Adventure 3: Dune Camping and a Friendly
we made our way down to the dock and met up
again for whale watching while Esteban headed out to camp.
The water was flat calm and ghostly with the
rising mist. We sped our way toward the
mouth of the bay, stopping briefly for a couple of whale calves. Carlos was careful to ask whether we’d like
to stay with a whale or move on to see if others were more friendly. Clearly more knowledgeable than I, we mostly
took his advice, though I admit I wondered if it would be wise to stay
youngsters (who tend to be more friendly than adults).
I’m glad we followed his advice. For
an hour or so we were the only boat on
the water, surrounded by whale blows. After
following behind one whale for a few minutes, it suddenly rose to the
and halted, apparently falling asleep.
We crept up behind it, Carlos shutting off the engine and
closer to watch it doze. It was very
cool to see the great flukes below the surface, apparently holding the
position as our boat was carried away by the tide.
It made me realize how little the whales’
activities are affected by the presence of boats, at least at times.
I don’t recall exactly how it began, but a little
were watching a few groups of whales when one individual began to
boat. A large animal, I initially
assumed it was
an accident that she passed so close, but Carlos
she would return. One time she came
rapidly toward the back of the boat, passing but a few feet from the
pale body disappearing into the depths just off the port side. Sure enough, a minute later she reappeared on
the other side, rising up slowly toward the boat. Suddenly
the tip of her mouth broke the
surface and there were my mother and I with our hands on the whale’s
touching the smooth gray skin and knarly barnacles.
Before she dove again, she raised her head about
four feet out of the water—maybe enough for her eyes to break the
surface. What a trip!
Unfortunately, two other boats showed up at that
time. The whale visited at least one of
while we were waiting for her to return, I dug out my dive mask with
to lean over the side of the boat and check her out underwater. Carlos asked if I was going to jump in. Initially I laughed (because I didn’t think it
was legal), but he seemed to be asking a genuine question so I pressed
until he assured me it was fine and that the whale would have no
it. So I hastily stripped off my pants
and socks and slid over the side of the boat into the bay.
Unfortunately, the visibility was fairly poor
and, although our whale showed up about 20 feet away, I didn’t get a
look. One of the other boats had harassed
she was slipping away from us. I
clambered back aboard while Carlos cursed at the other captain. We slowly followed the whale and shut down
again when she showed interest.
My mother saw her passing by underwater and gently
splashed the surface with her hands, watching the whale change
come straight to the surface, rising up under her fingers.
I didn’t manage to get a photo of the actual
petting, but I did snap one as she rolled on her side to breathe
And so we had our friendly whale, a full grown
animal on a
I can offer no explanation for the behavior except that she and
the other friendlies are
entertained and interested by the interaction with humans…and that’s
makes the experience so amazing.
back to the dock, we met up with Esteban,
two other youngsters. The boat was
loaded with camping gear, wood, and rocks to hold down our tent. We sped away toward the mangroves, looking
forward to relaxing for the rest of the day.
But, the tide was against us and we had to work for our rest! Around the corner and about 100 yards from
the end of the channel our panga went aground and would go no further. All six of us jumped overboard into the
squishy mud and began hauling gear to the beach (see photo). When
it was all ashore, Esteban apologized
for not staying to help set up the tent, then hastened back to the
escape home before the tide dropped farther.
He assured his crew that we knew what we were doing and took
off. My mother and I found a hollow
sand between the dunes nearby and schlepped the gear over a little at a
broiling in the sun. I took my shoes and
socks off and relished the feel of the hot sand on my feet…like
stepping into a
hot bath over and over again…!
I loved it.
The tent itself was huge and I was hot and cranky by the time we started to put it together. There was no shade and I was sweltering. To make matters worse, the tent, poles, sleeping bags, pads—in short, everything—were secured with tightly drawn black string tied in impossibly tight knots. How I wished then for my leatherman!! I’m sure they were meant to be simply cut, but we had nothing. Grumpy and hot, we managed to pull them off everything and threw the tent up. It was a large tent with strange extensions on either side that were not intuitive to set up properly…although they were flopping around annoyingly, I was totally spent and laid down to rest inside. It was still hot, but at least I was in the shade a little! I drifted off and when I woke, my mother had fixed the tent to perfection. I don’t know how she found the stamina.
Then we decided to go snorkeling in the mangroves. Unfortunately, the tide had
continued to fall and we walked and walked and walked over the squelchy
the mangroves searching for deep channels.
I found a blue colored crab in about a foot of water and reached
in to pick him up, just like I would a dungeness or king crab back home
(although this little guy only had about a six inch shell). He
lunged up and snapped at me most unexpectedly! I admit I shrieked
just a little and was very wary of future encounters. After a few
hundred yards I finally flopped down in the channel
(still with only a
foot of water in it) and clawed my way downstream. Not
surprisingly the visibility was poor (my
stirring up the mud certainly didn’t help) and the most I saw were bits
of mangrove leaves floating around (thankfully no crabs). My
mother wasn’t foolish enough to try snorkeling, but we both cooled down
water. We came back, made ourselves comfortable against the shady
side of a dune, and read for a while.
We came back, made ourselves comfortable against the shady
side of a dune, and read for a while.
We soon discovered that we'd worked up an
appetite, and so feasted...refried beans on
tortillas with jack cheese (cut with pieces of sea shell), oranges, and
guacamole. My Spanish professor once
guacamole somewhere in South America and I tried out his method,
avocado in half, mashing it up, and stirring in the juice of a fresh
lime. No better guacamole in the world,
A little later we went for a walk through the dunes in the setting sun, gathering the twigs of some dead mangroves for kindling. It was clear that the dunes were slowly enveloping the mangroves, the dead branches and trunks poking up from the sand. We built a fire at the edge of a dune near the tent, struggling to light it in the incessant wind. My mother had to make a second trip for kindling and I built up a sand wall around the wood to protect it from the wind. We eventually had a bright fire going and we reclined against the dunes to enjoy it, drinking beer and eating chocolate. Actually, I was quite irritated by the inescapable smoke swirled around by the constant breeze, but it was great to have a fire anyway! The stars came out in abundance, but we opted to put the rain fly up to avoid the dew rather than enjoy it from inside the tent. After all the adventuring we’d done, we turned in early.