Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Piedras Blancas, California: Seal Ville

The zigzagging segment of California's Highway 1 that ascends to Big Sur made me feel all snoozy, however, a nipping frigorific breeze that seeped through the sunroof kept me wide awake. My hubby, our 8-month old daughter and I were aboard our hired car en route to San Francisco from Los Angeles.

Half an hour ago, approaching the seaside village of Cambria, we read a sign: "Highway 1 closed". Shervin, though hesitant, kept driving anyway for the sign was annoyingly vague. "Highway closed at insert-name-of-town-here" would have been more helpful.

At Ragged Point Inn, San Simeon, we parked and Shervin asked the convenience store attendant about it after filling up our tank. She confirmed that the highway is indeed closed at some part of Big Sur, and that we had to backtrack a whopping 150 miles.

Nature's sweet reward. A colony of elephant seals, unwinding in their natural habitat.

Back in the car, Shervin said "Bad news, we gotta drive 150 miles to the next exit for our detour. Sorry you gotta deal with Luna (who hates being strapped in the infant seat) longer than expected." - which may have actually been "Darn, we wasted all that petrol?!". But hey, the coast where we cruised along had such gorgeous views, we never considered the drive as a waste of petrol nor time.

On our way back, Luna's tantrum finally died down. The cue for my siesta. As I was about to doze off, I caught a millisecond glimpse of a beach filled with seals. I jolted up and blinked my eyes so hard 'til they hurt. "I think I saw seals", I blurted out. Then I remembered an unassuming signage I saw earlier that says "elephant seals observation deck", or something to that effect. So it could be for real.

Be warned. It is illegal to feed, touch or disturb marine mammals.

I hung my head out the window to get a better view of the beach. When I saw seals again, I pleaded for Shervin to hurriedly pull over, whether it was allowed or not. He panicked. Well, you know, when I'm too excited I get all crazy and loud and I jump (imagine how I did that in the car!). Luckily, a parking lot adjacent to an actual observation boardwalk was just meters ahead.

Only three other cars were parked there. As I stepped out of the car, I can understand why. The wind was blistering cold even though it was mid-spring, bordering unbearable. We agreed to keep the little one in the car, which meant us taking turns in walking to and fro the boardwalk.

Molting season.

If only I wasn't so giddy about watching elephant seals in their natural habitat (or trying to find an awesome side trip to justify our long drive to nowhere), I would have just stayed in the vehicle too. I think it's also worth mentioning that the smell of seals can be an affront to the senses (or was it just the scent of the sea?). It slightly put me off, but since admission is free, I gave it a go.

Truth be told, I knew nothing about elephant seals, except that they're hunted for their oil. As I entered the boardwalk, I took a brochure and browsed it, my freezing brain struggled as it ingested the info. There were a few facts mentioned (which I wouldn't lecture you guys on cause you can easily Google stuff anyway), and it was promoting the conservation group Friends of the Elephant Seal.

Just me and the seals.

I was alone on the boardwalk. I smiled as I watched seals emerge from the water, crawl toward the colony and huddle with the others. Some were playing or probably fighting with each other, and a few were making roaring noises. Most of the seals were motionless, and just... chillin'. The whole scene's way better than watching a sea lion show at some zoo or theme park (which you probably will pay a hefty amount for). Best thing is, there won't be any kids around scrambling to be the next one to kiss and shake hands with the seal.

In less than ten minutes, I started walking back to the parking lot. It was Shervin's turn to realize that this accidental side trip's absolutely amazing!


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bertN said...
July 21, 2011 at 9:04 PM

I'm glad you took backtracking 150 miles in the spirit that you did LOL.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 21, 2011 at 9:27 PM

Haha! We didn't have much choice Kuya Bert. Whinging won't help :(

Ed said...
July 21, 2011 at 9:47 PM

wow! seals! the first photo fooled me -- kala ko they were just rocks. hehe..

saya. parang gusto kong magpapicture na nakahiga kasama sila. hahah -- wag na, baka instead of cute ang nasa utak ko, aawayin pa ako nila tapos magiging morbid pala. toinks -- parang happy tree friends lang. haha!

pero really, nice side trip! :D

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 21, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Ed, I thought too at first! That is why I wasn't sure even if I saw the observation deck sign. How about planking beside seals? Hilarious but illegal. Lol.

Malditang "Kura"cha said...
July 21, 2011 at 10:32 PM

Yikes! I thought they're dead. hahaha! Walang ganyan satin no? tsk.

