Flyin’ High

I was hoping, this week, to be able to swim with the whale sharks that come to feed near shore just outside of La Paz. I had the chance to jump in the water with one last year and it was amazing. As I began asking around, though, I found out that for some reason the whale sharks have left the area early this year. No one knows why or where they went. There is still one male hanging out, but the tour companies couldn’t guarantee a swim with him. So I did the next best thing. I flew over the water looking for them.

Carol, my B&B owner had two guests earlier in the year who wanted to go for an airplane ride. She made a few calls and found someone who has an Ultralight that he uses for research and spotting marine animals. They went for a twenty minute ride over the La Paz bay and loved it. Sounded good to me. Carol made another call and set up a time for me (yesterday morning). I was picked up at Casa Tuscany and driven about ten minutes outside of town to a deserted boat launch site. I stepped out of the van and saw my plane waiting for me. My stomach did a somersault. Carol had told me that the plane was small but this was tiny! Only two seat, no walls, windows, or windshield, and a rudimentary propeller in the back. At least it had two pontoons for water landings. After a brief rundown of do’s and don’t’s by my pilot, Siddhartha, he picked up the tail of the plane and pushed it into the water. Then I climbed onto the pontoons and carefully stepped into the back seat, making sure my feet didn’t touch the thin floor. I settled in, buckled my seatbelt and donned the headset Sid handed to me. He climbed into the front seat in his wetsuit and we were off. Sid steered the plane toward a partially sunken ship, slowly gathering speed. Suddenly we were in the air and rapidly gaining elevation. I was surprised at how smooth it was and once I remembered to breathe, I began to enjoy the view. The water from above was spectacularly blue and turquoise and I even saw several dark shadows in the shape of manta rays. I could see La Paz with the mountains rising up from behind and the harbor filled with masted sailboats. We made a left turn and I could see the area where I swam with the whale sharks last year. We headed that way and after a few minutes I spotted the lone male lazily swimming close to shore. It looked enormous even from up high. We left him behind and continued up the coastline, making another lefthand turn over an isthmus that connected two pieces of the dry, flat, barren island. I kept thinking “this is so cool” and “I hope the propeller doesn’t stop.” After about half an hour, Sid, headed back to the place where we took off. It didn’t even feel like we were descending until the pontoons hit the water again and the nose of the plane was headed straight towards the same partially sunken ship. A quick turn to the right brought us back to the beach where I gingerly extracted myself from the backseat and placed my feet on solid ground. Seeing La Paz from an Ultralight was one of the best things I have ever done – right up there with hang-gliding in New Zealand and biking through the narrow alleyways of Bangkok.

This morning I found myself back on a plane (albeit a bigger one) headed to Mexico City. I have six hours in the airport before my flight to San Jose. Then it’s back on the Lion tomorrow!


One Response

  1. You are a brave one! Beautiful pictures!

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