Sunday, 15 July 2018

Sea of Cortez, La Paz, will we ever paddle?

Having had our paddle last year surrounded by wonderful glaziers, we decided on sunnier climes for this paddle, La Paz, Mexico. After our Alaska trip where we flew in, paddled, then flew out again, we decided this time we would stay longer.

Finding my house on the interactive map in Schipol airport

Getting flights for when we wanted to go was easier than we thought it was going to be. Getting a place to stay our last week was easy, organising 2 days Scuba diving was easy, organising a days horse riding was easy, however, the main part of our time away was to go paddling - and this wasn't quite so easy, so much so, we were on the plane and I was still hoping we would actually get paddling!
After a very lonnnggg flight, we eventually arrived at La Paz. It was a bit worrying to see so many police in the backs of trucks dressed head to toe in black carrying massive guns! We did eventually get used to this.We were offered  breakfast at our hotel while our rooms were prepared (it was only 8am). It was great sitting in the heat watching our first Hummingbird. After we were given our rooms, we went in search of food. Armed with our trusty Spanish dictionary, off we set for the supermarket. It was surprisingly easy to get the food for our trip, with lots of small packs of all sorts of things that go into tortillas. After that it was so hot it was a necessity to get ourselves an icecream and beer!

Back at the hotel, we were shown our boats to check over, Ken's had no front bulkhead, but that seemed to be quite common for his size of boat! I was so glad we had our own BA's and paddles.
Next morning, as we were trying to get kit organised, water decanted into containers, all the gubbings we were going to need for our trip, the office was STILL going over our route. We had emailed our trip plans a while back, we had rearranged them at one point to take into consideration that they didn't want us to do a 30k crossing, but they were still suggesting different routes - aaarrrggggghhhh. The taxi had arrived at 9.00am to take us to our put in and papers were still getting signed!
Eventually the van was loaded with our boats, kit and 80L of water.
The journey was going to take 4 hours. Once we were getting near the end of our journey, the land was changing from cactus covered deserts, to rugged mountains with sneaky peaks at the sea in between. We arrived at Playa Loretto where our driver tried to get us as close to the beach as possible, taking us over some very soft sand, getting us stuck! We speak no Spanish, he spoke no English, so with a lot of sign language, we all worked together to try to dig and work the van out - to no avail! We were stuck! There was another truck on the beach, but no-one around. After more digging in the sweltering heat (still getting no where) 3 kayakers appeared across the water. I went to speak to them and was extremely relieved to find out they were from Illinois and the truck was theirs. The van was soon pulled out, we were unloaded, the boats reloaded,we waved goodbye to our Mexican driver. It was just so good to eventually be paddling!
WooHoo! Eventually getting paddling!
 We weren't paddling too far the first day (9k)  as it was now getting late, it gets dark by 6pm. We found a lovely stoney beach (Sparkly Bay, my name for it, haven't a clue what the Mexicans would call it), hauled the boats in, got our new tent up(replaced after all the pinging in Alaska!) and had our first gourmet meal.
Shiny new tent
Then we watched our first whale just off the corner of our beach, then before too long along comes a couple of dolphins.
Our first dolphin
 By the time we are finished dinner, it is dark. We soon realise that when it starts to get dark, it gets dark fast! We also soon learn to make sure our tent is up and the dinner made while we can still see, as soon as a light is switched on, all sorts of bugs and moths come out.
Dinner by lamplight
 After this we sat in the dark amazed at the number of stars, then were treated to a light show. When the fish were jumping they were sending out luminescent splashes. We had never seen this before (read about it) and it was just magical - no photos, but magical! What a great start to our trip!
Day 2.
Up nice and early (yes, me up early!) even though we had been woken up during the night by the puffing of dolphins close in the bay, just settled down, then a donkey somewhere decided to start braying!
The first of many cracking sunrises
We were treated to a beautiful sunrise. Had our breakfast and was on the water by 7.15 - am!
Early morning paddling
 This is unheard of from me! We were out by Window Rock by 8am. Window Rock actually looked more like an elephant.
Window Rock
 Lots of Pelicans here and lots of Magnificent Frigate birds gliding high above us. After that, we had a 16k crossing over to Isla Monseratt. From quite a distance, we could see "a something!"This shape would appear, then disappear after a while. This went on for quite sometime before we realised it was the blow of a whale..  It was reaching about 30' into the air and took a while to dissipate. This was why we thought it was the colour of rock on the island behind it or possibly the sail from a yacht, but as we neared it we were able to time when it was likely to surface again - we just didn't know where! We didn't particularly want it surfacing under us!
As we got even closer to the island a pod of about 30 dolphins passed in front of us, then an unidentified fin passed!!! Next thing we know, about 20m off to our left was suddenly a terrific "swoosh!" The whale had reappeared, the blow was MASSIVE and we could feel it vibrate right through us. It gently surfaced and seemed to keep going, we then realised it was a humungous Blue whale! I think we were both so excited, neither of us took photos (soon to be the story of this trip!), but just enjoyed the spectacle of this giant! Next time it surfaced it was quite some distance off heading north.
Doesn't look like a 16k crossing
We landed on Isla Monseratt, had a stretch of the legs and a wee wander around. It's a bit un-nerving being out in a desert with vultures circling around you - did they know something we didn't? Lots of Ospreys too.
Dry river bed
Left these shells behind, some were as big as my hand!

