Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jan 31st: Red Eyes Glow amongst the Mangroves

Sunny, Hot, light wind form the NE
Distance 6.5 KNM to camp another 4 paddled in the mangroves.
Dinner: Coconut and Garlic Poached fish with beans lentils and rice.
I sit writing by the campfire as a young Crocodile sits quietly watching me from the water that is barely 3 IMG_4044meters from me. When I look up and out across the lagoon, the crocs eyes glow back at me in the light from my headlamp. The Croc is maybe 5 feet long at a stretch and quite curious (especially compared to the other one who came around for a look and swam off as soon as I shone a light on it), this one will let us approach and observe, seemingly as much as it is observing us. In the light of our headlamps we can see the large reptiles whole body, when Allie and I approach to close the croc submerges and we watch it walk off along the sandy bottom, only to pop up to the surface a little further out. Perhaps it is the smell of freshly cooked fish that brings these crocs to us, or maybe it is just the movement and the firelight? Either way I am sure it is in hope of food. Allie and I caught 3 fish for dinner, Allie 2 and myself 1; they are Small fish but more than enough to feed us, especially poached over the fire in Coconut water fresh from a young coconut with a touch of garlic. Hmm hmm!
DSC07774Today we paddled only 6 KNM down the coast before we DSC07784came to the estuary mouth of Barco Esgadelan and we had to go in, the time was only 10am and there was the planned 12 knm we wanted to do today; however the area looked amazing and beckoned us in. The entrance to the lagoon was a touch tricky we had to work our way through surf around and past a rocky, crocodile tail like, natural groin. Dog legging through the surf, timing the swells, Allie was nervous sitting in the surf zone, though she followed me through and we cut first right through the small waves, and then took a sharp left behind the rock wall entrance before avoiding the bigger surf. Then, in the calm behind the jagged rock wall, we entered a lost world, a big lagoon of clear water and golden sand bottom.
Surrounded by giant mangrove trees, some 50 feet tall, my mind instantly was thinking “we need to camp here and explore!”; Allie was also awe struck and we mutually decided to paddle up the river into the heart of the mangrove and consider a place to camp on return to the lagoon. This was a pristine and diverse mangrove forest, at least 4 species of mangrove existed here, some as tall as 50 feet with big leggy roots, others a tangled mass of tangled support roots and twisted trunks, some had buttressed roots like the fins on a rocket ship. It was a beautiful place and a prime example of how amazing these, often misunderstood and underappreciated, forest are.
Spot the Crocodile.
DSC07808We returned from the tight clustered depths of the mangroves after paddling for well over 2 hours and set up camp under an almond tree on a beautiful beach. After a siesta it was fishing time were once again hermit crabs on hooks caught us dinner (I really like hermit crabs and feel terrible that I use them for bait, however they work a treat). In front of the camp is a deep main channel and it is like being at an aquarium; while fishing we saw a number of large fish swim by, a shark, a big Snook and very big Jack, two big Moray eels. At one point Allie hooked a huge Sheep head snapper (it must have been a 30 pound fish) and even before it got to fight, the hook in its mouth snapped, leaving us relieved we didn’t have to deal with the hassle of a huge fish on a small hand line. There are Macaws here as well, they seem to be everywhere on this island, quite magic. At dusk, Grey throated Wood Rails settled into the trees to roost with their cackling “whoot a coo” of a call, and the sun set on this yet again magical day.
DSC07813I look out again now as I finish up this log entry and the crocs eyes still glow across the water; it is time for me to go to bed, where Allie is already asleep. We aim to round the SE point of Coiba tomorrow and finish the exposed section of coast; it has been truly magic.

Looking Back on Kayaking the Coast of New Zealand


Cape PalliserIt is now a year since I, pulled into wellington harbour in New Zealand, and called an end to my attempt at paddling the length of NZ's east coast form the north of the North Island to the South of Stewart Island.


What an amazing trip it was and it feels like a life time since that trip.... so many more adventures have come and gone, yet I look back on the Kayak Down Under NZ expedition as a corner stone of my life's new momentum.

