Sunday, January 23, 2011

No ticket to see the whales

Today we drove north on Highway 1 to the small village of Mateos Lopez, just north of Magdalena Bay to go whale watching. As we drove through Ciudad Constitucion, I was focused on the traffic lights - sometimes they were operational, others remained dark. I didn't notice there were also stop signs at the intersections. I rolled through a non-working traffic light and the policia were there to pull me over. They didn't speak any English and my Spanish was inadequate. I knew I was going to get a ticket and it would cost $500 pesos. We all tried our best to make ourselves understood, but finally, with my driver's license in their possession, they told me to follow them to the police station. Justin, Glenn and I got a little nervous when we left the paved roads and started down a dirt road, but indeed we did pull up in front of the police station. They wrote up the ticket but kept telling me I I didn't want it. Finally I got it. If they wrote up the ticket, I would have to wait for the judge to arrive sometime in the afternoon. If I just paid the $500 pesos, there would be no ticket and we could go see the whales. Glenn gave me a $500 peso bill (thank you, thank you, thank you), I handed it over, we all shook hands, we were free to go, and suddenly their English was much better.

All the lancha operators charge the same amount, choosing Aquendi was arbitrary.

The Mexican family we shared the boat with paid for one hour, we paid for the other. They were all so nice. They shared their snacks with us and explained what the boat operator was saying in slow and simple Spanish.

First we saw pods of playful dolphins:

I have so many pictures I could post here, but I will share just a couple of the best. There were quite a few females with their newborns in the lagoon, the peak of the calving season is mid-February to mid-March. These are gray whales who have migrated to Baja California from Alaska to give birth and nurse until the calves are ready to head back north sometime between March and April. The non-pregnant females are hoping to mate before they return. We got as close as 50 feet. I was glad the boat operator stayed a respectful distance away.

Here you can see the head of a baby following closely beside its mother:

Frigatebirds. The boat operator said they have no feet and clutch the branch with their body. They do have feet, however they are underdeveloped and somewhat webbed. Frigatebirds don't walk well, are unable to take off from a flat surface, and never land in the water. They're able to stay aloft for over a week and snatch food from the ocean using their long hooked beak.

Afterwards, we made another contribution to the community of Ciudad Constitucion, but having a delicious late lunch at Brismar.

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