A Travellerspoint blog

Mexico

The Fortunes of a Vagabond

An Unforgettable Two Weeks In Mexico: Whales, Dolphins, Landscapes, Friends, and the Best 24 Hours of my Life

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I have just lived two weeks of my life I shall never forget. I apologize for the delay since my last entry, but life has been too full of late to take time to document it beyond photos and journal entries, and it is better to live then to be a slave to documentation.

That being said, I want to share with you some of my experiences of the last days that are burned into my soul. They include mega pods of dolphins, close encounters with whales, an amazing flock of birds at dawn, sleeping outside under starry skies and awakening to a beautiful sunrise. I‘ve enjoyed amazing hikes in a desert paradise through powerful landscapes. I’ve shared these experiences with some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and I look forward to many more.

I wonder why I am so blessed.

Whale Encounters

Picture a fiberglass panga full of crewmembers speeding into the protected waters of San Ignacio Bay. The bay is a major nursery for California Gray Whales, and our timing was good. The Gray whales were still here preparing for their long journey north, and we were seeing spouts all around us. The water was choppy, and the breeze was fresh off the pacific. We were bundled up in windbreakers, and looking out for a whale that wanted to come say hello. We found one, and as mom watched nearby, the calf swam right next to the boat and began to spin in slow circles allowing us to pet her on all sides. It was beautiful. We smiled all day.
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I had never seen a pod of pilot whales so close to the ship. Pilot whales look like a cross between a dolphin and a whale. It looks like a really big dolphin with a flat face, and acts like a very small whale. We watched a pod of them for several hours just after dawn. The cool thing about Pilot whales is they usually have a pod of bottlenose dolphins that hang around them as well. Nobody really knows why. I like to think that the dolphins and whales are in harmony somehow, and in truth, they appear to be.
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Towards the end of the two week photo trip we were on we were far north in the Midriff Islands of the Sea of Cortez. The water is a lot colder up here, and very deep. It is squid country, and Sperm Whale territory. We came on several sperm whales right as the sun was setting, and I watched them breathe surrounded by the golden light of sunset. Then having readied their lungs they would arc their backs and dive deep leaving us with a fluking tail to remember it by.
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On my last day of actual work, we came upon a small humpback whale that seemed to be teasing us. We would watch it for a while, and it would dive and breathe, as whales do. It was nice, but we had to move on. So as the captain was starting to pull away, the whale would start breeching right next to us, and we’d slow down, turn around and watch it some more. Of course, the whale would go back to diving and breathing again. This went on for a half hour before the powers that be decided to finally say farewell.

Dolphin Mega Pods
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I have seen many dolphin pods down here in Mexico, but there was one this week that offered behavior I had never seen before. For one thing, it was a huge pod with hundreds of members. They were very active, very acrobatic, and the air was filled with flying dolphins. It was awesome. The air was filled with a cacophony of their squeaks, cliques and whistles, and the sound large splashes from lots of mammals. We watched them for twenty minutes, sailing along side of the main pod. It offered many photographers their dream shots of dolphins. As for me, I mostly watched them, I sat on the fantail with my feet kicked up on the rail drinking ice water, and eating Italian bread, as the machine gun clicks of photographers shot pictures without thinking. Eventually, I got up and grabbed my camera. I thought it better to enjoy them first before freezing them electronically.
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Then it happened. It was as if somebody flipped a switch under the water. En masse, the dolphins turned around and swam as quickly as I’d ever seen dolphins swim in the other direction in an organized, purposeful action. They took off. There was no way to keep up with them, and it was in the wrong direction. In the distance, I saw a white line from their wake receding into the distance. Awesome.

Birds of a Feather
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I was taking in the sunrise when a flock of sea birds began to circle the ship flying low to the surface of the waves. It was so cool. As the sun rose, I was able to time a few pictures of the birds whipping around in golden glow of the sun and waters. What a gift! It was so very beautiful.
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We visited Isla Rasa on morning. Isla Rasa is one of the more unique islands in the Midriffs as it is home to a huge colony of terns and gulls, with a population of well over a half a million birds. It is amazing to see, hear, smell, and watch that amount of birds in one place. Though I had to work that day, I was able to get close to shore for ten minutes to appreciate that experience. The one thing I noticed was that the terns seem to fly in pairs. Despite the chaos of hundreds of identical birds in the air at any one time, they were able to stay close and follow one another to their destinations. I was hoping to see the mating flights of the terns that I saw last year, but it was not to be.

