Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Killer Whales in the Sea of Cortez

by Scott    
Our first night in Los Barriles, we were kept awake by a muffled popping sound. We couldn't figure out what it was. At first, we thought it was some piece of wet gear hanging outside that was slapping in the wind. We thought maybe it was waves against the rocks, but then we remembered that there aren't any waves on the Sea of Cortez. We eventually decided it must be fireworks carrying across the water from the nearby town of La Ribera.

It took us a week to figure out that it wasn't fireworks, but the belly-flops of the smooth-tailed mobula. Mobula look like manta rays, but unlike manta rays, mobula seem to think they can fly through the air if they flap their wings hard enough. It works for a little bit, but then they slap back down on the water.

No need for television when you can watch this all day

It's fun to watch them. They swim/fly around in schools. Sometimes we'll see several in the air at once. Biologists aren't sure exactly why they do this, but the mobula seem to be enjoying themselves. Perhaps they should keep a lower profile. Yesterday, we saw a school of mobula joined by what I thought were small whales, but what Heather thought were dolphins. Everyone in camp did what we always do when whales or dolphins arrive.We grabbed our kayaks or paddle boards and went out for a closer look. Leonard and Solomon were first on the scene. They started back paddling their 2-man kayak when they reached the pool of blood, and were herded out of the area. These were not dolphins or the usual humpbacks or grey whales. It was a pod of orca (i.e. killer whales) feeding on mobula!

Father and son, first to the scene.  Heather screamed "Shamu!!!" as they jumped out of the water near us.

Orca have never attacked humans in the wild (in captivity at Seaworld is another story). We kept that in mind, but still kept a respectful distance as the orca feasted on the helpless school of mobula. It was an amazing experience. We never expected to see orca in the Sea of Cortez. People who've been coming here for 20 years have never seen them, and here they were, right off the beach, in water that wasn't much more than 6 feet deep!

Heather telling Scott to keep his fishing pole on his back

Our neighbor and fellow SUP'er put together this video with footage from his GoPro camera and still pictures our friends took from the beach.  Sorry about the Free Willy, Michael Jackson music.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Life in an Arroyo

As far as places to hang our hats for an extended period of time, Los Barriles was never on our radar. We just assumed we'd spend a few days here and then move on. We've been here over a month.

What's life been like in LB?  We are parked in a large arroyo right outside of town directly on the beach.  This arroyo is massive -- approximately 1/4 mile wide.  During hurricanes, it is filled with destructive amounts of water.  All other times of the year, it is dry, public land that offers free camping.  The "veggie-man", Jose comes every Saturday with organic, fresh veggies for all the campers.  He also happens to park right outside our truck -- where else can you get fresh veggies, eggs, chicken, and tamales delivered to your door fo' free? It's the only way we can keep track of time - "Oh my gosh, it's veggie day already!?"  In addition to the veggie-man, there is a propane-man and a water-man.  Propane fill-up on the beach!

During the winter, the northerly winds on the Sea of Cortez are like clockwork.  It's usually somewhat calm in the morning, but by 11am, the cool northerly wind is kicking.  On the rare day that we aren't kiteboarding, we have been able to paddleboard, snorkel, hike, and mountain bike in the area.

The veggie-man lineup.  Where are all the men?  

Snorkeling 10 miles up the road at Punta Pescadero

Arroyo life

It's all good, except for a few things.  There are lots and lots of gringos which means we aren't learning/practicing Spanish.  Save that for a rainy day, right?

The fishing has been a major bust.  Scott hasn't caught ANY fish.  We've been told that the fishing isn't that great right now but if you've read our other blog posts, you know that Scott was getting pretty cocky about his fishing successes.

Since we're on the Sea of Cortez and thus facing east, the sunrises are undeniably epic.  E V E R Y  M O R N I N G.  One morning I managed to force myself out of bed before the sun turned into a bright, yellow ball so I could snap a picture.

No need for an alarm clock with this bright light comin' atcha

Link to January Pictures

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spending Update

Since part of our "freedom" to adventure involves TIGHT finances, I thought I would give a quick update on the spending situation.  I'll keep it brief, this is a new thing for me to share.  We've been in Baja for 2 months, and I've kept a log of all of our spending. Our slow pace and the cheaper diesel has been nice.

Camping/Visitor Visas:  $130
Diesel: $300
Water (30 gallon fill up ~ $5): $24
Laundry/Car wash: $30
Food/Alcohol/Other: $1022
Monthly USA mail service: $25/month
Vehicle liability insurance: $196/year

You can easily get a picture of where we spend our money - stuffing our faces.  We live well and we do not compromise on the things that are important to us.  I am thankful everyday for what we have.


Happy hour at Frank and Kim's in Los Barriles

Friday, January 6, 2012

Los Barriles, Baja

After our adventures at Punta Chivato we made our way south, with a few stops, to the windsport mecca of Los Barriles.  We were on a bit of a mad dash trying to catch our friends, the Purwins family, who drove down to Los Barriles from Portland for their 3 week (!!!) holiday.  We managed to catch them 2 days before they were going to head back north.  I regretfully didn't take ANY pictures while we visited.

A stop on our way south at Juncalito beach backed by the Sierra de la Giganta mountains.  Absolutely stunning.
Another reason we wanted to stop in Los Barriles was to catch up with Frank and Kim who bolted down here from the San Fran area to meet us.  They hand-delivered some spare bike parts, a new car stereo, and essential booties for Scott. The booties were supposed to be spares, but we inadvertently left Scott's old booties at the previous surf spot.  We can't thank them enough!  As a bonus, we got to catch up with our friend, Rodney, who has always been a part of our Baja experience (in San Carlos) starting in 2000.  It wouldn't be the same without having Rodney around.

Scott and Rodney greet Frank and Kim as they arrive in Los Barriles
We've found ourselves "stuck" in Los Barriles for the past 10 days visiting friends and finally getting our kiteboarding skills honed.  You would have thought we were good kiteboarders by now, but you would be mistaken.  We started kiting in 2003 near here (in La Ventana) but as we returned to the USA we pretty much quit kiteboarding.  We took it up in 2009 during our travels in Australia.  We haven't specifically travelled to good kiteboarding locations during our travels in OZ or NZ.  We managed to get some good kiting in, only when the stars aligned. Los Barriles offers us some free beachfront camping, a town with all the supplies we could ever need, friends of the windsport persuasion, and some fantastic weather.  I'm having trouble finding a reason to leave.

Our camping spot in front of the kite beach in LB