Read more about the Adventure on the Blog site and stay tuned as I strive to share the adventures I find myself on.

Keep exploring by whatever means!



Looking Back on Kayaking the Coast of New Zealand


Cape PalliserIt is now a year since I, pulled into wellington harbour in New Zealand, and called an end to my attempt at paddling the length of NZ's east coast form the north of the North Island to the South of Stewart Island.


What an amazing trip it was and it feels like a life time since that trip.... so many more adventures have come and gone, yet I look back on the Kayak Down Under NZ expedition as a corner stone of my life's new momentum.

Read more about the Adventure on the Blog site and stay tuned as I strive to share the adventures I find myself on.

Keep exploring by whatever means!



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Isla Coiba Jan 30TH: Up Crocodile Creek

©JaimeSharp-07745I am super glad we are not going anywhere today, my back is sore and after a big days paddling in some real hot weather yesterday I am more than happy to sleep in lounge away the morning with pancakes, then walk up the long extensive beach before returning to camp for another nap. I am happy Allie is doing so well she was up before me and seems really chipper, she handled her first big paddling day well and I think I may be in worse shape for it than her?

©JaimeSharp-8736On our walk up the beach we encountered the 7 Macaws again and the flu right over our heads, we also encountered the local troop of Capuchin Monkeys. These cute little monkeys were raiding the Coconut palms for Coconuts and amongst the hoots and chatters, took time to check us out cautiously. On the walk back from the far point (around which we discovered another far point; a lot of beach on this southern end of the©JaimeSharp-3907 island) we had invaders. A fishing boat had come and anchored in our sheltered cove and brought clients to shore on a sit on top kayak, we felt incensed “ how dare they come and land on our beach!” ha ha ha ha, they were probably thinking a similar thing “ there isn’t meant to be any one on these beaches!”. the eventually left us to our afternoon snooze and we never interacted, preferring our solitude form pointless chit chat.

©JaimeSharp-07742In the afternoon, we paddled back around the headland to the river we saw the croc come from, and we landed through the surf, portaged our boats over the sand bar and paddled up a little creek. We were cautiously inspected by the resident croc who quickly disappeared not to return, we came across our friends the monkeys again who probably thought we were the strangest crocs they had seen in this river before and we headed up as far as we could paddle. We came to a stony rapid and here we bathed and rinsed the boats, and I tried once again to catch a fish; this time I caught a fresh water shrimp put it on a hook and cast to a couple of good size fish lurking in a pool, they were on it quick snap and soon I had a fish on fighting hard, as soon as it was on, it got a little slack spat the hook and was off! GRRR! I tried again with anew shrimp which took half an hour to find, though no good they were wise now and wouldn’t fall for it. We paddled back on dusk, no fish, but I had caught a very large prawn to eat. We pushed out through some pretty dumpy little waves from the sand bar and enjoyed the sunset as we paddled back around to camp for a pasta dinner and a fire roasted prawn. Oh an d I made some cinnamon swirl buns for lunch on the fire as well. Yum yum!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Grand Canyon Beckons


Excitement fills my heart as I read that I Have secured a permit to run a non commercial trip on the Grand Canyon for August 2013. I pay my $400 deposit and that is that, it is official. 16 months from now, all going to plan, myself and 15 others will be kitting up rafts and kayaks to embark on an epic river adventure of a lifetime down the Grandest Canyon on dry land.


As a child in New Zealand I read of the journey along the Colorado river; 3 years ago I finally stood on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and dreamed of being on that river Below traveling the massive and stunning landscape. Now, after years of wanting waiting I just entered into the lottery when it felt right and two days later I have the permit. woo hoo! Starting this summer I must get back into some rafting and paddle more white water in Prep. As the trip logistics progress I will publish insights and prep adventures, and then give the great insight into our personal journey down the canyon in 2013.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Coiba Island Jan 29th: A Bizarre Coast



Weather: Sunny and Hot with a Light Sea Breeze

Swell: 1-2 foot

Distance: 15KNM

Dinner: Egg, Fish, Tomato Pita wraps with Fresh made on the Fire raisin Cinnamon Bread.

