Friday, April 13, 2012

Whale Tails

by Scott

This fish tale doesn't involve fish. As I was out doing my morning chore, fishing from my paddleboard, I saw a small whale slapping it's tail. It was pretty far off, but since I was trolling anyway, I headed towards it. It seemed to be staying in the same position. I could tell by the delay between seeing the tail slap and hearing the sound that I still had a ways to go. As I paddled, a much bigger whale started slapping it's enormous pectoral fin. Minutes later, I was seeing and hearing the slaps simultaneously. I was less than 100 feet away.

Scott sitting in front of the BABY tail
It turned out to be 4 whales -- 2 mothers and 2 calves. I paddled along side them for at least 10 minutes. The calves were occupied figuring out how their tails worked, but the mothers were clearly checking me out. The small mother rolled on her side a couple times to eyeball me. Then, the big mother went vertical. It was awesome. Her bus-sized body went straight up, did half a twist, and came down flat on her back. It was just like those insurance commercials.

Little mama, re-entering the water.  Time to get a zoom lens.
My heart was pounding. I wasn't close enough to get splashed, but close enough to have to deal with the whitewater. A minute later, she pulled a u-turn, putting herself between me and the beach, and did another full-body vertical breach. It was spectacular, but way too close for comfort. Even an unintentional fin slap from one of the calves could surely kill me. Now, I felt surrounded. I started paddling towards shore, watching as the big mother swam right below me, hoping she wouldn't breach again. She didn't. They all dove deep and disappeared. It was a great finale.

Semana Santa and the Porta Potty Banditos

A common sight down here:
a kid and a 2-liter
(or is that a 3-liter?)
Semana Santa takes place during the week leading up to Easter.  During this week, Mexicans seek out beaches to set up camp, party, and relax.  Semana Santa is the most popular holiday in Mexico, outside of Christmas.  We were warned that at most beaches you should be careful where you park so as not to be blocked in. We were told stories about beaches where hundreds of people would set up camp and each "camp" would blast their own music.  A few years ago, some friends returned to their camper after a swim to find people sitting in their chairs, hanging out under their awning.

Since we were warned, we made sure to park in a location where we could likely escape if it got too crowded.  Early in the week, we were surpised by the lack of people, but a Gringo local said that it would get "VERY CROWDED" Thursday - Sunday.  Soon after, we noticed an uncharacteristic increase in government workers emptying garbage bins that had gone unemptied for at least a month.  Then, workers dropped off 3 additional garbage cans AND 3 porta potties. Our interest and anxiety about the weekend were peaked.  Really, we couldn't wait to see what the weekend would hold.

On Wednesday night before the big day, we watched a big group of young boys carry a porta potty 30 yards closer to their camp. It took them several attempts, but it was an impressive feat, hoisting the toilet to shoulder height and walking while keeping it vertical. The next morning, 3 men in an official truck drove up to their campsite and made them carry it back to it's original location.  Five minutes after the government workers left, another truck drove up, tipped one of the porta potties onto it's bed, and drove away.  An hour later, the same government workers returned with the stolen porta potty.  Apparently fresh, empty porta potties are coveted here on the East Cape of Baja!  That is what we call "cheap beach entertainment" -- credit to the Von Leonard family for the term.

Three porta potties safe at last.  Extra garbage cans next to the permanent turtle and dolphin heads.

Things never got too crazy. It did get crowded, and we did get sick of listening to Mexican polka from the truck next to us. We endured 2 days of that before leaving to find a nearly deserted beach only 2 miles away. Much better. Nevertheless, we survived Semana Santa and enjoyed the opportunity to witness a truly Latin American event.

Semana Santa at La Fortuna

Our deserted beach 2 miles away

Cabo San Lucas

Meg and Luke with Daddy

Under normal circumstances, we probably would not have found ourselves hanging out in Cabo San Lucas, home of many tourist resorts and cheesy spring break-ish bars. Similarly, I don't think our friends, Nooby and Brien, would normally take a vacation in Baja.  Thanks to their planning, we spent a week together in a gorgeous house overlooking the famous "Land's End" Arch (Finisterra).

Our location enabled us to enjoy the beauty of Cabo without the headache of the touristy parts.  That said, in true Cabo tradition, we did manage to put away some tequila and Coronas. On our first night together, all the adults somehow wound up bleeding from the concrete slide that enters the pool from the hot tub.  That followed a delicious meal of Sierra Mackerel and Snapper that Scott caught that morning and Brien cooked on the grill. YUM!

We spent our days lounging/playing around the pool and at local beaches.  We also went on many grocery shopping excursions in El Tigre. Good times that won't be forgotten.