Landscapes
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In my time in Mexico, I have seen some of the best desert scenes of my life. In my last days here, I was able to walk through some of these masterpieces one last time, exploring some new areas, and appreciating some I have already seen. I took these walks with some good friends from the boat, and these shared experiences of paradise will be long remembered.
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San Juanico remains one of my favorite landscapes in Mexico. I remember last year when I first explored it, I kept thinking to myself that it really would be great to meet some beautiful senoritas down on the secluded beach. This year I am a year wiser and invited two along to come for the hike. We hiked high above the sea, and the rocky spires, points, and islands stretched out before us in the aquamarine blue of the sea. It was beautiful.
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There is an arroyo on the west side of Isla Partida that could be the most magical place I have ever visited. I like the word magic. When I use “magic”, I’m more referring to a combination of my feelings about a particular location, and the energy of the location itself. As I’ve written about before, there are places in this world that hold dear to me, and I can pick up on the strong currents of energy that emanate there. Now if you think I am a crackpot, hippie influenced nature man, I stand guilty as charged. However, before you judge, I think you should go on this hike.

I went on this scramble with one of my favorite compatriots in the world. The day was sizzling. The sun beat down mercilessly. We were sweating after the first steps. The hike began with some boulder climbing and scaling some small dry waterfalls. We found several lizards doing “push ups” on the hot rocks. I’m not sure what makes them work out so hard in the hot sun, but I think I heard the theme music to Rocky, on a tiny lizard Ipod.

The arroyo was beautiful. The canyon’s rock was very porous and hollow and there were many caves carved into the rock. Some of them were large enough for us to stand in, and we rested in the shade and gulped down water. We held quiet, and let the desert speak. It was silent, save for the hot breeze curling around the arroyo walls. However, deserts speak not so much in sound, as in vibration, and sitting under that rock, we were feeling its power. We shivered, we smiled, we laughed and said thank you.

We moved on, climbing higher and higher, we had no destination in mind, but were hiking for the joy of it. Eventually we realized we were nearing the top, and decided to go all the way up. The last one hundred yards was covered with small cantaloupe sized boulders and we walked over them and to the top of the ridge.

It was gorgeous. We caught our breath and took in the sweeping views of the green water far below, the rugged mountain ridges, and blue skies. Turkey vultures silently soared by, not 30 feet away, each time I saw one, it felt like a gift. We stood on top of rock statues, yet to be carved, and I yodeled. I’m always nervous about yodeling in front of other people, because sometimes my voice cracks badly and I sound like a howling teenager in English class. At other times, it comes out beautifully. Luck was with me, and it sounded good.
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A hummingbird zipped by. It poked around the sparse desert plants that were blooming this time of year and moved on. We smiled at our fortune, and smiled wider when the humming bird returned. The desert was buzzing with good energy. It rather felt what I would imagine Ray Kinsella’s “Field of Dreams” would feel like. The desert provided a spiritual calming, a feeling of happiness that you just can’t quite put to words. It was beautiful. The composition of the desert was perfect, as if some giant had been cultivating a perfect cactus garden high up on the mountain. We were fortunate, and we knew it.

Alas, that magical afternoon came to an end, and we made our way back down the arroyo. We were tired, and very thirsty. We were longing for ice water, and to jump into the ocean. We found both the ocean and the ice water very refreshing. We smiled again, thanked each other for the marvelous afternoon and I went off in search of my bunk.

Moonlight Sonata

I recently enjoyed perhaps the best twenty-four hours of my life (so far). It began on the lido deck, sipping drinks, watching the bright moon overhead light up the balmy ocean night. There were five of us chatting amiably, sharing stories, laughing and dreaming. I don’t know who had the idea, but a friend and I both had the day off the next day, so we decided to sleep out under the stars.

I had always wanted to do this, but for some reason, never had. Fool I am. However, it is better to do things late, then never, so I set about building us a bunk of bench cushions, wool blankets and pillows. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. I went in for some clothes, another drink, and then we went up to settle in for the night. And what a night it was. We laughed, we giggled, we talked, we dreamed, and it felt like we were camping. Eventually, we fell asleep.

