Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

Kayaking Day 9, November 6, 2018

A little cooler now than prior days, a refreshing relief. After waking, I wandered down the beach and was surprised at how close turtle tracks were to our tents. Gazing out toward the channel, I was pleased to see that the water was calm this morning.

We launched after breakfast, paddling on a glassy sea into an almost imperceptible swell.

We could easily see Isla San Francisco to our left as we were serenaded by Mario, singing an old Mexican ballad as we paddled south to our final campsite at Punta Arenas. Tomorrow, we will have an easy final paddle to Punta Coyote, our take-out.

The breeze stiffened slightly from the south as the day wore on. A houndfish tail-walked along the surface as several needlefish and ballyhoo shot off in different directions, skimming along like skipping stones before finally running out of momentum and piercing the surface, diving into liquid.

Suddenly, I sensed something streaking toward me from the left – thump! I had been torpedoed by an airborne needlefish! I was actually quite lucky that it hit my kayak amidship, rather than hitting me. These things travel at over 35 mph and have been known to inadvertently maim and even kill people by spearing them this way. Really.

Here I am, shortly afterward, one of the few high dunes along this coast, just beyond me:

As we continued south along the coast, we spotted a boat heading towards us from the south. In a flash, Lino appeared out of nowhere on a course to intercept the interlopers, acting as a protective shield. The two boats sidled up alongside one another, soon separating. The other boat continued its journey north on a slightly modified course, giving us a wide berth. Nothing nefarious afoot, but it was nice to know Lino was nearby in the panga keeping an eye out for our safety.

Dale, admiring an interesting point of land ahead:

We rounded the final point and turned into our destination, Ensenada Verde (“Green Cove”), before noon. Lino had arrived ahead of us and had already unloaded the panga. Total paddling distance for the day: 7 miles.

We set up camp right at the base of the final headland we had passed – the green one that I suppose is the namesake of this pretty little cove. Rockhound that I am, I poked around the lower layers, pocketing a sample for my rock collection at home.

Ashore, Barb and Scott read under the tarp, while Dale took the opportunity to read and relax in our tent.

The Kayaks have served us well, no significant equipment failures (those yellow tubes we each carried, strapped to the tops of our kayaks, are manual bilge pumps).

After lunch, Barb and Scott went snorkeling, Dale rested, and I hiked into the adjacent valley. As was the case when I hiked into the desert the day before, the vegetation consisted primarily of mesquite (photo, below: top, left) and cacti – the statuesque Cardón (Elephant Cactus; photos on right) and the pitaya (bottom left, foreground).

Upon my return to camp, Mario asked if I’d like to hike with him to top of the adjacent bluff to see the shrine that was up there, built by local fishermen. We found the trail and hiked up. It felt good to stretch my legs, but it was odd viewing the world from a perch on high after having experienced it only from sea level for the last ten days.

The sun had just started to dip below the hills to the west, spilling darkness into the cove and our campsite, below.

Although the trail continued along a ridge to the summit of Cabeza de Mechudo, which rises to a height of 580 feet, the upward leg of our hike ended at the shrine on the bluff.

I suspect local fishermen, reportedly a superstitious lot, built their shrine here as protection against the fate that befell Mechudo, a pearl diver who supposedly drowned here after discovering a huge pearl that he intended to keep for himself, rather than donating it to the Church. Hmm, I wonder who propagated that myth?

Notice all the layers and fissures in Cabeza de Mechudo in the photo, above. This area has more fault lines running through it than anywhere else on the peninsula (see map on left, below, from Drake’s research).

[Note: I’ve also included a map, right, of our travels over the last 3 days here in the Canal de San José; kayak route in yellow, panga in red and orange.]

Hiking back to camp, Mario and I encountered two other kayaking couples, these folks hailing from Vancouver, BC – British Columbia in Canada – on their way up to hike the ridge trail. You can see their camp in the photo, below, at the opposite end of the beach from ours.

I mentioned that not only are we neighbors here in Ensenada Verde, but also up north where our homes in Bellingham, Washington, are less than an hour drive from theirs in Vancouver. Then, I quipped, “You folks haven’t really gone that far. You just went from BC to BCS, Baja California Sur.”

But what a difference that makes, I thought later at camp. In the words of that great philosopher, Jimmy Buffet: “Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.”

Up north, 1,440 miles away at the 49th parallel, the boundary between Canada and the United States, life moves much faster than it does at latitude 25 where every day is long and languid and the weather is always wonderful. The philosophy of life for many in the Tropics is “I’ll do it later,” expressed as “Mañana” in Mexico and “Soon come, mon” in the Caribbean, or the more generic, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Before moving on, let me draw your attention to the bottom of the photo, below. Notice that our latrine has been set up in an area that appears to be just landward of the foam marking the limits of the tide; same for our tents.

During the night, the tide came in higher than expected, flooding the area around and including the latrine, but, fortunately, not rising high enough to reach our tents. The next morning, we had to deal with a floating toilet and soggy tissue. Blame it on the curse of Mechudo.

But, for now, we were happy, oblivious and looking forward to Lino’s clam stew.

I’ll leave you with the second verse and chorus of Buffet’s song, the inspiration for this post. It seems apropos:

Reading departure signs in some big airport
reminds me of the places I’ve been;
visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
makes me want to go back there again.
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall.
Good times and riches and son of a bitches,
I’ve seen more than I can recall.

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
nothing remains quite the same.
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.

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