Saturday, 27 October 2012

Paddling the South Islands

Warm (hot!) weather, calm seas, good food, great company, amazing wildlife and absolutely stunning scenery. That pretty much sums up our 6-day kayak trip to Carmen and Danzante Islands, just south of Loreto (Baja California Sur, Mexico).

Joel from Baja Kayak Adventures was our guide for the trip. We’d been on a 4-day trip near Gabriola Island with him and another guide, Hilary, a few years ago with the Canadian side of the company, Silva Bay Kayak Adventures, and really enjoyed their company and relaxed personalities.

Different from many adventure tour companies, rather than full service, their philosophy around meals and food is a shared task with setting out a meal plan a couple days ahead and each participant or guide being responsible for particular meals. This cuts down on costs for the participants and, personally, I think it’s more fun! But with only three of us, we shared responsibility for all the meals albeit with Joel doing most of the actual cooking. And we ate what we felt like eating at the time rather than sticking to a strict meal plan, which you couldn't do with a larger group. 

Coming from a mountaineering background where everything you take with you is usually carried on your back, the weight of every item is of critical importance and everything is packaged as small as possible to fit in your backpack, buying food for a kayak trip was a humorous experience for Andrew and I. Joel was clearly experienced at this! As he raced around the little grocery store piling food into a basket, Andrew and I tried to help. My first task was peppers. I picked one of each color – green, red, yellow.  “More,” said Joel. I went and got a couple more and showed him. “No, we need more.” I went and got more. “Some poblano as well,” he said the third time.  A large bag full of peppers and a couple packages of cookies later from me, a few items from Andrew, and Joel had us set to go.  No repacking or drying of food required! We wondered what was going to happen with the huge bag full of little limes but between squeezing it in our beer (yes, beer!) and on other things, we came close to using them all.
Big bag of peppers and carrots!
The next day a taxi van with three kayaks secured on top took us to the drop off point, just south of Puerto Escondido. Only a couple weeks after a tropical storm and a couple days after a hurricane, washed out roads were still being made passable but the day and the forecast for the next week was sunny skies and calm seas.
Trying not to get sun burned!
Most of our days were quite relaxed, a few hours of kayaking, an hour for so for snorkeling (and to cool off!), and even time for a short hike in some locations. Again, the advantage of a small group to meander, or not, as you wish. 

One longer paddling day took us to the old salt mine closer to the north end of Carmen Island. (This deserves, and will get, a separate blog post!)

Wildlife sightings included dolphins casually swimming by while we were standing on the beach, a couple turtles sticking their heads up to check us out (Andrew saw another one under water), sting rays, a preying mantis and lots of sea gulls, pelicans, blue footed boobies, frigate birds, and turkey vultures. And more mosquitoes and annoying little bugs than you can shake a stick at! We really do not like using mosquito spray but this time we were thankful to have a good supply with us!

These guys actually cooperated for a photo shoot!
Sea life was also good and my little camera, for the most part, performed well while snorkeling. (This too will require another blog post!)

Sunsets and sunrises were colourful!
 Rugged coastline! 
A little spit of land on the north end of Danzante Island.
East side of Carmen Island
East side of Carmen Island
Looking out from a large cave.
A natural arch in the rock.
Joel celebrated his 29th birthday during the trip. He baked the cake himself in the outback oven and Andrew & I secretly brought candles to put on it. I think he was pleasantly surprised! We had to put the cake on the ground and shield it to try to keep the candle flames alive til he could blow them out.

At our first campsite, on the south end of Carmen Island, these two lone palm trees provided shade. Unfortunately they didn't keep the bugs and mosquitoes away! We escaped to our tents the minute supper was done! 
While Andrew and I went snorkelling, Joel set up the sun shade. 
Campsite on the west side of Carmen Island.
Andrew & Joel on summit of a small peak near our campsite on the east side of Carmen Island.  From the pass you could see over the west side of the Island.
View from hiking peak.
As a result of the hurricane, one of our campsite had a freshwater stream coming down the valley. We all rinsed our hair in the tiny waterfall you can see just to the left of Joel. 
We had a great six days! If you're ever looking for a kayak excursion either in Baja or near Vancouver Island we would highly recommend Baja/Silva Bay Kayak Adventures! 

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