Ayos ang mga detour mo a. Parang before, I've read one of your entries na may nakita ka rin uber gandang cliff view. Kung ganyan ba ng ganyan e no, I really wouldn't mind if maubos pa ang gas. hihihi! nice one

pusang kalye said...
July 22, 2011 at 12:33 AM

ang galing. a beach all for the seals.akala ko nung una patay sila eh yung pala lazying on the beach since they dont feel threatened at all. Federal law ba naman ang kalaban mo.nalala ko bigla ang Manila Zoo issue.lols

ayan said...
July 22, 2011 at 2:15 AM

may similarity ba sila ng penguin?
hehe tinatamad na ko google... babasahin ko pa e..

RM Bulseco said...
July 22, 2011 at 2:53 AM

(first photo) akala ko fish kill, mga seals lang pala. Hehe. Wow! A close encounter w/ elephant seals! :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 22, 2011 at 5:20 AM

Kuraching, they don't move much because they're conserving energy. Because if they wanna eat, they have to swim in the open sea, and in great depths too.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 22, 2011 at 5:22 AM

Anton, haha! Yeah! Kinda reminded me of that too. Manila Zoo's been around for more than 50 years, ngayon lang may issue. Tsk.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 22, 2011 at 6:02 AM

Ayan, I have not Googled penguins. Hahaha!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 22, 2011 at 6:03 AM

RM, that cracked me up. They do look like fish kill!

lakwatsera de primera said...
July 22, 2011 at 6:35 AM

next to penguins, i wanna see these creatures in their natural habitat, your 2nd detour offered again a pleasant surprise :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 22, 2011 at 7:07 AM

Me too Claire! I so wanna see penguins in their natural habitat!

MG said...
July 22, 2011 at 12:58 PM

this is my first time here in your site. ang aganda ng site mo. pangarap ko maging travel blogger talaga eh. heheh. add po kita sa link ^_^

ang cute ng mga seals

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 22, 2011 at 1:11 PM

Thanks MG! Will add your link on my other blog. Will let you know which, later. I'm kinda in transit now. Haha! Thanks for dropping by.

theonoski said...
July 23, 2011 at 9:17 AM

hehe ang cute naman. free viewing pa! unlike sa zoo na you need to pay for entrance. galing!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 23, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Yeah Theo, free admission is just awesome.

The Nomadic Pinoy said...
July 23, 2011 at 8:34 PM

California's Highway 1 is indeed very scenic for road trips. At least, that backtracking was still fruitful - despite the wasted gas - you were able to see a colony elephant seals up close!

Ding said...
July 23, 2011 at 11:27 PM

Hmmmm...the Pinoy in you! LOL! I, myself, would also dare forget the rules...and just be quiet...LOL

Elal | The Shades of Grey said...
July 24, 2011 at 1:13 AM

Those seals look lazy but also very adorable! Noicceeee :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 24, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Dennis, it was a blessing in disguise!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 24, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Of course Ding, Pinoy na Pinoy.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 24, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Elal, so true! They look do adorable and lazy!

JIM said...
July 24, 2011 at 8:30 PM

I love seeing wildlife in their natural environment, something so freeing for them and us. I understood exactly how you reacted we have had that same reaction when driving in many places and see some form of wildlife suddenly appear. A rush of excitement that some might find silly but I still get every time!!!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 24, 2011 at 10:08 PM

It's such a wonderful experience, Jim. We get to watch their real activities, not what they're trained to do.

Nelieta said...
July 25, 2011 at 1:39 AM

Hi Gay, you are so lucky to see these sea elephants in their natural habitat. Incredible photos and I loved reading about this adventure. Why do they call it white rocks (piedras blancas)?

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 25, 2011 at 6:52 AM

Hi Nelieta, I actually checked on it and never found an answer. Haha!

Jim said...
July 25, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Was there a big male beachmaster?

AJ said...
July 25, 2011 at 5:48 PM

I think I totally dig elephant seals. Who wouldn't want to just laze around in the beach all day? But I guess in that blistering cold. :) Lucky Wanderwoman you!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 25, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Hi Jim, I was too cold to notice if there was one. Haha!

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 25, 2011 at 9:57 PM

AJ, an elephant seal's blubber can protect itself from the cold. They're prolly thinking it's summer out there!

Anonymous said...
July 26, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Svelte people like us can't relate to blubber. *shivers*

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 26, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Aj, hahahe! True that!

Ian said...
July 26, 2011 at 9:11 PM

hmmm, they were rocks laying around but seal lazying around! The beach should be called Seal's Beach since they seem to love to suntanned all day long in the beach.

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