We woke up just as the sunrise cracked the horizon. The sun was a bright orange disk rising and getting brighter by the second. It completely lit up the rugged peaks of Isla Danzante and the Sierra de la Giganta in a crescendo of reds, oranges, and rich browns. Words fail to describe the beauty, and stirring feelings of grandeur in front of us. We held one another, and laughed. I laugh a lot. Laughter it seems, is my only answer to the question I keep asking myself, “How can you be so lucky?”

I’m still laughing.
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The day consisted of an easy stroll on the north shore of the Isle of the Dancer, a spot I’d never explored before as often the swells are too big to walk the shoreline. We picked up some of the ever-present litter on the beach, and swam in the cold clear water. It reminded me of Lake Superior, though salty.

After our hike, we decided to snorkel. The ship had picked up a giant circular air mattress with a pirate on it. It was dubbed the pirate raft, and we had taken it to shore. Well, we were going to use it as a swimming platform, but once we were on it, we realized how comfortable it was just to lay in the sun floating around in the small bay. It was great. Soon, our staff was buzzing by us on the zodiacs, and we bobbed in their wake.
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I think we made a lot of people smile that day. We must have floated around for about an hour when the expedition leader and the wellness specialist swam up and climbed aboard. They had plans for tipping us, but soon realized it was a great place to chill out and lay around in the sun. So, there I was, floating around on a raft with three beautiful women to keep me company. I laughed. If you would have told me the morning that I would be on a pirate raft with the EL, wellness specialist, and my favorite steward, I’d have told said you were probably dilusional. Then as a finishing touch, someone brought up a tray of iced limewater and cookies. I think it made a good picture.
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That evening, the sun set and the full moon rose within 20 minutes of one another. It was a good night to be outside sipping good wine, and taking in the aerial show. Both events were gorgeous, but the winner was the moonrise over Isla San Jose. The moon was gigantic, and bathed us in a gorgeous orange light as it rose into the sky.

To cap off our amazing day, we had dinner outside on the sun deck. The moon bathed us in white gold, and we ate like royalty, and felt like it too. We had fresh bread and butter, delicious rib eye steaks on Caesar salad, a touch of ice cream, and good wine throughout. We talked, we laughed, we dreamed, and “carped the de-em.”

Eventually all good things must transform into other good things, and we had to call it a day. The day was seized, throttled, hugged, embraced, and squeezed of all of its splendor, and we still couldn’t get all of it out.
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The next day, I packed and left the SeaBird, saying farewell to many of my good friends and crew. They will be missed, but other adventures are afoot. At this moment, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Coeur d’Alene Idaho with a full tank of gas, a weeks worth of food, and the open road sixty feet away. I have two thousand miles to travel and twenty days to do it.

I’m laughing.

Posted by Rhombus 11:15 Archived in Mexico Tagged islands hiking whales deserts friends dolphins photography philosophy grandeur Comments (2)

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)

An Interesting Juncture

Quitting My Job, Mexican Pee Breaks, Flying Home, Starting the Next Epic Adventure

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I am at a very interesting juncture at my life right now. I’ve just quit my job, I’ve recently broken up with my girlfriend, and I’m setting off on another epic adventure with no far placed vision as to where it will lead or end. Lately, there have been moments in my day when I think about my situation, and start chuckling, or even break out in full on laughter. Life sure is interesting, and you just never know what twists the next path will hold.
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In the last three days, I’ve traveled from the Pacific cooled beauty of Magdalena Bay on the west coast of the Baja peninsula across the barren deserted peninsula by van to La Paz. From La Paz, I flew down to Mexico City, to connect to Chicago, and finally found myself knee deep in a cold winter snowy wonderland that is the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan in late January.
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I have been finishing my tenure as a deckhand on the good ship Sea Bird, and I have had no ambition to work at all, no interest in painting anything else, or improving the boat in any way. I was done, and waiting for January 28th to roll around which marks the beginning of the next path.

Since I really wasn’t working very hard, it gave me plenty of time to hang out with my friends on the boat, and I was lucky indeed to have a lot of familiar and friendly faces show up at some point during my last two months on the job. Having good friends around led me down the path of very little sleep trying to cram in as much desert exploration, and conversations that I could with my mates on the boat.

