Thar She Blows!

Trip Start May 07, 2011
Trip End Nov 09, 2011

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Where I stayed
Los Padres campground
What I did
Monterey Bay Whale Watch 5 hour trip
Wet feet
Ate Italian seafood at Isabella's on Fisherman's Wharf
Drove south to the Big Sur
Drove as far as we could on California 1 until a road closure due to land slide
Camped in Los Padres National Forest
Alison lit her first campfire
Alison made the tent all nice
What did Matthew do???
Got very very cold
Saw humpback whales
Saw sea otters in the harbour
Saw northern fur seals
Saw california sea lions
Saw harbour seals
Saw lots of cormorants
Saw Risso dolphins
Saw pacific white sided dolphins
Saw albatrosses
Sat and watched the back country tv

Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today was great. Got to the fisherman's wharf in Monterey with ten minutes to spare and waited on the quay for the boat to board. While waiting, we spotted two sea otters swimming just below us. Furry. Alison really liked them!!!
As soon as we set off, we were saw hundreds of northern fur seals, California sea lions, harbour seals and cormorants. All the mammals were either sat on the sea break sunning themselves or floating in the water with their flippers held up to catch the sun. Many seals were sat on buoys or climbing onto boats!
Just a little way out of the harbour, the water was full of Risso dolphins. There must have been over a thousand in the bay. Further out we saw lots more dolphins and some pacific white sided dolphins which go really quickly. They like racing the boat and riding the bow waves and stern wash. Occasionally they jumped out of the water. It's great when a few dolphins leap out in formation.
We spent most of the trip stood at the stern on the portside. The occasional wave made it through some drainage holes and soaked our feet. Cold water. Neither of us had remembered to put our walking boots on so we had very wet feet. 
It took a couple of hours to a couple of hours to find the whales but in the meantime we saw lots of dolphins and quite a few albatrosses. My new favourite sea bird. They seem to glide across the surface making sweeping turns. It looks like their wing tips touch the surface as they carve out turns.
Eventually, we came across two Humpback whales resting at the surface after or before a big dive. Since they were resting they did very little but we saw them spouting and taking shallow dives. Their tales rise out of the water each time they dive. We only saw part of them but they are huge. Adult humpbacks are always between 40 and 50 feet long and weigh around 36,000 kg which is around 450 men. These whales were probably Socorro humpbacks stopping by for a rest. This is a small group which winter off Mexico and summer in Alaska where they feed.
They live from 45 to 100 years and have a complicated song which can last for up to 20 minutes without being repeated. There are now about 80,000 humpbacks around the world but this number was reduced to about 5000 by the 1960s before whaling was banned. There probably used to be around 200,000 to 250,000 worldwide. 
Since we'd spent over 3 hours looking for the whales, we didn't spend more than 30 minutes watching them. Since they were just resting, we didn't get to see any breaching unfortunately but spouting and diving was still great to see.
After the whales, the boat turned round and sailed back to the harbour. The journey took about an hour and we used this time to warm up inside. We knew the trip today would be cold so we wore warm clothes. I had on a t-shirt, jumper, down vest, waterproof coat, warm water proof trousers. I brought my thermals with me just in case. Wish I'd put them on! It was freezing! We were easily the warmest and most suitably dressed but we were still very cold. We wouldn't have enjoyed the trip if we were any colder. One guy only had a long sleeve t-shirt and two t-shirts on top of that. He did not have a good time. He also spent some time at the back of the boat throwing up over the side while his wife mocked him "I don't need anti sea sick tablets. I'm a man..." etc. 
Once back on dry land, we ate dinner on the wharf in a warm restaurant called Isabella's. Tasty sea food. The floor spent the rest of the day moving.
Afterwards, we drove south on the Big Sur. This is more like it. This part of the coastal highway is beautiful and the road winds around the steep cliffs. This part is more like the coast line north of San Francisco. Unfortunately there had been a large land slide the previous month blocking the road for 400 feet. The detour around this is about 100 miles. We drove as far as we could up to the closed road. Here there is an expensive motel, gas station and nothing else. We needed some fuel and had to pay $5.69 per gallon. The average price in the USA is about $3.80 at the moment.  The motel was offering discounted rooms at $150. Lucky we had our tent. We had passed a campground a few miles back so spent the night there for just $22. The tent has paid for itself. 
The tent went up in less than 5 minutes this time. Getting better. While Matthew took photos and paid the ranger, Alison made the tent look cosy. Then while Matthew found kindling, Alison lit her first back country fire. We had a very pleasant evening eating crisps and keeping warm next to our backcountry tv. 
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