7 miles of paddling
Home: Marine Waterfront Hotel
Our island camping has reached its end, but we still had a 7-mile morning paddle to accomplish. The final leg would take us back to the beach we launched from, to close the loop on our circumnavigation of Islas Espiritu Santo y Partida.
Although our kayaking arrangement had worked fairly well yesterday, it must have been somehow unbearable for the women from the new tribe, because they essentially demanded to be back together again. Despite their separation being better for the group, nothing Chino offered would change their minds, so eventually the rest of us worked together to come up with the best alternate solution we could implement: Rett and I would split up and each partner with one of our unfairly-rejected tribe members. Because Ayuko wanted to be with someone stronger than her, she would take Rett’s spot in front of me, and Rett (who never got any experience using the rudder) would paddle in front of Suzie.
One key thing that I’m not sure everyone understood is that kayaking strength in a tandem is additive, not an average. So if you take two people who are a below-average 4 (out of 10) on their own, they won’t just be a longer 4 when you stick them together, they’ll be an above-average 8 (well, maybe a 7, the tandem kayak is heavier), and do just fine. That means the optimal strategy for the group is to put the strongest kayakers in singles, and combine the strengths of the weaker ones in tandems. And conversely, combining two strong paddlers in a tandem is the absolute worst thing to do to bring up the speed of the group. Of course, our own inflexibility for much of the tour, with Rett’s unwillingness to be separated from me, meant that we weren’t blameless in our group-optimization difficulties either. So I was glad that once Rett had some more experience and a chance to know are group, she became open to mixing it up.
Yesterday, our three tandems were evenly matched, each scoring around a 10 by my estimation, but then leaving a big gap in the rankings between us and Elizabeth, as a solo 6. Today with the two strong women demanding to go together, they’re now an unnecessary 13, Ayuko and I are a 10, and Rett and Suzie are a 7. That did create some more equality at the back of the line at least, shining less of a stress-spotlight on any single person. Even better would have been for me to switch into Elizabeth’s solo kayak; I probably then would have been the slowest, but as a 7, that would have been our fastest slowest kayak for the whole tour. Unfortunately the rear seat of our tandem was literally the only seat I could fit in out of all of our kayaks (and even that was a little tight), showing that dry logistical issues (on top of the social, emotional, psychological, and physical issues) are a significant complication to this optimization problem too!
Rett and Suzie started with a little excitement when they got out on the water without realizing their rudder was locked in the dis-engaged position. Luckily Jorge was able to chase them down and release it before they paddled out to the open sea away from us. Once we all got pointed in the right direction, practice fit theory quite well. The too-fast people went out of their way exploring the shoreline (hey, good for them), while the rest of us took the most-efficient point-to-point routes.
After camping on so many beaches, I initially couldn’t even remember what the beach we started at looked like, but then when we made our final turn around the southern tip of the island, and I once again saw the cliff that looked like a giant piece of pink cheesecake, it all came back. Including the shimmering echoes of our week-ago selves that appeared like ghosts on the shore. Compared to our current selves, they were more clean-shaven, paler-skinned, and smelled better. One of them was holding a cell phone she no longer had, and another was wearing normal sunglasses rather than the prescription eyeglasses he was wearing now. But they were also much less-experienced kayakers, knew shamefully little about this island paradise they were about to explore, and, most-glaringly, they all stood apart as individual people (or couples), in stark contrast to the tightly-bonded flotilla of our present-day tribe that was approaching their beach en masse. But, I was still jealous of them for the week they were about to have, and it seemed that no one in our timeline was in a hurry to do the final paddles, because that would truly mean the end of our journey.
But, we finally nosed our kayak onto the beach, and oddly, the smiling ghostlike memory of Joaquin started to become more and more solid, until he somehow physically helped pull us onto shore…whoa, he wasn’t a ghost, he was the real Joaquin! Sadly, the ghosts of Paul and Meredith did not similarly assume corporeal form, but seeing Joaquin again was excitement enough! We all had an unexpectedly long time to hang out together on the beach waiting for the boat with lunch to arrive, but it finally did, along with the next week of tourers. Quite unlike our randomly-assembled group, this group of eight was already a tribe of their own, having developed their bonds in their Colorado cul-de-sac during the isolation of early-COVID. And there were kids, with the plural being the crucial key that we didn’t have for our second half. Either way it was a revealing example of how the social development of the groups must vary tremendously from tour to tour.
I’m guessing Chino will (hopefully) find them easier to deal with than us, but our vanity hopes that may also make them less memorable? But yes, after a week out with us, as a single guide on a tour that would normally have two (and after just one night in La Paz between his previous tour and ours), he would be immediately beginning another loop of the island without even a pause. And I have no doubt that his new students will find him just as impressively capable, multi-talented, passionate, and funny as we, mere mortals, did.
We blurred back across the channel to La Paz, seeing wheeled vehicles and civilization for the first time in a week, packed into one of those wheeled vehicles to return to the BOA office, retrieved our now-dusty bikes, and walked them back to one more night at the fancy hotel. Not too surprisingly, no one reported any particular good-byes from The Others. The Originals would be delaying our goodbyes until tonight, or even longer, as the full-week package also includes a final group dinner.
Before that was showers, where it took four rounds of shampoo before it began to create any lather in my hair. Our nine nights of beach camping on Bahia Concepcion exceeded the six nights on Espiritu Santo by 50%, but it seems the scuzz-level must max out closer to the six night timeframe, because that return didn’t feel any grungier than this one. I also spent some time attempting to shake all the grains of sand out of the many pockets of our panniers, which we had used as our beach-luggage.
When they came to pick us up for dinner, Llendi, in an impressively freshened-up fashionable city-girl look (we’d only ever seen beach-Llendi) was perfectly balanced by Joaquin in his ragtag assemblage of borrowed clothes. We were soon joined by Dave and Suzie, Elizabeth, Ayuko, and, after an unfortunate delay, Jorge. It was fun and strange to see them in their cleaned-up versions too, for although we had technically met them (except Ayuko) the night before we left for the island, the “living outside for a week” version of them was the one that had become embedded in our minds and hearts. We were all sad that Chino couldn’t join us, but Joaquin being there nearly made up for it. His first-time experience of exploring this activity as a job was probably even more significant to him than our memorable experience was to us, and it contributed to our experience in a way that was much more meaningful and memorable than if we’d just had a Chino Pt. 2 as our second guide. He had some thoughts that his kayak-induced nausea could have been caused by a more-transitory issue than he’d initially feared, so we really hope he can find a way to make it work out of him!
We went to what seemed like a fairly standard, almost American-style Mexican restaurant, but all the dishes on the small menu available to us were universally excellent. After dessert, and a slow wander outside, Rett decided she was too wiped out to pursue her dreams of after-dinner drinks and karaoke. So it finally was time for the second breaking of our fellowship, with goodbye hugs all-around, and Rett’s contact-spreadsheet to keep our tribe linked off the island. Thanks to Baja Outdoor Activities for running an operation that, while expensive, exceeded my already-high expectations at every single turn. Thanks to our tribe, for raising what would have been one of the best weeks of our nomadcy to one of the best weeks of my life. And thanks to Rett (and her Mom’s memory) for convincing me that another vacation from our vacation would be worth it. Because, as this 7-part book-length Google Review hopefully has indicated, it was worth it!