Every February and March, we hear a buzz around San Felipe about the grey whale migration on the Pacific coast. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, we are told over and over. So this year we had the opportunity to go…
over route 3 from San Felipe to Ensenada, over the Sierra San Pedro Martir. This was a wonderland of vegetation and reminded us of a desert version of the Mission Valley of Montana, complete with mallow, lupine, waving grasses and farming and ranching communities.
Reaching Ensenada, we turned south on Hwy 1 and stayed the first night in a decent little hotel with wifi, toilet paper and hot water in some town for 300 pesos (around $25).
Then we arrived at Guerrero Negro and checked into the Malarrimo hotel for our whale tour the next day.
Now, it was late in the migration season and many mamas and babies have already headed out to sea. We were told the population was low now and for awhile we watched the blowspouts and dolphin fins from afar. Would we see whales up close?
They crowded around us to touch!! At one point there were four mamas herding four babies to get close to the boat for scratching and touching. As I was nudging Holt forward (“Reeeach, Holt – you’re safe – I’ve got you! Imagine, most kids go their whole lives without ever touching a whale.”) I could see the mamas nudging their babies forward (“Get up there and reeeeach so they can touch you! Imagine, most little whales go their whole lives without ever touching a person.”)
Eight huge whales at one time, any of which could have capsized us had they chosen to. They gracefully took turns coming out of the water close enough to touch, their underwater acrobatics just barely visible beneath us as they passed under and came out the other side to rainbow spray us with their breath, over and over and over. The babies gently bumped us from below occasionally, not sure if the mamas ever did. They bobbed upright, reaching up, rolling over to have their chins rubbed like a dog, keeping an curious eye toward us.
How I wish I could get a photo of the spirals and twists they performed underwater. I can just imagine the view from below, those huge creatures weaving around, under and beside our little panga boat. It was such an impressive site even our 14-year-veteran captain seemed wowed and snapped photo of himself with them behind him.
As you can see from the videos, they really seem to go for the propeller area – so get a seat in back if you take a tour. And take some excited kids.
After one more night in a Guerrero Negro hotel to shower the sand off (cute exterior but unclean rooms, above), we decided to take the rough cutoff road home east toward the Sea of Cortez and Gonzaga Bay. It saved around four hours over the route we took down. It’s passable by car but we were grateful to have our (new to us) sturdy Outback with good clearance, slowly picking our way around the ruts.
With lucky timing, the tide was just right at Puertecitos for a long soak – not too high (cold), not too low (boiling).
Because it’s Semana Santas, the beaches are filling fast with tents and partying families, and the hot springs were packed.
Experience of a lifetime? Everyone was right!
This year we had a whole month in Montana over Christmas, and caught not only copious snow but pretty good sunshine too, giving us a chance to share with the kids all the snow sports we had missed for a few years and to fill our hearts back up with family. Then we took off back to the desert’s light just in the nick of time to miss Montana’s long gray slog toward spring.
So on today’s equinox here’s to the balance between desert energy and winter fun, and to celebrating Spring all over and wishing you blue skies wherever you are!
The best magazine I have ever seen for girls 8-15 or so just arrived in the mailbox and I am so impressed with its collaborative, girl-powered presentation that I have to share it! I know there are other parents and grandparents out there who are searching for a great outlet for self-expression for their girls.
Mazie has been a member of New Moon Girls online for awhile now and it has given her a rich, safe environment to begin experimenting with social media and an online persona, avatars, chat, posting art and poems… The art of knowing how much and what to share online – how to present ourselves – is a skill we are all developing, but kids need to know it right from the start now. NMG is giving her the space to develop this skill, to connect with thinking girls around the world, to share her opinion and experiment with her ideas. She is not ready to create a Facebook presence, and I am not ready to police her interactions to the extent that would require for safety. NMG offers a safe pool for this self-expressive play and learning. But beyond that, it is a RICH place with incredible collaboration and imagination between girls of similar ages. Living in a second language has cut her off from a lot of the camaraderie with like minds like I enjoyed growing up, and this magazine and website has made her feel connected socially. Many young contributors to the magazines are living unconventional lives – she feels less alone.
Well, the print magazine is every bit as great as the web membership. Its advice columns are not only questions from girls, but answered by girls – they are heavily involved in creating and editing the content. There are a lot of thinking kids on there, a lot of avid readers and writers, a lot of homeschoolers and unschoolers and Harry Potter fans. I urge you to check it out and if you know any girl in this age group who wants to explore and express, gift them a subscription to this unique magazine and website!
The mexican holiday “Dia de Los Muertos” is a celebration of the dead. Families gather around graveyards to honor the people they lost. With flowers, candles, and gifts, the families tell stories, and enjoy the memories they had. After stories and giving out the gifts, such as pottery, flowers, books and candles, people get out the delicious treats and foods for a night-time picnic.
The foods and treats are quite traditional; tamales are set on clay plates, pan de la muerte lays on homemade cloths, tea bags and brewed in cups are set on a tray full of flowers, beans cooked and dry in bowls , rice is poured into the vases, coffee beans are sprinkled on the top planks, and sugar skulls sitting on table cloths.
The families also include costumes, and face paints for the children to dress up.
A favorite of the mexican children is “pan de la muerte.” This fun, home-made treat is a decorated bread, containing a small, skeleton doll, for some lucky child to find.
A few days before the real celebration, we gather at my school at night, to show-off our art and costumes. We have a contest, and most of the kids dress as skeletons, and dress up in all sorts of different dresses, and the boys in “sombreros” and cloaks. The winner receives books from the library, and a sugar skull.
The Baja 250 Races were yesterday. That’s some crazy shit. If you’ve never watched Dust to Glory, the documentary is shockingly interesting even if (like me) you could care less about racing. Notice the guys hanging on the power pole to get a better view.
Puertocitos is an easy drive south from San Felipe. We went on a full moon day but next time will choose a half moon when there is the least difference between high and low tide, for a longer soak. Only between very high and very low tide is the water the right soaking temperature and depth. Arriving three+ hours before high tide would be ideal. The car was charged only $100 pesos (about $8), but I have heard as high as $20 US. Having Mexican friends along sure didn’t hurt the price.
Another good picnic spot was the caves just a few miles past the end of Saltito, turning left into them as the road turns right.
Learning how to use our GPS we finally tried our hands at Geocaching this week. There are so many fun little caches all over hidden right under our noses!