4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Baja by boat: “Kayak to Cabo/ 1050 miles alone/ Aug 4 to Nov 6 /2003”

“To do something like this, there has to be a little bit of letting go of your potential for survival.”

Dimitri departing from Imperial Beach.
Dimitri departing from Imperial Beach.

Recently, I had dinner at a small gathering in Mission Beach hosted by some new friends, Dimitri and Ali Kalemkeris, in a charming cottage that was built in the time of Ali’s grandparents. Soon after arriving, I noticed a small wooden frame on the main hallway’s wall, holding, in miniature form, a kayak as seen from top and side, a paddle, and a palm tree. The frame also held a brass plaque that read “Kayak to Cabo/ 1050 miles alone/ Aug 4 to Nov 6 /2003.”

“Whose trip is this a tribute to?” I asked my host, who told me it was in fact his own. About 20 years ago, he had kayaked, solo and unsupported, from San Diego all the way to San Jose del Cabo at the Southern end of Baja. His uncle-in-law had made this piece for him shortly after his return. We didn’t have a chance to talk more about it that night, but I met him again soon after in order to hear a fuller account of his odyssey.

Dinner, plus coyote tracks and Dimitri tracks.

Dimitri’s love for the ocean and being in the water began, he said, when he developed an interest in surfing as a teenager. “Interest” is perhaps too mild a word. Though he was a child of the inland Pacific Northwest, and though he had no experience surfing, he began driving out to the coast of Oregon and very northern California, where he just taught himself how to do it. He carried on when he moved to San Diego in 1996. “All I did was surf,” he said. “I worked in a coffee shop in La Jolla. I just ate bagels every day and surfed my brains out.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Then he discovered the ocean’s opposite: the desert. “The Anza Borrego, specifically,” which he said had “a geography and a spatial atmosphere that was totally new to me. I fell in love with it.” He spent a great deal of time out there, deepening his knowledge and wilderness skills through a Sierra Club class.

Those two loves started him looking at Baja, where the sands and sea were in close proximity. He developed a vision of a journey through this land, close by and yet foreign to him. And since he did not want to travel by car or plane, kayaking ended up being his best option. So he started getting familiar with the boats, trying out various versions before settling on a sit-on-top type that had enough storage for his needs. In addition to food, he carried fishing line, a diving knife, a camera, a radio (defunct by the third or fourth day), a surfboard, a Global Star satellite phone in a waterproof bag, and a desalinator for drinking water. His weather report was provided by what he could see or hear. He did not bring much knowledge of Spanish with him. A friend said that Viaje al Cabo was all he’d really need to be able to say, and that is what he would eventually tell curious people, pointing south as he did so.

Dimitri and a shipwreck along the way.

As he prepared for what he knew would be a long and somewhat dangerous trip, Dimitri felt mostly optimistic. But he acknowledged that “to do something like this, there has to be a little bit of letting go of your potential for survival. I had to come to terms with that.” (At that point, he was not yet a father.)

Though he’d never actually been to Imperial Beach, that was his chosen point of departure, and on a sunny summer morning, he set out, feeling “like Huck Finn lighting out for the territory.” He recalled, “I felt very happy, and kind of a sense of freedom. The sun was shining, kind of an uplifting feeling. I didn’t check in at any office.” He headed “far out enough that I kind of blended into the horizon,” and once out there, amid the freedom of the sea, he paddled south past the walls and checkpoints and into Mexican waters. He was on his way.

At first, he had the bustling northwest of Baja California for company — its noise, light, and activity. But there would be many remote and quiet stretches between the top and the bottom of Baja. Sometimes, the journey was pleasant and reflective. He appreciated the solitude. Eventually, he felt more and more attuned to the energetic pulse of the natural life around him. His dreams grew more vivid. And he “started to reflect on the past. And this deep emotional wellspring kind of opened up, and this deep sense of appreciation, not just for people and for my past, but the landscape, the beauty of the earth, the animals.” He saw remote sights. He had some warm encounters with generous people who wanted to buy him food. On one ravenous night, he discovered a new appreciation for Hostess Twinkies and cupcakes, which he bought from a little shop in a fishing village. Boy, that’s going to taste good, he thought as he paddled to his campsite with his sugary treasure.

There were also periods of fear, hunger, and disorientation. At one campsite, he had to hide from a suspicious late night visitor. He wept after losing fish that could have been dinner. And at several points, hours of paddling in fog led him to doubt his compass. The endless repetition of paddling left him feeling spacey and removed. Once, he thought, Boy, those hands in front of me are starting to get really annoying. “You start to go nuts.”

After three months, he made it to San Jose del Cabo. The trip, he said, was like “a dual journey. There’s two aspects to something like this. There’s the exterior aspect, the adventure — ‘This happened, I saw this, there was a big wave, there were these animal encounters.’ And then there’s an interior kind of aspect, which is just as fascinating.” He says that he still carries the experience — and in some way, the landscape — within him. “Parts of it never leave you.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The Amalgamated: ska, stability, sobriety

“We recorded during a monsoon and a freak tornado that hit Ramona”
Dimitri departing from Imperial Beach.
Dimitri departing from Imperial Beach.

