Thu 31/01-2013 Day 380

The "restaurant" on stilts in the mangrove channel between Isla Zapotal

Pos: here
Loc: Galera
Acc: tent
Dist: 54,2 km
Start: 6:10 End: 18:20

Tomorrow’s estimated landing: Capitania Esmeraldas

What a day! I was not meant to be paddling until dusk again…but the last 23 km I was battling into a 15 knots north headwind. Full power again, just to reach Galera before dusk . I may have been able to stop in one of those villages along the western shore, with an uncertain landing. Or already inside in that village at the end of the big bay of the Ensenada de Mompche. This had even a Navy station…but I decided to keep on going, as my GPS said it is possible to get there before dusk.

But the whole day from the beginning: I noticed last night around my tent some dry cow pads – the depositor of those was sneaking around my tent at 2 am. I may have been just asleep since two hours when a light rain started to cool down the air a bit, as from 8 pm to midnight, it was so hot and not a breeze going, I couldn’t sleep at all.

I enjoyed or maybe scared myself  at the beginning watching a light in the nearby tree, like a tiny flashlight, but there was definitively nobody. It must have been one big insect with some bio luminescent light flashing – amazing! But I also didn’t feel like keeping the light on my self at this stealth camping place, as I was really not keen on any visitors. No one came, apart from the cow.

The water must have been quite low down during low tide at night, glad I landed in this estuary on high tide!

I was launching easily, almost in darkness, to avoid to meet any early morning beach combers. And also I knew it may be a long day? It was “only” about 50 km…

Shortly after launching, I saw a fishing boat disappear into the channel of Isla Zapotal, which I this time studied carefully on Google Earth. My vote yesterday night was actually to rather go around the triangle island, but when I saw the lurking calm wide opening on just high tide, I couldn’t resist the excitement of the unknown. I forgot I saw on the sat image quite some breakers on the sea opening…

The channel itself was a mangrove channel like the one before Puerto Bolivar, calm, eerie in the early morning, but with lots of pump houses for fishponds to all sides making noise.

I passed a small village to the left, typical local, and on the opposite side there was a local style “restaurant” on stilts, but in perfect shape with a sign on top: “Restaurant Katrin Pescada” such. Was an European person running here a “restaurant”??

...and the local village on just opposite side.

The solution came at the end of the channel – a huge fancy hotel area was at the end by the sea exit! Actually very nicely built and on a great spot, but now I was wondering – do they carry the tourists inside the channel to this “restaurant” with view across on to the local village, to get some “authentic” feeling? I do not think the real locals are visiting that place…well, as long as they may get a reasonable compensation for that theater…

Also I spotted yesterday across my campsite on that big island some colorful boats with many people on the southern sand bank – actually where I was originally intending to camp. But the mass of people made me head rather to the mainland beach. They must also have come from that fancy hotel, to possibly enjoy an “island barbecue” or such…have fun, do all that makes money!

I left the hotel aside, found my way in still quite high tide through the shallows at the end in the channel. Then I saw the breaker line out there…and the bumpy water created by the outflowing tide against the in-flowing sea…I could and should have better stopped on the sand bank spit to the left, to have a careful look into the breaker situation. But I saw the deep channel water to the right flowing bumpy, but without breakers, and out there it can’t be that bad…

I reached the outside breaker line wet, but with no problem, and it was now just like on a regular surf launch through three lines of breakers…just that I couldn’t really time it, getting spit out of the channel with the outflowing current. I paddled twice over just broken moderately violent foam, than another quite fat one was piling up…speeeeeeed now! And I made it just over an about two meter steep crest, crashed down on the other side and had the calm open sea in front of me. Yahoo! I could breathe free again! No bugs swirling around your nose, no mangroves block your sight, no pump engines running any more…

I had my breakfast, called Peter, and the next hours I was fighting the heat and sleep on a dead calm sea with no wind. I enjoyed to have about two inches of water sloshing around my legs, which got in there anyway from my frequent sponge showers. The sun was out this morning quite mercilessly, and I was not really paddling fast as I was in need to be constantly wet to stand this heat.

Sunrays spreading out over the sea

At lunch time, the wind breezed up, not really forecasted, but it was there – a steady 15 knots north wind, creating eventually out of the dead calm sea a lumpy bumpy water to punch into. Many fishing boats were out, and some came by to see if I was doing all right. One boat urgently wanted to get me into his village, but I pointed out I wanted to get around the headland…which turned out to be the right decision.

The landing in Galera was reasonably calm on a sandy beach a bit to the right of the village, just next to the grave yard 🙂
A concrete landing ramp in the middle of the village was a bit tricky to use without damage on high tide. The beach was a great calm choice, though surely I got all the locals run up there to greet me. All very friendly! And when I was done making camp and started to make stripping signs for my necessary shower, they politely left me my privacy. Good night, and thanks for this great beach camp spot!

I actually eventually feel better camping in or close to a village where all locals know I am there, and know where I come from, than some where in the bush stealth camping and unintentionally getting “discovered” by a surprised local, not knowing what I am doing there.

6 comments on “Thu 31/01-2013 Day 380

Frances Price

Freya, have you considered using a very broad-brimmed hat for shade? Perhaps something with a relatively high crown, so that you have some room above your head for a wet cloth, etc. You can always tie it on so that the north wind doesn’t send it flying out to sea, like some strange UFO, lol.


When the Panama-channel, should be impossible, maybe crossing lago bayano is a good option ?
It’s 20- 25 km on both sides from the oceans.
Maybe you can arrange transport for you kayak, and walk the distance, so you’ve done it with musscle power 🙂



Randall Lackey

I enjoyed the new pictures you posted.Thanks. I know you have enjoyed the freedom and quiet of the wilderness camping but am glad to hear you’ve grown comfortable with the safety of being near the friendly villagers. Also they’re being helpfully in aiding you getting in and out of the surf. that can’t be bad.Though as you’ve said, I worry of hitting them with the uncontrollable surf rolling in and sometimes throwing your boat around.Rest Well.Safe Paddling. Randall

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