected to the ground, I wasn’t concerned about it.

Finally, we arrived in San Carlos and I saw the bright lights of the Sea Bird. My nervousness and excitement grew, and a smile began to grow on my face. I stepped off the bus and into the melee of luggage, crew, guests and hubbub. I was back onboard. I spent the evening giving hugs, catching up, handing out chocolate, and staying up late. It felt really good.

As with all choices one makes in life, the outcome is never clear or certain. I figured to make the best of my time here in Mexico.

Sublime Times in Mexico
I had the morning off. I like to ease back into work, and I spent my time on the west side of Isla Magdalena at a place called Sand Dollar Beach. I sat for a long time, just watching the rollers curl and break on the sand. There were dolphins in the distance, and the warm sun baked into me. I stalked a small crab that was skittering along the shore. I took its portrait. At last, I could not resist it anymore, and I shuffled my way into the ocean. It was time to catch a few rides on the waves. The water was a perfect temperature, reminding me of Lake Superior in July. It was not too hot or cold. It was refreshing, it was rejuvenating, and it was good for my soul.
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On Kissing Gray Whales

I’ve talked of my first experiences of kissing a whale in "To Kiss A Whale" (March 2011 I am a fortunate man. I’ve done it again.

As part of our itinerary down here in Mexico, we spend a couple of days watching the gray whales of Magdalena Bay. Our captain, complete with his heart of gold, called the whale watching guides in Lopez Mateo to get a crew boat to go out and watch the whales. I was on the second tour, and several of my friends were gushing about their experiences on the first. TTwo of my friends kissed whales. I was beaming too. It’s funny, everyone is extremely happy when other people have good whale experiences. It is such a great moment.
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There were seven of us in our group as we cruised out to the Boca Del Soledad. The Boca is a small opening to the sea from Magdalena Bay. The gray whales frequently use this as their entrance to and from the bay. The crew cracked jokes and told stories, vented and relaxed as we looked out for spouts from the whales. We followed a mom and her calf around, but they didn’t want to play. It was great to be out among the whales again.

Then it happened. We were following a mom and calf pair when the calf started to come close to the panga. We all leaned over the side, almost, but not quite tipping the boat. We splashed at it, called for it, said hello, cooed, and welcomed the whale to come closer.

It came right up to the boat, and I said hello and touched the calf on the back of the head. I said aloud, “You feel just like an eggplant.“ No sooner than I had finished uttering those words, then the whale surfaced and blew its breath directly and forcefully into my face. I was no more than 15 inches away from the blowholes. It was kind of like being three inches away from a human sneeze. I begged the whale its pardon, and apologized. I wonder if a whale knows what an eggplant is. I can imagine it saying, “Why are you saying I feel like this thing I never heard of before?”

After that, the whales put on a show of affection. The mom and calf played around us, and the feeling of good will and kinship grew. I kissed both whales twice. That means that I have kissed three different whales in my life. The thought of that is preposterous to me. I whiffed on two other kisses though, and I ended up dunking my face into the water as the whale retreated.

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My favorite moment was seeing the mom’s eye up close, not more than six inches below the water. It was beautiful. To me, the eye was relaxed, full of compassion, maternal serenity and knowing. It was like being noticed by a grand beautiful queen, even for just a moment. It was beautiful, and I hope I never forget that moment.

Punta Colorado
I like to pick a high point and hike there. This one was very satisfying.
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Sunset
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The sunsets of the Sea of Cortez are consistently the best I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure there is much more I can say about them. They are simply amazing.
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What a great first week. I can’t believe my good fortune. I wonder what the next three weeks will hold?
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Posted by Rhombus 11:27 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches hiking mexico rocks whales deserts oceans ships Comments (2)

