I’m 74, yet on most days, I feel more like 40 (even if I don’t always perform like a 40-year-old). I do Pilates, swim, hike — almost anything to ignore, or rather undercut, the age factor. Still, though I’ve walked the heights of Nepal and lived for a time in Afghanistan, there are plenty of adventures I would never consider undertaking.
Play to your strengths, I say. I’m a decent swimmer, and I love the water. Kayaking, I assure myself, is one sport with both a soothing, placid side and a testosterone-tinged element for thrill seekers. Under the right conditions, that is. Conditions in the Sea of Cortez can be notoriously rough, depending largely on the wind. El Norte, sweeping down from the north, is not to be fooled with. It will influence our daily schedule, we’re told.
We are four supposedly hardy outdoor aficionados, strangers before we meet up the first day in La Paz, on the east coast of Baja California Sur, for what Sea & Adventure Tours (Mar Y Aventuras) calls its Island Hopping trip: nine days, with six nights of camping on a variety of beaches, plus a few land-based escapades on our way to the town of Loreto, farther north. It’s a distance of 143 miles as the crow flies (we won’t be paddling all that way), with a crew of three and Carlos, a seasoned guide who claims that he sleeps better on a beach than in a bed.
The minimum age for the tour, according to the company’s Web site, is 8. No problem there! Medical waivers are not required, so who’s to know that I have a rabid head and chest cold as we embark?
I’m the oldest in the group, I quickly determine. (My travel mates politely refrain from inquiring about the exact number.) While I usually avoid making very much of age, I likewise recoil from the flimflam that one’s later years are necessarily joyful. My genes have been kind, and I’ve helped them along. But I also know that it’s a woman’s fate to be judged greatly by externals. Hence, perhaps, Carlos’s watchful eye, to be sure that I don’t hold the others back.
Stephen, in his early 60s, manages just fine. A scientist retired from the U.S. Geological Survey, he builds airplanes and flies them around the globe. He and his friend Valerie, 60, have been on the trip before and come well-equipped. Forty-five-year-old Jason, a public defender from Phoenix, has pursued challenging adventures all his life. I’m happy to be bow to his strong stern in the kayak.