I get up early today and finally, it’s blazing hot sunshine-yes California! This is what I ordered!
Sadly, I’ve no time to sunbathe however, as I’m booked to go whale watching this morning.
I drive to Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey and arrive after several illegal u-turns and running a red light (whoops-I’m turning American!).
I board the boat and hear the bark of seals again, this time spying them as they flop onto the underside of the wharf to score some shade. They’re huge! I’m excited now, and hoping that the whale watching proves just as fruitful.
The boat jets off and we pass a rocky outcrop where hundreds of seals are all huddled together, chatting away and basking in the morning rays.
We power out into the bay for about 40 minutes, passing sea otters flipping on their backs, and more sea lions diving alongside us. we come to a stop when we can see jets of water blowing up in the distance, which means whales are nearby.
Our Marine Biologist tells us they’re Humpbacks, here to feed after migrating from the warmer waters of Mexico where they go to birth. Apparently, they don’t feed for nearly two months as there’s no fish (their staple diet of krill and sardines) down there, and they have to make the long trip back to the cooler waters of California in summer where they can then consume up to 5000 tons of food a day. Yikes.
We wait in anticipation and then, yes! We see them! They come up and blow out, then take in air, and dive, their tails in the air. It’s a truly amazing sight to behold these 50 foot long creatures break the water then delve down for more fish.
We all scramble about the boat, wondering where they will surface next-then mad dash to the right side to catch a glimpse.
With deep water so close to shore, this bay is one place which guarantees whale spotting of some variety all year round, and besides Humpbacks it can be host to killer Whales, Blue Whales and Gray Whales.
We only see the Humpbacks, but I’m pleased nonetheless that I managed to see anything at all.
I’m surprised to hear that Humpbacks are in fact solitary creatures, and make no lasting social bonds in their lifetime, with even the mother and calf bond lasting only a year before the juvenile branches out alone. Most of these whales will spend their lives swimming in solitary.
Hmmm. Travelling the world solo eh? Sounds like some I know…
We spend another half hour or so watching the 10 minute pattern of blow, dive, flipper-then head back to the harbour; the boat plowing through the dark ocean, a trail of foam in it’s wake.
We get back on land, and again, I’m hankering after some seafood-so acquire a wicked prawn and scallop puttanesca.
Full to bursting, I roll myself back into the Mustang and hit the road once more. It’s only an hour or so north to my next stop in Santa Cruz, and I breeze up the one in the late afternoon traffic.
This stretch isn’t directly on the coast however, and cuts through farmland instead, the smell of greens in the air. I get to my hotel which is a gorgeous boutique affair, and the walls in my room are forest wood paneling. Nice.
I decide to head out for a walk to see what Santa Cruz had to offer this evening.
I’m only 5 minutes in, when I realise the locals are a ‘special’ variety around here. There’s young people looking spaced out on something more than prescription medication, and older folks looking like they went to Woodstock and forgot to leave.
I hit the main drag of Pacific Avenue, and all the stores have flower power designs and are offering me both Mary Jane and vegan food.
There’s free spirits roaming the place who long ago should have given up on tie dye. Oh dear. It’s a little to hippy-dippy even for me.
I walk to the wharf and I’m decidedly underwhelmed, it’s a tacky affair, and even the presence of white sands can’t detract from the fact that this is a little like a new age Blackpool.
Not appreciating this at all after my wonderful morning on the ocean, I decide to head back as my hotel has a lovely swimming pool, and like my otter and whaley friends from earlier, I think a good swim is in order.
I drink beers by the fire pit, hit the hot tub and swim until the sun sets, and it gets dark and cold.
I return to my room and fall asleep, utterly tired out, and imagining how grand it would be to swim as free as the whales do, travelling the world solo and chowing down on fish. Doesn’t sound too terrible at all if you ask me.