Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An Extraordinary Whale Watching Adventure in Bodega Bay


The temperature was about 90 degrees that day, even in Bodega Bay. My friend and I had decided to spend one night away from home, but we didn’t want to travel too far. Within a few driving minutes from Novato, the Northern California coast revealed a fantastic performance. Hills after hills unraveled while we headed northbound. I could have stared at those hills for hours.

That year rain had not fallen enough on that part of the planet. Under a dry and hot sunny spring season, the wild and green coloring grasses had begun fading, slowly transforming the California hills into miles of yellow furry carpets. Here and there, patches of oak trees and black cows appeared in the unfolding landscape.

Eventually, Bodega Bay came into view. The small fishing town looked magical while surrounded by nature. Slanted old Cypress trees created by the coastal wind and tall shrubs enduring a similar design thrived. But for a few days, the wind had stopped blowing hard. Life could relax. The following morning, my friend wanted to play golf, I opted for the beach. Our sandwiches packed, we each went our separate ways.

“I’ll meet you on the 18th hole,” I said.

“Sounds good. See you in a few hours.”

“Put sunscreen on,” I proclaimed, so I would also remember to apply sunscreen on the uncovered parts of my body and face.

Walking towards the coastline, I arrived at a cliff covered with ice-plants flowering hundreds of dark-pink blossoming. To my right and before my eyes, a rugged landscape staged cliffs resembling the white Dover cliffs of England. Closer, a very large rock pierced the ocean and gave the scenery an enchanting touch. Wooden stairs led me to warm gray sands disappearing into a sea that looked rested and relaxing.  

Although the sun was soon to reach the highest point in the sky, a hatted woman and her dog were the only two other beach walkers besides me. Large pieces of dried wood polished by waves garnished the sandy seaside. I decided to stop and lunched with my back resting against one piece of wood that looked almost white. While eating my tuna sandwich, I starred at the ocean. Pelican birds were gliding in the blue sky forming a flying line in the hazy noon sun. A dark head popped out of the water. It seemed a seal was watching me and perhaps wondering about my lunch.

On my left, the large rock seeming small resembled a giant sword thrusting the ocean while hiding behind a white sparkling curtain constantly in motion. The sun’s rays played a role in the performance. I had my camera with me. I took a few pictures. For a short while, I relaxed and tried to learn how to meditate. Time passed. When I felt revived, I opened my eyes and again watched the ocean. The sea looked very calm with only small waves crashing on the water’s edge. I looked at my watch and one hour had already escaped into the light coastal wind. Suddenly, in the distance, the back of some creature surfaced the ocean. I kept on staring.

Twenty minutes later, in the shallow water and close to the shore, another back emerged from the quiet sea. A whale, I cheered myself: “I saw a whale.” Still sitting, I continued to watch. The aquatic mammal didn’t seem in motion. I started to worry. Standing up and moving towards the water’s edge, my eyes kept on looking. A gray back appeared within the rhythm of gentle waves.

A sprinkle of water spouted out of the sea and up in the air. A large head surfaced. One big eye seemed to be looking at me. I came closer and bare feet entered the cold ocean. The creature of the sea didn’t move. I stepped forward and with one hand started to gently caress the long face. The baby whale looked scared.

“Why are you scared?” I whispered.

“I think I have lost my mother,” a small voice explained.

“Don’t be scared,” I replied. “You have not lost your mother. She went fishing.”

“Oh yes. My mom can’t fish when I’m around. And I am very hungry right now,” continued the young voice. “We still have a long way to go before we can rest.”

“Your mom will be back soon,” I explained. “Stay quiet and wait.”

I could almost see a smile on the face of the giant yet still baby whale. While my hand continued to stroke the rough skin of the sea creature, I noticed a big eye looking more relaxed.

“I hear my mom calling,” the baby whale exclaimed. “I have to go now.”

“Take care,” I said, “and have a safe trip.”

            Within minutes, the young whale disappeared into the ocean. Stepping back onto dry sand, again I looked towards the horizon and searched the water for a spouting or the back of a whale. Suddenly, I saw two backs moving side by side. A few minutes later, Mother Whale popped her head out of the water and jumped once. I took it as a Thank You and a Goodbye.





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