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Cheers and thanks for your interest. Hayley
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Cumberland East Bay
My final night under canvas is only just around the corner from King Edward Point and the abandoned whaling station of Grytviken. Strong N, NW winds are forecasted therefore I didn't want to find myself too far away where wind could prevent me from getting in to my final destination. The ship will wait for no-one.
It was an early start and a beautiful one, with a sunrise broadened along glassy seas within the sheltered arms of Ocean Harbor. I was on the water by 6.30am and was eager to begin this final stretch of open seas and an exposed coast I was curious whether or not the swell had diminished, however there were plenty of tell-tales informing me that it had not as whitewater pummeled the reefs and rocks that lined the entrance to the bay.
My intended day of reflection vanished immediately as I exited the harbor. Mountains of sea lifted me high on the crest of each wave and once in the trough the horizon and sight of any land vanished like magic. My kayak was shoved this way and that as the waves rebounded off the coastline like a rebellious child, creating seas of confusion. It was an uncomfortable ride and for the next 4 hours I would not be taking my hands off my paddle nor would I stop paddling. Every stroke was not only propelling me forward, each stroke was also a support stroke, keeping me steady and at times upright.
I was tense, my kayak felt less stable than usual, perhaps it was 'last days' nerves I was feeling. I started to imagine something terrible happening on the last leg, the last stretch of my paddling experience in South Georgia having survived so far South Georgia's school of hard knocks and harsh lessons. I had to concentrate and watch every wave, every motion as the seas moved towards me, under me and around me. At times I traveled nearly 2 miles off shore and selected the outer route around offshore islands and islets, avoiding the white water chaos and carnage of the inner routes. It made for more miles but safer ones although it was rather unnerving being so far away from land in such big seas.
Black Browed Albatross made use of the up-draft currents from this ocean swell therefore kept me company for most of the journey. Not wanting to take my hands off the paddle I drank little and ate none and so my body started to feel the lack of fuel . As the morning progressed South Georgia displayed it's hidden treasures as the clouds dispersed and the jagged Mountain peaks and ridges showed themselves. I was relieved to enter into Cumberland East Bay, familiar surroundings and only then did the seas mellow in size. As soon as I was able I stopped and gulped down water and hungrily ate my Cliff bars. Instant fuel offering me energy to fulfill the final hour of paddling. At the east of the bay I found a nook where the surf was less and landed on a steep rocky beach. Elephant seals and Fur seals claimed there piece of beach and I searched hard for a place to put my tent. With this narrow, steep beach there was no room for my tent and beyond that was tussock mounds crowned by the occasional Fur seal and puddles of muck. And so between the Fur seals and puddles of muck I now call home, for this night anyway.
I made the most of afternoon light and took a hike up the backside of where I am camped. It led me to a rise which overlooked Grytviken, KEP and the entrance to Cumberland bay. All around me the mountains hovered like protective parents and the two icebergs that drifted in the bay were lit by the suns rays. The rhythm of the surf soothed me from way up here, and it was this spot where I chose to write in my journal and go over in my mind the previous 16 days I have spent intimately on and beside the shores of South Georgia.
I recall a moment as I paddled this morning, I noticed my reflection in the water-proof housing of my camera. I could see, like a mirror my face reflected in it. I was wearing the Necky cap and poking out from each side were my straggly braids giving me a Pippy Longstocking appearance. “That's me”, I said out-loud to myself. “That's me paddling alone in South Georgia!”. I am doing exactly what I had envisioned for all those years. I dreamed about this, then planned how I was going to make this happen and after 3 and half years of hard work, I finally set foot from shore and paddled away, alone in my kayak in an attempt to paddle around the entire Sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. I had played this entire scene in my mind so many times. Wondering how cold it will really be, how big will the seas become, how fast will the wind pick up while I am out on the water. Will my tent stand up to the furious winds I have seen with my own eyes and will I have the nerve to actually do it once I am there. So many questions and curiosities have been answered. I have been to the South Georgia school of hard knocks and harsh lessons and I did good . I did not complete what I had set out to complete and yes this in itself does bring a strong feeling of disappointment. Despite the fact that there were a number of reasons and circumstances beyond my control which influenced this outcome, I still struggle with trying to let go of the disappointment and unconditionally embrace all what has been accomplished. That I am sure will come with time. I am wise enough to know that I have not failed. How can one fail if they actually tried and gave it their best shot. Against all the odds, I tried. We tried. One could look at this as failure if I simply do not embrace the experiences I had, the treasures I discovered and the unfathomable beauty I witnessed. And this could be seen as failure simply by not having the mindfulness to actually learn from each set-back and obstacle that happened to be put in our path. The lessons were limitless, the unexpected side-line adventures took us where we all needed to go for reasons that only time will tell.
When I recall the historical accounts of past explorers and adventurers there is a commonality with each story. Their expeditions never panned out the way those involved anticipated, which made for a fabulous story. Sure we did not suffer 2 years living on the ice and making small boat journey's across the Southern Ocean in the middle of winter, however we too have a story to tell.
Tomorrow morning when I turn the corner beyond King Edward Point, I will keep the land close to my port (left) side. I will land on a small beach, giving the local Fur seals and Elephant seals their space and meander up to a small graveside I know well. I will stand before Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave and take a moment to reflect on the reason why we are both right here. Sure, one of us is a few feet under the ground and the other, well I'd say they are pretty happy to still be alive and kickin. We are here simply because we dream and we live those dreams despite how impossible they seem at times. We follow our truest of hearts and in doing we have had the privilege and the honor to relish in the awe-inspiring beauty of South Georgia and be touched by the mesmerizing sights and scenes one can only witness here. I am so grateful.