Packing the kayaks to paddle out on the 2nd morning.
At least we knew we wouldn't have to worry about frying ourselves that day. It was gray and windy, but we knew what we were getting ourselves into when we set out on this trip, just hoping that the breeze would let up at some point. The thing was, I figured that with the wind to our backs, and therefor the seas (fair seas, fair breeze), that we would have easy paddling and make good time. It turned out, for me at least, with that much of a force behind me I still tended to have to fight from turning sideways, which had me power-steering and digging much harder than I had expected.
The day had in store for us much pleasure, other than the druriness of the weather, for we were to encounter some fantastic snorkeling and rock island exploration.
A fantastic snorkel reef at Ironwood Beach.
We made our breakfast and packed our gear in a leisurely manner, and headed out at a reasonable hour. Our first stop along the way was Ironwood Beach, aptly named for the Ironwood Tree growing right out of the middle of the small beach nestled between the two hills of the island. After paddling for over an hour we pulled our kayaks up on the beach and got out our snorkel gear and our lunch stuff as well. First thing to do was hit the water for a good 30 minutes to an hour, but DANG y'all, the wind was howling and getting wet just didn't sound like the smartest plan. Because I knew this was one of the Rock Islands' most outstanding patch reefs, as recommended by Ron Leidich, I forced everyone, either physically or by emotional taunting, into the water to enjoy the wonders.
The reef at Ironwood Beach is really healthy and escaped any bleaching events over recent years.
It was well worth the cold. This is a fantastic reef, and arguably one of the most passed by reefs on the East side of the islands. It is found right alongside one of the highest trafficked passes from the East to the West side. Corals here were in pristine condition. After that horrible bleaching event of '98, many of the more fragile branching corals were destroyed, with no way to recover. At Ironwood Beach the fingers are growing strong and some were of the most majestic royal blue that I've ever seen. Wow! Look at all those Chromises! Can you believe that? I had seen some Chromis colonies, but this was utterly ridiculous. The way they moved in unison, as if by some telepathic instruction, like a sheet of green fluttering in the current.
Shall I say there was a plethora of chromises? I've never seen such a colony of chromiseseses anywhere in the world. An underwater carpet of green fins and scales.
Spectacular. There were some really nice groupers, some beautiful and tasty looking parrotfish, female and juvenile Humphead Wrasse, and a specie of pipefish that I had never seen before (woohoo!). Even when I got out and I was freezing and jumping up and down and freaking out in the wind, I still had a smile on my face from such a wonderful encounter. We had lunch and readied ourselves to push on to Long Lake.
Long Lake is not really a lake. It's more like a super protected cove or bay. The access is only passable at medium to high tide, even by a shallow-draught kayak. Really Long Lake is another marine lake that is fed by narrow tunnels and cracks that lead right through the islands and out to the sea, but is also accessed by this long mangrove-lined channel that makes for some neat paddling.
Some of the fantastic Rock Island formations.
So we cruised along, taking our time, as people that spend lots of time living on islands are apt to do. We got to the actual lake area, after passing through the half mile long channel, and did a little spear fishing, snorkeling, smack talking, stick throwing, exploring, and lazy floating.
After we had satisfied ourselves with having explored to our collective hearts' content, we began the push towards Ngeremdiu (Margie's Beach) and camp. Another hour saw us landing our crafts upon the sand to begin the unpacking and set up phase of the day. We had plenty of time before sundown but wanted to get it done so we could do a little more spear fishing, and get some wind blocks set up. It was going to be a windy night, so we broke out the tent flies.
Paradise Island aka 3 Palm Beach
After tying them onto the posts on the windward side of the summerhouse, we were not convinced they helped much, but at least it looked like we were trying. I left Sean and Jullian to attempt lighting the cooking fire, while I set out to try to spear some sashimi. Unfortunately for me, with all the wind, the visibility was horrible and I could barely see 5 feet in front of me so I struck out for sure. Dejected, and slightly worried that I had given up too early, I ambled back towards the camp, only to find those two boys still playing with matches and lighters. Apparently Julian and I had to do all things handy around there, but it was fun to watch and make fun of the guys in their valiant attempts to create that most basic of human necessities. Fire. "C'mon guys, we gained this skill several tens of thousands of years ago." Jullian did us the favor of climbing for some rum mixers too.
We passed the night with a rejuvenating dinner, 151 rum mixed with the last of the Tang and some coconut water, talking stories, chewing betel nut, and trying not to get blown out of our beds and hammocks. I'm lucky. I love my life.