Sunday 17th July
Dolphins and dirt tracks
I had a really good sleep in my massive bed, and woke in the morning rather hungry. I think my brain had been using up a lot of calories trying to function in Spanish! Being a Sunday everywhere appeared to be closed, but after a short walk I managed to find a little restaurant run by a guy called Marco and his sister.
They were really lovely and welcomed me in with open arms, and before I knew it I was tucking in to some delicious huevos rancheros, all washed down with some incredibly sweet but very tasty fresh orange juice. It turned out that they were originally from Veracruz, but as there were more tourists in Cabo San Lucas and therefore more customers, they’d made the move and recently set up the business.
We chatted for a while and he said that he of course missed Veracruz, but sometimes needs must, and he hoped that he could enjoy his new life there and make a go of it. I really hoped for their sake that the restaurant would be a success, and if they continued to make and serve tasty food, I had no doubt that they would in business for years to come.
I had no desire to stay in Cabo San Lucas, but instead of heading straight out of the city, I went to visit Ricardo and the dolphins. I have to be honest and say that I was having a bit of a moral dilemma deciding whether to go or not, as I don’t agree with having animals in captivity for our entertainment. I ummed and arred for quite some time, and eventually decided that it was an opportunity that you don’t get every day, at least not for free, and decided to check it out. The always smiling Ricardo came to greet me, and gave me a tour of the premises before we made our way up to the pools where I met the staff and the dolphins.
It was really weird seeing them up close, as I’d only ever seen them off the side of a boat in New Zealand, and I have to admit that they really didn’t look real. There were a few families coming in to swim with them, so after some lunch I sat and watched them do tricks and take various people for rides around the pools, before it was my turn.
I thought that touching them and being in the pool with them would make them seem more real, but it was quite the opposite! Had they told me that they were actually robots, I would have completely believed them, as to me they didn’t look real at all.
And I can now safely say that the weirdest thing I’ve ever touched is a dolphin. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a bit like rubber, but not quite, as they shed their skin and it makes it feel even weirder.
Their fins and tails are surprisingly solid, and as we spent some time getting acquainted, I was left fascinated by how incredibly strong these creatures are. The pools are only about 14ft deep, but they propelled themselves out of the water with such strength and force, that I was left in awe of what they were capable of. They jumped and flipped all under the command of Ricardo and his hand signals and whistle, which was another fascinating aspect of the experience. The Dolphins would move their fins or heads, and do turns, jumps and flips according to the hand signals that Ricardo gave them, and always in return for some food. I’ll admit that I couldn’t stop thinking how sad it was that they were kept in such small pools, especially considering that dolphins in the wild swim hundreds of miles in a day, and the fact that they were essentially begging and doing tricks for food didn’t sit well with me. But if they must be kept in captivity, at least they appeared to be well looked after, and they did get fed a sufficient amount throughout the day.
After seeing what they could do it was time for me to get in to the pool with them, and I have to be honest and say that I was a little bit nervous and apprehensive, especially as I wasn’t insured for dolphin attacks… I started off with one dolphin, and got a little more acquainted than I’d expected! I had to give it a kiss, then we had a dance, which saw me bursting in to a fit of the giggles at the absurdity of it all.
Another dolphin them came to join in for a bit, and they were both instructed to swim around me so I could stroke them and get used to being around them. Although I have to say that I never got used to being around them, as the whole experience was just so surreal for me and I just couldn’t stop thinking that they looked like robots!
After getting acquainted it was time to go for a spin, and I had several rides on each dolphin, first on their bellies, then on their backs. It was really weird riding a dolphin, because although it was fun, it also felt very unnatural. Anyone that swims with Dolphins in captivity and thinks that they have a deep connection with them are in my opinion deluded, as it’s not a natural environment for them and not normal behaviour, and they’re essentially only doing it for food. And because of this knowledge and awareness it detracted from the experience for me. I imagine that swimming with dolphins in the wild, if it’s at all possible, would be an absolutely incredible experience, as it would be genuine and real. You would no doubt have an indescribable connection to the creatures, as they were swimming with you because they wanted to, not because they were being forced to. The best way I can describe it is like this: It’s a bit like having a super hot man/woman go out with you because they’ve been paid to, or told they have to. Sure they’d be great to look at and you’d enjoy the experience to some degree, but knowing that it was fake and superficial would detract from the experience, and it wouldn’t mean anything.
After several rides around the pool it was time to get out, as they had to get back to their usual schedule. I could have done another different ride where you hold on to their dorsal fin and other fin and then they take you down to the bottom of the pool, around in a circle and then back up again, but well aware that there is a part of me that panics, I opted not to do that ride and quit while I was ahead. I’m sure it would have been fun but I thought better safe than sorry on this occasion; I’d hate to spoil the experience by panicking and nearly drowning at the end.
