5 to 6 miles of paddling
Home: Playa Corralitos campsite
So we’re going to kayak around an island! Two islands, actually! Six days of kayaking between six nights of camping on the beaches. Weeks ago, Rett had read about Isla Espiritu Santo and gotten the idea of this kayaking tour into her head. I was initially resistant because the cost, at nearly US$3000 for the two of us, is an extraordinary expense, and what we had once hoped our total expenses for a month would be. On top of that, paying someone all that money for a guided group tour is abhorrent to my DNA. When I see the prices for guided bicycle tours, they seem even more insane to me, and I think: “you know you can just go out and ride your bike wherever you want without paying money to anyone, right?”
A couple of experienced kayakers we talked to essentially said just that when we asked their opinions on the value of such a package. “Yeah, the kayaking around Espiritu Santo is great, but that price is really expensive! Just make some friends in La Paz and borrow their kayaks!” And given that we’d essentially ended up doing just that on the beaches of Bahia Concepción, that seemed eminently doable.
Well, except that simply crossing the channel from the mainland to the island would nearly equal our combined lifetime kayaking distance. And even if we could do that without dying, it would take forever to research where to stop around the island. And more than forever to learn all the other things that, in the biking world, I spent years learning before I ever set out on my first bike tour. So, I eventually agreed that, without stopping for a month to learn and prepare, or without somehow finding a way to safely build up our kayaking experience, a guided tour was the only way for novices like us to do this.
Still, to me, that meant the answer was then “we can’t do this”. Because we’re nowhere near rich enough to be able to simply use money as a substitute for time spent learning new skills. But then Rett reminded me that I had designated a chunk of money inherited from her mom as the “Spoil Rett Fund”, and this trip would be a perfect use of those funds. Because not only would this fully-catered, happy-hour-every-day luxury-adventure vacation be very much a “Spoil Rett” activity that her mom would have been so gleeful to know her daughter was able to experience, but also my inherent reluctance to spend money on such “spoiling” was the exact reason I had proposed the fund in the first place.
Thus, this morning, we found ourselves temporarily abandoning our half-unloaded bikes at the Baja Outdoor Activities office, loading into a van with our new group, and hopping aboard a motorboat that would ferry us and our gear to the sea kayaks waiting for us at Isla Espiritu Santo.
Arriving at our first beach, a shade canopy and a cooler full of beer quickly let us know that the “luxury” aspects of the tour were not a lie, and would far exceed comforts we could have created on our own, or even comforts we can create in our normal bike-touring life. Our guide Chino did an excellent job of bringing the group together by getting us to talk about our backgrounds, our kayaking experience, and our goals for this trip. There was a fairly wide range of kayaking experience, with Rett and I pretty close to the bottom, so hopefully our raw fitness could make up somewhat for our lack of skill. Because the group would travel together, and we didn’t want to drag anyone back too badly.
Then it was out into the water to practice “wet exits”. This meant getting in they kayak, intentionally flipping ourselves upside-down and into the water, and getting our bodies out of the kayak and back to the surface (and then, with assistance, drain and right the kayak). We weren’t the only people for whom this was a first-time terror, so it was definitely a good team-building exercise as we all stood in waist-deep turquoise water deciding whether to volunteer and get it over with, or hide and put it off as long as possible. Either way, the peer-pressure/support seemed to work, and we all pulled it off without as much difficulty as we feared. So yeah, that’s something that we definitely wouldn’t have even thought to learn and practice if we’d been crazy enough to do this on our own!
So after what already felt like a pretty long day, it was time to get in our kayaks and actually start paddling, five or six miles to a different beach that we’d be camping at. On this fully-catered tour, the motorboat would be carrying our bags, so our kayak loads were pretty minimal; essentially like a van-supported bike tour. Rett took the front spot as usual in our tandem kayak, especially because these kayaks had rudders, a new thing for us. I had trouble deploying ours, so for a while we were zig-zagging all over the place until I could get help to get it lowered into place. Partly due to lack-of-effort, but also due to lack-of-skill, our group didn’t do a great job of sticking together, but we at least were all able to move forward. It took the rest of the day for me to learn to push the left pedal to turn left rather than the right pedal.
During one of our water breaks, Suzie (in another tandem with her husband Dave) took out her phone for a photo and watched helplessly as it fell from her hands, hit the surface of the water, and kept moving apace straight to the bottom. The water was clear and Dave might have seen it hit, but unfortunately that bottom was no longer bright white sand a few feet below the waves. Still, while Suzie was willing to almost immediately give it up for dead, Chino was not. He grabbed some diving gear, extracted himself for his kayak, and made multiple dives to the sea floor in search of the phone. Unfortunately the current had pulled us all away from the drop-spot by an unknown amount, so he was unable to make the rescue, but his effort certainly impressed us all and again was making the price of this trip seem less-exorbitant by the hour. Suzie was upset and then thankful and then quickly-accepting of the loss, and I was personally impressed that she didn’t instinctively lunge after it and flip their kayak! After that incident, I kept my supposedly-waterproof (but not sink-proof) phone in my pocket for the rest of the day.
Reaching our destination beach in one of the many beautiful coves that cut into the west side of the island was a satisfying moment, and my tiredness, bruised back, and sore heels were soothed by the immediate offer of cold beers by Chino, our cook Edgar, and boat captain Yasir as soon as we stepped out of the kayak and they helped us pull it up the beach.
A blue Igloo dispenser full of margaritas came out to officially designate happy hour, followed by an excellent fresh-cooked dinner that we all ate in plastic chairs arranged on the sand and looking out toward the sunset. Day one completed successfully, but can we do this for five more days? I sure hope so!