This is Pato and Noah, kayak guides for the Wilderness Kayak Institute Sea of Cortez Skills Course. Pato is NOLS trained and a resident of Magdalena Bay.He has been a kayak guide for the past 8 years, and used to be a fisherman until the fishing started to go bad. By the way, El Pato means “The Duck” in Spanish. Noah is BCU trained, 4 Star Sea. He spent the last few years wandering around Central and South America, making friends wherever he went and paddling in borrowed kayaks. Before that he spent a couple years teaching underprivileged American kids to survive in the wilderness of Patagonia, backpacking and kayaking, until the funds for the nonprofit he worked for dried up. A big tattoo accentuates the rippling muscles of his left upper arm. He has been working for Tofino/WKI in Baja now since December.
“This is officially a non-alcoholic trip guys,” he says. “But if you are interested in getting something, I know a grocery on the way out.”
We stop and John buys a couple bottles of tequila for the group. There is a wide variety of tequila at the grocery store but luckily John seems to know how to pick the good stuff!
A van drives us down dusty dirt roads to the put-in, a shallow bay where seagulls fight over fish scraps thrown by fishermen. The wreck of an old sailboat and a station wagon sit half buried in the sand. I’m assigned what must be the oldest boat in the fleet – a green Seaward Tyee. The cockpit is surrounded by some serious cracks in the gel coat and the neoprene hatch covers have gotten all crusty. It’s a barge. I have so much room left over after packing that I could easily have brought more stuff. I would have liked to have brought at least another couple t-shirts. I sit with a couple 8 L water bags in the cockpit, one behind the seat and one under my knees
After a half day’s paddle we make it to camp. I set up my tent near a shallow cave. All over these campsites the previous visitors leave collections of shells, fish skeletons, and coral, little “museums” set up on the beach or in holes in the cliffs. We get a fire going as Noah and Pato prepare dinner: quesadillas, black beans, guacamole, and salsa. It tastes great! I didn't think I'd like it so much but the tequila turned out to be a good choice too. The night starts to get cool but it's warm by the fire. John passes the bottle around again and I pour a shot into my titanium mug. Others take shots right out of the bottle cap. What a great group of people!
Around the fire Noah gives a little safety chat. Watch out for scorpions: they like to crawl under tents and air mattresses for the warmth. So keep your tent closed at all times and keep your stuff inside. If you get bitten it’ll hurt a lot, like a really bad bee sting, but it’s not life threatening. There are also rattlesnakes around. If you encounter one just slowly back off. If you get bit, well… just try not to panic. You’ll probably be OK. When snorkeling watch out for scorpion fish. They have really nasty stingers and blend into the rocks. You can also get stung by sting rays. They lie on the sandy bottom and will sting you if you step near them. The best thing to do is to shuffle your feet when walking in the water, or just not stand up anywhere when snorkeling. I ask Noah what is the worst thing that ever happened on one of these trips and he says, “ One night everybody got so drunk on tequila they were too hung over the next morning to paddle...”