Apr 3, 2012

Shifting gears

After 6 kilometers of slow paced driving across vast salt flats and hard-packed, corrugated sand roads, we finally reach Laguna Ojo de Liebre.  We idle up to the kiosk and pay the security guard 65 pesos ($5 US dollars) for our entrance fee, as Shannon mutters something about "I guess things have changed here", noting that our Church's guide said the entrance fee was $3 dollars.  I pull around and eyeball the sign that reads hot showers and grin at the idea.  Reminding myself that "hot showers" can be loosely defined in Latin America.  My last shower in Guerrero Negro was tepid at best, but at least it had some pressure to it.  The showers in Bahia de Los Angeles were hot indeed, but a steady drip when the valve is fully open.  

Laguna Ojo de Liebre is a well known sanctuary on the Pacific side of Baja Sur, where you can charter a panga, a tiny fishing vessel, to take you out and see some of the thousands of grey whales that call the Laguna home.  We step inside to the beautiful new information center/restaurant and read about whale migration and interesting facts.  The panga trip would cost $40 USD per person, although we could probably sneak Shannon in for the child's price at $34 dollars.  We decided that we will have many more opportunities to see ballenas gris, or any other whales down the road.  The further south we get the less gringo-prices we see, so we are optimistic that we will find a better deal.
The only Grey Whales we've seen so far.
The only proof the Tremors aka "Graboids" truly exist.

We get back into the car and follow the dirt road that leads to the camping spots, while admiring the beautiful view that parallel each site.  The lagoon is a beautiful emerald green near the shallow shore, which turns into a darker greenish blue in the distance.  There are several mountains in the distance, but we are essentially in a desert surrounded by sagebrush inland and green flora towards the sea.  We pass one empty palapa after another and finally spot a large tent under the sixth one from the restaurant.  It appears no one is home and maybe they've been camping there for at least a week.  We keep driving past at least a dozen more sites, all more empty and inviting than the first.  We settle on a site that lays on the point, at the entrance to a narrow channel.  We figure this will be our best position to spot a grey whale from the beach, since the spots along the channel are much closer to the shore.  We may possibly be the only campers in this secure campground, and we have our pick of the litter.  Considering there's no burning regulations, I forage for something to put in our fire ring, but being a desert I find mostly dead sagebrush and kindling, then I score on a broken sign post.  This will come in handy when the sun sets and temperatures drop later in the evening.

We sit inside with the tailgate down to avoid the afternoon winds, reading in peace and hearing the occasional gull.  We look up often from our "front porch" view of the waters behind us, hoping to catch a glimpse of las ballenas gris as they catch a breath, but we find nothing.  We enjoy our dinner and admire the sunset, then light our fire as we feel the approaching cold.  Our massive bonfire lasts for about five minutes, only 3 of which burn intensely enough to provide any warmth.  Oh well it was worthwhile, if only for a moment.

After the last sliver of daylight is gone we close the doors and the windows to our casita and read some more.  We stayed up a little late last night, catching up with family online and polishing off the equivalent of a 40 of Pacifico.  Each morning I wake up at sunrise and admire the view for a while, then go back to sleep for another hour or two, gradually allowing the sun to wake me up…no alarm clocks here.  We spend our time devouring some more books, reading about the road south of here, and planning our next move.

We've earned this perfect weather, after weeks of enduring the cold winds of el norte and the chilly nights in the mountains of Baja.  While the sun burns intensely, the soft sand is a perfect 60 degrees and I find myself exploring with no shoes on.  While soaking in the sun, our thoughts wander in the breeze.  Occasionally I find myself thinking what my friends at work are up to at this very moment.  No doubt some poor sap is ending his painful 12 hour shift on the Rescue truck, cheering for freedom while the sad reality hits that the rest of his day cannot be salvaged.  Oh well, the overtime is nice…how else would we have funded this break?  Meanwhile the rest of the guys on duty are probably already doing a massive pile of dishes, then cleaning the kitchen so they can quickly get to bed or spend a few hours glued to the recliners.  I look over at our pile of dishes from dinner.  One pot, one pan, two plates…so much more manageable then the pile that used to haunt me at home.  

My worries have shifted from paying the utilities, to reserving a cabin on the ferry from La Paz.  I ponder if I should've bartered with that soldadura who welded my license plate to our rear swingout, or if I should just appreciate the free crash course in Spanish engineering terms.  I look over the dirty side of our home, inspecting it for anything that needs to be fixed or addressed soon.  Relajese, I tell myself.  Relax, everything looks just the way it should be.  

Occasionally I look to the road we came in on, expecting to see some Mad Max-esque road bandits barreling our way with guns and medieval weapons, ready to lighten our load of all worldly possessions.  Relajese…the boogey-man that everyone warned you about is a figment of every possible fear, personified into a scary mexican that forces them to lock their doors tight and peek over their fences.

It's a shame to witness the negative effect that the media has had on the tourism industry here.  For the 24 hours that we're camped in this far-flung place, not a soul comes down the road and we enjoy the splendor of another uncrowded beach.  So while you're wondering if it's safe to drink the water, we're chugging down every last drop while we can.  Staking a claim on each little piece of paradise we find.