Recently, I had dinner at a small gathering in Mission Beach hosted by some new friends, Dimitri and Ali Kalemkeris, in a charming cottage that was built in the time of Ali’s grandparents. Soon after arriving, I noticed a small wooden frame on the main hallway’s wall, holding, in miniature form, a kayak as seen from top and side, a paddle, and a palm tree. The frame also held a brass plaque that read “Kayak to Cabo/ 1050 miles alone/ Aug 4 to Nov 6 /2003.”

“Whose trip is this a tribute to?” I asked my host, who told me it was in fact his own. About 20 years ago, he had kayaked, solo and unsupported, from San Diego all the way to San Jose del Cabo at the Southern end of Baja. His uncle-in-law had made this piece for him shortly after his return. We didn’t have a chance to talk more about it that night, but I met him again soon after in order to hear a fuller account of his odyssey.

Dinner, plus coyote tracks and Dimitri tracks.

Dimitri’s love for the ocean and being in the water began, he said, when he developed an interest in surfing as a teenager. “Interest” is perhaps too mild a word. Though he was a child of the inland Pacific Northwest, and though he had no experience surfing, he began driving out to the coast of Oregon and very northern California, where he just taught himself how to do it. He carried on when he moved to San Diego in 1996. “All I did was surf,” he said. “I worked in a coffee shop in La Jolla. I just ate bagels every day and surfed my brains out.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Then he discovered the ocean’s opposite: the desert. “The Anza Borrego, specifically,” which he said had “a geography and a spatial atmosphere that was totally new to me. I fell in love with it.” He spent a great deal of time out there, deepening his knowledge and wilderness skills through a Sierra Club class.

Those two loves started him looking at Baja, where the sands and sea were in close proximity. He developed a vision of a journey through this land, close by and yet foreign to him. And since he did not want to travel by car or plane, kayaking ended up being his best option. So he started getting familiar with the boats, trying out various versions before settling on a sit-on-top type that had enough storage for his needs. In addition to food, he carried fishing line, a diving knife, a camera, a radio (defunct by the third or fourth day), a surfboard, a Global Star satellite phone in a waterproof bag, and a desalinator for drinking water. His weather report was provided by what he could see or hear. He did not bring much knowledge of Spanish with him. A friend said that Viaje al Cabo was all he’d really need to be able to say, and that is what he would eventually tell curious people, pointing south as he did so.

Dimitri and a shipwreck along the way.

As he prepared for what he knew would be a long and somewhat dangerous trip, Dimitri felt mostly optimistic. But he acknowledged that “to do something like this, there has to be a little bit of letting go of your potential for survival. I had to come to terms with that.” (At that point, he was not yet a father.)

Though he’d never actually been to Imperial Beach, that was his chosen point of departure, and on a sunny summer morning, he set out, feeling “like Huck Finn lighting out for the territory.” He recalled, “I felt very happy, and kind of a sense of freedom. The sun was shining, kind of an uplifting feeling. I didn’t check in at any office.” He headed “far out enough that I kind of blended into the horizon,” and once out there, amid the freedom of the sea, he paddled south past the walls and checkpoints and into Mexican waters. He was on his way.

At first, he had the bustling northwest of Baja California for company — its noise, light, and activity. But there would be many remote and quiet stretches between the top and the bottom of Baja. Sometimes, the journey was pleasant and reflective. He appreciated the solitude. Eventually, he felt more and more attuned to the energetic pulse of the natural life around him. His dreams grew more vivid. And he “started to reflect on the past. And this deep emotional wellspring kind of opened up, and this deep sense of appreciation, not just for people and for my past, but the landscape, the beauty of the earth, the animals.” He saw remote sights. He had some warm encounters with generous people who wanted to buy him food. On one ravenous night, he discovered a new appreciation for Hostess Twinkies and cupcakes, which he bought from a little shop in a fishing village. Boy, that’s going to taste good, he thought as he paddled to his campsite with his sugary treasure.

There were also periods of fear, hunger, and disorientation. At one campsite, he had to hide from a suspicious late night visitor. He wept after losing fish that could have been dinner. And at several points, hours of paddling in fog led him to doubt his compass. The endless repetition of paddling left him feeling spacey and removed. Once, he thought, Boy, those hands in front of me are starting to get really annoying. “You start to go nuts.”

After three months, he made it to San Jose del Cabo. The trip, he said, was like “a dual journey. There’s two aspects to something like this. There’s the exterior aspect, the adventure — ‘This happened, I saw this, there was a big wave, there were these animal encounters.’ And then there’s an interior kind of aspect, which is just as fascinating.” He says that he still carries the experience — and in some way, the landscape — within him. “Parts of it never leave you.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Confessions of a San Diego Amazon Flex driver

Boxbringer
Next Article

37K sidewalk repairs needed in San Diego

Should take about 20 years
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close