I anticipated I wouldn’t be able to move my arms after all the paddling we’ve been doing, but surprisingly, I felt great. Winning! A little back pain here and there but nothing to write about. Although, I guess I just did. I had another sleepless night but that’s no surprise. At one point, I was so bored that I decided the inside of my tent looked like the face of an eagle staring at me. Something about the way the material was sewn together looked exactly like Philadelphia Eagles logo but as if it were looking straight at you. I digress. Apparently going to bed earlier doesn’t speed up the night. Wishful thinking.
We knew we were moving camp to another island so we’d somehow have to pack the tents, kitchen, etc back into the kayaks, but this time without Dallas and Tamara doing it for us. LOL. That included getting the square stove into the round hatch hole. But we succeeded!!! And we kept all our fingers. It certainly wasn’t as hard as I expected and we headed off for the day around mid morning.
The winds seemed pretty calm and the sun was shining bright. It was a magnificent morning to be kayaking. We rounded the southern end of Norman’s Pond Cay and Tamara warned us when we got to the tip, we would be making a challenging crossing over to Lee Stocking Island and it might get a little rough. And she was absolutely correct. It was a bit choppy and windy but not terrible. Ok listen, the most challenging thing about kayaking is the mind f*ck. What appears to be a quick little paddle from one island to another, ends up taking hours and hours. And you often feel like you aren’t making any progress. When I get frustrated, I look behind me to make sure I’m even moving. If I see a trail in the water then I know I’m moving. I enjoy the paddles close to shore because then you can easily see the progress you’re making and there’s more to look at. Open ocean kayaking is definitely mind numbing. So you really have to use the time to solve problems, sing, rehearse something, plan, whatever. Anything to pass the time. Now, I’m wondering if having a waterproof headset is a good idea. ???? But I’d have to keep one ear bud out so I can hear Tamara or my fellow kayakers. But instead, pull, pull, pull, pull is all I can think of. That one word has become a dirty word for me.
The colors we paddled through at this crossing were even more spectacular than yesterday’s. It went from deep dark blue to a light aquamarine from the drastic depth changes. Because the wind was a bit strong here, we had to paddle towards the old abandoned research institute on the island even though our final destination was far to the right of it. I’ve read that the institute looks like a ghost town. Homes, buildings, etc still stand just as they were before everyone seemingly left. A bit eerie. We didn’t stop there but we got as close to shore as possible to remain protected from the wind and paddled in and out of the coves until we reached our first stop. It was a picture perfect cove with serene crystal clear waters and a palm tree growing at just the perfect angle to have a seat. I mean postcard perfect. Here are some shots from that spot.
We grabbed a bite to eat, relaxed, and started our way up a hiking trail towards Perry’s Peak, the highest elevation in the Exumas at 123ft above sea level. Given that the islands recently fell in the path of Hurricane Matthew, the trail was covered in dead palm fronds making it a bit slippery to climb. Walking on a pile of dead palm fronds is like ice skating when you step on them at an steep angle. Just a few minutes into the hike the breath was taken right out of me. This moment, this view, made the effort over the last two days so worth it. You won’t experience this on any paid boat tour, unless of course it’s a charter. The entire way up the side of Lee Stocking island displayed commanding water views to die for. Like nothing I have ever seen. I know I’ve said that a lot since writing about the Exumas. But it’s the truth. You just can’t believe this is in Florida’s backyard. And to think I lived in FL for 30-ish years before discovering this magical place. Ugh. I am surely making up for the lost time now. I’ll let the pictures do the talking here. No words that I can intelligently put together will describe the splendor I witnessed. The absolutely perfect weather certainly helped.
Every step up the hill was a gift. The view just became more and more spectacular and when we reached the top of the hill, at a whopping 123ft above sea level, we had 360 views of the island. Teal on one side, dark navy blue on the ocean side. Just stunning. A “Perry’s Peak” sign adorned the small cleared out area and we spent a good 5-10 minutes taking in the Exuma blues (and snapped several pictures of course). Hiking down the hill was just as wonderful as you get a different perspective of the views. I didn’t want it to end. Just a few short minutes and we were back to the beach, ready to paddle to our camp for the night.
