From mining to swimming with the whale sharks (Santa Rosalia to Las Paz)

We rode east on highway 1 from San Ignacio to Santa Rosalia. When we were just north of Santa Rosalia we were stunned over all the garbage.

We were so stunned over all the garbage, that Esben didn’t get a decent picture… but check our video that covers our trip from San Ignacio to Cabo San Lucas:

 

Soon we past a mine, I just had to look up more about mining in Santa Rosalia. Today, Baja Mining, operates the new venture north of town. Copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese are being extracted. Korea is a major player. They went into full underground production in March 2013 – but from I can tell the garbage is still all over the place north of Santa Rosalia, which is a shame because the view is amazing when you arrive on highway 1.

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The mining history: The French took to the idea of mining for the copper. In 1883 ships continually arrived from Europe bringing engines, rails and railway cars. From Canada and Oregon lumber was shipped creating a distinctive French influence in their homes. From 1870 to 1884 it has been recorded that 42,000 tons of copper had been mined. Southern Baja had its own gold rush during this time and records show that 6,000 ounces of gold had been extracted.

French influence can be seen in many different ways, the most obvious is the use of wood to construct the homes and businesses. There is still the old world touch of wooden porches and gingerbread décor inspired by the owners of the Boleo mining company. In the 1950s with a structure 60 years old and production falling off to 4%, the company compensated the remaining workers, gave away the old wood houses, and El Boleo shut down. What remains is an interesting walk through mining history (Source: https://www.bajabound.com/bajaadventures/bajastoryteller/santarosalia.php).

We only stopped to fill up gas and headed further south to Heroica Mulegé

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We hadn’t not had lunch… so we stopped at a local café, that was serving American baking goods and homemade ice cream.

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In more than 86 Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) wlEmoticon-sun From mining to swimming with the whale sharks (Santa Rosalia to Las Paz) we could not resist a lunch of one giant cookie, pina colada ice cream for Esben and strawberry ice cream for me

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It was time to find a place to camp… We turned of highway 1 and headed east towards a small fishing town San Nicolas, so tiny that it’s not even on Google maps! Laughing of the road signs on our way… Really I am not allow to pass any other cars on this road? We we didn’t meet any… and I have never been in a country before, were people do not obey the traffic signs at all!

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We got to the small fishing town, and asked around if we could camp some were. You know… one thing just lead to another… and 2 minutes later we were looking in his freezer. I don’t know if you can see what it is?

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There were at least 5 sharks in his freezer filled with ice. On top of that he was cleaning the jaws from a white shark, which he would sell to the tourist – obviously we couldn’t buy, it since we were on motorcycles. Killing a white shark is illegal and the fishermen know it, but the price they get for the meat, fins and jaws is too much to resist. Enforcement is essentially absent, there are too few fishery officers to regularly visit the remote coastal villages. We were not better than all the other tourist, because we couldn’t get ourselves to report the guy.

We said goodbye and rode north following the coast to find a place to camp, despite of that the guy had told us, that we could camp underneath the big tree on the beach. It took forever to find another place to camp and the dirt road just got more and more difficult. We did find a nice sport but it took us an hour, so next time we will camp after the advice of the locals.

We jumped into the ocean to cool of… well Esben jumped wlEmoticon-islandwithapalmtree From mining to swimming with the whale sharks (Santa Rosalia to Las Paz)

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There was a lot of birds flying around, and Esben got some great shots of the pelicans

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Put up the tent and went to bed as the sun went down…

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Next day we got up with the sun and stopped at a local coffee shop in Loreto. Here we met George, who spoke pretty good English. He taught us the numbers from 10-100 in Spanish and road them down on a piece of paper so we could practice the numbers while riding. On the right picture you have George in the middle holding our Danish fag and I got to sit on his motorcycle.

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We drove the last miles to La Paz and camped on a nice beach north of La Paz called Tecolote beach, were we could camp for free. There were 4-5 other campers out there in tents and RV’s and before we were even out of our riding gear Esben was talking German with our neighbors. They had booked a tour to go swimming with the whale sharks the next day – wait a minute… whale sharks?

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The next day we went to the local tourist information. The lady were really helpful and her English was good, and she was a big help. She booked us on a boat the next day, that would take us to swim with the whale sharks. On our way out of there the couple from Germany had returned, but they had not seen any whale sharks. We didn’t know if we should cancel the trip or not… but we decided to give it a shot. The rest of the day we spend walking around La Paz.

Visit the mission in town…

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La Paz has a whale museum, which was a little expensive (15 USD for both of us including a small student discount) but it included a tour with a English speaking guide, who were studying Marine Biology at the University. The tour was worth all the money!

First we learned about the whales and their evolution

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The whales we see today all origins from the Pakicetus, which is a typical land animal and from the outside, it doesn’t look much like a whale at all. However, the skull — particularly in the ear region, which is surrounded by a bony wall — strongly resemble those of living whales and are unlike those of any other mammal. Often, seemingly minor features provide critical evidence to link animals that are highly specialized for their lifestyles (such as whales) with their less extreme-looking relatives (Source: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_03).

The museum also had a skeleton from a blue whale, which died of natural causes and washed up on the beach. All the bones have been cleaned and 95 % of the bones are authentic.

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Second we learned about the sharks. The sharks don’t have all full skeleton like the whales and is characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton (in Danish: et bruskskelet), it only has the jaws with teeth’s as a solid structure. If a shark looses a teeth, it will bee replace a new one. The replacement teeth grow in a groove on the inside of the jaw and steadily move forward in comparison to a conveyor belt some sharks lose 30,000 or more teeth in their lifetime (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark).

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The evolution of the sharks have happened over the last 450–420 million years. During the evolution giant sharks have lived, one is the extinct megatoothed shark (C. megalodon). Like most extinct sharks, the C. megalodon is also primarily known from its fossil teeth and vertebrae. This giant shark reached a total length of more than 16 meters (52 feet) and maybe up to 20.3 meters (67 feet) in total length and reach a weight of 103 metric tons (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark).

In the left picture you see comparison of the C. megalodon, a human and a full grown white shark. To the right you see a model of the jaw from a C. megalodon. This is just a baby model and there are archeological founds, which suggest that the jaws could get more the 2 meters (6,6 feet) across (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalodon). I just know that it is humongous!

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The third and last thing were the turtles – this is a leatherback sea turtle, which is the largest turtle of all living turtles in the world…

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No more about turtles for now. The next day we packed everything on our motorcycles and hid them under our army covers and went on the whale shark tour. We were so excited and we were really hoping that the whale sharks would be there…

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Esben swimming next to the whale shark – it was big

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As you se the water was unclear, which made it difficult to take pictures. The whale shark does not attack humans or eat them. The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving filter-feeding carpet shark (I know that is a big mounthfull) and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 m (41.5 ft) and a weight of about 21.5 tons (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark)

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It is still impressive when you are swimming right next to it! I could fill my heart pounding and my breath rising.

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“Adiós La Paz”

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