I’ve been here a week now in La Paz and it’s been a great start. We’ve had over 50 encounters with whale sharks just this week.
Before I talk about anything else, I want to talk about the FOOD! There are so many places to eat and I’m not even talking about actual restaurants. On almost every corner you’ll find someone with a cart selling hot dogs, tacos, tosti elotes (Tostidos bag stuffed with corn, cream and cheese), potatoes, churros, sushi. Then there are semi-restaurants aka permanent stands that are half built into the wall that sell more tacos, burritos, empanadas, etc. Then there are actual restaurants. There are loads of marisco (seafood) restaurants. The other night I went to a burger restaurant that started as a stand where they cook the burgers out of the hood of an old car. They now have an actual restaurant, but they still use the car! There’s another place called Rancho Viejo which is open 24 hours and I had amazing carne asada and chorizo tacos. There’s a stand not far from the house known as the 3 am tacos because they’re open until 3 am and their tacos are pretty good too. And it’s all so CHEAP! I haven’t paid over $7 for a meal. A single taco is about $1.40. I had a ceviche appetizer for $1.40. It’s crazy cheap and crazy good.
Saturday I arrived in the evening and went out to dinner with Darren (program head) and Becky & Jess (previous volunteers). On Sunday, Becky and Jess left and I went out on the research boat with Darren and we had 20 encounters that day. Absolutely smashed the number of encounters I had when I swam with whale sharks in Australia (three…).
For reference, an encounter is each time we get in the water with a shark and take pictures, not the number of sharks. So on Sunday for example, we had 20 encounters but it was only 12 sharks. And when I say sharks I mean whale sharks, because they are sharks not whales after all.
This first week is known as ‘bootcamp’ where Darren and Manolo help the volunteers get acquainted with La Paz, research trips and the office work. Normally there’s two 10-week interns that start together and do bootcamp at the same time. However, the next volunteers aren’t arriving for another week, so I did bootcamp alone, but will probably go through it again when the newbies arrive.
Monday was a training day; I learned how to crop the photographs to use them in the identification software (more on that later). In the afternoon Darren took me on an intro walk around La Paz so I could see where everything is. Tuesday was another water day – we had 10 encounters that day. So not nearly as successful as the first day, but we saw dolphins! Wednesday was another office training day and in the late afternoon we walked down the malecon (boardwalk) and climbed up the hill on the east side of the city. The climb only took 8 minutes but it was entirely straight up. I chugged my whole water bottle when we got to the top. The sun was just setting as we climbed and it’s a nice place to get a good view of the city.
Thursday we were back out on the water with 12 encounters. Sharon, one of the previous volunteers, is visiting nearby towns in Baja and she came back to La Paz for a couple nights. It was nice to have someone else in the house! Friday we had clients, a family of 5 from Oregon, on the boat with us. Sharon, bless her, occupied herself with the clients while I focused on the research and photo-taking. Yesterday, Saturday, I borrowed Darren’s bike and went down to a nearby beach. It was in front of a hotel that is in construction and kind of smelled like fish. Later I biked down the road a bit further and found a much nicer beach that doesn’t smell like fish. Oh well, now I know.
I was hoping to go diving this weekend at the sea lion colony on a nearby island, but it became such a chore looking for a company with a decent price. Diving in La Paz is almost double what it is in Cabo because there’s not as much competition. There’s a couple companies that are still on holiday so I’m going to wait until they’re back in town.
Today, Sunday, I’m going to take the bus to a beach called Balandra about 30 minutes outside of town. It’s meant to be the nicest beach around La Paz.