Lovely turquoise waters
 We had intended camping the night here, but the forecast later was for the wind to pick up a bit so after  lunch and a bit of a siesta we headed back across an increasingly bumpy 16km crossing. There ahead of us, again just where we were aiming was another blow. We kept on course keeping an eye on it. This one wasn't nearly as big as the Blue!, but probably still bigger than us! As we got close to the land, in the trough of the next (big) wave, I could see a large dark "thing" swim towards me. I did panic, thinking the whale was about to surface right under me! It did take me a few seconds to realise it wasn't the whale, but an enormous whale shark! I could have kicked myself (except I was still in my boat!) the whole point of coming paddling here was to see all sorts of wonderful things and not panic!!! The whale in the meantime had vanished - as had the whale shark! We did have another mysterious fin swim by us soon after followed by a huge pod of dolphins cutting behind us, charging through the water at a terrific rate. I was exhausted just watching all this wildlife. It was only day 2 and we had already seen the biggest whale in the world AND the biggest fish in the world - what a day it had been.

Campsite No2
More vultures
We found a lovely beach in Agua Verde, set up tent, then went for a lovely refreshing swim. We were in bed quite early. The early morning, a 37k paddle and all the days excitement had left me jiggered!

Monday, 9 April 2018

Kayakey Kid's Loch Lomond Adventure

Guest editor this time is the Kayakey Kid himself!

The Kayakey Kid
Leo Kayaking Report
On Wednesday the 14th of February 2018, I was super excited as I knew I only had one more sleep to go before I got to go to Loch Lomond with my Grandma and Grandad to do some adventuring and my favourite kayaking. I spent ages with my dad getting all of my equipment ready and packed away so that I could leave bright and early on the Thursday morning. That night I went to bed super early so I could get a great nights sleep as I knew I would need all of my energy for what was to come.
On Loch Lomond with Grandad
On the Thursday morning once I got to my Grandma’s house we packed the big car and hit the road. The drive up to Loch Lomond was lovely, I liked looking at all of the scenery that we were driving past, my favourite things to see were the Kelpies. We finally arrived after what felt like hours in the car to a nice Hostel that was just by the Loch. I helped unpack the car and had a quick look around to see if my friends had arrived yet. At this point only 1 of them had arrived and her name is Hannah. Later on Antony and Ellen arrived which was great as there were more of us to play games like Toilet tig while all of the adults were planning what we were all going to get up to on this great trip. I overheard all the adults talking about us going to wallaby island, I was so happy to hear this as I really wanted to go there.

On Thursday we had a nice relaxing time talking and playing games before going to our beds. I loved staying there and I was super excited about what the next day would bring.
Searching for Wallabies

Not finding Wallabies!

Out with Grandma
On Friday morning we were up early to get all of our stuff ready and get a good breakfast. We went to a beach, all the adults helped us get ready in our kayaks. They pushed us off of the beach and on to the Loch. Here our adventure really begins. I stayed close to my grandad and spoke to him whilst we paddled down the loch. All of a sudden the winds picked up and I felt like my kayak was about to capsize but I managed to control it with a low brace. Battling against the winds was hard but I knew I could do it. We went over to wallaby island but unfortunately I couldn’t see any wallabys and grandma said she thought they might be on their holidays which made me laugh. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t see any wallabys but decided not to let it ruin my day. We stopped on a beautiful beach on the island so we could have our lunch. After everyone had finished their lunches and let it settle in their stomachs we headed off for part two of our adventure. The adults told us we were to paddle to the green and red buoys that were in the water so we could get an ice cream. This made me paddle even faster than before as I really liked the idea of getting an ice cream. We went to the beach to leave the boats and headed on the hunt for ice cream. The first shop we went in to didn’t sell ice cream so our hunt continued until we finally found a wee shop that had a variety of ice cream flavours for us. I got chocolate and strawberry ice cream. After we had finished our ice creams we headed back to the beach and jumped in to the boats and headed to the hostel but the winds were scarier now and the adults told us we had to cross the loch to get back to the hostel. This was hard to do and my arms and hands were getting sore and tired, I couldn’t wait to get back and relax. When we finally arrived back to the hostel we all got sorted and had dinner. I was super tired and felt like I had used all of the energy in my body.

