WHALE-WATCHING IN BAJA – A WOW!

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the seriesBaja California

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

You can read in magazine articles or see programs on TV about how whales can communicate with humans, but being among them brings it home!  It qualifies as a lifelong memory.

Members of the Fantasy Tours caravan celebrated  their chance to pet the grey whale calf hoisted to the boat by Mama.

Members of the Fantasy Tours caravan celebrated their chance to pet the grey whale calf hoisted to the boat by Mama.

Driving down to Scammon’s Lagoon, where the massive grey whales breed, give birth and play, is … well, let’s just say “an adventure.”  To negotiate “the much-improved roads” for 600 miles from San Diego, California, takes patience and constant alertness.  More on the ride down in a moment, but we are here to pet whales, and that’s what we did.

A whale-watching launch (the locals call them “Panga”) holds eight tourists in seats along

Mother and baby coming toward the boat can be daunting, but none of these massive mammals touched the boats.

Mother and baby coming toward the boat can be daunting, but none of these massive mammals touched the boats.

the sides and three in the middle.  For those on the sides, there is a better opportunity to touch or even pet the newly born calves.  I set my cameras down long enough to stick my hand out and feel the skin on the nose.  Each of our crew who had the experience described it differently, but I didn’t hear anyone say anything other than it was a thrill.

Grey whales are incredibly large beasts.  When the mothers swim past the boat laterally, they just keep going, something like when those 18-wheelers whiz past your RV on an interstate – seems to never end.  The word for them is “mammoth.”   These sleek leviathans can be identified by unique spots that have formed from years of having barnacles on their backs.

I don’t want to spoil the moment for you when you get down here, so I won’t go into further detail about what you might see and feel.  I will dwell a bit on the sensation of realizing that you’re among mammals that seem to enjoy the chance to show off their calves to the travellers.  Mammals, like your dog or cat, interact with humans.  What may be hard to imagine is that these huge creatures of the sea are mammals just like us and relate to us.

Spectacular moment.  Mama Whale breaches (lifts out of the ocean), while Baby spouts approval.  One of my all-time favorite photos.

Spectacular moment. Mama Whale breaches (lifts out of the ocean), while Baby spouts approval. One of my all-time favorite photos.

The protected preserve in the vicinity of Guerrero Negro may be a one-of-a-kind town.  There are whale-watching tours throughout the world, but nowhere else that I know of provides an opportunity for people above the surface of the ocean to interact with these heroic-sized mammals.

Cirio and Cordon cacti surrounded us on much of the trip through the desert.  This area is called "The Rock Garden."

Cirio and cordon cacti surrounded us on much of the trip through the desert. This area is called “The Rock Garden.”

It’s a special experience, in which we are participating as members of a Fantasy RV Tours & Creative World Tours caravan.  As I sit in the lobby of a hotel/RV park writing this, I hear dozens of arriving travelers asking for parking sites and rooms no longer available.  I’m thankful that our part of the trip is to drive, eat and enjoy.  No problemo!

Most of the roads are narrow.  Making it more of a challenge is the lack of shoulders: veer

Driving through desert and rocky hills makes for a tedious journey, but worth it when we got out into the boats.

Driving through desert and rocky hills makes for a tedious journey, but worth it when we got out into the boats.

too far to the right and you’re struggling to get back on the blacktop.  Making the trip more interesting are military inspections and fruit inspection, none of which, for our group, was an actual inspection; it was simply a minor delay.  Two other delays were tolls and pest control spraying:  again, no big deal, but we shelled out pesos for the privilege.

A few bad spots in the road, lots of potholes to look out for, and miles of steep grades all made the drive interesting.  Easing the concern over safety and roadside problems were two Angeles Verdes, “the Green Angels,” a team of Mexican tourist department agents who stay with the caravan to keep us out of

Our Green Angels escorted and protected us all along the 1,100-mile trek.

Our Green Angels escorted and protected us all along the 1,100-mile trek.

trouble.  They are there to get us through traffic situations and make minor repairs along the way.  We have enjoyed their participation in some of the group functions.

There is lots to see on the route, from the unique vegetation like cardon cactus and cirios or boojum plants; the rock garden; the shanty towns; the ocean.  Since it is slow-going on the roads, we had plenty of time to get to know the landscape.

One other stop while in Guerrero Negro was the salt mines, actually the 42,000 acres of ponds and salt refining – largest facility of its kind in the world.  Definitely an educational experience only a short trip from where our whale-watching boats docked.

Looking ahead to the next chapter in this trip, we turn to the northeast of the Baja California Peninsula, pushing our rigs toward the Sea of Cortez, with the experience of seeing the grey whales in their southern habitat before they begin heir 6,000-mile swim northward.

Many evenings during our 14-day caravan ended with social get-togethers.

Many evenings during our 14-day caravan ended with social get-togethers.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

DESTINATIONS PART 3 — SURPRISES

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the seriesRVers Choices
A quartet of tourists performs for the camera.  That’s Monique and me on the right, and Monique’s brother and sister-in-law visiting from France on the left.

A quartet of tourists performs for the camera. That’s Monique and me on the right, and Monique’s brother and sister-in-law visiting from France on the left.

