11 miles of paddling
Hiking: ~2 mi / ~200 ft. climbing
Home: Playa Bonanza campsite
After yesterday’s 9-mile kayak push, we’d get an easier day, right? Wrong, we’re upping it to 11 miles, transiting nearly the entire eastern side of Isla Espiritu Santo from north to south. But after yesterday’s paddle proved the imbalance we all expected, and we would need to bring up our lower-than-average group speed to complete the distance, Chino somehow was able to put his foot down and separate the two strong newcomers from yesterday. Ayuko got to go with Jude, and Suzie got to go with Donna, leaving Dave, Llendi, and Elizabeth in the solo kayaks. Dave has no problem motoring on his own, Llendi has kayaking in her blood (as her parents own the tour company), and then there’s Elizabeth. Though she’s the least-spry amongst our whole group, this is her fourth time doing this tour, and she’s got an efficient low-power motor in her that just goes and goes. With this arrangement, she does end up being the slowest (especially after suffering some nausea yesterday), but the trait I admire so much in her is that it doesn’t bother her if she’s the slowest, or at least it doesn’t bother her nearly as much as it would bother many of the rest of us.
Before we left though, my brain decided to go on poorly-programmed autopilot for a consequential moment. I got out my contact lens case, opened it, saw that I hadn’t rinsed out the contact solution inside it, so I squirted some water into it from my water bottle and shook it out on the sand next to our tent. It took me about 10 seconds to realize the reason the case still had solution in it was because, obviously, my contact lens was still in there from its overnight soak! And now, it was no longer in there, but thrown out somewhere unknowable on a wide patch of glittery sand.
Rett and I quickly became a stressed pair of angry campers baffling the rest of our packing-up group, and I scared Ayuko with my voice going up in volume a notch every time that my “stop!” somehow led her to instead speed up and turn to tromp straight through the search area. Just like with Suzie’s phone, the crew was excellent and helpful, with Sergio and Edgar getting down on their hands and knees in the sand to help me search. But it was hopeless, and since we had to get kayaking, I only let them search for a few minutes, and called it off myself after about 15 minutes of sifting.
I was already down to one contact after somehow losing the other one back in California in February, so now I’d be seeing what life as a full-time glasses-wearer is like (normally I find glasses way more uncomfortable than my RGP contacts). Perhaps the biggest loss was the end of snorkeling, since I can’t wear a mask with glasses, and my vision is essentially worthless without correction. But luckily the tour was nearly over, and I’d already done way more awesome snorkeling that I thought I would.
Once we got to paddling, the island definitely showed us its most-dramatic face, as advertised. The cliffs rise nearly 2000 ft. above the water at their high point, and there was at least one spot where a flat-topped fin of rock hundreds of feet high pushed out into the water like the prow of a ship, and I’m pretty sure the White Tree of Gondor was still sitting atop it and the ringed walls of the city of Minas Tirith would rise around it in some long-ahead future or had fallen away in the forgotten past.
There were also several caves along the route, not just beautiful and mysterious, but practical, as we could paddle into them to catch some shade during our breaks! At least one also included a rough rock beach that enabled a couple people to exit their kayaks for a bio break. Then there were a couple of rock canyons that we could wind our way through, where I was happy that we successfully avoided smashing our kayak to pieces, and then even happier to have had the experience of exploring the narrow channels with bright red crabs scurrying on the rock walls.
Our new beach, Bonanza, was somehow yet another upgrade over all our previous island homes. Our first beach on the open-sea side of the island, its empty white crescent gently arced more than a mile, making it feel like we were the only tribes on this desert island. For the first time there were large waves crashing upon the shore, and although the water deepened much more-quickly than we were used to, it still somehow maintained its entrancing color. The only downside was that the surface was no longer sand; instead, it was larger rocks, mixed with shells, or perhaps almost entirely shells in various states of wear? It made walking a real chore, but that was a small price.
