Sunday, January 29, 2012

Christmas Agave

Wandering around La Paz one day the week after Christmas, I came across this agave, all decorated. I'm pretty sure it was the best Christmas decoration I saw all season. Whoever did it just took the cap/hook piece off of several glass Christmas balls, and inverted them over the spikes of the agave.

(I took the picture with my phone, so the image quality's not the greatest)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

(Not) Whale Watching at Bahia Magdelena

Magdalena Bay is about 1/4 of the way up the Baja peninsula.

We missed it on the way down - the Baja Ha Ha didn't stop there, presumably because needing to check 180 odd boats into Mexico would have seriously overloaded the small immigration office in Puerto San Carlos. It is a huge, mostly quite shallow bay that has enough deep parts to also be one of two deep water ports on the Baja peninsula (Ensenada is the other).

We went up with the idea of seeing some whales. We'd seen in El Sudcaliforniano (local paper) that the whales that migrate every year from Alaska to Mexico were early this year. We called the Hotel Brennan (the hotel in San Carlos that appeared to have the best reviews) arranged for the neighbors to watch the cats (thanks, Julie and Bill) packed up the car and drove the three and a half hours north to Puerto San Carlos. Of course, we forgot a few things, doing this on such short notice. One of those things was the dry bag for my big camera, so that wouldn't be making the boat trip with us (this turned out not to matter). We also forgot our inflatable life jackets, which also turned out not to matter, as the conditions on the day we were out on the water we so calm it was like a lake. The drive up was gorgeous, but there is no shoulder and few pullouts on MX1, so I didn't take any pictures. Next time, now that we know how long the drive takes, we'll spend more time dawdling, looking for turnouts.

The first surprise when we checked into the Hotel Brennan was that there was no fridge in the room. There are rooms with fridges, but believing for some reason that all of the rooms had them, we hadn't specifically requested one, and none of the fridge equipped rooms were clean. Valuing getting started exploring over having a fridge (and having a cooler,) we decided to let having a fridge go. Then we asked where we might go for a late lunch/early dinner. Whoops! Possibly nowhere, as it was New Years day and the owner didn't actually know of anything that was open. We drove around a bit, and eventually found a place about a block from the hotel, called La Cocina de Tere.

Absolutely delicious food - I had fried shrimp, which were possibly the very best, freshest, shrimp I have ever had, and Art had a seafood assortment of octopus, scallops, shrimp, fish and clams. That and a couple of beers each set us back about $25. We talked a bit with a Canadian couple who were also eating at the restaurant (their presence was actually what tipped us off to the fact that the place was open).

Back at the hotel, we realize that the nice Canadian couple are also staying there and are also planning to go whale watching the next day. That's great, as it means we can split the cost of the boat. They tell us they've already talked to Enrique, the guide, who will be at the hotel at 7:30 to pick us up. That's a little early for us, but it will do.

The next morning, it is incredibly foggy. We literally can't see the building across the street. After waiting in the lobby for a while, it's apparent that no one in their right mind would take a boat out in these conditions. The fog doesn't lift much, but we wind up going out at about 11:00. We, the Canadians and a third couple follow Enrique down to a beach where his panga in pulled up.

We all climb in and set off into the murk.

It is still really foggy, but the water is pretty shallow and really clear, so it's fun watching all the rays take off as the boat passes over them. It's so foggy that I decide to turn on tracking on the GPS on my phone. I think about offering it to Enrique, but figure out he's been doing this a long time, and if he needed a GPS he would either have one or ask for the phone. (he does realize that I have it, and asks me whether it's a phone or just a GPS, but doesn't take it when I offer it - he clearly knows this area like the back of his hand.)

So we drive around. There are no whales. To be fair, one of the ways that you would find whales is by seeing them spout from far away, which pretty much isn't possible when you can't see but a quarter of a mile. It's fine, it's nice being out on the water, and the fog is shifty enough that we can see bits of the shoreline. The little bit of Mag bay we got to see was amazing.

This area was used to process whales for oil - it's been unused for that purpose for many years obviously, and is currently a fishing camp.

These pelicans are sitting on the walls of a floating tuna nursery. The resulting tuna are shipped, live, to Japan (presumably for sushi).

Of course by the end of the day, the fog was gone (at the top of the bay - who knows what it was like out at the entrance, where the whales should have been...)

After we got off the boat, we were chatting with Enrique for a bit. He mentioned some casitas on Isla Margarita (only accesible by boat) and the possibility of getting lobsters and other delicious sea life to barbeque at said casitas. I think we'll check this opportunity out when we come back, probably in March, which he said is the most reliable month to see whales. He also told us about a restaurant that we probably never would have tried. In fact, he not only told is about it, he had us follow him there. Unsurprisingly, when we went there the next day for breakfast, we ran into him. It's a very small town, Puerto San Carlos.

The second night we had dinner at a place called Los Arcos:

We both had shrimp this time. It was very good, but I think the shrimp at the first place was a little better. Stuffed to the gills, we waddled back to our hotel for the night.

On the drive back, I got a few shots of the hawks' nests on the power poles beside the road.

Some of them are on platforms built for the purpose:

Some aren't:

The fog and desert made for a pretty surreal landscape:

Despite not seeing any whales, we had a great time. We really enjoyed Puerto San Carlos, and Bahia Magdalena is fascinating. We're already plotting a return trip, hopefully with more whales, better weather, a fridge in the room, more pictures, and less forgotten stuff.