Thursday, October 18, 2012

Urmas Kaldveer: Whale Talker

I don't think I've ever met a person who wasn't interested in whales. They are the largest mammals on the earth. Some species swim thousands of miles from Alaska to the Baja to have their babies and then swim the same thousands back with said babies. Moby Dick is fiction but it was based on true accounts of Sperm whales ramming whaling ships and sinking them. (A distant relative of my wife Donna, was on the Essex which was sunk by a Sperm whale, chronicled in "The Heart of the Sea.")

If you've ever seen a whale close up in the sea, you know how mesmerizing it can be: Beautiful and graceful, large and thrillingly scary when they are too close! 

Not long ago while having coffee at Roadrunner CafeI met a man who has made a career out of watching whales, Urmas Kaldveer. Urmas has been doing scientific research on the great whales for years, observing them from all sizes of watercraft including his kayak and from below with diving gear. He sat with me for quite awhile, answering my uneducated questions with much patience. I was a little envious until it dawned on me that he has probably logged thousands of hours on his word processor while recording his work.  Whew!

If you see him around Los Barriles, you might be able to corner him and chat for a bit. If you do, don't tell him I said it was ok. If you don't have that chance, you can read in detail what he's done, learned and experienced in his book, THE OTHERS “The Whale People.” It was  published by Balboa Press and is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and of course Balboa Press

You can also read about many of his experiences on his blog which includes some great photographs. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Driving the Baja October 2012

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We just returned from San Diego via Mex 1. The carretera just keeps getting better. There was very little construction and where there was, it was only for short distances. There are stretches of new pavement all the way down. The most impressive piece is the “Cuesta del Infierno” or "Hill From Hell" just North of Santa Rosalia. Feels like a whole different road. Wider, new lines and signs. Still make sure you have good brakes before traversing!

We cross at Tecate usually. Less traffic, reasonable inspectors. Plus we like driving through the wine country. Much of that road is new also.

We stayed at a different hotel this time in Santa Rosalia, the Tourist Hotel on the South end of town. (somehow our reservations at the Baja Cactus were lost...) Nice place. Less fancy but new and clean and secure.   Ate breakfast at Mama Espinosa's.

Since we were pulling a trailer and our pickup was loaded, we took 3 days to get home. There are plenty of gas stations now but before crossing the dead zone between el Rosario and Guerrero Negro, fill up. If you get low on gas, You can buy gas from various "resalers" at Cataviña and other place for a bunch more than retail. If you get in trouble, stop and ask somebody where can you get gas.

 Had fun at the military stops.  Most of the young men wanted to flirt with our granddaughter Erika. Naturally I didn't take advantage of the situation...  One young man asked if she was my daughter, I said, "no, she's my granddaughter." He then asked if I would like to be his grandfather. Instead of saying no and risk insulting him, I explained that she was already taken and had a 2 1/2 year old son. He didn't seem the least bit bothered by that.

By the way don't be nervous at the military checkpoints. If you don't have drugs or guns or some other obvious thing that could get you tossed in the slammer, you are ok. These kids are bored, tired of each other and most are a long way from home. I've never been robbed or felt threatened by these kids. Think of your kids or friends kids who are away from home for military duty. A big smile and friendliness is usually reciprocated. I sometimes have stuff in the car to hand out like candy bars or bottled water. They are normally very appreciative. Read this if you've never driven the highway.

We stayed our last night at the Hotel Santa Fe in Loreto. There's a big sign outside that says, "$490 pesos per night" or something. It's misleading. That is for single occupancy. My buddy Larry (lawyer in his last life) wanted to know why our quote was more than double the price shown on the banner outside. The clerk explained. Larry said said something to the effect that it was a scam and a ripoff. The clerk replied very politely, "Yes, I know. It is our policy." I mean, how do you respond to the the brutal truth? It was pretty funny. By the way, the hotel is nice, has large rooms and a decent restaurant attached. Also has secure, walled parking.
That's about it. I didn't say a lot about road conditions because they are so good compared to only 10 years ago.