I awake to a golden light creating the western point of our little cove we camp onto glow, macaws croak in the canopy accompanied by the rough bark of a Tiger Heron. We arrived at this camp last night after an Epic Day of paddling yesterday, Up in the dark to break camp we were on the water at first light. It was magical to paddle in the cool air and watch the sun come up over time, backlighting the jungle canopy of the undulating Islandscape into a multi shaded image of steamy trees, with surging wave beat cliffs. This island is truly a gem.

©JaimeSharp-07691Allie was determined today, she had that look of someone who meant business, our pace was solid in the cool morning, and remained so once the sun was directly on us and the morning heat began. Rounding the first big headland we were met by slightly messy heaving seas as the swell refracted of the cliffs; the TRAK handled it well even though fully loaded. Turning the corner South around the headland we were presented with a bizarre stark coastline of gentle cliffs curving high up to forest crested heights, large beautiful beaches were still found with surf churning and just off the coast were scattered little weird shaped islands. Like something out of a Doctor Zeus book the islands were twisted and weather beaten to bizarre shapes, one had a great sea arch we paddled through with the heaving seas.


Attempting to get the most out of the day we passed up a great looking beach at 10 am in order to push on for another hour passing our next head land 40 mins later we discovered a coast of just cliffs; pocket beaches with no shade existed for as far as the eye could see. This presented a choice; Do we push on or do we go back to the last good beach with shade. This was Allie’s choice, she was hot, feeling nauseous and was telling me she was dry retching, Despite all this she quickly chose to go on. “ I am determined to push myself and snot stay within my comfort zone” she stated to me. On the chart we could see a river coming out to some flat land about an hour and a half paddle, we were going for it.


©JaimeSharp-077341pm we round a bend a there are beaches, we come through the surf onto a great little patch of crescent sand; Allie miss-times and wave and ends up swimming, thank goodness for the seasock in the TRAK, I wade out lift the nose empty the boat and drag it in. hardly a drop of water got inside the interior of the boat after a full swamping in small surf. The beach has wonderful shade and at the far end a great stony creek with a big pool to swim in and cool off. We eat a pineapple and some fish for lunch, I refill our drinking water from the creek (treating it off course). Three hours later we look at leaving, Allie watches the surf break amongst the rocks to look for a pattern. “ Holy!” she barks. “ could there be a crocodile swimming in the surf?” she asked me with an incredulous look. I was thinking yes, though probably not; “it is probably a big fish, there were a bunch in the surf when we paddled in!” though we both looked for awhile but nothing showed.

©JaimeSharp-4113Lunching out through the surf Allie got in the surge Zone first and As I came out to meet her and wait for a break in the waves, Allie came paddling over to me with nervous excitement. “ I WAS RIGHT!” she exclaimed with a smile “ There is a F@#*ing Croc in the surf, it came right up and looked at me!”, I was excited by this I love Crocs. “Look there it is!” looking out at the small breaking waves there was the unmistakable dark outline of a crocodile amongst the surge, its long tooth filled mouth attached to a head held slightly above the water in turn followed by a slender scaly back with an elegant spiked tail trailing behind about 2 meters in total length. It swam around a distance off checking us out and then disappeared as a gap in the waves appeared and we paddled out. “ Well, now that is a different issue to be dealing with when breaking out through the surf” I stated and we both chuckled. We were now aiming for another beach about an hour and a half further down, now with some good distance covered today we would find a place to spend two nights and relax a bit. Allie had finally unlocked her distance paddler and realized the rewards of pushing yourself out weigh the discomfort of it all (today was the longest time Allie had ever spent in a kayak and it was in turn the longest distance she had paddled to date).

©JaimeSharp-38587 scarlet Macaws feed on the beach while next to them a small crocodile slowly slid in to the surf, just behind the breaking waves to gringos in yellow folding kayaks watched. “Were not camping there” Allie laughed. The beach didn’t look two inviting despite the crocs and even with the bright red Parrots. This stretch obviously got the snot kicked out of it in the winter storms as the trees looked raggedy struggling to hold onto the beach that remained though there was fresh water here. We chose to paddle around the small headland and found a little cove protected from the surf and easy paddle to the river and Crocs for our day off tomorrow, and the Macaws still flew about us on this side as well.

