Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wear and Tear

No pain, no gain - Chuck Norris

Clearing a patch for a softer sleep

Broken bones mend, muscles rejuvenate, lacerations scar, the human body never seizes to repair and adapt to an always changing environment. This resilience, this unique ability to survive is the sole purpose our species still walks the earth today. It’s been 40 days now that my body has been repeatedly used and abused. First comes the tearing and the pain, next comes the shock, after comes the body’s protest for rest until eventually adaption takes effect and the day to day agony dissolves into a soothing rhythm, concentrating specific muscle groups to move forcefully with the least amount of resistance, a physical harmony. The aching throbs have been replaced with a comforting explosion of muscle and skin. Breathlessness has been silenced by a steady diaphragm expanding and contracting. I’ve never felt stronger in my life; previously strenuous tasks are carried out now with one handed ease, my hunger has been satisfied with the rationed diet while it thrives on every single calorie like a cherished gift that will never be resupplied. My metabolism is a thriving organism finding energy from places of which are still a mystery to me. My body is working, and its working well, a well oil machine efficiently burning with the lack of emissions. I’m no longer enduring the days but enjoying them. Quizzically I’m amused with the wonder of how much more I can get out of the new side of this leaf, I want to push harder, I want to breath stronger, I want to discover the breaking point of exhaustion and physical defeat. Bring on the Mighty Murray, you haven’t killed me yet, it’s only fair I give you another chance.

Broken Rudder
Unfortunate to my newly unearthed strength and mentality, the gear that I rely on to achieve such goals don’t share the same resilience as flesh and bone. My boat takes a true battering in the daily use. Dragging it up precariously steep banks, hitting submerged rocks and trees, the packing and unpacking of the camping equipment. As every liquid has a boiling point, every piece of equipmen  has a breaking point. The bungee cords on my deck holding my gear are frayed and severed, my tent poles are fractured in every corner, my fuel stove no longer seals to the propane canister. All minor inconveniences of course until the unthinkable happens, the worst disaster possible other than a breached hull. The pressure from the pedals on my toes falls away suddenly leaving my legs searching for something to press against. Wonder turns to dread as I turn around to find my rudder completely severed from the spine. The now useless steering devise lays limply dangling in the water, useless to me as all control is lost and my boat points backwards and floats down stream.

Fabricated metal left - Broken plastic right
My efforts to repair the broken neck are short lived and the rudder falls clean off into the water moments after launching the next morning. Luckily enough I’m not overly isolated and am forced to paddle it like a skink boat (using only the paddle to steer) for 51km’s into the town of Swan Hill. The shape and weight of the Kayak is rudder dependent, so I spend the mass majority of those 51 km vigorously paddling on my left stroke in a constant struggle to keep the boat headed straight down river ‘as it has a tendency to naturally want to float backwards’. As if fortune played a good hand, the only people I loosely know on the river also reside in this peaceful country town. I’m greeted with warm welcomes and ear to ear smiles, I great them with my predicament. I’d be lying if I said I was put off by the mishap but I was doing all I could to hide my excitement of a new challenge. The piece is from a New Zealand manufacturer with no distributors in Australia, an original replacement part would leave me waiting in that town for weeks which is never considered as an option, especially with my strict timeline to finish the river and get out of dodge before my extended visa’s extension expires. The pressure is on, whatever needs to be done it needs to be done in the next few hours at any price if I want to succeed in conquering this river.

New fixed Rudder
The father of my friend Braydon from Christmas Island collects in me in his car as we navigate through the town to an engineering shop on the outskirts, our best option he reckons. The receptionist’s greeting is predictable as I would imagine, approached by an un-kept, long haired, bearded man with an orange toque displaying a piece of plastic in a sheet metal shop. Brief negotiations confirm that I won’t be allowed to use their material, welders, and grinders in exchange for a carton of beer…. Clearly the request was outrageous and what I got was exactly what I was lining up to get.. a guilty compromise to a help a person in need. I’m granted access to have a look in the yard to see if I can find some material and take my work else ware. A teenaged boy is sent to our disposal and generously, not only finds a couple pieces of scrap steel, but cuts them down to length free of charge. Frank (Bradon’s dad) set me up in his in-law’s garage with a handful of miscellaneous power tools and an antique welder. Like a brain surgeon makes his incisions, I manipulate the bits of steel into impossible shapes with the miss match of tools. A man left to his devices with only an image of what he wants in his mind. I’m completely consumed by the task, sparks, dust, and squealing electric motors, I’m completely in my element. A few hours later I emerge with a sheepish grin on my face like a child who’s sporting an A+ assignment. Success at last, I’m reminded of all those days spent bloodying knuckles against rusty old trucks, the wet cold ground of a driveway against my back. Unable to afford anything more, those countless hours now prove to be invaluable time of education.
Rhonda - Me - Frank
A set back of less than four hours.. a good attempt but this river will need to try harder than that to keep me from it.

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