Miles of paddling
Home: Playa Candelaro campsite
Coffee was on at 7am (out of the big blue Igloo dispenser again), followed shortly by a cornucopia of cold breakfast items to get us fueled up for the day’s kayaking. But instead of getting in the water near our scheduled 9am start time, we got a lecture and a lesson from Coach Chino, who was unsatisfied with our ability to stay close together yesterday. Not only does it hurt the group dynamic if we’re all acting independently, it’s also a safety issue. Boats can come between us if we’re too spread out, and it makes communication difficult-to-impossible if something unexpected happens. So in addition to that reasoning, we also got further instruction in efficient paddling strokes, in order to make it easier for the slower amongst us to keep up with the faster. Rett and I still find the instruction to push the paddle away on the upper stroke difficult and awkward to implement, but we’ll keep trying.
Whether it was Chino’s safety message that resonated, or his skills training, or simply natural improvement by our second day, we definitely did a better job of sticking together. Chino was also successful in using a child-like carrot to get us in line: he said that if we all lined up side to side and moved forward as a unit, there would be a 50% chance to see green turtles swimming in the current in a crossing between two points. That definitely got us motivated, and, whether or not our tight formation actually had anything to do with it (I think it was mostly Chino’s deep knowledge about finding the currents the turtles swim in), we definitely saw turtles! First their round heads bobbing at the surface of the water at a distance, but then, much more-intimately, seeing their giant round forms studded with six appendages swimming directly below our kayak! Yes Chino, we’ll be good from now on!
The first day of kayaking left me feeling not great, so I’d had some concern about completing the whole trip, especially since the daily distances would only increase. But after some tips from Chino for Day 2 (stuffing my wetsuit behind my seat to prevent the rim of the kayak from grinding into my spine all day), and my own idea to wear socks with my sandals to keep the skin of my heels off the sand-covered fiberglass bottom, we pulled onto our destination beach with me feeling much more comfortable, confident, and strong. Rett, on the other hand, was still having a tough go of it, unable to keep a consistent stroke going without her arms tiring out. But even with her engine running only 50% of the time, we were still able to keep pace with the group.
Today’s lunch was a wonderful fresh ceviche, something Rett had been longing for, and eating it in this pristine beach setting after kayking ourselves there made it taste even better.
Our trainee secondary-guide Joaquin, out on his first-ever trip, unfortunately suffered today from the same blood-pressure-related nausea that had him vomiting over the side of his kayak on the first day, showing that the first day wasn’t just a fluke. That was sad for all of us (though surely worst for Joaquin), because in the two days, his positivity and unparalleled ability to naturally interact with all the different ages and personalities in our group (crucial guide skills that can’t really be taught) showed that this job could be a great fit for him. But not if the main bit, kayaking, is unbearable. Luckily at least he recovers almost immediately once he’s on land and can get his feet up, so he continued being a great asset to our group that we were really beginning to bond with.
Snorkeling is also a big part of this tour (something we also have almost no experience with), and so this afternoon, we all got into the panga to motor over to a snorkeling location. That seemed a little strange, since I thought we’d mostly just swim from our beaches, and it got even stranger when our boat just kept on heading south at high speed, taking us past today’s starting point (which made our kayaking progress seem simultaneously futile and sort of impressive) and nearly as far as yesterday’s start. Suddenly we all realized: Chino is taking us back to look for Suzie’s phone!
Conveniently, there was also really good snorkeling to be had in that area, so most of us actually spent the majority of our time selfishly amongst the rocks and the coral, and my second snorkeling experience was way more impressive than my first! Large schools of yellow-and-blue fish swimming by just out of arms-reach, thin cartoon-ridiculous trumpetfish, a group of plump shiny-white fish, and on and on. Every time I thought I’d seen all the types of sea creatures that there were to see, I would spot a new one, culminating with me finding a turtle plugging across the bottom that others were excited to come see. I definitely get the point of snorkeling now, and it’s really such a simple thing to do. Hopping straight off the boat and into the water, I wore my life-jacket since my density makes floating difficult, but I don’t think I even really needed that, and it prevented me from diving to do closer inspections (just the fact that Neil the poor-swimmer is like “I wish I could do more underwater-diving” on my second-ever snorkeling trip illustrates how easy it is). The biggest downside (also related to my low body fat) was that, even after wearing a shorty wetsuit, I was shivering for the whole boat ride home, and a bit of hereditary Reynaud’s Syndrome reared up with my left index finger being numb and tingly for a couple hours.
Meanwhile, snorkeling is apparently the one time in her life when Rett is not bothered by temperatures outside the 70-74 degree (F) range. That means she was still out there, looking for a big starfish colony, even after everyone else except our Captain Yasir (still doggedly looking for Suzie’s phone) had joined me back in the boat. Unfortunately she just missed seeing a big sea lion cut right across the front of our boat near the surface.
Once those two got back in the boat, we began motoring back towards our camp, but halfway there, made a sudden sharp left turn, with Chino up in the bow scanning the waters. After several minutes of searching, the rest of us saw what Chino’s expert eyes had seen: the blow of a fin whale and a big fluke wave as he made another deep dive. Five minutes later he appeared directly behind us, his exhalation clearly audible, and we waved goodbye and continued on home. Thus, on top of some excellent snorkeling, we had an accidental whale encounter that we never would have lucked into had Suzie not dropped her cell phone (which we sadly never found). So, thanks Suzie!
Today’s happy hour drink was Piña Coladas, followed by a fajita dinner. Having a highly-active day, similar to what we do when we’re actively bike touring, but without having to put even a single thought into having excellent food arrive in front of our faces, seems like a highly dangerous habit to get used to.