That night we made a delicious cinnamon raisin bread on the fire and enjoyed the stars, there were a few biting insects (hardly any are on this island) and the Terrestrial hermit crabs were as busy as ever cleaning up the beach and trying to leave whatever food we left un attended and we fell asleep to the rustle and clink of their movements about our tent an kitchen as they cleaned up our scraps.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jan 28th Big Fish are Biting.


Sunny and Hot

Distance: 4 KNM

Camp at Hermosa Point beach (Playa Blanco)

©JaimeSharp-8724On the water earlier today, though still not early enough. The Surf was slamming the beach, though the waves only a foot and a half high. We lunched of the beach with the sea socks in the TRAK’s, due to the fact we were launching through dumping surf and there was no time to get skirts on, you had to just go and get out the back. We got some distance covered though still not much, Allie is struggling with energy and the heat so is not getting more than 1.5 KNM out of her arms. We came across an awesome beach at 10 am, big, loaded with various types of forest; Mangroves, Coco nut palm groves, coastal Littoral forest, all backed by the primary growth rainforest. We decided it was to cool a beach to pass up and headed in.

Coming through light surf was fun, the striking contrast of aqua water meeting the reddish water of the surf zone (caused by red sand being stirred up), meeting the contrast of the Yellow TRAK’s, Blue skies and Green Forest was quite visual over loading. I struggled to capture that image on Camera and failed miserably. Tucking into the shade of the overgrown beach edge, the day was already super hot. I found some coconuts; climbed a Palm for two big green ones (very sweet water), buried a sharpened stick as a spike, and opened a 5 up. We drank the water of three, ate the flesh and saved the rest for cooking later. Deciding the beach was two awesome to move on, we set up camp amongst the leafy understory of the coastal forest. Scarlet Macaws flew over head, the striking size and color of the pair keep you watching even after they were well gone, hoping they would return. Hopefully Allie will get some rest and we will start super early in the morning while it is still dark, get a bunch of distance done in the cool of early morning, and this way hopefully start covering the 10knm a day we need in order to complete the circumnavigation in the time we have credited of 10 days (we only have 8 left).©JaimeSharp-07682

©JaimeSharp-07686That afternoon after a good siesta in the shade of the broad leafed sea grape bushes, we went to the river at the far end of the beach. Here 40 foot mangrove trees stood and the waters teamed with fish, hopefully I was going to get dinner this time. I put the flesh of yesterdays little fish on a hook and dashed it amongst the large fish, they all ignored it except a small fish who gave it a go. The short fight before he let it go again, spooked all the fish and they never again even looked at the bait. GRRRRRRRRR! This is so frustrating what fish ignores bait on a hook, Especially those that are never really fished?

I gave up for a while ad bathed in the river quickly and apprehensively, always not sure about Crocs, they never are a problem though and we have yet to see one. I took my bait and headed to the estuary mouth were the tide was now coming in. I caste my line into the out flowing current and let it sit and swoosh around with the waves. Eventually something nibbled, then a pause, the line went tight and the something ran with the bait. I struck and started pulling….. the line went lose. OH.... Grr! I cast the line again, I waited.. .. A nibble, ….. I waited…….a Pull…… I waited……. The pull turns to a movement and I STRIKE. The line cause taught in my hand and a good size fish start running. The line pulls a little through my hand. “Oh Crap, it isn't a shark is it?…. I don’t want a shark! Next minute I see the back of the fish in the muddy water amongst the waves it was a ©JaimeSharp-8728large Snapper. “WOOOO HOOO!” my heart raced with jubilation I was nervous I would lose my prize and I ran him along the beach clear of some fallen trees in the small river mouth, the next rushing wave that came in, I ran up the beach dragging my prize onto the shore. “Woooooo HOOOOO!” so happy, he was a biggy, two meals worth at least. I beat it over the head with a rock and ran off with it in my fist to show Allie what was for dinner. The Macaws flew back across the beach, shining brilliantly in the golden light of the setting sun, while the tall mangroves created a glowing reflection across the flat river estuary, what a magic place