When I did sleep, it was out of necessity, and I often slipped away to unconsciousness wondering what is going to happen next.

Finally, the big day came when it was time to leave, I was up early to pack, and clean up my cabin. I went around to my friends remaining onboard the ship to wish them farewell. Then, without looking back, I began the first steps of the rest of my life, and my next adventure. My life and adventure often walk hand in hand, and, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The van ride across the desert was great. My good friend Amelia was driving, I was riding shotgun sipping cold Mexican beer, and digging the sights of new roads. It was quiet, and we enjoyed an amiable conversation as the hours passed. In the other van, was most of the crew I had been working with for the last year, and they were having a loud boisterous car ride punctuated with shots of tequila, and cheap beer. I was glad I was in Ame’s car, because I was too exhausted to put up with that rabble.

On two occasions, we stopped for a pee break. Now, Mexican roads are without rest areas. So if you have to go, you pull off on side of the road, find a cactus to your liking and let fly. There is no privacy, and the barren landscape offers little if any protection.

We all piled out, ten of us at a time, and had at it. You have never seen anything so funny in your life. There were ten half-drunk gringos, piling out of two pure white vehicles, giggling, laughing and yelling. Each of us chose a spot, some faced traffic and peed right in plain sight, and others ran off into the desert to pee on a cactus. One guy, inadvertently chose to pee on himself, a fact he was not aware of at the time (sorry folks, it wasn’t me).

Having been a lands surveyor for 8 years, I was used to peeing with little cover in public places, and I used one of the doors, and the rest of a vehicle to block the wind and passing cars.

It was great fun, and I highly recommend a Mexican pee break given the opportunity. We made it to La Paz, unscathed.

I had a quiet night in La Paz. I went out for a pizza with a friend, and since neither one of us knew much Spanish, we weren’t sure what we were going to end up with. I have to say, we did pretty well for ourselves. The pizza was delicious, and I have very high standard for my pizza. We returned to the hotel, and I passed out from exhaustion and carbohydrate overload.

I slept for about six hours. Then I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes, grabbed my bags and went down to the lobby to catch a cab to the airport. I was tired. I was a bit uneasy. I had never flown into the U.S. before from a foreign country, and flying to Mexico City. On the ship, Mexico City International Airport is deemed “The worst airport in the world.” I was told many varied tales of torture that the crew had experienced while traveling though Mexico City.

I trusted their advice, but knew that most of these people hadn’t flown through there in a few years. For my situation, the fastest way to get home was to go through there, and so I figured to try my luck in Mexico City.

When I landed, I stepped aboard a bus that shipped us to Terminal 2. From there I was on my own, and so I started making some educated guesses to find my way to Terminal 1. I know I looked like that guy who doesn’t know what was going on, but without having any idea of the layout of the place, I found my way to the elevated train which took me to terminal 1. Once there, I followed the signs to international flights, found American Airlines kiosk, and stepped through three sets of id checks and sat down to wait for my plane.

It was no big deal. Maybe I’m just lucky.

I landed in Michigan at 11:20 at night. It was 14 degrees (F) out. I was wearing jeans and my adventure shirt, shoes and my wool watch cap. I was cold, exhausted, and happy to see my brother. I was even happier to see my checked bag arrive. How can the airlines get my bag from La Paz to Michigan without any problems, but can’t seem to get it there from Ohio?

I settled in at my brother’s house and fell into a deep sleep. The adventure begins when I wake up. I’ll be off to Duluth, Mn, St. Paul, St. Michael, and then drive across country to northern Idaho…

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Onward!

Posted by Rhombus 20:28 Archived in Mexico Tagged travel mexico deserts life jobs philosophy drives Comments (1)

The Mexican Saga Continues

Snorkelling At Puerto Escondido, Climbing High on Santa Catalina, More Gorgeous Sunsets, The Morning in Santa Rosalia

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A Morning at Puerto Escondido

I have the morning off. I know this, but I get up at 6 am anyway. I love mornings, especially when you don’t have to work. Why would I sleep in? I’m not in Mexico to sleep, and I when I get up to the crew lounge, I find a “Dirty Chai” waiting for me. The early morning crew is taking good care of me.

