Kayaking the Exumas – Reflection

After exerting every ounce of energy I had left (which was nil), I loaded my kayak onto the trailer and Mandy and I hopped in Dallas’s truck and headed to the Exuma Watersports house where the others were dragging their belongings and kayaks to the street. I secretly wished I had fallen behind so I didn’t have to paddle that last short leg. But I was hell bent on getting where I was supposed to be. And I did.

The taxi driver was waiting for us as we finished loading up Dallas’s truck with the equipment.  We threw our personal items in the taxi and said goodbye to Dallas and Tamara. The 40-minute ride from Barre Tarre to Georgetown was quite amusing. It was such a mix of emotions, complete with personal accounts of what we had just endured, sprinkled with moments of awkward silence. I think we were each deciding whether we should break down and cry or laugh hysterically. Ok maybe that was just me. LOL. And this is where I began rationalizing my feelings….which I do not recommend, by the way.

*Note: I have zero pictures of the last day since it was so rough.  So instead, I’ve added some random, yet unbelievably beautiful photos of the Exumas just a few days after the wind settled.

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I came to realize that my years spent in Colorado had prepared me for this endeavor. Between long mountain hikes, four years of crossfit, and several trips up the Manitou Incline, I knew that I could physically push through just about anything as long as I could overcome the mind f*ck. And as Dallas said, it becomes a lot easier when you don’t have a way out. Given that I know this feeling well, I am well aware of each step of my thought process before, during, and after these types of suck fests. It starts with “What if (fill in the blank) happens”, followed by “Crap, I just started and I’m already tired”, then “What the hell was I thinking”, then “I’m never doing this again”, then “I’m alive!”, and finally “Oh that wasn’t so bad, let’s do it again!”

I was still a bit traumatized during the ride back to Rosemary’s and still processing whether or not this would be something I would do again. I even said to the girls “Right now, I’m telling you I will not do this again, but ask me tomorrow, and I will be ready for next year.” Two of the other ladies said with no doubt they couldn’t wait until next year. I couldn’t get there as quickly as they did. But after some processing time and the realization that we just had two unlucky weather days, I had decided later in the night that I was ready. The psychology behind this thought process is fascinating to me. I’m sure there must be a name for this. There must be! The same process seems to occur to new mothers that have just given birth. They just experienced “the most painful experience of their lives” just to turn around a few months later and say “it wasn’t that bad”. Or long distance runners limping across the finish line, feet riddled with blisters, and nary a toenail, yet they continue to enter race after race. I get it. I totally get it. It is an addiction that one cannot explain. Less than 24 hours after the day from hell, I’m ready! It was a physical and psychological challenge that I cannot WAIT to experience again.

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While I realize I didn’t make this trip sound appealing in the least bit, I hope you will at least consider it. It is not, by any means, an easy breezy casual paddle trip. If it were, it wouldn’t be as fun and I’m not sure that’s what its meant to be. If you didn’t paddle long distances, you’d be camping on the same island each night. Boring. There is certainly a lot of physical effort involved, even on a perfectly calm day. But you also don’t need to be a professional athlete to do this either.   If you are relatively in shape and have no injuries, this is for you.

You learn a lot about yourself when you’re disconnected from the world, and even more when you have to paddle against 20-30mph winds. LOL. Dallas and Tamara are amazing and know these islands inside and out. They provide all the equipment you need and will answer any questions you might have, no matter how ridiculous you think it might be. Trust me, I’ve asked plenty. Once a year, she offers a girls only trip, but these kayaking trips are offered throughout the year for all individuals and groups. Do yourself a favor and start planning it. You really need this in your life. Ok? So set it as a goal. No excuses please. I hope to see your face next time.

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That first narrow section towards the middle of this picture is where we camped on the last night.

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Leaving sucks but the view is always stunning.