By this time, our group has nailed down the routine. We were able to get in and out of the kayaks without help, we knew what to put where, what to have close by during the paddle, how to get our skirts on and off (the cover you wear to keep water out of the cockpit), etc. Arrivals and departures were essentially seamless and pretty damn good for a group of novice kayakers.
We weaved in and out of the coves again on our way to our final destination, which was just a short jaunt around a few corners to Williams Cay. It was a very small beach compared to our last spot on Norman’s Cay. Just enough flat sandy areas for our 7 tents. The water here was flat and lake-like and it was hard to believe we were technically in the ocean. Not even a ripple onto the shore. The north side of the cove was etched in gorgeous white limestone walls that made the color of the water look like liquid diamonds.
Before we setup camp, Tamara wanted to show us the other side of the island, a short hike through the bush to the open ocean. Goodness, it was amazing. The topography was something I would expect in Mexico, not in Exuma. Tall white and black limestone cliffs with layers of blue as far as the eye can see. A narrow section of the cliff jaunts out for a picturesque view of the ocean. It startled a few of the ladies as it wasn’t exactly the safest place to walk around. We soaked in the views, took one too many selfies, and explored around the area. I was thrilled this was so close to our campsite and yet another check in the box of somewhere I haven’t been. One must have a boat to see these secret gems so I was elated that I could reach it by kayak.
We headed back to the beach to setup camp for the night. The wind started to pick up and continued to do so throughout the evening. Good for bugs, bad for tents. A few of us setup in what we thought was a perfect spot but we’d soon find out that tents don’t fare well in wind tunnels. Hindsight is 20/20. Tamara started dinner and we all sat around and mused about random topics. It was our last night so the wine had to be finished. Duh. But, we encountered a very serious problem. The wine had wedged itself in the end of the hatch. So we had to do what we had to do. Crawl in the hatch to get it! LOL. I have to give it to the wine drinkers. Warm white wine after a long day of paddling is the last thing I could possibly stomach. But they did some serious damage and I’m proud of them for it. I certainly wished I could imbibe along with them so maybe I could sleep better, but warm wine is no bueno. Plus it gives me headaches. Psshh.
The wind kept the bugs away all night, for which I was grateful. By now, I had a welt on every square inch of my legs. It looked much worse than it was but I was glad to get a reprieve from serving as noseeum bait. I collected what little firewood and palm fronds I could find and built a fire ring with conch shells and rocks found scattered around the beach. Building the fire became my “thing”. Bonfires on the beach are the greatest and that’s where the best conversations take place anyway. We laughed our butts off about our struggles and achievements over the last couple of days now that we were comfortable enough to pick fun at each other and ourselves. It was a fantastic evening and the sunset was, again, stunning. The moon, and its reflection off the water, shined bright and we later noticed one of the planets also had its own reflection. I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea what planet it was but we watched it until it also set beyond the horizon. This was the first time in my life I watched a planets path until it fell below the Earth’s surface. Clearly, I need to brush up on my astronomy, but it was just fascinating.
By this time, my tent was flailing every which way so I thought I should probably stake it to the ground and head to bed. For someone who doesn’t sleep well to begin with, this night was going to be the worst. Because of the location of our site, and specifically the location of my tent, the wind was being funneled right through the cliffs and subsequently through our section of the beach. My tent would occasionally move so violently that the sides would brush against my body. And the sound of the nylon moving every which way was deafening. I know this sound well as I grew up camping but I could have used some white noise right about now to drown out the whooshing nylon sound ALL NIGHT LONG. A good little lesson to remember next year. As always, I couldn’t wait for the sun to come up to put an end to my boredom and get on with more fun.