Last days on the Mississippi

My last day before getting to Baton Rouge was exhausting. It was exhausting because I wanted to reach 100 nautical miles in one day. To reach these 100 nautical miles I knew that I had no more than two days maximum left of paddling before reaching New Orleans. I had to paddle a lot during the day to reach 100nmi; instinctively I woke up very early and was on the water at 7am. Early morning two boaters told me to keep to the right of the channel further down on the Mississippi to avoid a very strong current used to divert excess water. I was aware of the channel but they made it sound a bit scary so I paid a lot of attention. I did not need so much because when I reached the channel there was a continuous background alarm so I knew I had to keep left.

The day was extremely warm even for someone like me who hardly complains about heat or cold. It had been many many days I had lost my “Castro military hat” and I could feel my head heating up. Every 30min or so I was pouring the Mississippi water on my head to cool down. The air was humid and I did not need to check the weather channel to realize that there was going to be a storm. I had hopes however. Early afternoon extremely strong head winds started to pick up. My kayak was really not meant for headwinds. It had a bit of ‘bulky’ profile and while it was great for tailwinds on the other hand headwinds were a disaster. The wind picked up very quickly and the speed of the events caught me in surprise. I did not have the spray-skirt on and was being pushed to the banks of the mighty river. Out of desperation and hope I battled for an hour against the wind but hardly advanced. The water was gushing in from every side. Waves were forming… small ones, big ones… and they were all ending on my kayak. I was trying to follow and predict their movements and kept trying to avoid them and move at the same pace with them to avoid having more water. This was all happening while I was trying to beat the wind and move closer to my 100nmi goal. The wind picked up even stronger and I was out of strength. I could not feel my arms and decided to let myself drift at the will of the wind. The wind ended up crashing me on the trunks of flooded trees. I was exhausted. I had kept a reference of ‘most exhausting moment’ in my life and I think this experience bet my previous most exhausting experience. I was out of strength and discouraged. The situation made me feel annihilated. My biggest worry was not my safety but rather failing to achieve my 100nmi goal before the end of the trip. And then it happened. Heavy rain started to pour down. I grabbed my jacket and zipped it up as high as I could and put the hat on. It was raining very hard there was hardly any visibility. I was just staring in emptiness. I was mesmerized. Mother Nature was not another ‘God’ making its subjects suffer every once in a while because ‘it is written’. I did not need to curse the wind or the rain. I saw it happening in front of my eyes from early morning. Mother Nature was just trying to reach equilibrium for the triumph of life. At that moment I thought of Schrödinger and his views on life. A living organism knows how to use the energy from its environment to rearrange matter, reach equilibrium. As these thoughts were going through my head I put my skirt and started paddling, to reach my ‘equilibrium’. The waves were big, and every once in a while my kayak was ‘jumping’ on the waves with the tip heading in the river. Several barges passed by. I wonder what they thought of me kayaking under the rain, completely zipped up? I had a great time fighting the elements.

Just when I was completely wet and could not care of the rain anymore the sun came out. I had a lot of paddling left to reach the 100 nautical miles. I paddled for a long time lost in my thoughts. I was so close to the end of the trip. The sun was going down and before I knew it was dark. I knew I had not reached my 100 nmi goal yet when darkness started to surround me. I knew as well that to reach this goal I had to go past a bridge in construction (according to the nautical charts). This bridge, the John James Audubon, I could see it further ahead. It was a construction area and the industrial lights were glowing strangely on the river. I was getting closer to the bridge but when you are on water everything seems closer than the real distances. By the time I got very close to the bridge it was dark. As I passed close to the right bank, close to the construction area a construction worker yelled at me: ‘hey you what are you doing, you are not allowed to do that’. The construction site, the darkness and the glow of industrial lights gave a scary echo to his voice. I had been on the river for a month and fear did not come from nature but rather a fellow human. The whole experience and enviroenement made me think of the famous [======].

Page 1 of 4 | Next page