It was a beautiful day and we were ready to go for a morning swim when Komaki said, “Let’s take the kayak out!”
It had been a while since we last kayaked. We used to go all the time, including trips where we would tie 4 kayaks to the roof of a van and head out to the Kerama Islands by ferry with friends to kayak from island to island, while camping and snorkeling. But after the kids were born, kayaking became a bit more difficult for safety reasons, and we would confine our trips to paddling around inside the reef close to the shore. We then realized a SUP board would be more easy to bring to the beach, so we purchased one, and our kayak unfortunately sat unused on the side of our house.
Today, however, the kids were in school, so there didn’t seem to be any reason to not get the old sit-on-top kayak back out on the water again. But then I thought of the effort needed to haul the kayak onto the roof of my car, getting all the gear together, and making sure that everything was in working order. Then there was also the fact that it was low tide, which meant that the kayak would have to be carried by the two of us for quite a way out before getting to water deep enough so that it could float. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just grab our masks and snorkels and walk down to Cape Maeda for a morning snorkel like we always do?”
Reluctantly, I slowly started to gather things out of storage and get everything we needed ready.
After putting the kayak on the roof of our car and double checking that we didn’t forget anything, we drove down the street to our entry point.
First, we had to carry the kayak across the street and then down an overgrown path to get to the beach, which is not easy. The kayak is manageable with two people, but with all our gear on top, it becomes a bit heavy. The person lifting from the back, which was me, has to kind of waddle while carrying the kayak from behind since it is impossible to take normal steps. Also, when walking into any overgrown areas in Okinawa, you always keep an eye out for snakes.
Even though it is rare to encounter a snake, as they are quite shy, spiders and their giant webs are a different story. It is actually quite common to be walking down a path and literally walk into a huge web strung from one side of the path to the other. In most cases, a web this size is usually the work of a banana spider. This species of arachnid can get pretty big, so coming across one of these black and yellow monsters is not very pleasant.
Trying to be a gentleman, I told Komaki that I would lead and take the front of the kayak, so that anything lurking in the jungle brush would be scared away by the time Komaki came through holding the back of the kayak. I am not sure how I missed it, but as we neared the end of the path, I felt that unmistakable stretch of web string on the top of my hat as I walked down. And then I felt something I had never experienced before. Something had scurried down the back of my head and then along my shoulder. I dropped the kayak and started swatting while shouting some expletives. Komaki just kept saying, “What’s wrong?” In that same moment, the thing that had just been crawling on my hit the ground. In fact, you could actually hear it hit the ground. It was a gigantic banana spider. And, it had just been walking on me!
After recovering from the trauma of the spider incident and then removing the sticky web from my head, we now had to haul the kayak across approximately 100 meters of sand and rock before finally reaching the edge of the receding water. By this time, my back was feeling a bit strained. This coupled with the spider incident was making me think that we should have just stuck to our normal snorkeling routine.
But the sea has this magical power to clear your mind quickly. As soon as we started paddling, the memory of the spider and the cumbersome ordeal of getting the kayak to the water had disappeared. All I could think of now was how amazingly blue and beautiful the ocean was each time my paddle entered the water. Even though the sun was moving in and out of the clouds, the clarity of the water and the stunning cliffs that ran along the shoreline seemed too perfect.
We continued to paddle over amazing corals and fish darting underneath us. After a while, we thought there was no need to paddle any further as the conditions looked perfect, so we put on our snorkeling gear and jumped in.
Komaki and I both popped our heads up out of the water and we kept saying over and over "sugoi"(incredible)! There were corals everywhere and plenty of colorful fish keeping our eyes busy. At one point, we had a big school of Sergeant Major Damselfish following us and swimming in between both of us. I looked out toward Komaki and she seemed to be suspended in a background of blue with all these fish around her.
There were coral-covered slopes, crevices, and complete drop-offs, turning the underwater terrain into a mysterious world with surprises waiting to be found.
And, we were the only ones there.
When we got back on the kayak, we knew that we were experiencing one of those special days. The feeling was euphoric. We continued kayaking and snorkeled at 3 other points before returning.
Back at home, I cracked open a cold Orion beer, sat on our terrace, and just stared at our garden. The only thing running through my mind were the underwater scenes we had just experienced mixed in with a few kayaking memories from the past. The banana spider managed to crawl back into my thoughts, but this time I sipped my beer and laughed.