Tag Archives: Beaches

Because It Was There, That’s Why

I needed more exercise, so I told Lynn I would hike to Cabo San Juan, a beach we had heard was “the most beautiful.”

I would start from the same easy sand path we’d taken to Canaveral.  I put my flip flops back on, grabbed a water bottle out of the mini bar, slung my purse over my shoulder, and headed out.

“I’m happy to just sit here and read,” Lynn said, “So don’t be in any hurry.”

I was gone for five hours.

Why do I do these things to myself?  Why, when I am supposedly on vacation, do I undertake grueling five-hour hikes in sub-tropical heat and humidity—in flip flops?

I brought the map from the lodgings but it wasn’t helpful.  There were no signs. I followed the sand path until a branch led in the direction I thought seemed right.  People on horses passed me by.  I scoffed.  Who was so lazy that they would do this by horse?

A half hour passed and I didn’t see anyone else.  The sand made my footfalls silent.  There was a rustling in the jungle and there—there was a capybara! At least that’s what I thought it was.  It looked like a furry black pig as it scuttled away.

This was what I had come for—to be alone in nature, to hear the sounds and see the flora and fauna.  There were the usual leaf cutter ants and spiny tree trunks and twisting vines.

A boulder blocked the path.  I scampered over it.  There was another boulder on the other side.  And another, and another.  Oh, I see.  The boulders were the path now.

“This is a good workout!” I told myself as I jumped up and down.  Then the path took a steep incline, so I was jumping from boulder to boulder going uphill.  Then downhill.  Then up, up, up, then down, down, down … you get the idea. The “path” was wide enough that it didn’t afford any shade.  It was like hiking in a dry sauna.  My sunscreen was washed away by sweat.  I hadn’t bothered to wear a hat.

After an hour and a half of this, I hadn’t seen any other hikers or signs.  Was this really a path? I heard the sound of horses and pressed myself against a rock face to let them pass.  So it was a path, and if horses could do it, I could too.

Finally, a sign.

“The Cabo. 80% of the way.”  I took this to mean I was 80% of the way there, not that I had 80% left, because that would have made me cry.  My water was long gone and I would have sold Lynn into slavery for a granola bar.

A young couple came from the other direction.  They had enormous back packs and she was carrying a five-liter water bottle. “You’re almost there, only 10 minutes,” he said in a Swiss or German accent.  “Does this lead to Canaveral?”

“Yes,” I replied, “but it’s a very long, difficult hike.”

“Vee vill haff no troubles!” he scoffed.  I exchanged looks with her and wondered if he would make it to Canaveral alive.

I descended back onto a sandy path and walked through a cool grove of palms toward an unmissable sign that said something about an entrance fee.  Normally I am a rule-abiding person, but I was too tired to stand in the line of backpackers waiting to pay.  I have learned that if you stride confidently along—and you’re a white middle aged woman—usually no one asks any questions.

Ahh, a breeze!  The beach was beautiful, but I was too exhausted to enjoy it.

There were more camp sites.

I had been gone for a long time, and wished I could send Lynn a What’sApp message so she wouldn’t worry.  But the only way to get wifi was to buy a meal in one of the thatched-roof restaurants and I had no appetite.  An ominous sign.

Why had I done this?  I couldn’t think.  I would think later.

I paid a peso—33 cents—to use the bathroom, bought two bottles of water, and started back.

Canaveral and Capes

We were joined by a young Spanish woman who was also on her way to the beach.  Even though there was only one path, we didn’t trust ourselves not to get lost.  Our companion—maybe 21 years old—was traveling around Latin America by herself.

“Don’t your parents worry about you?” I asked.

“Of course they do, but they would worry about me if I was in Valencia.  I just don’t tell them where I am, exactly.”

The path split into four or five trails, some leading into the jungle, some splitting around gigantic banyan trees and reconnecting on the other side, others heading in what we presumed was the direction of the ocean.  I tried taking photos of the banyan trees but it was impossible to capture their scale.  This is a section of path that wound through a coconut grove.

“The first beach is Canaveral,” said our fellow traveler.

“We lived near Cape Canaveral, Florida, in Coconut Beach, when my dad worked for NASA,” I told Lynn.  “In fact when I was three I dug into a hill of fire ants.  My mom heard me screaming.  She had a cleaning lady back then, who was a native and knew what to do, so they filled the bathtub with water, stripped my clothes off, and shoved me in.  They even had to hold my head under water to get the ants out of my ears and nostrils.”

“That sounds terrifying!” Lynn exclaimed.  “I’d take the ants over having my head shoved under water any day!”

We passed a panaderia, or bakery, in the middle of the jungle.  It was really just a cinder-block building with some of those ubiquitous white plastic chairs set outside.  I wondered if the owners were Tayrona Indians.  They were shorter than me, which is short.  Their long black hair was plaited, and they wore what looked like white night gowns.

“Here is where I leave you,” said our friend, “I will buy some sweet bread here for the beach.”

We walked on, passed a hut selling cold beer and snacks, and in five minutes were at the beach.  I had heard that Tayrona’s beaches are the most beautiful on earth.  I haven’t been to enough beaches to judge that, but from our first glimpse Canaveral was wildly beautiful.

I’m not normally a beach goer; I do things.  I go, go, go when I’m away.  Vacation, for me, is not a break from physical activity but from routine.

Today I would try to do nothing.  I knew Lynn was just going along because it was the thing to do.  She wasn’t a sit-on-the-beach person either.

We were both dripping with sweat, and as soon as we cleared the forest there was a breeze and we both let out an “Aaaahhhh.”  Then, “Oooohhhh,” when we caught sight of the actual beach.

Lynn was wearing her usual long black pants, a black tee-shirt, and black sandals.  Sometimes if she’s in a wild mood she wears a red tee-shirt.

We found a patch of sand and laid down a large towel from our hut.

Lynn sat down gingerly. “We used to go to the beach as a family,” she said.  “Mum made these portable changing frocks, like a round table cloth with an elasticized hole in the middle that fit over our heads.  So there we’d be, in full public view, changing out of our clothes into our bathing suits under this contraption.”

“How did you pull your tee-shirt over your head?”

Lynn thought a moment.  “I don’t know!  Maybe mum always dressed us strategically, with button-up shirts.”

“There weren’t any ‘public conveniences’ in those days?”

“No, just sand and more sand, and wind.  Sand in our sandwiches.  Sand in our shoes, sand in our hair ….”  She was wiping sand off the towel as she spoke.  She clearly did not like sand.

I walked up and down the beach, barefoot in the surf, it was heavenly.

The towel was empty when I came back.  I sat for a few minutes, feeling the sunscreen dripping off with my sweat, then went to join Lynn where I knew she would be—in the shade of the snack hut having a beer.