Another Sweet Whale o’ a Tale

I’ve discovered another beautiful thing about settling down for more than one hot minute. When you settle for a while, fellow gypsies become extended family. If you need a cup of sugar or a lime for your margarita, you need travel no further than the neighboring palapa. Someone is always around to keep an eye on the comings and goings of strangers, and are happy to look after your stuff when you go for a swim. There are people to chat with, dine with, or to play a random game of Carlotta Beach Bocce with. Happily for me, most Baja gypsies have great toys, namely kayaks, and they are more than happy to share.

Just such an opportunity arose with the new crew of gypsies at Playa Escondida. The evening I returned from my horseback adventure the crew had rotated. Joining us was Yuri, an overbearing, bald-headed, bear of a man, originally from the Czech Republic, now a long-term Canadian resident. Also new, was Darla, the blousy blonde, a retired dental hygienist who loved to chat and was rarely seen without a glass of wine in her hand and her husband, a nice, quiet guy, who didn’t let strangers get close enough to learn his name. They moved into the completely secluded northern vacated earlier in the day by Steve and his cat, Margarita. They traveled with two kayaks strapped to the back of their camper and happily let anyone use them. My favorite new arrivals were John and Erin from Idaho.  Erin is a physical therapist who works on both humans and dogs. She was very sweet and attentive to Luna, even after Luna snapped at her for touching her feet. Erin is a gorgeous woman, vibrant, spunky, full of energy and laughter. John was another one of those strong, skinny, silent types, a smokejumper in the wilds of Idaho. I was sad that I didn’t get more of an opportunity to talk with the two of them, but they were generally in the company of Yuri, and in his company, nobody had the opportunity to share more than a couple words.

Every morning since I arrived at Playa Escondida, Michael paddled over to Playa El Coyote and returned with terrific tales of whale shark encounters, the big momma and her two babies. He happily offered me the use of his kayak, but he was generally using it during prime-kayak time. With the new arrivals, we had more kayaks and the opportunity for a group trip over to Playa El Coyote. We arranged the trip that evening, and at 8:00 a.m. the following day we were on the water and headed out.  It was a perfect morning for a kayak, clear, calm, no wind, beautiful.  The 45-minute paddle over was filled with amazing sights: a pod of dolphins leaping, a school of mobula rays belly-flopping, a pod of pelicans flying in perfect formation, a venue of vultures circling their latest victim, and a beautiful frigate bird slicing the air with its razor sharp wings.

Michael, knowing the signs, first spotted the whale shark, and led the crew to view them. John, the odd-man out in the kayak lottery, had driving his moto over to Playa el Coyote, and was swimming out to greet the beauties, flesh to flesh. It was another magical moment, seeing this magnificent creature, both longer and wider than the kayak, swimming gently alongside Michael. He reached down and pet her side and I could almost feel her sigh.

The whale shark is the largest fish in the sea. They range from 18-40 feet long and weigh an average of 20.6 tons. Considering they can grow as long as a school bus, it is not surprising that the ones we saw dwarfed our kayaks. Fortunately for us, they have no teeth and live on plankton and the small fish who are unlucky enough to get caught in their gaping maw. While nobody has seen a whale shark actually mate or give birth, one female was captured and they discovered she was pregnant with 300 pups, check here as the science gets even more interesting! They are absolutely fascinating creatures and of course they are officially a “threatened” species yet they continue to be hunted in parts of Asia.

While we paddled around, the whale sharks surfaced then submerged. Sometimes they would come and play, letting us paddle next to them, or whey would glide back and forth under our boats. They seemed rather shy of large audiences. If there where one or two people around they would come and play, if a large group gathered they would dive to the bottom of the sea, escaping the limelight of so many fans. One time, the momma swam directly under my kayak, bumping softly along the bottom of the boat, lifting me out of the water, before slowly descending. It was here in Play el Coyote that I discovered I could sing, and that the whale sharks respond to the sound of a soft, gentle, friendly voice.

It continually astounds me that with all the horrific things humans do to animals and their environments, they still seem to embrace and forgive us.

Once the area became overcrowded with kayaks, SUPs, swimmers, and other visitors, Michael and I fled to Dead Dog Beach on Isla Bargo. I was a bit hesitant about visiting a beach of that name after nearly killing my beloved Luna a few days earlier, but I was glad I went. The beach was a crescent-shaped beach nestled in the north end of an island the size of a city block. It is one of those perfect, Blue Lagoon, places ~ soft white sand beach, warm turquoise water that is perfectly clear for thirty meters or more, secluded from all the noise of the modern world, and absolutely beautiful and private. It was another oases within and oases within an oases.

We landed our kayaks, had a leisurely lunch of tamales we had purchased from the Tamale Lady, explored they dog cemetery which now consisted one one PVC post stuck into a chunk of concrete, went for a delightful swim, then headed back to our own little secluded-but-not-so-private-oasis. Happily, Michael let me try out his pedal kayak for the return trip. My cyclist arms were pretty cooked from two hours of playing with the whale sharks and I don’t think they would have taken me all the way home.

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