Once I was out and dressed it came time to leave, and I said farewell to my new rubbery acquaintances, and also to Ricardo and his staff. I was incredibly thankful for the experience, and I was pleased that I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again in a hurry, mainly because I don’t agree with them being in captivity. But you don’t know until you try these things, and I really appreciated Ricardo’s kindness for giving me the opportunity to experience something that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
It was gone 3pm by the time I left Cabo San Lucas, and after riding past a ridiculous amount of golf courses and hotels, I arrived in Cabo San Jose.
I’d initially planned to stay there via Airbnb, but as everywhere within my budget was fully booked, and because it was still quite early, I decided to continue on towards Cabo Pulmo. I was really surprised by the scenery, as more mountains appeared and I rode away from city life and out in to the country. I had to take a toll road at one point, which wasn’t too expensive, passed the tropic of cancer monument, and then continued on towards a couple of small towns which I decided to check out.
I still wasn’t too sure if I’d make it to Cabo Pulmo, so rode around both Miraflores and Santiago looking for a motel, but after no success I decided to carry on and see what happened. Sometimes you know exactly where you’re going to go, usually because it’s the only option, or because you definitely know you want to go there, but on this occasion I just wasn’t sure. Despite being given a recommendation to visit Cabo Pulmo, it was out of my way, and being so close to La Paz I was toying with the idea of going straight back there and missing out the rest of the east coast. However before I knew it I was at the crossroads, and found myself turning right towards the coast.
I didn’t know what to expect there and if there would be any restaurants, so I stopped in La Ribera for some food, where I had something that was sold as chicken but was the size of a turkey, along with the usual corn tortillas and rice.
Even then I still wasn’t 100% sure about riding to Cabo Pulmo, especially after being told that it was a dirt road to get there, but after failing to find anywhere to camp or stay in La Ribera, I decided to carry on and see what fate had in store for me.
I really enjoyed the scenery to get there, with countryside and mountains all around, and before I knew it the paved road was behind me, and I was bouncing my way down a dirt road. I have to admit that it was good fun, despite the corrugations, and after 12km’s or so I rolled in to Cabo Pulmo. It was an interesting little place, way out in the middle of no-where, with a sort of hippy feel about it.
I’d spotted a few places on the way offering accommodation, but I’ve learnt that words like ‘eco’ and ’boutique’ can simply be replaced with the word ‘expensive’, so I didn’t even bother enquiring. I couldn’t afford the accommodation in town either, so a local pointed me in the direction of ‘Los Arbolitos’, which Sergio in La Paz had also recommended. It was a beach a few km’s down the road (I use the term ‘road’ loosely) and with no other options I decided to check it out. The trail was a mixture of dirt and sand, which wasn’t too bad to begin with, but as I progressed it got really deep in places and I was left hoping that it wouldn’t get any worse, otherwise I wasn’t sure I would make it!
And I have to admit that I did have a good chuckle to myself at this point, as I realised I was riding down a deep sandy track, it was getting dark, and for once I didn’t have Ed to blame for it.
Thankfully I rolled in to Los Arbolitos just as I ran out of daylight, and for the small sum of $40MEX, which is about 1.80, I secured myself a nice little spot under a palapa. As soon as I arrived I got chatting to a young American couple, the female of which was very overexcited (I later found out that she was drunk) who were travelling together in a van after living in Hawaii for several years. They invited me to hang out with them once I’d put my tent up, but after hearing them having a bit of a domestic I decided to give it a miss, and went and had a shower instead. It was far from luxury, with a small outdoor concrete cubicle and a hose pipe coming out of the wall, but there was something quite satisfying about literally hosing myself down, and you can’t quite beat being naked out in the open air. I was quite happily enjoying the liberating feeling of being completely starkers under the stars, when I heard a weird scraping noise, like rocks scraping together, and poked my head round the corner to see what it was. I couldn’t work out what was making it until I looked down, and spotted the cutest little critters crawling along with their shells dragging behind them. I’ve only ever seen the empty shells on the beach, so it was cool to finally see what lived in them, and they were so super cute that I watched them for a good ten minutes before retreating back to my tent.
And I would like to say that I then drifted off to sleep with only the sound of the waves, but the rather large and raucous Mexican family camping under the palapas next to me made sure that that didn’t happen! At least not until the early hours. But seeing as they were on holiday and enjoying themselves, I let them off, and eventually managed to get to sleep once they’d called it a night.