“If you smile at me I will understand ‘cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.” – from “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash
“Pilgrimage is necessary in some shape or other…We have to come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves.” – Thomas Merton
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
“Getting out of the house” means getting out of your back yard, your comfort zone, your habitual kayaking venues. This June I got out of the house with a vengeance, traveling to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. There is nothing extreme about Sardinia, unless it is the beauty, happiness, and friendliness of the people. But for me, this trip was still Extreme. My kayak was not my usual Tsunami washdeck but a typical touring kayak complete with spray skirt. New equipment, new paddling companions, and a completely new kayaking environment, plus flying for a day and a half to get there. EXTREME!
The first day of kayaking our guide Claudio excused me from using my spray skirt. I love that man! As it turned out, the likelihood of tipping over or getting swamped was virtually nil. I have never paddled flatter waters. Nevertheless because of the unfamiliar nature of my equipment the first day I wasn’t very relaxed and consequently got sore muscles. No rudder and a paddle with blades offset at an angle I wasn’t used to required adaptation.
The only time I lost it was when I tried to get into my kayak by stepping into the boat when it wasn’t anchored to the beach. Normally I get into my kayak Tsunami style, taking the boat out past the break and then jumping in butt first, swinging my legs in after. But there was no break and Claudio showed me how to get into my kayak by standing in the cockpit, sitting on the coaming, sliding my legs in and lowering my butt in last. I’m not used to shoving off the shore with my paddle and I protect my shoulders (old rotator cuff injuries) so I wanted to get in while my boat had a little buoyancy. I pulled my boat out a ways and stepped in. As some of you may have discovered, it’s hard to stand on a tippy kayak while it’s afloat and as I lowered myself in the boat tipped over. Barbara: “What are you doing?” Me as I fall into the water in slow motion: “Falling over.”
I also did an inadvertent seal landing. On our third day out I was getting cocky and decided to cruise through a small opening in the rocks close to shore. I paddled briskly toward the narrow channel. As I approached I saw that the channel wasn’t as deep as I had thought. I could see rocks inches below the surface and only a tiny space in which to pass through. It turned out that though I could steer great on open water, in a narrow space without a rudder I couldn’t make the kayak turn as tightly as needed and instead of slipping through the slot I slid up onto a shoulder of rock in a neat little seal landing. I shoved off with a hard thrust of my paddle, but had my center of gravity been higher I probably would have flipped.
We had eight full days in Sardinia, six of which were supposed to be paddling days, but we ended up paddling only four because of weather, mostly wind but also thunderstorms. On our last day on the water, Claudio and I were waiting for the others and I was gazing out at Corsica in the distance. As I watched, I saw a massive white lightning bolt connect the black thunderclouds with the sea and we heard an ominous rumble. The thunder kept coming, and at Claudio’s behest we quit for the day. As it turned out that was our last day on the water because although the thunder and lightning departed, the winds came up and continued to blow for the next three days. We didn’t miss out on the features we were supposed to see though because we hiked those places instead.
Sardinia is very beautiful and learning new skills in a new kayak was fun. But what I really got out of the trip was how great the people are. I can’t say enough about how kind and friendly everyone was from the security folks at the airports to the people on the street, and most especially our guide Claudio and his lovely girlfriend Valentina who hung out with us some and cooked Barbara and me a delicious dinner on my last night in Sardinia. I spent my last day alone, strolling along the promenade to the white sandy beach, watching kids play foosball, watching adults play beach volleyball, listening to music, smiling at people and having every one of them smile back at me, buying cornettos and fresh squeezed orange juice at little snack shacks and drinking the local lager. Everyone seemed so chill. I thought to myself, “I really like this place!”
Despite the photo above (and we all know about surfers) in 9 nights and 10 days I didn’t get a negative vibe from a single Sardinian. The Italians too were fantastic. And may I say one of the great things about this vacation was that in spite of the veritable Lucullan feast complete with red and white wine we had every night, thanks to all the kayaking and hiking I didn’t gain a pound!
Please share your thoughts and comments by clicking below. And if you’re interested in traveling to Sardinia, contact Claudio Desiati at SardinianDiscovery.com. I highly recommend him!