“Cambio de planes” or “change of plans” by fate is what our Panaga was called the day we left for a four day kayak trip to Isla Espíritu Santos. We had found ourselves in a unique position where we had almost two weeks of time we had not planned on. Unfortunately, not under the best of circumstances as Mike’s parents were due to meet us in San Jose del Cabo at the end of January but had to cancel last minute due to a sickness in the family.
So there we were. We had safely arrived in La Paz after traveling almost the complete length of the Baja Peninsula weaving back and forth from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez. In the three days preceding our arrival to La Paz we had cycled a total of over 360 km’s. Once we had finally reached La Paz we had no idea what to do. Our original plan was to hop the ferry across to Mazatlán and continue riding east. However there was something about that route that just wasn’t tickling our fancy. It just didn’t feel right nor were we excited about it. Then the amazing revelation set in, we can do ANYTHING we want. We can go anywhere we want.
Although Baja had been an amazing experience, overall the dominant feeling we both had upon reaching La Paz was an emptiness. Over the last month we had met so many amazing people however many of our conversations were very limited due to our only vocabulary in Spanish consisting of “Hola, como está, usted?” and a few other very basic words. We found an absence in deep conversations regarding every day life, politics or just really getting to know some potentially new friends.
Our next adventure soon revealed itself; we had to get into some Spanish lessons. We researched and talked to other travelers and Guatemala soon became clear to be the destination of choice for good, affordable lessons in an immersion, one-on-one environment. Within a few days of being in La Paz we had a ticket to Guatemala City in hand. But we weren’t leaving Baja without doing what we really came to the peninsula and the Sea of Cortez to do…
Upon recommendation from another traveler we wandered down La Paz’s immaculate malecón to Baja Outdoor Activities (BOA) and talked to the owner Ben about kayaking Isla Espíritu Santo. The island is one of a total of over 900 islands and inlets protected under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as a biosphere preserve and includes all of their flora and fauna. (Reference: Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas). Isla Espíritu Santo is uninhabited by humans and with the exception of a few local fishing shacks that are used seasonally by fisherman through a Grandfather clause.
Mike and I are usually keen to jump into kayaks ourselves and had never been on a guided trip but not having local knowledge of the area, no availability of good maps and knowing that the winter northerly winds can kick up without warning we figured to play is safe and seek out a reputable outfitter. Upon meeting Ben we instantly felt as though we were in good hands. He seemed genuinely interested in our trip, however when it came to discussing trip options for kayaking he said he only had a fully catered trip scheduled for the following week. This meant the for duration of the trip (4 days) we paddled unloaded kayaks while our gear was shuttled by Panaga and our meals were provided and cooked along with a local flair of fresh scallop ceviche (shh… don’t tell the boss!) and other catches of the day, complete with ‘Happy Hour’.
Tough. We know.
Our trip around the protected shores of Isla Espíritu Santo was exactly the break we needed from the bikes and to re-center ourselves. Although biking is our main form of transportation it is not the reason why we are traveling, it is merely the form by which we travel. It has been a hard battle the last few months between budget and the want to do something else other than cycle from town to town but we are slowly figuring out that we cannot miss out on the world we have cycled to just because it does not fit in the budget. We are learning to make sacrifices so we can do more activities, which is WHY we are traveling.
Our kayak trip was perfect in many ways. The weather held up for us and the common northerly winds always waited until we were off the water before they started to blow. We has a small group that consisted of Mike, myself, two amazing women from Vancouver Island, Canada, our guide Mario and our cook/boat driver Alvarito.
Camp on a secluded beach.
Our guide, Mario, was amazing he even took Mike and I out one night to teach us how to roll our kayaks. He stood in the water for a few hours, we were all freezing by then end but he was willing to teach us and for us to learn this skill. Both Mike and I came close to completing the roll on our own but we still can’t do it unassisted… yet.
Mario and Mike enjoying the sunset at the end of a great day kayaking.
In addition to the good company, great food and good laughs the scenery was breathtaking. Every moment felt surreal, like we were constantly looking at a postcard. The wildlife we encountered surprised us with every stroke of the paddle and included sightings of frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, grey whales, dolphins, manta rays, a plethora of reef fish, and numerous pelicans, seagulls and vultures.
Mike observing the mangroves where hundreds of Frigate Birds are nesting.
Found this “Spanish Dancer” nudibranch floating in the water. I have only seen these diving and welcomed the treat.
When we weren’t being spoiled by wildlife sightings we had amazing vistas at each beach we camped at and even more stunning sunsets.
We were spoiled with stunning scenery each day.
Mike enjoying his morning coffee… he doesn’t need anything more in life than a good beach and a good coffee.
It was great to see such signs on this beautiful island and good to know that it is being protected as much as possible. We even witnessed government authorities coming out to the beach to perform an audit on the tour companies that use it making sure they are utilizing the best practices for “leave no trace camping”!
Like any good trip this one also had to come an end. We were welcomed back in La Paz the evening we returned by two friends we had met in San Ignacio, Gail and Jon Crane (The Mystic Travelers). The evening was spent eating and laughing, getting to know one another but spending time with this wonderful couple truly felt like old friends that we have known for years! Thanks you two for the wonderful visit!
After all the fun our next challenge was to get our bikes, trailer and all our possessions into boxes and bags to fly to Guatemala the next day! It wasn’t until late the night before our flight that we achieved getting everything packed.
Packed and ready to go
We arrived at the airport the next morning 4 hours prior to our departure anticipating some long waits with all our baggage which consisted of 2 bike boxes, one trailer box and 2 giant Chinese plastic bags with the rest of our belongings; to find out that we had to wait 2 hours before they would even consider checking us in. With that being the only hurdle in the road we arrived safe and sound in Guatemala City WITH all of our baggage. Upon arriving we were greeted by a representative of the home-stay our Spanish School had arranged us to stay with for the night before we caught a shuttle to Quetzaltenango (Xela), the second largest city in Guatemala where we are currently immersed in studying Spanish for the next few weeks …