Just passing through......

Musings of a lowly pilgrim
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Wineries and Whales…..

March 11, 2018

Since my son, Matthew, has been visiting, we have taken in a few tours. The first one was a tour of the Valle de Guadalupe, which is home to around 200 wineries, some large and some very small. We were treated to a beautiful day out with Luigi and Eugenia of The Wine Route tour company. Our first stop was at the Bodegas de Santo Tomas, where we lounged outside while tasting the wines. A beautiful little hummingbird shared the morning with us.

Hummingbird at the Santo Tomas winery

The next winery we visited was AlXimia Vino Elemental, where the production of wine begins on the top floor. The grapes are selected there, and drop down into the vats or barrels on the floors below, where they ferment. The construction of the winery is unusual, in that it was the vision of the owner, a mathematician turned winemaker, who wanted to create a winery with the environment in mind. It also serves as an observatory for viewing the night sky.

AlXimia Winery, Valle de Guadalupe.

The third winery we stopped at was built by a Swiss gentleman who named his winery “Sol y Barro” after the sun and mud he used to build his home and winery by hand. We picked up a white wine that they apparently run out of before the next season, so I think we might drink it on Matthew’s birthday, in a few days.

Wine tasting at Sol y Barro
(photo credit: The Wine Route)

And, last but not least, we visited Vinos Dubacano, where there was a trampoline Matthew had to try out. I really enjoyed their red wine, which is surprising. I am a white wine fancier.

Matthew on the trampoline

By this time, I was feeling no pain. Anyone who knows me knows that it doesn’t take much for me to get tipsy. We then stopped for lunch at a Russian restaurant. There was a community of Russian settlers who left Russia as conscientious objectors to the war at the time. They moved to California, but found life difficult, so when Mexican President Porfirio Diaz offered to sell 13,000 acres of fertile land in Guadalupe Valley to them, they took it. There is a small museum at the restaurant, where you can see how these immigrants lived. We were met at the restaurant by the dogs who live there. One of them, Mateo, was missing a leg. Luigi told us that someone had shot it off! What a sweetheart, he seems to be doing just fine now.

Mateo, one of the dogs at Family Samarin Restaurant
Sangria at Family Samarin Restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe

I certainly didn’t need to imbibe any more, but the Sangria was recommended, and I couldn’t resist. I paid for it the next day!

Our purchases from the wineries

I had wanted to drive to La Paz to swim with the whale sharks, but Matthew wasn’t keen on it. So we decided to drive to Guerrero Negro instead, to see the gray whales. It’s a good thing we didn’t drive to La Paz. The road to Guerrero Negro was bad enough! The potholes are huge and the road is fairly narrow in spots. I was told that farther south it gets a whole lot worse. The landscape we passed through was incredible. There were farms, desert, boulders and cacti. It really was quite beautiful. The photo at the beginning of this post is from the Cataviña Boulder Field.

Sundown in Vizcaíno Desert

We had taken the motorhome with us, so we were able to stay at Mario’s RV park, just outside Guerrero Negro. They have full hook-ups, hot showers and a restaurant, but not much else. Mario also runs one of the whale tour companies, so we didn’t have far to go in the morning. Nerah came with us, as we would be away for a few days.

Nerah wondering where we are now!

Matthew wasn’t expecting too much from the tour, but I sure was. I had read about how Guerrero Negro is one of the main places where the gray whales come to breed. Ojo de Liebre Lagoon is a refuge for the gray whales and that is where we would be heading. The tour began at 7:30 am with a history of the area and the migration of the whales. Cynthia was very knowledgeable of the area and had little tidbits of information to share while we drove to the boat launch. Once there, we put on life jackets and met our captain, Tito. We were fortunate in that there were only six of us on this tour. Other companies had pangas packed full of people.

Gray whale rostrum

I have never, in my life, experienced what we were witness to that day. The captains are only permitted to go so far to see the whales. You only get to see them up close if they come over to the boat. And they did! There were whales everywhere. They were all around us, sometimes going under the panga, sometimes coming right along side us so we could touch them.

Gray whale coming up to say “hello”!

We also got soaked by the whales when they came up and exhaled! There were some a distance from us, breaching over and over. Unfortunately, by that time, my memory card for my camera was full and I hadn’t thought to bring an extra one along.

Tharrr she blows!

The whales seemed to enjoy coming over to visit. I had read that they have their favourite captains who they recognize and approach to say hello. Our captain must have been one of them. He would sing to them from time to time, and we even had some who were following the boat.

Gray whale waving his flipper at us

Towards the end of the tour, a momma and baby came over to check us out. I just wanted to jump in and cuddle that baby! What a good mother she was though, always staying between us and her precious baby. This was an experience I won’t soon forget. If you ever get a chance to do this tour, do not pass it up!

A whale of a tail….

Matthew went for a walk around the town in the afternoon while I had a nap. He chatted to a local barber, who helped him with his Spanish and explained how the Mexican government takes care of its poor. Although it isn’t perfect, it is pretty darn good. I’m still scratching my head in wonder as I travel around and speak to people, why is it that so many people outside of Mexico think it is a dangerous place to live?

Matthew examining a cardón cactus

We met a lovely couple from San Diego on our tour, and they own a house in San Felipe. When I was quizzing them about buying a place to live here, not once did the word “dangerous”, or anything similar, come up. I’m going to be looking at some places for sale in the next few weeks, before heading back to Canada for a visit.

On the way to Guerrero Negro

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