 By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

 

Via the Internet I asked the RVers to let me know their favorite spots to visit and where they planned to go in the years ahead.  Hundreds of responses poured in, and names like Yellowstone, Alaska, the Utah national parks, and Florida were the most often mentioned.

Signs of abundant life are still visible at the Salton Sea, but it’s not a place we plan to visit again until drastic measures are taken to remove the stench of dead fish.   -- Photo courtesy California Dept. of Parks & Recreation

Signs of abundant life are still visible at the Salton Sea, but it’s not a place we plan to visit again until drastic measures are taken to remove the stench of dead fish.
— Photo courtesy California Dept. of Parks & Recreation

But then there were some surprises – either because I would never have expected these to be preferred destinations or I had never heard of them.  For instance, there was one vote for the Salton Sea in California, as a favorite place.  Monique and I set down our stabilizers there in 2006, expecting to stay for a week.  We left the next day.

Why? The inland Salton Sea, south of Palm Springs, is, by all accounts, a depressing place. It’s California’s largest lake and — thanks to its toxic water and resultant abundance of dead fish — gives off a smell that’s so powerfully rancid it’s been known to waft all the way to Simi Valley. Its glory days are many decades in the past, the lake is shrinking, and many of its residents have left (or, in some cases, fled). There are a few traditional tourist attractions left (the International Banana Museum!) and a state park, but if this … article is anything to go by, its stock-in-trade these days is disaster tourism.”  That quote is from an article in the September 2013 online newsletter “Curbed.”   

That about sums it up in my experience, so I still don’t know why it’s a favorite destination.  P.S.  There’s a vey aggressive effort being made now to have the State of California solve the problems and restore it to the resort-level beauty of 40 or more years ago.

Another vote was for Nauvoo, an Illinois town in a bend of the Mississippi River.  I don’t remember going through there, so I looked it up and found that it’s known for the establishment of a Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS, the Mormons) and it is acclaimed for its beauty and history.

Standing nobly in Paris, Idaho, is the Church of Latter Day Saints Tabernacle.  Despite being built on the Idaho side of the state line with Utah, it remains a center for followers of the Mormon religion.

Standing nobly in Paris, Idaho, is the Church of Latter Day Saints Tabernacle. Despite being built on the Idaho side of the state line with Utah, it remains a center for followers of the Mormon religion.

A personal remembrance here:  In 2008, we stopped in Paris, Idaho, where we were invited into the imposing Mormon Tabernacle to listen to the local organist “practicing” on the grand organ … a WOW that we reveled in for about 30 minutes.  In reading the sign in front of the magnificent structure, we learned that the LDS pioneers established the community in 1863, but it wasn’t until nine years later that they found out they were in Idaho instead of their destination – Utah!

I had no reason to question the responder who said he likes “the Bourbon Trail” of Kentucky, nor Ennis, Montana, famed for fly-fishing.  I never thought of Pahrump, Nevada, as a place to stop for very long, but two people casts ballots for it as a destination.   It has a speedway, access to many desert places worth visiting, and extreme summer heat.  Apparently lots of RVers spend more than a day there.

We’ve never heard of Door County, Wisconsin, but after reading about this peninsula in eastern Wisconsin, we will put it on our places to go next time we’re in the Great Lakes area.  To quote the local visitors bureau, With more than 300 miles of spectacular shoreline and five majestic state parks, Door County is a four-season, outdoor recreation and pleasure lover’s dream come true. If you enjoy history, discovery and fun, Door County is home to 11 lighthouses, unique communities, performing arts, entertainment, music, boutiques, galleries and mouth-watering cuisine …” yadda, yadda, yadda.

Boy, what an exploration in fascinating places!  And here are a few other places that got mentioned, many of which you’ll probably agree with:  the Mississippi River Road (very educational with RV caravan companies); riding along rural roads in the Northeast when the leaves are changing; Route 66; the Four Corners (UT, CO, NM & AZ); and the Great Lakes, national parks (several are on islands inaccessible by RV), stadiums and presidential libraries.

Hundreds of RVs travel down to Mexico and Central America every year, and we have talked with several who went into South America, including one adventurer who journeyed down to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip.

One respondent listed New Zealand — I would put that on my “bucket list,” but it will probably never happen.  What is on our list is the Hawaiian Islands, which we will do next year or in 2015, renting an RV and traveling in our rental rig through one or more of the islands.  While we’ve been to the Islands before our days in a home-on-wheels, that will be our 50th state to visit as the Never-Bored RVers … which we remain.  We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander, unless otherwise identified.   All rights reserved

 

ABOARD THE SUNSET LIMITED — AN OPEN-EYE MEDITATION

WELCOME TO MY FIRST POSTING ON THIS NEW SITE.  I WELCOME YOUR SUGGESTIONS AND COMMENTS AT THE END OF THE BLOG.  THIS IS LONGER THAN A BLOG SHOULD BE, BUT IT WAS A LONG TRIP.

The Sunset Limited Pulling into the Station in Palm Springs   © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

An old way to find New Horizons:  seeking out those new horizons is a mind-expanding experience, one that Monique and I are often finding.  But for the Thanksgiving Week, I took a different approach from our usual means of traveling.

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