Monday, March 3, 2008

Adventures in Baja

Since Steve and I have been doing mainly boat projects, we decided to take a break and travel to San Ignacio to view the whales along with their new calves. On February 27 Anita and Ron from Liberty Call II left in their own car and then on February 28 we rented a car along with Gary and Judiee from Reverie and headed north. San Ignacio is an 8-hour drive up Highway 1 (two lanes all the way) through Baja. We have traveled up the coast in the boat, but we have never driven it.

We left at 7 in the morning, stopped for coffee and donuts, and enjoyed a lovely drive to Loreto where we stopped for lunch. We ate delicious fish tacos and then proceeded on our way. We were about 30 miles out of Loreto when Steve heard a noise. He said that he thought he saw something fly out from under the car. A few minutes later we heard another noise, and then the engine started to overheat. Steve found a place to back down off the road, lifted the hood, and found that 2 out of 3 belts were missing. Now I have to take a minute to say that the car that Alamo rented us was a mid-90s or earlier Nissan Sentra that had seen its better days.

Luckily, a fisherman named Jorge stopped to offer help. Steve went with him back to Loreto while Gary, Judiee, and I made ourselves comfortable. We opened all the doors and allowed the nice breeze to keep us cool. About 2 hours later Steve was back with a new belt and a crescent wrench as he said that the people at Alamo had not been very helpful. At the same time he arrived so did a Federal police officer who asked if we needed help. We asked him if he would wait for just a minute. Steve paid Jorge for his help and then tried to fix the problem, but the bracket nut wouldn’t break loose. The officer found some tools in his car, but nothing worked.

When we realized that we wouldn’t be able to fix the problem, the officer called requesting a mechanic and tow truck. Gary and Judiee went with the officer back to the Alamo office in Loreto while Steve and I stayed with the car this time. After about an hour a Toyota pickup appeared with a car dolly. Guiermo introduced himself and then loaded the car on the dolly. On our way back to Loreto with Guiermo, the police officer found us and reported that our friends were at the Alamo with another car and that every thing would be taken care of. We thanked him again for all his help and headed for Loreto. On our way into Loreto, Guiermo stopped by his house and introduced us to his daughters, Rosita and Carla. We really enjoyed that. Gary and Judiee were at the Alamo office, and this time they were very helpful. After Alamo filled another car with gas (a much newer car!), we left to have dinner. We decided that we needed to continue to San Ignacio even though it meant driving at night—not a good idea in Mexico. When we went through the military check point just north of Loreto, it was the fifth time for Steve, and I think they were beginning to wander what was going on. We had a good highway all the way and arrived around 11 p.m. It took us just 16 hours to make an 8-hour drive.

We checked in at the Ignacio Bed and Breakfast and went to our rooms. Actually, it was a yurts, which is a small structure made of a wood frame and canvas walls and roof. It was very nice and large inside was decorated in an oriental theme. There was a hot tub just outside and behind it was a lovely lagoon.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast of French toast, eggs, and bacon or ham. We left on a van at 8 a.m. to drive out to San Ignacio Bay, which was about an hour and a half drive. There were 10 people on the van, and we were enjoying the drive until we had a flat tire. The van had no spare and no tire iron so the driver had to call for someone to bring one to us. That’s two! A van arrived pretty quickly with our tire and tire iron so the flat was changed, and we continued on our way. We came to a camp that was used by Antonio’s Eco Tours. We put on our life jackets and headed down to the water and into our panga. The six of us, Steve and I along with Ron and Anita and Gary and Judiee, were in one panga with the rest of the people in another. We headed out into the bay to look for whales.

We spent about 90 minutes in the bay. We would spot a whale, and our guide Jesus would motor close to it. We would then watch as the whale and her calf would swim close to the boat and surface, at least most of the time. The calves were so amazing, and one of the whales actually pushed her calf up toward the panga. They like to be splashed with water, so we all did our part to oblige them. It was just wonderful watching these amazingly large mammals swim so gracefully. We saw several whales breach the water. We were able to get close to at least 3 or 4 of them. Steve was able to pet an adult. The one that I was petting was a baby, and it suddenly blew, which soaked my face and glasses. What an experience!

After the tour, we had a wonderful lunch in a house on the beach and then returned to the B&B. Steve and I enjoyed the hot tub for awhile and then the others joined us in our yurts for a drink. After that we walked to the dining area where we were served a wonderful dinner. After dinner everyone came over for a soak in the hot tub. We were pretty tired after the long day the day before, so we called it a night.

We had planned to see the cave paintings the next day; however, it meant another long day in a van, so we decided to just relax and enjoy the morning. The lagoon was beautiful and had some fog on it. We enjoyed the hot tub one last time and went to have another great breakfast. The four of us checked out around 11 and headed into San Ignacio to walk around the plaza and see the cathedral. San Ignacio is a lovely little Mexican town with a river and a lovely oasis. There are date palms everywhere.

Anita and Ron continued north to San Diego while we headed back south. The road winds up the side of a significant canyon with sheer drop offs. We had driven this part during the night so we had no idea how perilous it was. We had planned to stay in Santa Rosalia but decided to continue on to Loreto. This turned out to be a mistake since it was Saturday night and there were no rooms available. That’s three! It turned out that we drove all the way back, arriving at 9:30 that evening. That’s the second time we drove at night in Mexico. The four of us decided that we had pushed our luck and would not do it again. We did, however, get to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Bahia Concepcion during the day.

It was good to spend a few days with some of our friends and enjoy this beautiful area and the amazing whales. The experience was definitely worth the hassles that we had. We also appreciate all the help that we received from the locals and the Federal police.

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