The Cardon Coast
San Felipe to La Paz
Baja Sea-Kayaking Adventure #9
33 days with Jenny, 680 miles, Nov 1989
DAY 32It was with some surprise, upon hearing Jenny rising, that I peered out to see that the coming of day was already in process. We had overslept. Dew covered everything exposed, but at least sopping wet gear was not a consideration at that point. The morning was truly glorious. The beauty of dawn breaking over the Cortez made us forget our daily routine of haste. Instead, we took our time, in honor of the trip's forthcoming conclusion. We were not eager to see the journey come to an end, but then neither were we in a position to stand by idly, only to run short of drinking water. Besides, such a fine day called for a stint of paddling.
We loaded the kayak at ocean's brink, with the bow pointing seaward; and after waiting for a lull in the surf we dragged the tub five feet down the steeply inclined sand, where the next oncoming wave lifted the boat free. Jenny waded into the shoals, guiding the boat, then quickly I hopped aboard, keeping my burned ankle dry. And so we paddled away at what seemed a banker's hour: 7:30 am. Soon the genoa hung airing, as if ignoring the variable offshore breeze. All along the way, the country was most striking. Cierro Natividad towered nearly a mile overhead. And a conglomeration of mountains rises from the desert floor, part of the Las Sierras de la Gigante. In the morning sunlight, the mountains were variegated in reds, yellows and the unlikely green of some mineral. And at our level, everywhere were interesting arroyos and beaches that beckon the sea rover to come explore. But these are shores reserved for relatively calm days, for they afford scant shelter from the North wind and its attendant seas. A breeze swished forth from the southeast, and just when we were accepting the plight of a protracted dispute with headwinds, the wind began backing through east and northeast, and by noon it was blowing fickle from the north. So with the sail's help we plied the coastline, passing by a mineral loading terminal. Here was a breakwater extending well out, that might offer some measure of protection in an exigency, although the camping at the mine site would be less than ideal. A few miles further where the loading terminal road dips into an arroyo lies a pull-out of mediocre standards, and which might afford a strategic last camp en route to La Paz. We then passed by a few palapas fronting the beach, but things appeared abandoned, although this condition is not likely to persist, as the place would be ideal for the campestinos, given adequate fishing. At 2:00 pm we reached what appeared to be the turning point, where the coastline begins to align to the east-southeast, and here we found something of a pull-out that offered adequate protection against the four-foot seas. After organizing most of the gear for unloading, we eased ashore. Jenny disembarked and stood in the water mid-thigh deep, holding the boat against the surge. Then quickly I hopped ashore like a one-legged kangaroo. The gravel road leading from the mine largely parallels this coast, so our campsite stood on a broad, alluvial pan featuring several car camping sites and their attendant litter strewn carelessly and unconscionably about. Driftwood was in scarce supply, as was kindling of any kind; so we strolled the cobble beach, fiber bag in hand, collecting small bits of fuel. Then in hopes of reaching La Paz on the morrow, we bathed in sea water: no easy task on my part while attempting to avoid wetting the leg. Four gallons of fresh water remained in the ship's larder, so we indulged in a final-rinse, using perhaps two cups each.
While we were cooking dinner, an old, typically ramshackle car pulled in to camp, came to a stop, and the driver bellowed out the open window, "gringos!" I nodded perfunctorily and the two occupants began engaging us in conversation. The driver was a rough-hewn, white-bearded, robust Mexican hombre who spoke a very broken English, not imposing his own language on us. Every now and then he would turn to his passenger for a translation of something more difficult he wished to say. The pair were improbably matched. The passenger, dressed in a Hawaiian print shirt and sunglasses (the sun having been long since set), wore the look of Mr. Cool, and would have easily passed for a native Californian were it not for his decidedly south of the border accent. The driver introduced himself as Eduardo, the owner of the rancho we were apparently visiting. Eduardo asked where we had come from and where were we going, and took our answers in stride. Along this coast, it seems the kayak has lost its novelty. He asked what were we cooking for dinner and seemed suitably unimpressed at my answer: "frijoles y arroz." He asked if we needed anything, said he had good water from La Paz, and invited us to his house to sign his register and to talk. We thanked him but said we would be going to sleep early, as we were tired from the day's paddling. Eduardo started his car's engine, which churned a large puff of dust from beneath the exhaust manifold (the car having no muffler), then he drove away leaving us chortling. I found it hard to discern whether or not some Mexican men were a bit boracho, as they often employed similar mannerisms even when sober. Our day's mileage was 25, in 7 hours.
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1989 08 JMT
1991 PCT 2