Friday, July 25, 2014

Baja final day

We were due to be picked up, just after lunch, at Punta Coyote, which meant that we could have a pretty easy morning.  As it was we were still away at the usual time of just gone 08.00.  It's pretty difficult to have a lie in with these temperatures.
As it was a relatively short distance we had time to stop a couple of times and relax before our pick up. Gradually preparing ourselves for a more structured way of life.
Baja is a truly special place and although there are plans for developments in certain areas it is still possible to find solitude when traveling through the area by sea kayak.  Living in Europe it can seem that the logistics of visiting the area are pretty challenging, which at times they can be but the reality is that the experience is well worth the effort.  Start planning your winter sea kayaking trip now.
 Although we had the luxury of a late start we were still up before sunrise.  This has to be one of my favourite times of the day.  The island is Isla San Francisco, which we visited the day before.
 Heading south past the stripped cliffs.
 
 We had plenty of time so we pulled ashore on this long beach which was backed by some fairly tall sand dunes.
 We had plenty of time to explore the surrounding area, some of the cactus were surprisingly tall.
 Kate studying the remains of a turtle we discovered on the beach.
 Back in La Paz it was time celebrate another great trip in Baja.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Isla San Francisco

There are some places, which you have kayaked to, that leave you with vivid memories.  Isla San Francisco is one of those places, as you paddle into the lagoon you are reminded of what a dramatic location it is.
A crystal clear, horseshoe shaped bay with steeply rising hillsides on two sides create this distinctive feature of Isla San Francisco.  There were a number of yachts at anchor in the bay including ones from Switzerland and Hawaii, demonstrating the attraction of this area for mariners from far and wide.
We spent several hours sheltering in the shade of our simple construction before heading across to mainland for our final campsite, Arroyo Verde, before being picked up the following lunch time.
 Paddling along the eastern shore of Isla San Francisco, this section of coast always reminds me of the sphinx, in Egypt.
 If anyone was to write a book on the great lighthouses of Baja, it would be quite a slim volume, when compared to north west Europe.  This one overlooks the channel between Isla San Francisco and Isla San Jose, to the north.
 
The inevitable shot of the kayak pulled ashore on a tropical beach.
Shade is at a premium on Isla San Francisco so the more technical amongst the group managed to construct this effective shelter.
 
 Getting ready to leave, we were aiming to camp at the base of the mountains in the distance.

Looking north across the inland area of Isla San Francisco.  We had crossed earlier from Isla San Jose in the distance
Looking across towards the entrance to the lagoon, the mountains of Baja are behind.
 Kate crossing the channel towards the mainland, amazingly a light north easterly wind picked up and we completed the crossing at speeds between 4 and 5 knots.
Nicky and Tracey taking full advantage of the conditions on the crossing.  It was not hard to imagine what conditions could be like in this area in a strong northerly blow.
Our last beach, easy landing and camping.  Off the point there was some of the best snorkeling that we experienced on the whole trip.  It was here that Kate almost stepped on a rattle snake!

 Our last sunset of the trip.  Looking back towards Isla San Francisco.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mangroves

There is something very special about kayaking through mangroves.  Living in Jersey it's not something that I get to do that often so we were eager to visit this special corner of Baja, repeating a section of the journey from the year before.
Entry into the mangroves wasn't that easy because of the outgoing tide but the ability to increase the amount of power into the forward stroke and a knowledge of ferry gliding ensured that we were able to overcome the power of the current, allowing us access to the serenity of the mangrove swamp.
What was immediately noticeable was the silence, there was some noise from the numerous birds in the area but almost nothing else, as we drifted through the narrow channels.
We spent a couple of hours in this rather special place before commencing the crossing to Isla San Francisco.  Sadly we knew that this was going to be our last full day on the water.
 Before we left the camp Kate had time for a bit of beach art.  There were hundreds of these huge shells littering the beach.
 Alex entering the mangroves, the current is flowing from left to right with deceptive speed.
 Paddling along the main channel.
 Looking back to the north.  This gives some idea of the width of the main channel
 Entering one of the narrower side channels.  Apart from the drip of water off the paddles there was almost total silence.
 Tracey reaching the end of a minor channel.
 Nicky heading out of the mangroves.  Our next destination is Isla San Francisco which is clearly visible over the top of the shingle bank.
 Crossing to Isla San Francisco.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Headlands and Islands

Offshore Isla San Jose was clearly visible, although we hadn't decided whether to cross the channel to explore this island.  What was the real surprise of today was the size of the cliffs just to the south of Punta el Cerro.  It was only when we were sitting underneath the cliffs that we fully appreciated the scale.
The crossing to Isla San Jose was enhanced by the antics of a large number of dolphins, they circled around us with some jumping out of the water in what seemed like pure pleasure.
Isla San Jose is a delightful island which merits further exploration, over two visits the whole of the west coast has been paddled and it would be great to get onto the east coast.  The reason we had headed out was to paddle through the mangrove swamp at the southern tip of the island which is a unique environment.
A glass of wine and a stunning sunset finished off a memorable day. 

 
 Heading south past Los Dolores.  A green oasis along an arid section of coastline.
 Cliffs to the south of Punta el Cerro.  It hadn't really occurred to us but these are higher than anything in England and Wales, being over 1,000 feet high places.  Quite dramatic.
 Nicky under the cliffs of the mainland, prior to crossing to Isla San Jose
 The lighthouse at Punta San Ysidro on Isla San Jose.  There were some abandoned slat mines inland in this area
 Kate paddling around the edge of Punta San Ysidro.  Mainlan Baja is visible behind.
 
