Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Part of the froth, part of the painting

It was a lovely morning. Chilly but bright. The night had been cold but the crackling fire had kept him warm. The long trek and cold night had affected many members of the party. Back aches, leg pains and head aches were all around.

But the morning made everything better. The clear sky, thick green forest around them and the river water frothing when it hit the rocks. They created a perfect picture worthy of a water colour painting. Such are the Himalayas. Only if he could paint.

A thin fog hung over the river creating a tunnel through which you could cross to another universe. It called him. Their camp was on the river bank, deep in the forest. Last evening he had walked up to the river. It was very shallow. He was tall. Could he walk across it? This should not be difficult. But he had never crossed a river. But there's always a first time.

Everyone was busy having breakfast, gathering cloths, making a trip to the toilets. This was a good opportunity to attempt the crossing. No one was looking. Attention makes him conscious. Performance anxieties.

He pocketed his camera and phone and approached the river. The water was really shallow. He kept walking. The bed was flat, full of pebbles. He had to be careful, walk in small steps, try not to slip.

A minute later the water was up to his knees. That was expected. It's a river for god sakes. 20 sec later, the bed became deeper. The water was up to his waist. He took the camera and phone out of his pants pockets and put them in his jacket pockets.

He could see the great flow of of the river coming from upstream. Downstream was more peaceful. Snaking through the massive boulders the river looked angry. There were massive rocks around him, mostly submerged in water. The water crashed into these rocks to create froth. Froth that formed part of the water colour painting. Up close, they looked dangerous, as if someone was drowning beneath them. Bubbles rising. Blub, blub, blub.

He stopped. The flow of water was very strong. It hit his legs with all its strength. He had to make efforts to keep his feet on the floor. The water wanted to uproot him. In the struggle between the water and his legs, the water was winning. It had infinite energy. He had limited energy. The energy in his legs was being sapped by the water. It crashed into his legs, sucked his energy and moved on with greater force.

He realised, this was foolish. He must return. He started turning back. The water tried to push him. If he tried to turn back, the river would take him away, for itself. He would become part of the bubbles next to the rocks. The one in the water colour painting. He would probably still cross to another universe. Blub, blub, blub.

It was still not the time to become one with those bubbles, to cross to another universe. The best course of action was to try and cross the river and look for another spot upstream to cross back. The river opened up downstream. Downwards from their camp, there was no river bank, only a steep cliff. No place to cross back. Upstream, the river was narrower and full of massive boulder. This was the best opportunity to cross.

He pressed on. The water was up to his chest. Few more steps. Now the shoulders. Will this be it? End game! It was. He took a few more steps and the water level reduced. And more. He was on the other side. Drenched. Water flowing down his body. The camp on the other bank looked beautiful. Little tents with little people walking between them. No one had still realised that he was missing. That was relief.

He must move before anyone notices. He started climbing upstream. The boulders were massive but he could climb some of them. There was no water, only froth. The angry river was crashing into the boulders with its full force, as if warning - you will become part of this if you dare. He didn't dare. He climbed further. There was too much gap between the boulders. Crossing was difficult. This part was also steep compared to where he had crossed. That part was more or less flat. Steep meant more force in the river.

After 10 minutes he realised this was futile. If he is to go back he must cross from the same spot. Portals don't have doors everywhere. You must take the same way back. Same way or no way.

His blood was loaded with adrenaline. His hear was hitting his chest. It was a mix of fear and excitement. More fear. He was on a school trip. He feared that if his teacher saw this, he would be punished - probably fail the course. That is what was going through his mind. Not the fear of becoming part of the froth next to the boulders and of the water colour painting. If that was to happen, everything would become immaterial.

He stepped back into the river. No one had seen him yet. He focused on taking small steps. Not lifting his legs too much to take the next step. Putting the body weight on one leg for too long might mean giving the river a chance. He didn't want to give the river a greater chance than what it already had.

Left leg and right leg and left leg. Sow and steady. Firmly on the floor.

The water was back to his shoulders. He was in the middle of the river. They saw him. He saw them. Oh shit! He waved at them to gesture that he was ok. He will be able to cross back. He was confident with his progress.

Being found and having to reassure broke his focus. He slipped. The river took him. He was with the flow. One of the trekking guides quickly ran down the bank, towards the river. Help was on the way. But was it faster than the river?

He was part of the river. But only for 5 seconds. He caught a boulder and found the ground beneath his feet. He was standing straight again, in the froth by the boulder. Part of the froth, part of the painting. Blub, blub, blub, next to his feet. He gestured again, he was ok. The trekking guide stopped next to the bank.

The water was back to the chest. Then to the waist. Then to the ankles. He was back.

Many friends awaited him. Some smiling for he had survived, some with tear in his eyes for he had been stupid, some just surprised at his stupidity.

It was now sunny. The fog above the river had lifted. The portal was gone. The doors had closed.


The first thing he said was an apology to his teacher for putting everyone through a rough time.
The first thing he heard was from a friend - "you impressed all the girls"

The next days were spent doing rappelling and aerial river crossing, of course with expert guidance and safety equipment

He did not fail the course. In fact he did very well.

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