Whale watching in Ojo de Liebre

We arrived at Bahia de Los Angeles around mid-afternoon, after a slightly hairy moment when the road abruptly turned into a dirt track without any warning. The camp spot we had chosen was a free one around the end of the bay at a nature reserve called La Gringa.

Clearly a popular spot with campers, as there was already several there when we arrived. We also happened to meet up with Katie and David again, having lost signal shortly after the sump incident and not being able to contact them since.

After a few days a windy and cooler weather, today was picking back up again. Still a bit windy, but following the example of everyone else who parked up parallel to the water and then set up their camping chair in the shelter of the van, it was quite pleasant.

Shortly after our arrival, a blue synchro parked a bit further down and it turned out that we were basically a beach full of Europeans. The guys in the synchro were from Germany, and further down was a couple from Belgium. We had a look around each other’s setups, as you do, and also watched in interest as one of them went spear fishing without much luck.

Later in the evening the German guys had a fire, but after a social few days and managing to get ill (again) I wasn’t really in the mood for small talk. We had a quite night in the van, and thankfully the wind died down and led to a very peaceful evening.

The morning brought the sun, and I went for a small walk across the end of this peninsula to the other beach. Lee had found two starfish there yesterday, and I wanted to go and see if I could spot any. Not having any luck with the starfish, but it was nice to have a little beach to myself.

The rest of the morning was equally relaxing. I read a book for the first time since the east coast, and sunbathed on the beach. Lee decided to go swimming, which was a short lived experience in this pretty cold water.

In the afternoon, we got on our bikes and decided we would cycle back into town for tacos. I’m not completely sure how long the bike ride was, but I would have said it was at least 4 miles of fairly flat and empty road. We definitely felt that we had earned our tacos. Unlike the other two European people we had heard of who had been stopping at Gonzaga Bay the same night as us, we didn’t get out on our bikes all that much. These two however had cycled from Alaska, which seems utterly insane to me. We had driven past them on the road in to Bahia de Los Angeles the previous night, able to pick them out by the amount of luggage they were carrying on a standard push bike!

The recommended taqueira was basically a small shack on the road. The robust woman who ran it spoke fairly decent English and explained the menu a bit to us. We opted for two quesatacos, which is a cheese taco with a filling of your choice, for us – fish. Once you have your taco there are several choices of spicy salsa, which is a bit of a gamble as to just how much chilli you will get. Our first proper tacos here, and they were good!

Next to us, were the Belgium couple and we chatted briefly to them. It turns out, that they had a very big online following as apparently no one really does this trip and documents in French. Probably why we struggled to get many followers, as there’s already a lot of it in English.

While enjoying our tacos, with a can of beer from the supermarket next door, we tried to use the Wi-Fi. So far our experience of Mexican Wi-Fi is that while being present it is not wholly functional. You get the odd sporadic email, which you may or may not be able to view as well as a bunch of other notifications you can’t really look at. You probably can’t send messages either. In the end, it’s barely worth it but you still try every time in the hope that this one is better.

After mildly frustrating myself with the internet, but being happily full of tacos, we headed back to camp. We decided to take a shortcut down a sandy track in order to avoid a large hill on the road, which was also a much longer route. This had mixed results, the road tyres on my bike aren’t very good in sand and I don’t have suspension which would have been nice on the washboard road. We had no idea which of the many tracks we should take, and couldn’t look it up as we had no signal. The result was us ending up in what I think is an abandoned military base, and walking the bikes some of the way through some deep sand and appreciating all these dead fish tails that have been exquisitely nailed to the ceiling.

The ‘must have’ whale bone and cactus collection.

Detour completed, it had saved us try to peddle of a big hill in the hot sun and that’s ok with me. We arrived back at the campsite to enjoy the last of the afternoon sun on the beach. We hadn’t initially planned to stay two nights, but it was a beautiful spot and after such a quiet night I couldn’t say no to another one. We had also made the mistake of giving, the apparently very thirsty, local bees some water. This led to our van being enveloped in bees for much of the day.