 This is just a great campsite.  We stopped here last year as well.   The views are superb.  It is also pretty close to the mangrove swamps for the following morning.
 
 Late evening glow on the cliffs of mainland Baja.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Heading south

It was an early start and for the majority of the day we were running due south, past one significant feature after another.  It was one of those days when everything merges together.  Apart from the stunning scenery there were two memorable events, firstly we saw a coyote running along a beach, over the years I have heard them on numerous occasions but this was the only one I had ever seen.  The second was a group of sea kayakers going past, after 2 trips to Baja theses are the only paddlers that I have seen on the water.  Their only comment was "do you have a guide?"  When we said no they carried on without another word, very strange.
24 nautical miles were covered during the day, finishing with a very pleasant campsite.  It is days like this which make Baja such a special place.
 
 Nicky leaving Punta Ballena in the early morning calm.  Dramatic geology always enhances the kayaking experience.
 A physical geographer's dream, there were numerous examples of caves, arches and stacks.
 Normal Baja coastal scenery, one dramatic headland after another.
 It was easier to anchor the kayaks at Ensenada Timbabichi than land on the rocks.  The group behind are the only other kayakers that we saw on the water.
A panorama of the area inland from Ensenada Timbabichi
 Kate measuring up to a cactus.
 Tracey coming into land at Punta la Laguna.
 A perfect place to spend an evening.  Looking south from Punta la Laguna.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Some serious wind

It had seemed like a good campsite, it was just that we hadn't factored in some of the strongest winds that any of us had ever camped in.  Having a regularly updated weather forecast is taken for granted for the majority of sea kayakers, but without a forecast you just have to look out of the tent and make an assessment of the conditions.
As we set up camp the winds were light and the sky looked settled so didn't pay to much attention to the way they faced or whether the physical landscape offered some shelter from winds. Possibly a school boy error.  
Just after midnight the tents felt they had been hit by an express train, it was as if a wall of air was rushing out of the mountains and blasting out to sea.  This wind blew for approximately 8 hours before it showed any sign of relenting.  Sleep was virtually impossible, apart from a few snatched minutes.  It was difficult to estimate the speed of the wind but we reckoned that it was at least Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale.
As daylight dawned it was a matter of assessing the damage and dropping the tents before any more damage was inflicted upon our temporary homes.  Poles had been snapped and fabric torn in 3 out of 6 tents.  Thankfully we had spinnaker tape and a few spare poles, so the tents we soon patched up and ready for further use.  
As the wind dropped we prepared for departure and were underway by mid-morning.  Despite having been subjected to seriously strong winds we were able to get around Punta Marcial in pretty pleasant conditions.  This headland is recognized as the potential crux of the journey from Loreto to La Paz, so it was good to get passed it.
The run south was fairly uneventful and despite a late start we were still able to get another 15 nautical miles covered.  The highlight though was a sighting of our first ever whale shark, swimming gently around the bay just before we landed for the evening. A memorable end to an eventful day. 
The morning after the storm.  Sheltering from the remnants of the wind and repairing the snapped tent poles.
The strong offshore winds allowed some time to explore the inland areas.
Once on the water the started to drop, we should have probably launched a bit sooner to take advantage of the following wind.
Just off Agua Verde, a small fishing community.  There were a number of yachts moored in the bay, sadly we didn't have time to explore the bay or the village.
All along the coast there is one distinct feature after another.
Punta Marcial is reputed to be one of the major hazards to kayakers between Loreto and La Paz, it was particularly peaceful as we round the point and headed south.
 Arriving in Punta Ballena, some interesting geological formations.
 Tracy preparing the evening tequila
The view south from Punta Ballena, our route for tomorrow.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Isla Carmen South

After a rather disappointing campsite we were eager to head south, completing the circumnavigation of Isla Carmen in less than two and a half days.  A quick stop at Punta Baja, where had camped a couple of nights earlier was followed by a crossing to Isla Danazante in perfect sea conditions.
We stopped for a morning break on Isla Danzante and were paid a visit by another group of sea kayakers.  We were talking to the group when suddenly the guide, Santiago, said "you know Axel".  The Axel he was referring to is Axel Schoevers, the well known Dutch sea kayaker.  The give away was the chart case on my front deck, made by Axel, they are without doubt the best available.  Who would have thought that a waterproof case could provide a link between 3 different nationalities on a Mexican beach.
That afternoon we made steady progress south along the coast of mainland Baja before setting up camp on a pebble beach.  The scenery was memorable, the campsite comfortable and the wine pleasant.  Little did we realize what was about to unfold as darkness fell.
Tracy heading south along the eastern shore of Isla Carmen.
Eric approaching Punta Baja, the campsite we had left just over 48 hours earlier.
Crossing the channel towards Isla Danzante, we were aiming for the dip in the ridge just to left of the bow of the kayak
Perfect conditions for the crossing.  The mountains in the background are on the Baja Peninsula.
 Morning break on Isla Danzante.  The visiting group of kayakers are just visible on the next small beach

Playa la Ballena, tents up, food on, wine poured and not a clue about what was about to hit us later in the evening
Isla Carmen just catching the evening light to the north.  This was our last view of the island we had spent the last few days circumnavigating.