Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie
Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Baja Bliss

Jerri (left) and Me Cooling Off at El Coyote Beach
(Photo Courtesy of Lorna Dunham)

Sometimes you have an experience that cracks you wide open, leaving you feeling more alive and happy than you’ve felt in a long, long time. That happened to me in Baja. It really was a fiesta for the senses. There were breathtakingly beautiful sights: the Bay of Conception, the Gigante Mountains, phosphorescence at El Coyote Beach, the Bay of Los Angeles, and Espiritu Santo, among others. The tastes and smells were so tantalizing – fresh sea bass dinner in Cabo Pulmo, orange blossoms in San Ignacio, and a shared bottle of really nice red wine, to name a few. The sounds were no less appealing. Being lulled to sleep and awakened in the morning by the sound of waves dancing onto the beach, of whales surfacing to breathe, and the many different bird calls. Best of all were the things that were felt on my skin and in my heart: warm sunshine, refreshing sea water, sand between my toes, and great happiness. This post will summarize some of the highlights of my trip.

I traveled to Baja in a caravan of four women, four dogs and a cat in four Lazy Daze motorhomes. Originally there were supposed to be six of us but, unfortunately, two had to drop out. We took our time traveling, adjusting to the narrow, shoulderless, and sometimes very rough roads. We learned to slow down and move as far to the right as possible when big rigs passed by.

The people of Baja were a wonderful surprise. Friendly, helpful and always ready with a smile or a joke, they are a reminder of how the rest of us should live. Spending time with them and just observing their joy in life was one of the highlights of my trip. I could easily see myself returning here year after year, as many people do.

Not only were the people of Baja wonderful, but those that were visiting from other countries were great too. Something seems to happen to people when they are in Baja and causes them to be more friendly, fun and to have a wonderful camaraderie with their fellow campers. We had many nights around the campfire getting to know the others parked nearby, and formed new friendships during boat trips, hikes, trips into town and even doing laundry.

One activity that was high on the list of great Baja experiences was seeing the gray whales. Our little caravan traveled to Lopez Mateos on Magdalena Bay, one of three locations in Baja where the gray whales congregate to give birth to their calves. We camped for a couple of nights on the bay next to the whale watching pangas.

Whale Blow

The first time I went out in the boat our captain took us to the mouth of the bay. The water was rougher here than in the bay, but there were many whales. They could be seen spy hopping and breaching, but what really got us excited was when a mother and calf would swim really close to the boat. We even got drenched with the salty spray from the whale blowholes. There’s nothing like a good whale snotting to make you feel special. We saw dozens of whales that day, and although I took lots of pictures, few turned out well. Getting a better camera is now on my list of priorities.

Mother and Calf

The next day we went out in a panga again, but this time we stayed in the bay. We saw fewer whales this time, but had great interaction with the ones that we did see. There was one mother and calf in particular that seemed very curious about us. They kept swimming back and forth beneath the boat and right alongside it. It was amazing to me that these enormous creatures, which are much larger than the boat, could swim so close beneath it or beside it but never bump us. They are extremely graceful. Every so often they would roll over on the sides to look at us. One of the calves we saw looked quite small and was most likely a newborn. You can tell the calves not only because of their smaller size, but also they look darker because they don’t have the barnacles that the adults have. Although I had been out on whale watching boats before this in California, I never got to experience so many whales so close to the boat and have them interact with us. I’ll remember this experience for a long, long time.

The View From My Motorhome at El Coyote Beach

Our little caravan spent a total of about three weeks camped on El Coyote beach in the Bay of Conception (Bahia Concepcion), which is on the Sea of Cortez. There we met up with some other Lazy Daze owners and got to know some of the others camped on the beach. What a fun group! El Coyote beach is really a beautiful spot, and probably the best beach that we saw. There is only dry camping available here, but it’s a lovely place to spend some time. Thanks to our friends at the beach, we were able to go out on the bay in Zodiacs and visit some of the islands, where we did some snorkeling and sightseeing. One day on the way back from our snorkeling excursion we came upon a large pod of very big dolphins. Some were as large as the boats. They decided to play with us, and kept swimming right next to the bow of the boats and frolicking beside us. They also would roll onto their sides so that they could look at us. I think it’s pretty difficult not to feel happy when you get to play with dolphins.

In the Sea of Cortez we were fortunate to frequently see phosphorescence, which some people refer to as bioluminescence. If you’ve never seen this, you should. It’s pure magic. It can be seen in the water at night, when the conditions are right. If you disturb the surface of the water with your feet, a boat or a paddle, you’ll see tiny sparkles light up the water, like fairy dust. One evening after the group campfire I was treated to one of the most beautiful and magical sights I’ve seen. A very light rain started to fall, and lit up the surface of the water as though it were being showered with millions of sparkling diamonds. It was truly romantic and I felt so fortunate to have seen this incredibly beautiful scene.

Speaking of romantic, the biggest surprise was finding romance in Baja. Sometimes you are fortunate enough to meet someone who sees the very best in you, and therefore brings out the best in you, and hopefully vice versa. This can color your entire experience of a place or event. Cabo Pulmo will always have a very special place in my heart.

Beach at Cabo Pulmo

Doris and Pat had to return home after a month, so Lorna and I traveled together to the southern part of Baja. One of our stops was Tecolote Beach north of La Paz, where we went on a boat trip around the island of Espiritu Santo. This is an undeveloped island directly across from Tecolote Beach. We saw interesting volcanic rock formations, caves, sea lions, dolphins, and had the best snorkeling experience of our trip. Our captain was great, and we ended up spending more than five hours on this trip that was supposed to last only four hours.

Espiritu Santo Snorkeling Spot

I’ll be writing much more about Baja, because I had so many great experiences. I crossed over the border back into the U.S.A. today. What a rude awakening! It is windy, raining, and cold – only in the 50’s. Brrrrr. It made me want to turn right around and head back to Baja.

Rylie's Notes:

There was lots of fun to be had in Baja. The best part being able to let The Staff off the leash a lot so that I could run around without her. She just can't keep up with me.