I’ve experienced the shores of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, having visited these bodies of water in warm climates. I still enjoy them in my dreams while I pleasantly slumber. The combination of Palapas or shade umbrellas protecting me from the sun, scents of the comfortably humid air and whitecaps that thunder towards the sandy beaches inspire and sustain uplifting, peaceful emotions.
For all that I’ve mentioned, one regret remained while thinking of those blissful memories. I never voyaged the salty waters with any sort of watercraft. I was sure, as I planned my trip to the Barra de Navidad, that regret would be subdued. It was.
We saunter through a narrow street of Barra de Navidad, enjoying the pleasant morning temps. As we do, a polite man approaches us with an engaging smile-he’s selling a boat tour. This is a common occurrence near the lagoon in Barra, the tours being offered in several locations. Today we are prepared to take him up on his offer, having delayed this portion of the trip long enough.
The craft isn’t large, probably seating eight people at most. We’ve decided on the 700 peso tour, choosing to view the rugged landscape just beyond the beach and inlet to the lagoon. Along with the sightseeing, our guide baits two mammoth fishing poles and tosses the lines in the water. I’m psyched.
The breeze, incurred from the speed of the boat, feels great as we skim the lagoon’s calm and shallow waters. Once we head into the ocean, the boat sways and crashes along the waves, thrilling my companion. Soon, I survey the entire four mile beach, with Barra de Navidad on one end and Melaque poised at the other.
We head around a mountainous shore and delight at rocks jutting from the oceans simmering surface. These rocks are of volcanic origins, as the mountains have worn from time. It seems, as we progress around the tall standing mounds of the shore, that we have entered some worm hole, seeming to be transported to another geographical location.
From Barra, despite a lack of rain, the climate seems that of a tropical region, being palm trees, hibiscus and other such vegetation in and around the town. Once we find the other side of these mountains, we discover an arid setting. Cactus and desert shrubs sprout from the earth, high atop the rugged slopes of the volcanic sediment.
As we course through the waters, our guide points out rock formations. One of these naturally sculpted pieces appears as that of a turtle, another a gorilla. I’m mildly impressed, more impressed however by simply voyaging the ocean and taking in these sights.
Along the stone face of one of the mountains lies a shipwreck, a rusty victim of Hurricane Patricia. The freighter is enormous and we are told the wreck is only two years old. It seems the salty air has sped the corrosion of this wayward vessel, observing the twisted barge pinned along the rocks.
It is now, when we are set to return to shore, that the guide suggests snorkeling and a longer fishing excursion. The snorkeling trip is considerably higher in price and, although I was eagerly watching for the poles to bend in reaction to a tropical fish, I’m not prepared to pay the price for several hours on the boat. I kindly wave a hand and shake my head. I’m not sure the guide acknowledged my decline.
Instead of taking a return path towards the lagoon, he veers to the left. I’m puzzled as he heads for Barra de Navidad’s neighboring town, Melaque. I feel a lump in my throat, the thought of having to be firm with the mild mannered gentleman crossing my mind. Is he simply Ignoring my refusal? Then he alarms me more and turns towards the shipwreck, with the lagoon at our backs. I’m turned from him and am trying to figure out how to be tactfully resolute with this gentleman when he taps my shoulder.
I follow his pointing finger towards a vertical jet of ocean spray, appearing as a slim ghost against the mountainous backdrop. “Whales!” He exclaims with delight. “I thought I saw them. Would you like a closer look?” I blink in disbelief as I fixate towards the area he’s pointing to, sure enough, like a tiny geyser, mist emanates from the rolling ocean. I nod emphatically.
He navigates the boat only twenty feet from the whales, which surface quite frequently. I can hear the hollow drone of air as they breath through their blowholes. “Babies,” The guide explains. Yet, they are the biggest thing I’ve ever set eyes upon in open water. I take tons of pictures, yet, as they continuously surface, a great still of the moment eludes me. (as I write this, a concrete live reel plays in my head)
It’s nature. It all is. The volcanic rocks and mountains, the rolling ocean, the desert shrubs and cactus, and the lined palm trees point to a natural setting that seems sensational to my Midwestern acclimated soul. The whales, something that must seem routine to the guide, is a once in a lifetime moment. I’m ecstatic that I cannot only see them, but hear them as well.
We return with perma-smiles fixed on our sea-fairing faces. It was enjoyable to the point we repeated the tour the following day, our last of the trip. On that trip the guide was gracious enough to allow me behind the wheel. I was reminded of my grandfather at that moment, who allowed me to navigate the swells of Lake Michigan. It really is no different.
If you’re in Barra and someone offers a boat tour, provided you have the cash and time, take it. It seems hard to believe that many in the town, being professional fisherman, make their living in such splendid conditions.