Loc: Caleta Vitor
Dist: 69,8 km
Start: 6:50 End: 19:50
Estimated landing: Arica Yacht Club
Estimated starting time: Right after sunrise
Estimated landing time: Well before sunset
We were launching with the idea of a shorter day, planning to land in Caleta Punta Madrid. On Google Earth the beach after about 40 km looked all right, though I had my doubts…and in fact, it was a “vertical” beach, means a sand dune going high up the cliffs. Not that was no real flat beach before, but despite the low 1,5-2 m swell, the surf on the narrow strip before wasn’t calm enough to land on the quite rocky beach without risking to damage our boats.
Besides, it didn’t really feel great to camp on a narrow beach below up to 1000 m high cliffs…an earthquake and tsunami trap par excellence. The approach to the caleta felt already very strange – as the cliffs were so high, dimensions in the horizontal did shrink somehow, means the next headland looked as it was 500 m away, but it were 5 km! We thought we were already pretty good at estimating distances, but here we just got dizzy looking up the mountains.
Maybe the dimensions did also change today because it was one of the rare sunny days without mist and good distance visibility. We had to for the first time fight real “heat”! We constantly wet our headgear, and parts of the shirts. I paddled with open spray deck, and Peter took his deck already fully away and had only his thin running tights on. But this is not high end heat yet! I knew from Australia how it will be when even the water is not refreshing any more…I remember some days I was paddling with a soaking wet sponge on my head letting it drip down, and dunk it again the next minute like a constant shower. Even the many small open fishing boats had some kind of sun roof out today!
None of the following narrow beaches under the steep high cliffs were suitable enough for landing, so the only option was to continue to Caleta Vitor, which was the opening of a (dry) river mouth with a wide sandy beach.
Some small butterfly was fluttering around our boats, like it was to tell us “go to the river mouth, it is a green oasis nice place!” I’m always wondering what butterflies are doing so far out at sea? Not the first time I had them around my boat, and I was even further out then!
Two schools of dolphins were around today, but we only could see a bunch of small spouts in a bit of a distance. But anyway, the again many playful seals kept us smiling all day.
Something else which made us smiling was just another Navy boat driving up to us, but this time they found another “victim” first – a small local fishing boat which they made happy for about 1/2 hr. Then it was our turn…
“What’s your name?” one of the five guys was shouting over. And “Come alongside!”. Sure all in Spanish. No entiendo…and you’re really asking for my “name”, being sent out to check on us??? Btw., what is your name? I should really have asked that…it was just missing he would have been asking for some paperwork or our passports. Guy, I already had more friendly Navy boat encounters! But they seemed to enjoy the “mysterious men” game, all five with dark sunglasses on…could they put my smile somewhere? ”Where do you come from? Iquique?” was the next question. Their horizon is limited to the boarder to the next gobernacion…no I am coming form Buenos Aires via Cape Horn, have you even been there? I have almost paddled all Chilean coastline by now, and you were asking for my name… The Navy information system is really worth nothing if they needed to ask about that! Or how many kayaks are floating around here?
After it was not possible to land at Caleta Punta Madrid, we had simply to add another 25 km minimum to our already existing 40 km…no problem, it was just a bit *hot* today! I just kept on paddling like a machine, and Peter was lucky to be able to do a few breaks due to my slower speed. In any rate, I was happy he was holding up with the endurance all those other long days already! And he also never complains…good company!
Turning around the headland into Caleta Vitor at about 7.30 pm gave us just a few more minutes until sunset at 7.45 pm. The sandy beach was already smiling at us in the last low sunlight, and we even couldn’t see any surf.
But I knew those river mouth beaches…they are always steep, and I saw no surf, but the wash high up the sand. Means, this would be a nasty dumper, almost not visible from the distance, almost like it was happening at some lower level.
At least we were so cautious to put on helmet and PFD, and though Peter said this time he’d like to land first and to help me in then. Thanks, but I did talk him out of this. He had never landed such a hidden nasty beach!
I approached carefully, and could eventually see the dumper. According to the wash up the beach, I timed it right by waiting for the biggest one just passed through, waited one moderate one, and went in as quickly as hell on the back of a smaller dumper. I jumped out in no time, threw my paddle up the steep beach and managed to grab my bow just in time before the next wash up the beach washed me and my boat uphill, fortunately *on* my feet and the boat controlled. Phewwwww!
I was safe, dragging the kayak up even higher, and was looking at the dumpers now from the beach – there were some really nasty steep bastards!!! But they fortunately offered also some smaller sets in between…
Ok, what I did all right, Peter also would do…but I thought the beach was less steep more towards the middle. I pointed him first sideways, and then, fortunately, I waved him in also on good timing! He paddled fast without getting trashed, and I managed to grab his bow before he was even able to squeeze his long legs out of the boat. All safe! When Peter was watching the dumpers now from the beach, he turned more pale he was already. Thank goodness I was landing first. Peter’s more heavily loaded kayak is harder to handle in such situations.
We had to put up our tent in almost darkness, but at least could enjoy our shower in privacy! Nobody was out here, just the nasty noise of the trashing dumpers! Peter put his earplugs in and was gone soon. I was listening for a while to their sound, and felt like on the biggest ones the river bar we were camping on was shaking a bit…or was it a tiny earthquake at some times? But it was still nothing compared to the 4 m dumpers I saw on Birdling’s Flat in New Zealand…they would have trashed a house and *did* shake the gravel beach!