Season of the Heart

Eye of Baby Grey Whale in San Ignacio Lagoon

“What great, intelligent eyes stared back into his; was it pure imagination, or did an almost human sense of fun also lurk in their depths?

Why were these graceful sea-beasts so fond of man, to whom they owed so little. It made one feel that the human race was worth something after all, it it could inspire such unselfish devotion.”

– Arthur C clarke, the deep range

From the icy waters of the Arctic, grey whales journey 12,000 miles every year to the warm waters of Baja lagoons. Here, they calve their young and begin their training for the long return to the north. The ‘guesstimate’ of their species age and the duration of this journey is 30 million years.

To bear witness to these majestic gentle giants is a heart-altering experience. To experience a mother whale cajole her calf to be touched, is a testament, not to humans, but to the whales themselves. To an emotion we may never fully understand. They reach out for us, even as in the 1700s and 1800s had hunted them near to extinction.

I’ve had the great good fortune to visit the whales during multiple phases of their time in the lagoon, and shared the luxury of touching whales with family and friends. Each month offers a different and unique experience in whale behavior.

Late December and early January, the calves are born and their milky ‘faces’ trail alongside their mother’s protective bodies. February, the romp begins. The calves gain strength, swim faster and are guided to the whale watching boats to make that human connection. Spy-hopping males begin to show off and mating games begin. March, stronger and larger, the mom teaches them to skim the mudflats for plankton and krill. Single males and females without calves being to depart. Early April, with the calves now trained to swim harder and faster against the incoming and outgoing tides, departures being in earnest. By May, the lagoons are once again in quiet wait for the next grey whale season.

If you can make the time, the experience of touching a whale is one that you will never forget. As for guides and accommodations, my absolute favorite is Baja Ecotours,

Buster & the Fish

Buster (the Bajanese) loves to SUP with me, and our morning paddles are a great solace for both of us.  Paddling up the coast we have been gifted with turtles, dancing rays, leaping fish, skimming pelicans, diving terns & osprey.  The light on the water some mornings, a reason to pause in honor of the stunning beauty of the Sea of Cortez nestled against the small city of Loreto.

Yesterday, Buster was in rare form.  He stood tirelessly on the ‘bow’ of my SUP board searching for anything that moved. When we both spied the small fish (already in it’s last gasp) he was unstoppable.  He lept off the board and could not be cajoled back.  Each time he reached to catch it in his mouth, the fish would swivel and turn – both spooking him and enticing him on.  But he was close. Oh so close ….

This was ‘his’ fish, and I was not to spoil the moment.  I tried paddling away.  He didn’t seem to care.  I yelled at him to get back on the board (we did have a flight to catch). Finally, I had to yank his sweet wet hairy body from the water and keep his head turned away from the fish.

Yes, we left the fish in our wake. And yes, the little hunter had his day.  And yes, we made our flight, sadly leaving Loreto – so we could once again return.

Road Construction 101

One of the aspects of highway travel in Baja is the constant flow of road work.  It seems that just as soon as the crews finish one section of Highway One, they tear up another.  Often, what they tear up seems as good as what they replace it with – other times, the unbearable potholes and melted asphalt are graciously replaced with new graded road beds and fresh topping.

In the states, to complete road projects it seems always necessary to close routes entirely, or funnel traffic into diversions.  Baja road crews just chew up the old stuff, bulldoze it over, and shift travel to a dirt bed while they work on repaving sections.  The results can be miles and miles of dirt roads where just a week or so before there had been pavement.  Ie, make sure you have a spare tire and are adept at changing a flat!

On Mex One, this in not an option (or any of the ‘major’ Baja highways).  For most of the 1500 miles of roadway, there is just the snaking two-lane road that heads from Tijuana in the north to San Jose del Cabo in the south.

If necessary, a dirt road is bulldozed parallel to the road being repaired.  This is often boulder filled, or worst, soft sand which leaves drivers wishing for 4-wheel drive and praying that they don’t need it.

Roads don’t close in Baja due to floods or rockfalls.  Maybe temporarily, but the creative population always manages a work-around.  Three years ago when torrential rains wiped out 6 major bridges overnight the traffic was stopped for 24 hours.  But after, ingenious bulldozers began to drag heavy tractor trailers and anyone else brave enough to cross rushing flood waters from what was left of pavement on either side of the arroyo.

Rock fall?  Give locals an hour and they will have either pushed the offending boulder out of the way, or cleared enough of the associated debris to allow passage.

My kind of traffic jam ….

Traffic Jam

Traffic Jam

Imagine : Barreling down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere (actually true) and beginning to believe that you really are in the middle of nowhere (it’s been nearly 100 miles on deserted dirt roads) when suddenly, you have to slam on the brakes and wait for the traffic to clear.

First it’s the barking of dogs. Then it’s the lyrical giggle of a small child. Then it’s the lead goat with the tinkling bell. Then it’s the dad : aka goat herder : walking with the dog and the child and the goats home to the safety of their pen for the evening. Their home? A small house with goat pen and garden ‘off the road’ (at least 20′) in the middle of that same nowhere.

Water? From a well. Shopping? What does one need? Serenity : Sorry mastercard, but this one really is priceless.

The traffic jam? Pure joy. About 10 minutes of listening to goat/child/herder/dog chatter, and then passing through.

My kind of Mexico. Simple and without pretense.

My Office

My Office

My Office

The best work days are those in my ‘other’ office.  That’s the one outside, under the palapa where the Sea of Cortez spreads wide before me.  There is hardly a more creative or inspiring place to work.  Birds chatter in the trees, and at the water’s edge, pelicans skim, cormorants dive and both boobies and terns spiral and call out to one another. The seasonal grebe population has arrived with their tiny red eyes and constant diving behavior.

Sure beats an office tower with recycled air and no opening windows!  I’ve got Skype phone to keep in contact and high speed DSL wireless.  Yes, the work-world has changed, and I am thankful to take full advantage of new options.  It matters less and less where someone actually is – and the quality of work seems to improve.

I think it was Gehry Design in Santa Monica that first began the practice some 15 years ago, of loading their creatives with laptops. sending them out for lattes, and freeing them from the idea of a cubicle.  I owe homage to that breakthrough of re-thinking of how we actually can do business.