We were treated to an off-menu lunch of fish that Edgar had procured from the fisherman’s camp that had shared our morning beach, so now we had “hyper-fresh” and “hyper-local” to add the positive-attribute list of our wonderful meals. I noticed that despite being more mixed in the kayaks today (or maybe because of that mixture?), our two tribes kept themselves more physically-separated on the beach than they had before. The notable (and partially-causal) exception was Felix, who, as an understandably-bored 9-year-old, came frequently to our tribe looking for attention that he wasn’t getting from his parents. In fact, they seemed to almost hope that we would bring him into our tribe, so that they could then have a relaxing, child-free vacation. Well, our wholly child-free tribe was having none of that. For some, like Dave and I, the easy solution was to just pretend he didn’t exist, and as a quick-learner, he immediately gave up and targeted others. The problem then was for those of our group not as cold-hearted as Dave and I, a growing frustration welled in their warm hearts at “needing” to babysit this kid on our vacation. I’m pretty sure that the other tribe sensed this simmering tension from Day 1, which then naturally escalated into this cold-but-polite war between us that eventually led to us sitting in separate sections on the beach this afternoon.
Before dinner Professor Chino took the girls of our tribe, Felix (but note, not his parents!), and I on a short hike up an arroyo to a smaller, separated beach, where he illustrated the differences between the carbonate landscape (I think? Sorry if I wasn’t paying perfect attention, Chino, I was too busy joking with you about future-Chinos discovering my contact lens 400 years from now and what meanings he would ascribe to it) of the higher ground vs. the very-different and more “standard” geology of the land behind our beach. And in the meantime we also learned about how the desert flora collect water, and how the growth of a particular cactus was used by the indigenous tribes as a sign that they were in a season of plenty, and could put aside any resource wars and come together in a happy mixing of cultures. Hmm, are you trying to tell us something via these multi-layered lessons, Chino? Given that we’ve so far observed nothing he can’t do, I wouldn’t doubt that he also has expertise in psychology and interpersonal relations!
We already knew the can-do-anything character of Chino could make him seem a bit crazy to a normal human, but the rest of us were surprised when Jorge and Llendi joined him in that figurative boat, by going out in their literal boats, in the fading evening light, in heavy surf, to get lessons in Eskimo rolls. Yes, that’s when you right your own kayak after you flip it over, while staying inside it. Yes, that means intentionally flipping themselves upside down in the cold dark water over and over again. Would there not have been a more-optimal time than this? But as we saw before with Chino, he loves motivated learners, and so he was happy to help. And I guess if they can do it in conditions where I probably wouldn’t be able to stay upright in my kayak at all, they’ll then be able to do it in any conditions. For the rest of us, sitting in our chairs lined up on the beach, it was amazing to watch them improve on each iteration, with Chino’s guidance, as we cheered each re-surfacing.
This was our final night of camping, and though we still had 7 miles to paddle tomorrow (longer than any but our last two days), that now seemed short to us, so we decided that it was Party Night #2. Aided significantly by the fact that during- and post-Happy Hour, our crew put out entire self-serve bottles of tequila and rum (something we hadn’t seen yet), and had the cooler well-stocked with Modelos. There actually is some level of rationing that needs to take place on this trip; we got a food/drink re-supply halfway through along with our new arrivals, but if we had gone through all our beer before then, that would have been an unrecoverable disaster. But now, with no more nights on the beach, it was time to get our money’s worth!
And then we were treated to some wonderful drunken late-night entertainment, from another unexpected species! As darkness fell, armies of hermit crabs began swarming the beach. Terrifying to some, but super-cute to others, people began collecting their favorites (since they all wear someone else’s shell, and look fairly different even in their non-shell parts, they’re like humans wearing wildly different fashions). And thus began the Mexican(?)/beach(?)/drunken-idiot(?) tradition of hermit crab racing! Someone dug a sloped pit in the gravel, everyone put their champion in the bottom, and in the light of our headlamps we watched for the first one to make it to the top. Totally silly, totally fun, and a memorable ending to the last night with our tribe.