As a side note, I thought I would share some packing lessons. I felt pretty darned prepared for this trip and was content with my selection of supplies and food. However, there were some items that stood out to me as “must haves” on a trip like this. Some I had, others I didn’t. So take note:

FOOD

Bacon – I’d eat just about anything wrapped in bacon. Or just bacon for that matter. I’d marry bacon if I could. So I was ecstatic when I found Bacon Jerky at Bass Pro Shops. Not just bacon, sweet maple flavored bacon. Oh em gee it was amazing and the perfect snack/lunch I needed to get some much needed protein in my cells. Beef jerky is not really my thing but I also brought that and glad I did as I ran out of bacon quickly.

Tortillas – Tortillas are easy to pack, don’t take up space, and you can use them to eat anything. I put wrapped my bacon in a tortilla which made me a very happy girl. Tamara even brought some for our steak fajitas on the first night. Yes! I did something right!

Trail Mix – Not sure what I would’ve done without this. I made my own in a one gallon Ziploc bag. It was extremely convenient to be able to much on during breaks or anytime I needed an extra boost of energy. I mixed dried cranberries, mini pretzels, honey roasted peanuts, and granola. Not sure I would recommend M&Ms as they might melt all over the place. You always have to keep in mind that it will get hot and possibly wet.

CLOTHING

Socks – This is my biggest regret. It didn’t even occur to me that socks would come in handy. I didn’t bring tennis shoes so why would I need socks? Here’s why – bugs and sand. I immediately noticed that Tamara had this process down pat on the first night (at least I think this was her strategy). In the evenings, when we changed into dry clothes, Tamara put on a pair of tall socks, then a pair of ankle socks over them., then her crocs. Ready for this? When you go into your tent for the night, you just take off the sandy ankle socks and/or the tall socks, and you have clean feet! Mind blown. On top of all of that, you also now have protection from bug bites. I had to resort to bug spray, which didn’t work well. Socks are key.

Pants – For bug reasons, pants are absolutely required. No amount of bug spray will provide complete protection. Noseeums laugh at deet. Ideally, you’ll want to bring some sort of dry fit pants. I couldn’t find mine so I brought my ski-skins. Big mistake. I was often sticky and/or wet so getting those types of pants on proved challenging. If you don’t have dry fit pants, at least take loose pajama pants to lounge around in.

Buff/Neck Gaiter – Another item I was grateful to have. You won’t be winning any fashion awards, but I highly recommend bringing one. This is the piece of material I wore around my neck and over my head to protect my skin from the sun and wind. It likely costs about 10 cents to make and sells for $15-$30 depending on the name brand. This should also be made with water wicking material. No brainer. Just get one.

MISC

Wet wipes – If you’re doing your business in the ocean, these aren’t necessary for THAT. But, they do come in handy to wash your face and armpits at night. This is like a bath on a napkin. You’ll be glad to have these with you.

Chapstick – Take a couple. Keep one in the pocket of your life jacket. The salt, sun, and wind can be brutal to your lips so keep them covered.

Towel – Seems obvious but I didn’t bring one. I thought it would take forever to dry and didn’t feel the need for it since I knew I would just live in wet clothes for 3.5 days. But I was sure missing it when I had to use the facilities (ocean) in the evening when I was about to go to bed. Instead, I had to air dry which wasn’t exactly convenient or quick.

Ziplocs – I used several 1 gallon ziplocs to pack my small things in. You can never have too many Ziploc bags so bring some of all sizes. When my waterproof phone case failed, I kept my phone in a Ziploc bag. I also used one for the garbage that we didn’t burn. You just never know what you might need these for. They come in extremely handy.

It seems anti-climactic to end this trip report so abruptly with packing list tips. But I think, I hope, I did this trip justice. Again, sounds miserable, but we just got unlucky. And there’s always the possibility we could get unlucky again. But that’s the joy of life. If it were predictable, we’d be robots and who wants that. This trip is likely to be life changing for many of you and one of the most adventurous, fascinating, and picturesque opportunities you ever get to experience. So do yourself a favor and disconnect from reality for a while. You need it and you’re welcome.

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