A Day in the Life - Whales, Ceviche, and Celebrities

10:00pm – Parking lot of the whale watching place, our camp for the night
Me: “Seriously KP, what are you staring at?”
KP: “I think this guy’s battery died and that’s why his music stopped”
A few minutes later… KP: “Yep here’s his buddy to jump it.”
A few minutes after that… KP: “hmmm, that didn’t work. I wonder what it could be. I’d go help him, but I have a feeling I’d just end up partying with them all night.”
A few more minutes… KP: “All these cars keep pulling up and then leaving… oh wait, I think they’re picking up the other guys from this car… hmmm, I bet he has a short and that’s the problem. Probably from some after-market security system.“
Sometime later… KP: “Ha, I was right, he just got it started.”
Me: “That’s great, I’m going back to sleep now, ok.”

So began the night before our epic day of overlanding. Now, besides the entertainment factor of a parking lot party happening just a few meters away from you, we did have a reason to be watching out. We had read that in the past, this lot was the place where many a drug deal in this small town would go down all night long… and it just happened to be Saturday night. Having both grown up in small towns though, we were pretty sure what people thought were drug deals, were just locals partying in a parking lot on the edge of town, something we never did of course mom and dad!

This entire compound was put in less than a year ago for the whale watching tourism by the government.

This entire compound was put in less than a year ago for the whale watching tourism by the government.

After a restful night’s sleep for me, and a quite different night for KP who had been kept awake most of the night by the sounds of partying and music coming from town, we headed to the docks! We got to our whale watching tour as early as was possible, which was 8am on this particular Sunday. We had heard the whales were slower in the morning when it was cold so we arrived promptly at 8am to embark. It was more like 8:30am by the time our guide arrived a little worse for wear… apparently he had been part of the party we heard in town last night. But no problem, we were entertained until he arrived by two other guides who offered to take us out, but upon hearing we were already going with Pirata Whale Watching, they started calling the guide to make sure he was coming and asking us questions about where we were from.

“Oregon? Mucho Frijo,” they said with a mock shiver as we told them about the latest snowstorm, to their horror.  They were bundled up in sweatshirts with puffy vests and hats against the frigid 60° chill of the Pacifc Coastline.

When I asked in our broken Spanish if the whales were in the bay yet, our new friend grabbed my arm and walked me to the dock pointing in the distance where you could easily see a spout and then a tail come up. It was my first view of a whale on this trip and the grin was plastered to my face for the next hour and a half!

When our guide arrived he loaded us onto his small boat and we took off toward the whales we’d see in the distance.

“If these are adults, they will probably dive down and we won’t see them again, but if it’s a momma and baby, then they will stay near the boat.” After a couple minutes of staring two whales surfaced about 100 yards from the boat to our excitement, but Jesus said, “Nope, just adults, we’ll keep looking.” This had taken only about 5 minutes of our hour-long excursion. In the next 10 minutes we sped along the coastline of the bay and saw two coyotes standing on the shore and a small pod of dolphins. All just appetizers to the main event that was to come.

When we finally saw the spout in the distance Jesus turned us toward the pair of what we hoped to be momma and baby. It was soon clear that it was, as we saw the smaller whale emerge and go down several times followed closely by the giant momma. The gray whales come to this shallow bay every year to have their calves in the protected waters, and don’t mind the boats of onlookers that come to check them out. In fact, when the babies are a little older, they will push them right up to the boats to be admired and touched by the tiny humans. The baby we saw was no more than ten days old and a little too young for this interaction, but that didn’t stop both momma and baby from surfacing within mere feet of our boat. The pictures and videos that we got don’t do justice to the sheer wonder you feel at seeing these massive animals up close.

When our hour was almost up, we got our last glimpse of momma and then baby, and then about four dolphins that joined the small gathering. Even Jesus was excited, so we were pretty sure that was not an everyday occurrence.

Whale Video!

We returned to the shore, our eyes still wide from the sights we had seen, and packed up the camper to head south to Todos Santos. This would be our longest driving day in sometime, at about 250 miles, so we didn’t expect much more excitement to happen, beyond the constant surprises that Mexican highways offer up.

“We haven’t had Ceviche yet, so if you see anyone advertising that, that’s what I want for lunch,” I told KP. KP, a recent convert to the sushi movement, had some hesitations at eating raw fish with lime juice from a road-side stand. But I’ll eat pretty much anything. : )

As if by magic, the first sign we see is advertising “Mariscos Ceviche” (Mariscos means seafood), so we pull up and grab a stool. True to our Baja experience, the purveyor of this establishment speaks barely any English, but we get along fine with our Spanish and Charades, and have what KP deemed “the BEST lunch of the trip so far!”

At this point we know there’s something magical about this day. As we continue the drive South we reach the metropolis that is La Paz, or at least to us it seemed a metropolis after small towns and beaches for so long. We drove in and then promptly out on the first road that veered south to Todos Santos.

We had almost decided to skip this town, in leiu of getting right on the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan, but literally everyone we talked to said we had to stop here, so we figured there must be something about this place. The baby turtles might have something to do with it… but more about those next time!

When we pulled in to Todos Santos a little after 4pm we were planning to head straight to camp on the surfer beach north of town. But as we rolled through this super cute town, we both caught something out of the corner of our eyes. “Was that?” “That’s Ben’s van!” We said simultaneously. We circled round the block and parked across the street from a van we thought we’d never see in person, after watching hours of Youtube footage of it. It was the Kombi Life van, owned by an adventurous chap named Ben who had bought it in Chile, and driven it all the way from Chile to Alaska and now back to Baja. His Youtube channel has over 75,000 subscribers and his videos were a big inspiration to us as we planned our trip.

It was so cool to see, but we realized that Ben probably wasn’t around since he had planned to give this van away months ago and for all we knew the new owners had brought it down here for a visit. After a little Instagram stalking we found out that in fact Ben was here and judging by the fact that the van was parked across the street from a bar advertising WiFi, we thought he was probably close.

Oh the places this van has seen!

Oh the places this van has seen!

We debated for a few minutes whether to go searching, but realized this was an opportunity that we would probably never get again. We walked in to the bar, and there he was with laptop, headphones, and a Pacifico like an advertisement for “Overlanding Youtuber.”

We walked up and interrupted the editing of what we could see would be his next video and proceeded to embarrass ourselves by fangirling (I mean both of us, not just me) about how we watched his trip and we spotted the van and how it was so cool to meet him. His look of kind bewilderment told us the sentiment was not quite the same, but he allowed us to bother him for a few minutes before we took the hint and made our exit.

The 10-minute drive to our beach campsite was a silent one, as we both replayed the interaction over in our heads. KP spoke first and said “We’re not very cool are we,” to which I sadly replied “Nope.” But we both agreed that one day having someone do the same to us in a random bar in a foreign country would be the ultimate win for our trip!

Since this was a day full of surprises and incredible experiences, we arrived at the beach to find we had caught up to our German friends from the Bay of LA. You may remember their beautiful Basset Hound Hessy from a previous blog post. We picked out our campsite just around the corner from them and they told us the sand was easy to drive in so it would be pretty hard to get stuck… well we like a challenge, and in 90 seconds flat we were stuck! Beat that!!!

We jumped out, aired down the tires (which we would have done first had we been more smart and less lazy), and starting digging. With our brand new Maxtrax- our Christmas present to ourselves- we were out in no time and cracking a beer at our camp for the night.

The grand finale of our crazy day was a short walk to the ocean to watch the sunset over the surfers and to see even more whales frolicking just past the waves. It was the ultimate overlanding day!

And we haven’t even gotten to the baby sea turtles yet… ;)