Our first stop, on the west side of the island was Playa Bonanza. Bonanza supposedly means good sailing weather in Spanish and here it sure applies. We anchored off the shore in 15 feet and spent two wonderful nights off the nearly 2 mile pristine shoreline. Stepping off the dinghy onto land was a joy; the beach was coarse, hard-packed, white sand and we walked its length amongst a smattering of shells glittering wet in the bright sunlight. The backdrop of small windswept sand dunes and mountains just beyond made for near perfection.
We spent a total of 8 days at the island and absolutely loved it. Simply. Gorgeous. We ate a lot, napped a lot and read a lot. We hiked, dinghied and snorkeled & swam in the now 78 degree water (getting cooler). Life is sooo rough. But, lest you be too jealous of perfection, I know you want to hear about the imperfect moments...
Day 3 we upped anchor and moved to the other side of the island, sailing briskly for a couple hours until we anchored in the northern-most finger of Puerto Ballena (whale) called Ensenada de la Raza. This finger was framed by sheer cliffs which would give us good protection from the prevailing NW winds. The water was even more turquoise and spectacular than Bonanza given that we were anchored in a mere 10ft. We were eager to get out to the small beach, see if we could find a trail to hike. We got in the dinghy and made our way in cautiously in the ever shallower, and even more turquoise water, careful not to let the motor rudder hit the shallow sand. The spectacularly blue waters with obvious sand underneath petered out once we got to about a foot and a half of water under us. Then a murky-looking algae-like plant began appearing close into shore, growing on the bottom and concealing the sand. Hmmm. There were patches of white sand here and there and we push the dinghy as close to shore as we could, still in 1 foot of water and grounded by the algae.
Leave only butt-prints…
No matter, we are only 10 feet from shore and I see a white patch I can jump to. No way was I willing to just stick my foot in all that algae. You never know what’s down there... famous last words.
I jump. Right foot lands in the water and shwhump…. sinks 6 inches into disgusting muck. What I thought was nice sand, was NOT.
Immediate panic. Left leg already has forward momentum, I can make it to the beach if only I run. Left leg slams full force into the muck while right leg comes right out with a sick sucking sound – without my water shoe…. It’s stuck, invisible, buried beneath 6 inches of muck and more importantly, my foot is naked!
I shriek like a little girl. Arms wind-milling, I wildly try to bring my barefoot leg around to balance and stop forward motion, jerking like a dancing Elaine from Seinfeld. But I was too far gone. It was inevitable. I could feel it. Nooooo! And I fall flat on my ass… in the thick… gross… slimy… mud. Eeeewwww.
Now, in order to get up I MUST put my naked foot and my hands in the muck and let me tell you I was lightning fast. Eeeeekkkk. Back on just my good foot, in flamingo stance, with gooey, smelly mud dripping all over me, Brian just stared at me shaking his head. Don’t be a baby, just put your bare foot in the mud he says and get your shoe. He doesn’t get it… he’s still in the dinghy. He hasn’t yet experienced the terrifyingly oozy muckiness yet.
It’s like 4 feet away from me and invisible, I say. And under 6 inches of mud. I’d have to dig around in there with my BARE HANDS. The thought made me shiver with disgust. And what if I step on something? What that something might be, I didn’t dare think about. Seasnake, stingray, spiny sea urchin, aaaccck. No way. There’s a reason I go to shore with water shoes on.
Sighing, Brian gets out of the boat into the muck, while I stand one-legged. Like a native gathering mussels, he roots around with his BARE HANDS and liberates my shoe. Thank God he’s not a whimp like me.
I put my shoe back on and proceed one more step toward shore, again, too fast, almost losing my left shoe. My left foot feels completely stuck from the downward force with which I had started my initial sprint to shore. Teetering on one leg again, I slowly wiggle it out using both hands. I think it took an entire minute. The muck desperately wants to reclaim my shoes at each step. This is not going to be easy. Or fast. I squat, holding both shoe top and heel tip using both hands, and figure out a twisting, flexing motion to rescue my foot, with bootie intact, from the mud’s grasp.
Meanwhile, Brian is walking around effortlessly in the muck like it’s no big deal. Seriously. Me, on the other hand, I look like an orangutan… or drunk. Duck-walking, I slowly slop my way to shore, squealing and eewwing the entire way.
We figure out the problem. Brian chose to wear his much tighter water shoes; mine were more like slippers to his gloves. I finally make it to shore and we walk around for about 15 minutes. This is primarily a thick mangrove swamp with lots of bugs and only a slight spit of sand beach. No trail here to go much of anywhere. Back to the boat and back to my duckwalk, trying this time to walk on tip-toes to keep my heels out of the muck. Didn’t really matter much. 10 more minutes to go 10 steps with Brian telling me to just take my shoes off. No way, Jose.
Ahhh, it felt good to be back in the dinghy, back over crystal blue water, swamp muck behind, feet rinsed. Vespucci I am not, but I made a distinct impression on the island that day…I left quite a few footprints and one big butt-print.