486 miles done we are now at Guerrero Negro, just south of the 28th Parallel which separates Baja California from Baja California Sur.
Another exhausting and hot 75 mile day on leaving Punta Prieta brought us out of the Cactus desert back to the Pacific coast. Severely gusting winds were a major problem early on, especially where the road switch-backed around the hills. Both of us were blown off the road into the scrub by a particularly vicious gust, prompting us to push for a short while. As the hills gave way to coastal lowland the wind died right down and changed direction just enough to check our speed and make the final 30 miles a bit of a grind. Osprey chicks calling from their nests on top of telegraph poles brought some light relief.
The town of Guerrero Negro was founded in 1957 to exploit the high natural salinity of the coastal lagoon, and is now the largest salt producer in the world, exporting some 7 million tonnes a year. The lagoon is one of three in Mexico to where Grey Whales migrate annually from their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea, betwixt Alaska and Russia, to mate and give birth. Luckily for us the calving season is just beginning with an estimated 300 or so of the anticipated 2,000 having already arrived. The whole area has World Heritage status and is protected. A small number of family firms are licenced to take tourists into the lagoon to see the whales but are not permitted to go too close. ……. Nobody told the whales! Several of them swam right around and under our boat and stuck their heads out of the water to be stroked. It is an totally amazing experience to hold eye contact with such huge, magnificent creatures, and just to be in their presence. They grow to 15 metres (49 feet), weigh up to 36 tonnes and live for 55 to 70 years. Just for good measure there were also sea lions and dolphins leaping in and out of the sparkling blue sea.
As if this wasn’t enough natural history for a lifetime, let alone a day, we visited a bird reserve later where we witnessed an Osprey dive into the lagoon, grab a fish with its talons then fly off to its nest with its silvery victim wriggling and glistening in the sun. A couple of brown pelicans kept us entertained with their lumbering take off and flight, something akin to a fully laden B52 bomber, followed by spectacular ‘stealth bomber’ dives into the water to catch their prey.