Trained by Grandma!

Saturday morning the weather was sunny but still chilly, the wind was calmer than the night before which was good for us. This time we paddled past wallaby island and decided we were going to paddle half of the loch. I saw a big bird in the bright blue sky. Everyone was having a awesome time, we stopped for lunch on a bright and beautiful beach .

Once we finished our lunch we set off to the cars, on the way I saw swans and geese in the water. I got a bit chilly because I was in the middle of the loch. We stopped at a yellow buoy so we can have a race. So me, Mandy, grandad, grandma and Hannah stopped at the yellow buoy and 1….2….3 go, go, go, so the race begins. Out of me, grandad and grandma the first person to get back gets an ice – cream. In the lead is Hannah, in second me and third grandma but thanks to my small boat and the waves, I came in first place. I was first on the beach so I got an ice-cream, so did grandma and grandad. Once I got my clothes on I skimmed stones, my high score was 5. Once I finished, I went to the car. I got a chocolate  and strawberry ice- cream. I went to the car and I fell asleep in the car as well. When I got back I had tea then I went to bed.

from Leo xxxx

Me and my Grandad!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Gnarly North Coast

In October, Ken and Zoe had organised a North Coast meet up at Tongue hostel for SSKEG. I keep thinking as we are passing through Inverness that we are almost there, forgetting the fact we are really only about half way there! After driving over bleak moors dotted with magnificent stags, we did eventually arrive at the hostel, with a very welcome roaring fire!
On Rabbit Island

Next morning minus Zoe, 6 of us, Lori, Antje, Alan, Fiona, Ken and myself, set off from the slipway, picked our way between sand banks and big swells before eventually making it out to Rabbit Islands. We landed here for a bit of a clamber around the lovely golden sand dunes, couldn't find any rabbits, but we did find lots of otter footprints. We carried on clockwise  round the island before picking our way through the next group of islands with the crashing waves, then headed out to Eilean Nan Ron. On the sheltered side, it was great getting into caves, round we stacks, through arches, out from the shelter, it was just lumpy, bumpy, swooshy! Coming back into Tongue Bay, there was a huge white wall which looked like it ran the full width of the bay! Yikes! We kept quite far to the right, however, as we got nearer, we could see that it wasn't quite as bad as it had first looked!

Big bubble bath

Not quite the paddling we thought of!

We did manage to pick our way through, eventually making it back to the slipway, back to the hostel - and back to that roaring fire and a beer!

Next day David, Alice and Ansgar joined us, though Alan had a day off. This time we set off from Ard Neackie in Loch Eriboll to the sound of large BOOMS! from the firing range nearer Cape Wrath. Weather again was a bit breezy and dreich! We cut across the loch, paddled up the west side, then pulled into a lovely little sheltered harbour at Rispond for a breather. We were hoping to carry onto Durness, however the conditions had other ideas so we headed out to Eilean Hoan for lunch, then back into Loch Eriboll and down the east side.
Heading back into Loch Eriboll
Back to the roaring fire and another wee beer!

Day 3, we were all out, Zoe and Mark had arrived early. We left Fiona's car at Talmine, then headed back over to Ard Neackie, sticking to the east side, we followed the coast round past Whiten Head. Magnificient cliffs and caves round here and wonderful entertainment from a frothy whirly tornado.
I have to say, it was quite nice getting back into slightly more sheltered waters!

Collected Fiona's car,went back over to Ard Neackie to collect everyone else's cars then back to the roaring fire and another wee beer!
Day 4, Alice and Ansgar have abandoned us today (back to work!) everyone else headed over to Dwarwick pier to head out round  Dunnet Head.

Once again the weather was somewhat breezy! After some time David did mention we were going at some rate and it was about time to turn back, which we did, then there was the hard battle back, at times feeling as though we were paddling hard and getting no where!. A wee bit more oomph and we did make headway before thankfully turning back into Dunnet Bay. There was the choice of heading further in to play in the surf, but by then most of us were a bit knackered and what with the talk of ice cream in Wick, it was a no brainer - Wick, here we come!
It was a really good, committing, few days hard paddling with good company, but boy was I glad of that icecream!