I’m glad we stopped as it was another beautifully quiet night, no noise and no wind. I felt like I could have stayed here even longer, but we decided there are plenty of other places to see and we needed move on. The feeling along the beach must have been mutual, as the fleet of other campers parked with us had dwindled to just one by the time we were ready to leave. Katie and David had already left and we hoped to meet up with them the in a couple of days at Ojo de Liebre for a whale watching tour. It was still a bit of a drive from where we currently were back over to the west coast, the main highway one snakes down the middle of Baja alternating between coastlines as it goes. It’s pretty much the only main road so you don’t have much choice but to follow it. Heading back over to the west we picked a spot that was supposed to be in a little oasis on the beach for an overnight stop en-route to Guerro Negro.

The turn off the Esmerelda Beach is directly before a military checkpoint, and it was suggested that we should go and tell them we were heading to the beach so that they didn’t think we were trying to avoid the checkpoint. This is great if you can speak Spanish and they can speak English, neither of which were true in this case. After a fairly thorough rummage through our van, they let us go and we headed down off a reasonable dirt track to the beach. The track continues, but the littles oasis is clearly visible off to the right. Parked up in the palm trees you are more sheltered from the wind and also out of sight, a nice spot. It would have been even nicer is someone hadn’t left a load of rubbish, no wonder some places don’t welcome campers.

We had arrived with an hour or two of daylight left, and walked down to the beach. I decided Aimee should come, which made our walk short-lived as she still doesn’t really like the beach. Having returned her to the van, we headed back out to wander down the coastline, littered with lobster carcasses and also a dead and slightly liquid seal. I was quite happy to find some rather good shells though. As with many times on this trip, it’s probably a good thing that we live in a very small camper as I would no doubt acquire a lot more tat otherwise.

We rounded off our day with another sunset on a beach all to ourselves.

Before heading back to the van and a cat which now desperately wanted to come out despite refusing to earlier.

We were not that far away from Guerro Negro now, which is one of the more major towns on the west coast. We needed to stop off for some supplies here before heading down to Ojo de Liebre, which is another nature reserve to the south. As we reckoned we were pretty close, not that we would really know without any phone signal (again), we went for another walk down the beach in the morning. Beach combing is something that I rather enjoy, and I found a few more good shells as well as some pretty impressive whale’s bones. There was also another sea lion carcass, and the carapace of a sea turtle washed up on the beach. the real thing I was looking for was abalone shells though, as I had found a good one yesterday, no such luck this morning however. The only thing I came back with was a bit of sunburn, apparently 10am is hella strong UV here.

We headed back out down the dirt track, and through the checkpoint for a second time. Before too long we were entering the town and started getting ourselves sorted. We did some of the things which you rather take for granted in America, like washing our clothes and getting money out of a cash point. Here, laundrettes and ATM’s are pretty scarce, requiring you to plan a little further in advance, not our strong point. We picked up a few groceries and some more drinking water, before driving back out and heading south towards our spot for the night.

After quite a long, and at times very heavily wash boarded road, we came to the entrance. You have to stop and register at a gate only a few miles from the main road, but this is just a case of name and registration, perhaps something to do with the fact that part of this place is a salt factory.

At the end of this road there is a barrier, where you have to pay $5 to gain access to the campsite. There is some debate as to whether this is per night or per entry. We asked the guy on the gate about the whale tours and he said the office opens at 8am, unsure of how many tours or the availability we decided to be there when it opened the next morning.

We drove a little way down the coast and camped up at one of the camp spots without a palapa (these cost extra), but close to a pit toilet.

We had just finished the fun of sorting out our own compost toilet, which is prone to leak if not attended to on a monthly basis, when Katie and David arrived.

