The West side of Isla Carmen, April 24th 2008.

Isla Carmen is shaped like a giant cross and I’m surprised that the Mexicans didn’t pick up on this and name it Isla Christo or something. The eastern most tip of the island is the end of the cross-piece and this is the area we explored in the morning. It is another rugged point with lots of nice cliffs and caves. We found one cave so big that all six of our kayaks fit into it at once. Almost every day we saw groups of dolphins go by. Sometimes we saw them from the water, sometimes we saw them frolicking in the evening. When we saw them doing this from camp we called it the “Evening Dolphin Show”. Out around the east tip of Isla Carmen the dolphins came very close to us in our kayaks. I set my camera to infinity so it would take work faster and managed to get a couple good pictures of dolphins. Well, they would have been good pictures if there hadn’t been water on my lens.

Once around the corner of the eastern most point, we stopped for lunch and split into two groups. Don Fleming, Andrea Wolf and Herb Howe paddled across to shorten their day and find a campsite earlier. Doug Hamilton, Kate DesLauriers and I paddled up into the inside corner of the island to see the ghost town. There is a large salt plane here, that I guess used to be a shallow bay. Around 20 years ago a town was built at the shore to mine salt from the area. It has been abandoned but the buildings are still there. The entire island is private property and you are not supposed to land here. But you are not supposed to camp on the beaches either and we had been doing that for several days now. There is supposed to be a caretaker living in the ghost town. We saw several pangas near some newer buildings on the east end of the beach with people milling around. One of those guys started walking purposefully towards us, so we started meandering back towards our kayaks. The guy walked faster. We walked faster. He caught up with us and turned out to be a bare-footed panga fisherman who only wanted to beg some cigarettes from us.

We relaxed and had a good time wandering around the ghost town. Some of the roofs have caved in and others are still almost usable. Someone has been planting cacti in strange places. An old railroad cart has many species growing in it and there are barrel cacti growing out of the seat of all the old fork lifts. One building was apparently the generator room because the fuse panels and the stators from the generators are still there. All the copper wiring was scavenged from them long ago. Behind the residential houses there are the remains of courtyards that look like they were once nice places to hang out. At the east end of the town the buildings were freshly white-washed and one large building has big thatched roofs in front of it to create a shady area in front of the beach. We referred to this building as the “hunting lodge” for the people who pay to come to this island to shoot big-horned-rams. There was a sign here that said “Keep Off” this island and “Violators will be Consigned to Authorities” in two languages. We stayed away from that end of town. We had lunch inside a building in front of the old dilapidated pier. I called it the “harbormaster’s office”. It had walls two feet thick and was cool inside even though all the windows and doors had been removed.

After lunch the three of us launched and paddled south, stopping once more to look at the wreck of a large iron ship in the shallow water far from the beach. Then we turned and tried to catch up with the rest of our group. They had apparently been moving pretty slowly because they had just chosen a beach to camp on when we caught site of them. It wasn’t a great camping beach but we would only be here for one night. One thing I didn’t like about the beach was that the water near shore was full of seaweed. I got back in my kayak and drifted in the calm water 30 feet offshore to run my desalinator. At this distance I could still talk to my friends onshore and hang the intake filter in clean water under the kayak. We were each cooking a dinner for everyone else on rotation. When it was not my turn to cook, one gallon of water would last me for two days and I only had to run the desalinator for an hour every other day. When it was my turn to cook, I dipped alarmingly into my water supply. It takes a whole liter of water just to make enough instant pudding for 6 people for dessert!

All text and images Copyright © 2008 by Mike Higgins / contact