Day 11 Kayak camping: Loreto to Isla Carmen
Neither Of us slept much after 3:30. We had planned on getting up at 5:30, but the incessant rooster crowing and our own anticipation woke us up, and we dozed at best after that. So it was that we found ourselves carrying sleeping bags, 4 gallons of water, food, clothes and other gear down to the water in the dark. After stowing everything in our kayaks, we are on the water at 6:15, just before sunrise.
Shahe makes a magnificent silhouette in the golden light as our boats glide south on the silky smooth water. Within 10 minutes, the Sea of Cortez begins to come alive; we see egrets, turtles, frigate birds and now cormorants, spreading their winds to dry in the sun. We stop to inspect a beached pilot whale, well attended by vultures.
After two hours, it is very clear that we are making excellent progress. We are crossing the straight between the mainland and Danzante Island. The water is still like glass and we wee a whale spouting off the coast of Isla Carmen, many miles distant. Usually, a kayaker takes the crossing in jumps, mainland to Danzante to Carmen. But today there is a whale! And so, we alter our course by 40 degrees to the north, hoping that it will continue to feed. The spout spray erupts 100 feet into the air, this is a large whale. A distant sailboat under power see it as well and begins to track it cautiously. We continue our approach, closing the distance to maybe a mile or so before it disappears. We continue our paddling toward Isla Carmen for many minutes. The sailboat has given up and continues north. The whale surfaces again, floating only 200 yards from us. We glide silently forward, closing the distance by one half and stop, not daring to breath. But the whale breathes for us and through us. The great rush of exhaled air vibrates the atmosphere, we feel and much as hear it. It is a magnificent Fin Whale, at least 60 feet long (Gray's average 40-50), with it's black back glistening in the sun between dives. When it disappears, we search the horizon, hoping for it's return, when it resurfaces, it is as if a long lost friend has been found. And the breathing, oh the rapture we feel as it's great lungs renew themselves and us as well.
Untracked time passes. We sense that the audience granted us by this noble creature is over. Retreating like humble servants, heads bowed, we back away and re-enter our own space. Over our shoulders, the great Fin's exhale can be heard and we cast one more look, it's back is more sharply bowed as it makes a deep dive and we see the fins for which it is named disappearing beneath the smooth shining water. We continue to hear the breathing for 10 minutes as we move away from each other. It is a sound that has stayed with us both for days, even now, writing these words, I can close my eyes and feel the breathing, slow and powerful, peaceful and regular, like the Earth itself.
The next sound I remember is a rushing of waves. At the horizon to the south we see the noisy wave coming toward us. Our first reaction is to think Tsunami, so loud is the sound. The water boils and is fast approaching. Our concern turns at once to joy, the sea is alive with 200 dolphins, racing toward us shoulder to shoulder in a huge line like a welcome army. And indeed we are liberated by the sight, leaving our earthly ties to time and space once more. The sound increases, pandemonium ensues and still they do not change course. We are as excited as children by this wondrous gift. they are now within range of even my simple point and shoot camera. It is laboriously slow, but I manage to take just under a dozen shots as they turn suddenly fifty yards in front of us and cross our bows. Without changing speed, they rush past, heading north. There are almost a hundred of them in the air at any one time and the splashing is deafening. Like the Fin, we continue to hear it miles away...
We reach Isla Carmen by lunch, and have covered over a dozen miles. After a respite, we head down along the shore toward the southern tip, with nearly twenty miles of island stretching gracefully behind us. By mid afternoon, we find the perfect pocket beach for our needs and pull ashore to camp.