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Ushuaia

In the screaming fifties, I am paying, paying the night watches, the cold air, the rolling and rocking of the boat.

I have become extremely weak, just as coming out of a big infection like a bronchitis or a nasty flue when the symptoms have disappeared, and with it, all strength, all energy, all power. I can't sleep any longer, I lie in bed and my mind is spinning, from one idea to another, in one language to another, I try to calm down the flow, the white water of my mind, but nothing does, my head on a roller coaster. I lie in bed and can feel my body asleep, eyelids glued shut, my legs like lumber, my neck tense. I observe the body with the wide awake mind, I try to calm the thoughts, rest the soul. But it's too late, went beyond the limit, I heard the calling but couldn't comply. I spend my last day at sea with a swollen stomach, ache in the head, looking trough the window at the thickening fog. The water is dark grey like my mood. In my head as well birds become acrobatic, using the waves to soar through the fog.

We're a little late really, we should enter the bay at this time, for the light has started fading already and we still have a few miles to run, maybe we should spend the night waiting outside, but we decide to push a little, to offer ourselves a real night. We should be seeing the island since a few hours already but the thick fog shows us nothing but water and birds. Land is right there though, in a few hundred meters the maps tell us, and the radar agrees, just our eyes aren't seeing a thing. Trusting the instruments we sail on. At long last a darker shape in the opaque air. Land, I'm at the tiller, understanding just in time what is water and what is rock, I enter Mardek in the outer bay, passing really close to the rocks, grey and green, very wild, very rough. We have changed world yet again, from desert to these lush green young mountains. The strong smell of very humid forest fills my nose, cleans my head, every time we hit land the same present, same delicious encounter with the smell of earth. Oh earth, my mother, my home, away I long for your presence, your colours, every time new shapes for my eyes, smells I had forgotten about, welcoming me in your wide arms.



We must be very careful now, we just heard on the radio that Astarte a few miles ahead of us has hit rocks and is now stranded, her nose in the water, her steel belly resting on granite. We pass the tiniest opening in the rocks and enter the inner bay, but we see nothing, just fog and dark shapes that should be cliffs, and there just to our starboard side, Astarte doing a hand stand, on her nose, her rudder and her propeller out of the water, I may not look for I must stay concentrated on what is going on on board Mardek, not to end up in the same situation, but my eyes are locked on the vision I?d rather not see, because such a sight is the sight of disaster... We anchor the boat, pull shorelines, safe, where we should be. It is close to midnight. We hear the story of our stranded friend. If the wind stays in this direction, if the rocks he rests on play with him he should start floating again at high tide and everything should be fine. Exhausted, sipping a glass of wine to celebrate our arrival, our first anchorage in the fifties, at 2 in the morning I fall asleep.



I wake up with the sound of rain on the window, the sky is grey the fog is still with us. Astarte, where is Astarte, at 20 meters from us Astarte is floating, what a sight after the one from last night! Relief flooding me. This is the last day of the year, the weather is horrible, but I don't care, I'm going to have a nice day off, from bed to couch and back again, drinking tea and listening to the wind on the mast. At one point I stick out my head, snow, just there, a few hundred meters higher up, snow...! I scream and get back inside, snow! In the summer, here, where I am, at sea level... aaarg, cup of tea cup of tea.



It's new years eve, we eat fresh bread with pate, lentil curry, chocolate cake wine and champagne, we're a happy bunch, giggling our way to 2006. The day comes up, the sun is there, the sight is flabbergasting in the contrasty crisp light, we go for a walk, the rocks are covered with thick green moss, so thick that I sink in it till my ankles. It's very peculiar, never have I walked on such surface, between thick cloud and soft mattress. I reach the top of the hill out of breath, amazed by the tiny flowers, the red moss, the miniature purple apples, the tiny waterfalls on a green bed, pretty white flowers, silver rocks. We eat cookies on the top of the hill, down in front of us our anchorage, 4 boats, all friends. Behind us, another bay, blue water, paradise looking, a little further a lake and a huge waterfall making thundering noise. I breathe in the freshest earthy smell, I feel entirely happy, the sun warming my face, at the end of the world, where things are so wild I could not have imagined them.



Tonight we all eat king crabs grabbed at the bottom of our anchorage, huge red spider looking animals. I have to cook 2, living creatures, spiky red, huge smiling mouth. The water is nearly boiling, who's going to perform the massacre? I count on Hakan's male instinct, but no, they're alive, he can't dump them in the boiling pot. Throw them back in the water? No... At 7 30 we're expected on Astarte with the cooked beasts... I take one by her long spiky leg, the other ones wriggling lamely in the air, the pot is steaming, I extend my arm, without looking I throw it in the bubbles, I look again, the many legs seem to be waving me goodbye, the other king is moving in the bucket, yes yes, in 10 minutes I'll take care of you.... Aaahrg... I feel like a murderer and burn incense to purify the boat of this killing energy. We pack our dead animals, make a huge cabbage salad and go to Astarte. Turns out the king crabs are delicious, makes up for the genocide. Eating those kings, we feel royal in this beautiful new year, ready for the last hop towards Ushuaia, into the channels, Chili to our left, Argentina to our right, we in the black water straight ahead.



We've had such good conditions in this crossing towards the south, protected every time a front hit us, bathing in good fortune. We glide through the strait of Le Maire, we see the last bit of the American Continent, we'll be turning around it in a few hours, in front of us, Antarctica... One day we'll go there...

The wind starts blowing, hard, very hard, too hard, Hakan is fighting with the sails, the boat is dancing furiously on the crazy waves, the new Turkish flag is being thorn by the wind, waves continuously wash over the deck, the sound of all this thrashing is impressive. Dolphins stay with us, small black ones surround Mardek in our difficult passage. This is a storm Hakan tells me. Really? I'm a little surprised because it feels easier than other rough things I have gone trough on board here and I was always told they were mere gales, not proper storms. I am surprised because I don't feel tense, I don't feel frightened, at ease in this mayhem, smiling at waves and dolphins as we are being battered.



What has happened to me? How come such a change has occurred, how is it that the worse conditions are smoother in my perception than the things I have lived before?

Relativity. Relativity in everything. Facts have no value really, it is how I live them that makes one thing important, another obsolete. Psychological strength and experience, mental stability and confidence are the factors that will determine how I live an experience, what I feel or think about it. Facts seem to have become irrelevant. Crossing the street or going out to buy bread might be a bigger exploit if you aren't prepared to do so. This realization puts all things in a different light, struggles and achievement of people should not be seen through our own understanding of things but through theirs. There is no valid collective ladder of achievement. Things should be seen and understood on an individual scale. A year ago the idea of reaching this very point seemed a tough thing, now I'm here and the tough part was what I was living a year ago.

08.01.2006/Ushuaia

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