Kayaking in Baja California

Posted by: on Jan 3, 2012 | 2 Comments

After a multi-family christmas in North Carolina, Ruth and I ventured to Baja California for a relaxing beach vacation. We found relatively cheap flights to Cabo on Delta and Virgin, and booked a kayaking excursion with Mar Y Adventuras which dealt with all the logistics and equipment.

Arriving at the airport

Arriving at the airport

After flying from Charlotte to Atlanta to Cabo, and snarking at the rest of the tourists, I was ready to get away from the unwashed gringo masses. We took a bus from Cabo to La Paz, which was filled with older folks heading to their sailboat moorings, and one guy who watched several episodes of Friends without headphones, subjecting the rest of us to the horror of the laugh-track. I was getting nervous about the kind of trip I had signed up for.


La Paz Malecon

La Paz Malecon

My new old man hat

My new old man hat

Arriving in La Paz, one of our older bus-mates, with a glint of nostalgia in his eye, told us to make the most of our youth and “do silly things”. We walked along the beachfront Malecon to our hotel, stocked up on supplies (liquor, beach blanket, and a floppy old-man hat), and thought about how to infuse our lives with more silliness. Echoes of Steve Jobs’ advice to “stay hungry, stay foolish.”


Map of Isla Espiritu Santo

Map of Isla Espiritu Santo

Arriving at our campsite

Arriving at our campsite

In the morning, we met our small group of fellow adventurers and guide, rented gear and set off. A quick bus and boat ride later, and we were on our desert island, Espiritu Santo. It looks like a slice of Utah canyonlands dropped into the azure sea. It’s a national park with zero development, but the tour company has a semi-permanent base setup each season with tents on the beach, a kitchen well stocked with food and beer, and a toilet with the best view I’ve ever had. We had a quick introductory paddle, then settled down to drink beer and watch the sunset.


Ruth paddling

Ruth paddling

Paddling at sunset

Paddling at sunset

Incredible sunset

Incredible sunset


Sea Lion Colony

Sea Lion Colony

The water is colder than it looks

The water is colder than it looks

The next day, we took the boat to the north end of the island, where we entered the water to frolic with sea lions. They are friendly and curious creatures, but we were warned that without prehensile limbs, they tend to investigate with their mouths. I wasn’t bitten, but one played chicken with me and gave me an eye-to-eye experience. They are incredibly playful, and I had fun diving down and mimicking their graceful movements in my clumsy way. Ruth preferred to stay on the surface, but also got close enough to rub fins. It was awesome to get so close to these wild animals, and I may have a hard time restraining myself next time I go to Fisherman’s Wharf.


Tight landing spot

Tight landing spot

Tarantula hawk

Tarantula hawk

After lunch, we got back in the kayaks and paddled along the coast to a small inlet. We beached ourselves on the rocky shore, and hiked up an arroyo. The landscape is starkly beautiful, but most of the flora and fauna is fairly aggro. As we were hiking, Roman stopped to point out a dried cactus that scorpions like to live in, and a “tarantula hawk” wasp. Also called the Caballo del Diablo, it kills spiders by stinging them with a paralytic, then laying its eggs in it so the young can eat it alive. Apparently its sting is also one of the most painful possible (4 out of 5 on the Schmidt Pain Index). I took a photo with my zoom lens and gave it a wide berth.

For New Years Eve we popped a bottle of Cava, drank rum under the stars, and went to bed at 9pm. The visibility in the night sky was incredible, as clear as anything I’ve ever seen in Vermont or Montana. With no humidity or light pollution, the constellations appeared to be painted on the sky, and I impressed Ruth by knowing a few and making up many more. Stumbling out of the tent to pee after the moon had set, I had as brilliant a view as any reveler in Times Square.


Mangroves

Mangroves

Beach cave lunch

Beach cave lunch

The next day, we kayaked some more to a mangrove swamp, and had lunch in a cave. The wind was starting to pick up, and we were both getting a little tired of paddling. I don’t think it’s my new sport, it felt more useful as a means to an end than as the point itself. We got a ride on the skiff back to the camp for early margaritas and a nap on our beach. When the other paddlers returned, they noted that the wind made the trip “a little sporty”, but that they had still done the estimated two hour paddle in 1:40. I think we made the right choice.


Our final morning on the island, we packed up, took a photograph with the two of us in it (despite not having showered in days), and took a last walk down the beach. We returned to La Paz for showers, seafood and souvenirs. While we realized that we kind of hated the rest of Cabo, and could probably get better Mexican food in Oakland, the unspoiled island and the incredible scenery made it worth the hassle. Time to plan the next adventure.


Beach Portrait

Beach Portrait

Chocolate Clam Cocktail

Chocolate Clam Cocktail

Espiritu Santo from the air

Espiritu Santo from the air