Saturday, October 29, 2011

Whales and a Recumbent Tandem Bicycle

The whales are the Southern Right whales, which breed, calf and migrate between the state of Santa Catalina in Brazil south to Patagonia and Antarctica. I had been on the lookout ever since Santa Catalina but since it is October and I hadn’t even sighted one, I was beginning to think that the migration south had begun. So, here we were on our first full day at Santa Teresa and we decide to spend it at the beach. Tom wants to fix the door and it will be easier to exercise Winston on the sand away from the main park. Tom is in the back holding the door and I am driving. As we come over the crest of the cliff to the beach parking I suddenly see whale fluke, not just one or two but what appears to be a pod of at least 8. “Wow” I yell to Tom, “Wow, whales”. Then I remember he can’t see. Hang on”, I tell him. “No, get the camera”. I careened down the hill to the parking area. I did not know how long they would stay and I wanted to get some photos, if possible and check them out with the binoculars. Slamming the brakes on and barely taking the time to put the RV in park, I jump out. “Can you see them?” I ask Tom.
Winston, not knowing exactly what was happening, ran around us jumping and barking. I was entranced. I had so hoped to see these amazing whales. On the endangered species list, it is reckoned that there are only about 12,000 left in the world, although they are gradually increasing in numbers since countries are making a consolidated effort to conserve their breeding and migration. Their skin is dark grey or black with white patches on their belly. The females can grow to be over 45ft. long. They are known to have a unique form of play which scientists call “sailing” whereby they use their elevated flukes to catch the wind. They stayed in the bay all afternoon, not more than 200 feet offshore, sometimes closer and we watched as much as possible. We surmised it was a pod of perhaps 8 – 10. It could have been that they were feeding or maybe even calving. There were some smaller whales which could have been young. We were unsure but I was in 7th heaven. I couldn’t believe my luck and could barely take my eyes off them as they swam, surfaced, sailed and even arced from the water. I was in awe at their size and beauty. And so it was, as the sun starting to set and we walked Winston on the beach, we gazed out at two of the whales seemingly at play. Their bodies arching through the water and their flukes high above the surface as they dived. “Sailing”, it is a good term for it. As we headed back to our campsite, I just could not stop thinking about them, the Southern Right whale. When we got back to our site, another surprise awaited us. We had neighbors. A young German couple, Carsten and Anne are on a yearlong honeymoon trip through South America but... (and I swear I am not making this up) they are doing it on a recumbent tandem bicycle. For the second time today, I am in awe. A bicycle! Not in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) could I imagine doing this journey that way. They transported their German designed and made cycle from Hamburg to Porto Alegre, Brazil and they hope to ride to Patagonia before going to Chile and Peru. Anne sits in the front on the recumbent seat and Carsten takes the back. We chat about our respective trips. They, of course, face a whole different set of challenges than us but they are enthusiastic and confident that they will be able to accomplish it. We wish them well and hope to meet up with them again as we travel south.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you were able to see an enjoy the whales. When we were in Mexico in 2009 we met 2 boys from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and they were taking a year to go from Edmonton to Buenos Aries, Argentina on bicycles and they did complete the journey. We, too thought it was amazing.

    Kevin and Ruth