That night the waves broke, sparkling in the moonlight, upon the beach while the stars shone brightly above our heads. we dined on fried fish with Rice cooked in Coconut water with chunks of Coconut. It was delicious. Tomorrow morning we will be up an hour before the sun (6.45 sunrise here) in an effort to get big distances done before 11am and the intense heat of the day.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jan 27th: A Boat In the Night



Weather: Sunny Hot light wind from the SW/

Distance: 6 NM

Dinner: Rice and Beans, chocolate Cake

©JaimeSharp-3655A fire of smoldering embers glows beneath the starlit sky as small waves break upon the pebble beach I lay on. Awaiting the chocolate cake cooking inside a Dutch oven buried on in the hot coals before me, my heart suddenly stops, I hold my breath. Alison, who is with me. Starts to talk, I stop her with my hand and state, there is a boat approaching the shore. It is dark, the boat has no running lights on it is coming closer, my heart beats faster as I think back to the Park Chef Ranger, Santiago Roja’s, and how he stated that what we wish to do is Peligro (dangerous) due to drug runners from Columbia. Now with a small boat just behind the shore break on this deserted beach of Isla De Coiba, Panama; I am wondering just how dangerous this is.

©JaimeSharp-8711Our day had started good, a beautiful early wake up to a stunning flat calm see gently lapping on the shore near our tent. Allie had to paddle back to the ANAM station (30 mins away) to get her pack towel she left there yesterday when we left. On her return we ate breakfast, then headed on our merry way with the first full day beginning our circumnavigation of Coiba island. Still not entirely sure we had permission or not, but Allie had come back and they had their second chance to stop us, and now were on our way.



The day got hot fast, the water was clear, fish swam below us the color of rainbows while the occasional turtle came to the surface to breath. The folding boats paced along fully laden with 12 days of food and 15 liters of water per boat. It is a joy to be out on the seas independent and free to explore. Finding and river chocked with mangroves we tucked up it for a while to see what we could find; mud flats with crabs busily feeding, tall mangrove roots twisted and black leading to bright green leaves back by towering rainforest. At lunch time we found a shaded sandy beach to hide out the heat of the day under overhanging trees, then again at 3pm we were on our way, counter clockwise around Isla De Coiba.


Afternoon sea breeze was blowing, the seas were a touch choppier, I tried my luck fishing using hermit crabs as bait, got some hits though hooked no fish. Allie was slowing, she is hot, has a sun burnt face and is far from accustomed to the heat of the tropics, finding a good beach we choose to pull in, not sure if pushing on will yield any other options before dark. The coast is far rockier now and the sea becoming more exposed. Coming through small dumping surf onto a black pebble beach, we find a great camp site, with a fresh water creek stocked with large fish. Allie sets up camp I go to work attempting for a fresh fish dinner. Hermit crabs on a hook, I eventually land a small fish, super excited that this one will be the bait for the bigger ones, I am soon really frustrated and disappointed when the big fish swim up to the bait look at it though never take it. Given up before dark I resort to cooking a pot of beans and rice for us. A fresh water wash is a must and after sitting down to our simple yet tasty meal, I then Attempt to bake chocolate cake in our Dutch oven on the fire we had prepped early, lazily in the dying embers we gaze at the stars while the smell of cooking chocolate cake wafts in the air along with the smoke. We began to here a small motor drone away in the distance and after some time we were now faced with some mysterious boat. A bright light comes on and shines onto the beach briefly, it goes out, we hear some talking, the boat turns and the starts to motor slowly. I begin to think logically that “who in their right mind would try and run drugs down the coast in 20 foot boat and 60hp motor?”, from what I know the drug boats are kitted out simply, though are bigger and have real nice fast 250HP motors and by motors I mean there are at least three.

The boat disappears of into the distance and Allie and I both agree that they were probably some Fishing poachers in the Marine park, or they were cops looking for the two crazy gringos paddling the island ( it would be much easier to find us in the day though). They cake turned out well, though a touch burnt, we had our share and went to bed. What adventures will the next day bring??