This winter, adventurers Carl Rowlinson and Kitty Hunter set out on an intrepid journey to a wild and wonderful place - the coast of Baja California. They kayaked from one end to the other and shared their story with us below!
Disclosure: Carl & Kitty are Point 65 brand ambassadors and were given the Mercury kayaks & gear by Point 65 in exchange for film, photos and an honest review of what they thought about the kayaks on their journey!
Our plan was to kayak down the Sea of Cortez, 680 miles, from San Felipe to La Paz. We spent hours pouring over charts and blogs, reading about riptides, wild currents, and impassible points. However, the most difficult part of the journey turned out to be the logistics of getting two seaworthy kayaks to our starting point. We spent more time planning that aspect than any other part of the trip! We eventually decided to go with two Point 65 Mercury GTX modular kayaks, which we would fly over from the UK to San Diego, then somehow get across the USA/Mexican border and finally to our starting point.
The benefit of these modular boats was that we could take them apart and therefore get them onto the plane, something that would have been much more difficult or impossible with most kayaks. Getting them across the border was not as easy as getting them past airport security, however. The kayaks modular pieces slid into each other making it easier to transport, but two boats plus all our kit and food was still pretty heavy. Although I like to believe I can pull my own weight, carrying all our gear more than a mile in the beating sun, through customs, and busy crowds of people was definitely hard work. Three terrifying taxi rides and two bus trips later we made it to San Felipe and began our journey south!
Weeks later, lying in our bomb-proof tent at four am listening to the roaring sea, trying to decide whether the conditions sounded kayak-able, was becoming routine. Most mornings, I would crawl out of the tent into the dark morning and shine my head torch at the sea to see whether I could imagine myself getting out past the giant surf, and often the answer was no. Northerlies seemed to blow hard on a three-day rotation, so we would get a wind free window each week to push as hard as we could, dropping a fishing line behind us and relishing the warm January sun. Then we would spend three days hunkered down in the most sheltered part of the exposed beaches we found ourselves on and try to ration our food and water, as the cold northerly winds blew sand everywhere.
The wind in the Sea of Cortez is notorious and even has its own name, “Couromuel” and this winter was the worst in ten years, or so everyone told us. Our trip was controlled by the wind but also forced us to stay in some really interesting places we would never normally have lingered in for so long.
One memorable morning, after days of wind, we decided to head out despite the unfavorable reports and found ourselves paddling with a 25kt tailwind and massive swell. Luckily our boats were extremely steady, naturally correcting themselves, when, in other sea kayaks I would have felt unconfident. However it was hard work, and after rounding point after point only to find more inhospitable cliffside, we finally reached a large crescent bay. Thanks to days of wind, the surf was way high and we landed onto the rocky shore ungracefully, Carl pulling our sturdy boats up the steep beachfast to get out of the way of the rolling breakers.
We found ourselves in Camp Calamaje, an abandoned fish-camp on a seventy-mile stretch of isolated cliffs, where we ended up stuck for five days. The beach was covered in tonnes of fishing net, smashed glass, wrecked shacks, huge mountains of discarded scallop shells and human debris. However as we walked inland along a dried up river bed looking for water, we found ourselves in a technicolor world of wild desert flowers and cacti in full bloom. The desert is beautiful and can, if you're lucky, offer up fresh springs of water to drink from. Seeing the water bubble up through the sun-baked earth was simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. We filled ourselves and then our water bottles, and as we walked back down the cracked river bed we reflected on how lucky we had been to find a spring in the Baja desert.
The rhythm of camping and kayaking soon becomes a beautiful rhythm of rising with the sun and sleeping with the moon, and each day your arms strengthen to the routine of paddle, rest, paddle rest. Long bay crossings seem to stretch out for an impossible distance, the kayak silently slices thru the water bringing you ever closer to an impossible end. The endless blue is often interrupted by the nose of a curious sea turtle or the splash of a stingray slapping the water. Hours seem in no rush, whilst days and sea miles rush by, and then, there we stand on the beach on our last day! Thoughts to turn to the food we'll eat when we get home, friends & family to catch up with, and of course seeing Willow our dog again. With a strong north wind blowing us along the sunburnt desert coast, our blistered hands pull us towards the land, civilization, and then home.
- Thanks Kitty & Carl! Looking forward to hearing about your future adventures :)