After some deliberation, they parked up in the adjacent camp spot and spent some time in our van eating cornbread and having a few beers. We agreed to all go down to the whale tour for 8am the next morning, meaning we all got a reasonably early night, me and Katie seem to both need our sleep!

It’s not often that we have to set an alarm these days, and it is indeed a luxury to not only wake up in daylight everyday but also not at a set time. It was unlikely that we would be awake in time for the tour though, and so Lee set an alarm for 6am. It’s a funny thing, and it always use to happen to me the first day back to work after a holiday. Even though I know I’ve set an alarm, I spend all night worrying that it won’t go off or I’ll miss it so I don’t get much sleep at all. As stupid as it is, it always gets me and tonight was no exception. It was also not helpful that at around what I guessed to be about 5am, the coyotes decided to dig up the contents of our buried compost toilet. I’m not sure what they thought they would be getting, but I don’t think it was that…

I casually rolled out of bed at 7.40am, which I immediately regretted as I wasn’t ready for anything at all. Throwing clothes on and forgetting my pills, sunscreen and camera, we hitched a lift with the other two as our van was nowhere near packed. Gone was the idea of a nice bike ride down to the office, and we slurped a hasty cup of tea out of some pretty dirty travel mugs that I hadn’t had time to clean, once we arrived.

It didn’t take us long to get ourselves booked onto the second tour of the morning, which appear to leave on a ‘once the boat’s full basis’. This doesn’t take long as the boat’s capacity is only 10 people. We ended up with another couple, one half of which was a very excited American lady who proclaimed this was her 4th tour so far, and another family.

Our tour guide, Abel didn’t speak any English that I’m aware, but he was friendly enough and soon we were headed out of from the pontoon and into the bay.

It didn’t take us long to spot the whales. I have been on other wildlife tours before where there’s always the small print which reads something along the lines of it’s not the companies fault if you don’t see anything. Here it would be impossible not to, the sea was teaming with whales, in fact we saw one before we even got on the boat. They popped of all over the horizon, some of them even breaching in the distance. This was the moment I was most annoyed I forgot my camera!

We pottered around in the vicinity, sometimes around a 100 yards or so from a whale before it headed off away from us. The sea around us was full of bright purple jelly fish as we coasted along.

It wasn’t too long however, before Abel steered us towards a group of whales that seemed to be pretty happy to see us. Hearing tales of people actually be able to touch the whales, we were hopeful.

In the end, I cannot believe how close they came to the boat.

At one point there was 6 whales, all rubbing there barnacles on the bottom of the boat and popping up beside us within arms reach.

They were so close when they blew out air one guy lost his hat, and I now feel like I know what whale insides smell like.

They must have stayed with us a good 20 minutes, and in the end even excitable lady had calmed down, after a somewhat hysterical start.

It was amazing to see them so incredibly close, with their eyes staring right at you!

We also got some good underwater footage on our GoPro, which will be on our YouTube channel at some point!

It was quite incredible, to be so close to something so incredibly large and powerful and see how gentle they were around the boat. We got another opportunity to get close to another group a little later on too. And even got to see a turtle in the wild too, which was a first for me.

At one point, Abel also scooped a jelly fish out of the water for us to see up close. These ones are obviously not poisonous!

Definitely worth the $50, and content that we had seen a lot in just two hours, we returned back to the shore. We had been told that the camping around the other side of the point was nice by some other people and decided to go back to our van and move it around the corner for another night.

One of the perks of having got up quite early, was that by 11am we were parked up in our new spot with quite a large amount of the day left. We decided to go for a stroll down the beach and enjoy some of the sun. It was nothing particularly special, but nice to stretch our legs and enjoy the gorgeous weather. To finish off our walk we climbed back off the beach and returned along the track on the cliff.

We rounded off our day with trying our shower for the first time, and I was pretty happy that the water was not only fairly warm and we had good pressure, but that there was definitely enough for both of us too. A good day, all things considered!

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