[Forgive me for not including my route map in the first blog post. Here, you can see our trek and our stops through the cays. I’m sure I am missing something but this is pretty darn close I think. Click here for interactive map and details.]
I knew the first night was going to be tough. Sleeping well is not my best attribute and as exhausted as I was, I was still preparing to toss and turn all night. And that I did. It was a gorgeous night. The winds died down. There wasn’t but a ripple of a wave lapping onto the sand just 10 yards from my tent. The moon wasn’t even half full but still shined bright on the water. I incessantly peered out my tent screen worried that the incoming tide would carry the kayaks away. Every noise stirred me. Was the iguana coming back for a visit? Are there pigs on this island too? I was pretty sure I setup my tent right over a crab hole and I was convincing myself all night that I could hear it trying to dig its way out right underneath my pillow. Then my bug bites started itching and I couldn’t focus on sleeping so I put my headlamp on and searched quickly for my Benadryl stick to ease the pain. And good lord was I cold. In the 10 or so times I have been to Exuma, I have NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, been cold. I was sleeping in long pants and a long sleeved shirt and that still didn’t seem to be enough. So I had to close up the tent completely to stay warm.
Then the inevitable struck…I had to pee. @%&#@*!!!! That’s the last thing I wanted to do in the middle of the night. The logistics of such a process while camping is not an easy task. Simple, but not easy. Forgetting about the bugs, I left my door flap cracked open, popped a squat, and got COMPLETELY ambushed by a platoon of mosquitoes. Rookie mistake. It was a challenge. We’ll leave it there. I proceed to swat at mosquitoes for the rest of the night in my tent since my genius self left the door open. Sigh. I couldn’t WAIT for the sun to come up as I was bored out of my mind and was eager to get the next day started.
I heard a tent zipper next to me and was ecstatic to open my eyes to sunlight. Yessssss. Time to wake up! I ate breakfast in my tent as I gazed over the ocean. Too scared to get out and get ambushed again. Bugs are the worst at dusk and dawn so I munched on my snacks under my protective gear. Eventually, I joined the group near the kitchen and chit chatted for a while. Tamara reviewed the days events and we cleaned up, washed up, relieved ourselves, and packed up our gear and food for the day. It seems so unnecessary to mention that we “relieved ourselves” but it’s quite different when you’re camping on an island and it’s HILARIOUS to me. I actually get quite the giggle talking about it. Every day is a challenge. When will it hit me, where will I go, what direction do I need to swim, will it wash ashore, etc. If you’ve never fed the fish, then you’re really missing out. LOL. Anyhow, we would be staying the night in the same spot so we didn’t need to pack up tents and such. Just enough to kayak around Norman’s Pond Cay all day.
We set out heading north-ish, yep that’s on my compass, to kayak through the inside of Norman’s Pond. Just a few hundred yards from our campsite and we were already there. Easy breezy. Sure beat’s the hell out of the crossing in 20 mph winds yesterday! A very small opening, just wide enough for one kayaker, greeted us and you could see the tide was rising because the current was pouring water into the small canal. It was strong enough to carry us in a zig zag manner right into the pond without the need to paddle. I couldn’t help but wonder how on Earth we would paddle out of said canal.
The pond was enormous. It was more like a lake than a pond where salt was harvested decades ago. The rock walls still stand in place throughout the pond and are likely exposed at low tide. We were able to kayak right over them and spent about an hour paddling around headed back for the canal. It was certainly a bit tough to paddle against the incoming tide but nothing we couldn’t handle. Tamara had us pull over onto a sand bar to take a break just before we exited so we could eat some lunch. What I know now that I didn’t know then was WHY we were pulling over so early into the day. I would soon find out that my strength and endurance were going to be tested once again. We enjoyed the break and I engulfed my sweet maple bacon jerky wrapped in a tortilla from an MRE. It was unbelievably delicious. So much so that I ate two of them. It was just what I needed before the hell I was about to endure. LOL. After about a half hour of relaxation and lunch, we headed for the opening to resume our tour around the island. Except, I was paddling and I wasn’t going anywhere. Pull, pull, pull, pull. It seemed every time I took my paddle out of the water, I lost a foot of distance. Well this is going to be fun. The current was unreal. For about 10 minutes or more, we paddled as hard as we possibly could. Taking a split second break wasn’t an option or you’d be pulled right back to where you started in no time. Pull, pull, pull. I even have to make silly breathing noises to get out of this mess. Mangroves to the left, mangroves to the right. I tried to keep focused on Tamara in front of me and once I saw the opening to the ocean I pushed even harder. This was the toughest part and I needed to get the hell out of there. I was relieved to see Tamara out of the current and taking a break. That meant I was just a few yards away from being out of the clear as well. Pull, pull, pull. And done. Phew. Let’s not do that again. Please and thank you.
I sat at the opening, in a calm spot of course, to make sure everyone else got out ok. I wanted to help but there was really nothing I could do but sit and watch. Everyone made it ok and we were glad to be on our way again. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny and 80 degrees with a light wind. We paddled up the western sign of the island and rounded the corner at the north-ish end. My eyes started sweating, aka tearing up, as I saw the screaming blue hues on the horizon. If I were a good writer I could describe the feeling of being surrounded in these colors. Every color of electric blue one could imagine. Royal, aqua, baby, teal, turquoise, and on and on. Water so clear, you can see depths of 50, 60, even 80 feet. I was in heaven. It makes all the hard work worth it. I was floating on a blanket of bliss. Just a few minutes into the northern side and we pulled over onto a deserted white beach. Tamara said there were several coral heads just off the shore that we could snorkel around. And wow, were they gorgeous. An amazing cluster of elkhorn coral that is hard to find these days was teeming with electric neon colored fish of every species. The sun beamed through the shallows and onto the reefs making for a stunning display of nature.
We packed up and paddled over to Leaf Cay, better known as iguana island. As you now know, there are iguanas on many islands, but on Leaf Cay, they actually come scurrying out of the bushes when humans arrive, much like the swimming pigs do. Except, the iguanas don’t swim. We took tons of pictures, selfies of course, and fed them some left over celery that was going bad.
It was getting to be late afternoon so we thought it was best to start heading back to camp. The current was going to be rather difficult on the way back but it wasn’t as awful as we expected. We’d have plenty of time to chill out for a bit, get cleaned up, and get ready for dinner. It was an amazing day and ended on a great note around our conch shell bonfire watching the stunning sunset. A lot of chit chat took place over dinner and dessert that Tamara made and we headed to bed. I could hardly wait for the next days adventures.