Ski Bumming 2012: Magnificent Mountain Landscapes

The mountain landscapes, Zen moment #3,268,103, and Woo

sunny 21 °F

There are days when the mountain blooms into a magnificent masterpiece of winter landscape. After a week straight of strong winds and heavy cloud cover (which produced gorgeous blankets of light powder), I woke up to a beautiful bluebird day. The air was crisp and clean, and the snow crunched underfoot as I walked down the street to the gondola. The sky was a deep, rocky mountain azure that made the brilliance of the new snow that much more intense. I was glad I remembered my sunglasses.
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As I rode up the chairlift, I realized that the day was not about skiing; it was about appreciating the magnificent mountain splendor. I made it my mission to admire the mountain from as many different perspectives as I could. After unloading and coasting to a stop at the top of the run, I stopped and marveled at the mountain scene that stretched before me. It inspired awe. I smiled broadly.
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The Statues
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I made a few runs, skiing slowly while focusing on the landscapes. After a week of pummeling winter weather, the trees looked like dazzling white statues against the distant mountain slopes and deep blue sky. Throughout the morning, the lighting continued to change. Not only because the sun continued rise, but small patches of streaming clouds continued to pass over the mountain at various times. These clouds moved at different elevations, sometimes hovering just above the mountain, and other times covering several acres of the mountain slopes. The shifting light patterns were part of the magic.
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Mountain Scenes
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Zen moment # 3,268,103:
Once again, I hiked to the top of Wardner peak. I sat down in the snow bank in my favorite patch of pines to catch my breath. I was digging the trees, and eating my lunch, when, as usual, I saw a scene to take a photo of… I stood up in knee-deep snow and set up the following shot. I hear a soft rustle above me, but I kept my focus and WHAM! A huge pile of snow landed right on my head! The trees gave me the ultimate snow job. I had taken my helmet, hat and gloves off to eat my lunch, so I had snow everywhere. I laughed. It was all I could do. Trees are tricksters! I hung out for another 20 minutes, and not one more chunk of snow fell off any of the trees. What are the odds?
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The Views From Wardner Peak
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Concerning Woo
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I was riding the chairlift the other day when a hotshot skier rocketed by below me. The people in the chair behind me saw him and instinctively howled out a long, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.” The word “Woo” seems to be what we all yell out to vocalize our enjoyment of life. At one time, possibly the early 1900‘s, the word that was used was, “WEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” (picture someone riding a slide or Ferris wheel). So what’s next? In another eighty years, will we be yelling, “WAAAAAAAAAA?” Some of you readers should take this logic to the street and be on the cutting edge of cool. Start yelling “WAAAAA” before anyone else.

I digress.

I began to notice how many times I heard “Woo” being hollered on the mountain. It’s damn near universal. Since I have a lot of time to think about these things, I began to wonder about the various meanings of woo. At the time, I only knew two definitions of woo (and I realized I just rhymed a lot). To woo a lady (something at which I am quite good at if I do say so myself), is to make amorous advances towards someone. Secondly, Woo! The vocalized exclamation of enjoyment.

I went home and looked up woo on the internet and came up with some other definitions: In Chinese, Woo means the number five. While I was thinking of Chinese, I wondered if people aren’t yelling woo, but wu. Wu is a dialect of Chinese spoken in the Yangtze delta.

The next time I was up on the mountain and began to hear the distant calls of “Wooooooooooo!” I started laughing. I imagined them not yelling for enjoyment, but to encourage romance. Or maybe they really like the number five. Or perhaps, they are fans of the Yangtze dialect.

It’s been a good week on the mountain, however the winds of change are blowing once again. Sadly, this upcoming week is going to be my last week of ski bumming here in Idaho. Against my better judgment, I have agreed to go back to work for a month down in Mexico. I know it sounds foolish, but I have recently bought tickets to Alaska in May. I figured it would be a good idea to refill up my coffers before I head out on that (hopefully) epic adventure. May is far away, and for now, I’m going to enjoy these last few days of relishing the life of a ski bum.

Farewell for this week, and I hope to hear you yelling out your appreciation for the number five!

Posted by Rhombus 21:51 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes mountains trees snow winter skiing clouds photography idaho Comments (2)

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