Acc: Hilleberg Allak tent
Dist: 48,7 km
Start: 6:05 End: 16:10
It is my second-last paddling day on the Pacific Coast. I slept well and start early to avoid the wind as good as it goes. I have breakfast on the water and am amazed at how easily my grainy-milk powder mix still goes down. One portion has a thousand calories. I had most days a second portion, but now, I am down to precisely the last three and will have only one-and-a-half sachets per day. I carried this basic food from Germany, an essential part of my engine running well. The scenery passing by is still interesting enough, with alternative buildings and cliffs, and my thoughts run already in the home mode.
All things are easygoing until Punta Prieta. Around this corner, with two impressive half-round high-rise apartment buildings, the wind blows strongly from the front left offshore. It does not stop until some distance before Punta Chame. I stay as close to the coast as possible to avoid the chop building, and my progress remains fine. Still, it feels not like a nice paddle anymore, but no one said it would be easy the last two days. Buildings stop and are replaced by all nature again, interrupted by Playa Caracol, where surf waves are building, and a holiday infrastructure is created. Since the windy corner at Punta Prieta, beach landings on low tide do not look inviting to me anymore, though possible. But who needs to land, and why. I keep punching into the wind, watching ruins of old constructions eaten half by the sea. Or the construction work stopped as people finally realized the coast comes too close to where they planned another high-rise holiday bunker. No wonder, when I see the wash going up the coast on high tide, it feels like the ‘tub is full’ and the water is close to washing over the steep beach, acting here as a wave breaker to the wetlands behind. At three spots, it looks like they filled up rocks to avoid the dyke breaking.
But what is that dark vortex just over the waters behind the point? Is a small tornado developing over the water, out of the calm? I am watching this natural phenomenon in awe but also in fear. What if I am getting just under this? No, this cannot be a tornado. These are flying animals. Grasshoppers, bees, or birds? I figure those must be a swarm of thousands of those tiny birds occupying the wetlands and mangrove beaches. Amazing!
I just like to round this last dreaded point. I found a current diamond on my chart, the only one far and wide. The tide waters run fast in or out around the spit, with up to five kilometers per hour. Thankfully, I am there at the last hour of the rising tide. I stay close in, as the water is high, and the current is in my favor and not too bad. Phewww! I am inside the Bahia de Chame, with no chance to land before. I learned that this area inside is a kite-surfing Mekka. But the wind thankfully went down already about an hour ago, and there is no kite to see anywhere.
Crossing straight to Panama City from the point tomorrow is out of the question. I do not have much time to lose to make the best of the calm wind window to cross over to the mainland, where the wind will feel less when it is back up. But some light dark rain clouds are hanging over the mainland mountains. Will I be able to cross this short distance of eight kilometers without getting blown away anytime soon?
I do not ponder long, throwing only a glance at the calm bay shores where I now easily could land to admire some trash collection artworks. One tree trunk is decorated with hundreds of flip-flops, proud documentation about human leftovers on beaches. I keep my good speed from rounding the point and throw myself in a direct line over to the mainland shore. If the rain cloud might cause some wind and spills over me, I will survive this on those relatively sheltered waters. Nothing happens; the dark cloud almost dissolves. I receive only a light breeze and a handful of raindrops when I am already almost at the first offshore island. I have marked my first possible camping beach on Isla Edwin Hernandez, which shows an extensive sandy beach to the western side.
When I approach, I find a wonderful natural rocky island with lush vegetation and many birds resting uphill, but not a single grain of sand on high tide. And not a single sign of any human access here. I still enjoy railing along this natural paradise and know I have other options to land and camp. Playa Majagul shows too many buildings and boats for my taste, but at least sand on high tide. I try the tiny beach to the right to find enough sand hidden under a massive layer of plastic trash. It could be such an idyllic private place for my last night on Panama’s Pacific beaches. But I refuse to land as I would barely find a space on the sand without stepping on a plastic bottle.
I keep paddling around the next point as I have marked more sandy beaches. My favorite one is a small beach simply named ‘Playa.’ This one looks better to me. It has enough dry property and less trash. There is even a large black plastic trash bag hung to a branch, half-filled from last time’s picnic leftovers. Nobody cared to take it home and fill it with more beach trash. I would LOVE to clean up those secluded spots! They could be pristine gems of nature if anyone would take care of the flooded-up and left behind plastic.
I feel anyway gifted with this private beach and its lush dry space and vegetation on top to set up my tent on this last night. This evening is for me. I have a long soak in the warm water with a hair wash to look halfway decent on my arrival tomorrow. This way, I can speed up the shower in the marina on arrival, as we will also dump my kayak at Hennies paddle shop before I get to my hotel. I float for endless minutes, looking into the darkening tropical sky or having my eyes closed like in a floatation tank. I dry my hair on some minutes of beach exploration, though my body feels dead-tired. I discover a veil of lianes hanging over one side of the cliffs. Behind, I find a bunch of insect nests clinging to the rocks. It looks like they breed flies and not wasps. In any case, I hope the swarm is not chasing me into my tent.
I refuse to do my office work on my last Panama beach night. This evening is just for me and recovering my body and soul. I almost made it, closing the loop to my South American circumnavigation. One more paddling day!