I sit down, drinking my chai, and finishing a book. It was perhaps the best book I have ever read, and I was quite satisfied.

The dawn came and went. I enjoyed it. I went up to the top deck to stretch out with a bit of yoga and breathing focus. Relaxed, I made my way down to the breakfast table for some vittles and conversation with some of the crew.

It’s warming up a bit, and so I meander my way up to the snorkel lockers and get some gear. My plan is to snorkel right off of the break wall. I had done this last year on the recommendation of the chief mate, and it turned out to be some of the best snorkeling I have experienced. I wanted to go back and see some more.

I walked out to my makeshift launching point, scrambling over the rocks down to the water’s edge. I test the temperature, and it’s cold. I don’t mind. I’m used to cold water, and I put on my fins, secure my snorkel and launch myself into the moment.
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For the next forty minutes, I am lost in a watery world full of interesting characters. I see a wide variety of sea creatures, all of them quite charming in their own way. The beauty of the Cortez rainbow wrasse blew me away. These small fish are beautifully decorated, taking on bright yellows, reds, blues and purples, all glowing brightly under the strong morning sunlight.
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It was safe to say I was quite satisfied with my efforts. I started to shiver. Then I began to shake, and I knew the end of my snorkeling was near. I swam back towards my take out point, I really wanted to stay in the water, but I was frozen.
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I hauled myself out, and sat on the hot black rocks soaking in the sunshine. My shivering began to die down, but I was still quite cold. I decided to get up and go take a shower, and as I crawled back on the dock, I met the security guard. He was a very nice guy, and knew enough English to be able to hold a simplified conversation. We talked of Michigan, snorkeling, and Puerto Escondido. I offered him a cup of coffee, but he preferred a coke. I brought it out to him, wished him a good day.

As the hot water ran over my clammy body, I thought of my morning and smiled. I could get used only working six hours a day.

Santa Catalina High Peaks
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I had a couple of hours of freedom and set my sights on one of the few high points that I hadn’t climbed yet on the southwestern side of Isla Santa Catalina. Looking at the terrain, I opted for a route I hadn’t tried before, walking up a desert wash, climbing to the top of a small ridge that reached up to the shoulder of the mount I wanted to summit. It would be steep, and probably sketchy, but I knew I could make it.
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I love long views from high places. Atop this mount was a clump of cardon cactus, which looked beautiful in the afternoon light.
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The descent was sketchy. I precariously placed my feet hoping that they would hold, because if they didn’t I’d be sliding down with only the spiny arms of a cactus to catch my fall. Not a pleasant thought, but one I was willing to face. I love hiking in a vertical desert world, and besides, I like this kind of thing.

Amazing Sunsets
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When the skies are overcast on the Sea of Cortez, the rising and setting of the sun in an event not to be missed. For three days straight, the coming and going of the sun has been gorgeous. Sure, there are pretty sunsets almost every day, but the addition of a few bands of clouds, increase the beauty exponentially. I was moved, happy to be experiencing these incredible light shows.
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Water and Clouds
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I had a two-hour break to position a zodiac to a deserted beach. It was awesome. I stretched out and did some yoga and breathing exercises, then sat calmly in the water up to my neck. It was very refreshing. I finished my break off by taking a nap on the pontoon of the zodiac for an hour, floating and listening to the water chuff along the rocks. There are some days where they could pay me with sand and I would still go to work.
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Santa Rosalia Mornings
DSC_0078__2_.jpgDSC_0033__2_.jpgSanta Rosalia is a small mining town on the eastern coast of the Sea of Cortez. The mornings here remind me of days long past on Lake Superior. Quiet mornings, a palette of subdued light yellow, pale blue, grays, and white. There were fishermen in the distance, hoping to catch some luck, and a pair of osprey ate their breakfast fifty yards from the boat, perched on a telephone pole. It was a very good morning for photography, at least until the sun broke above the clouds.
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All is well here in Mexico. I have one week left before I turn my sights northward, restocking my toys and heading to the northern Rocky Mountains to ski.
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Posted by Rhombus 18:49 Archived in Mexico Tagged wildlife hiking cactus towns deserts sunsets oceans photography Comments (0)

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