25 January 2010

impressions of a swim


our plans to ride the ferry to punta arenas thwarted, we've just fixed up an alternate situation, which includes a boat to and an evening in Ushuaia. comings and goings are not easy here in Puerto Williams. high winds will prevent air traffic for the next couple of days. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Argentina than just a wild beach, although what a beach it was!

throughout today, flashes of yesterday's swim keep going through my mind: a panorama of snowcapped mountains, wild birds above a choppy green foreground, breathing to my left en route to argentina; strange blue-brown jellyfish-like sea creatures in the emerald clear below me mid-channel on the return leg; the rocky shallows teeming with sealife on the approach to each beach; the flaming-june orange of the argentinian's oversized drysuits; olive kelp bathed in filtered sunlight. the sound of wind against my ears.

the whole swim, windswept and sunblinded, was beautifully disorienting. without perspective to judge the distance of land, and without human landmarks, I seldom knew where I was. I sighted until my neck hurt, just to be there. it was only near the end of the swim, when I was cold and tired and my mind had checked out, that Captain Elvis and Jose another armada sailor appeared, tiny beneath the wooly cliffs. i've never been so relieved to see a sailor.

as I started to realise how far we still had to swim, and as minor hypothermia began to cloud my awareness, I screamed a couple of times underwater, just to release the frustration of momentarily losing my humanity. it made me feel better, almost as much as the double-thumbs-up the armada men kept throwing my way, under encouraging grins.

our stopover in Argentina at Punta McKinley, where Cristian and I concurred that we felt warm, great-- dude, we're in Argentina!-- was a little too long. getting back in the water was a bit of a shock for all of us. I have a new appreciation for those who swim Channel doubles and triples. the drastic difference between the water temperature and the air causes the body to almost immediately shift gears and start re-warming. the second leg of this swim was mentally and physically tough. luckily, we were all determined, and well-trained after a number of weeks swimming the the 30s back in arctic Brooklyn.

but today, the swimmers walk. we hike serro bandera to the top, where a massive Chilean bandera snaps in the wind just above the treeline. the wind fills my mouth and ears, as if I'm on a motorcycle at high speed. at the top, six hundred meters above sea level, staving off a cold wind blowing off nearby glaciers, I nearly lose my down jacket. we traipse through deciduous, strange forests, lichen-softened scree teeming with shale and sandstone chips, and bent-trunk tree groves, patti with a walking-stick taller than herself and me bounding like a mountain goat, trying not to slip in my very inappropriate shoes, practically skipping at times from happiness at being in the forest. Cristian's pace walking is exactly like his long-distance swimming pace-- steady, calm.

No comments:

Post a Comment