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By Victoria Bredeston | view profile
After having enjoyed an amazing sunny Saturday afternoon and an amazing starry Saturday night, Sunday dawn broke awful and cold. It was cloudy, the temperature was less than 20°C., and the wind present, at a speed we could not estimate except for the fact that it was enough to keep the flags fluttering. This was the first time, for four out of the five swimmers we were, to paticipate in a race which seemed to be a huge challenge. Tati, the group expertise, looked somehow relaxed, a feeling we could not imitate. The huge lion colour got rough due to the wind, and our hope of having a pleasant and enjoyable time began to wring as the hours went by and the weather conditions turned for the worse. The whole day also looked hard, due to the prevailing cold weather, for the five assistants who would embark on the journey by boat.
We took the moment to grab a bite as the assistants, with the supplies and all their backpacks, were being taken to Villa Urquiza. There appeared, out of the blue, a bowl full of noodles, which we could not give due consideration - half of it was left and we offered it naveily to the dogs from the club but they did not even sniff it; not even one attempted to replace the roasted meat leaftovers.
We made the upstream journey by bus and once there, we reunited with our assistants and with the boatmen gathered around what looked, definetely, like a true barbecue with wine. The beach inVilla Urquiza, with the crowd brought together, looked like “La Bristol”. The start line got rather delayed, and what is more, because of the swimmers’ carelessness and impatience, we waited at least fifteen minutes in the freezing cold water. At last, the long-awaited cannon shot was fired at around a quarter to four and we headed hastily into the deep river.
I had not been able to spot María, my assistant, and her boat since the start line. However, I knew they would find me. First, we – the swimmers – had to face a forty-metre route parallel to the coastline; and then, where the indicating buoy was standing, we had to swim across the river to reach the opposite coastline. Simple – at least, that is what it seemed to be. Just before getting to the buoy, I could spot María holding Swimmers helperstick and sitting in wait for me, on a white-and-orange canoe with a stout and hairy-chest boatman who was wearing an unbuttoned checkered shirt and a tango-style wide-brim hat, and a child – the boatman’s son, I inferred – who looked quite interested in the race. At the onset of the crossing, I met the boat and María who was sitting quiet with a certain expression resulting from a mix of discomfort and fright.
And there we went across the river! we swam across the river, we swam across the river, and we swam across the river. Do we have to keep swimming? Is there an ending to the crossing? How strange this is! – this kind of thoughts were torturing me, I did not know very well where I was heading for but I trusted my boatman.
Almost an hour had gone by when I stopped. I swallowed the gel and the water that my friend María kindly gave me, and I inquired the boatman who conmforted me with his explanation; besides, I then realized that most of the swimmers and their boatmen were in the surroundings. Once more, I headed forward hoping to reach the towers but we were still at right angles. Oops! What a cramp! My foot and my calf got stiff and I got inmensely discouraged. I floated vertically, did the starfish, and started again but swimming on my back thinking that if I made use of the opposites, I could beat the cramp; and at some point it worked, but the threatening cramp seemed to remain lurking in the shadows and thus, refraining me from going ahead. At last, we began swimming across the river! I had just renewed my hope when… pow! Wow! Another cramp! In the meantime, María took the moment to inform me that there had been a sudden downpour which had made her soak completely – this is something she had not forseen and that is why she had nothing to face up to the rain – yet, even feeling cold and wet, she did not utter a single complaint. In view of such nobility, I chose to ignore my physical discomfort. Now I had the towers in front of me, close to me, but they got away, I could not reach them and I knew I had been swimming for more than an hour now. How far I was!
Yet, everything comes in due time, and the towers got closer and then they were behind me and... no! Not again! Another cramp but this time on the other leg – to give out and to level off! At this point, María was already showing signs of worry for my condition and I was completely off my centre. Still, the port seemed to be near, the finish line was almost a step ahead, I had to do my very best and set my body in action But what is that? Are they turning on the city lights?, What time is it? How long have I been in the water? My father, waiting on the riverbank, must be worried. I guess I may be the last swimmer. I see no one nowhere. This is it!
We already went past the port and now, ahead I swam non-stop until I touched the pontoon. When I was almost reaching the finish line, I heard encouraging voices which said my name; and there they were, my friends Sonia and Roberto freezing cold only to see me reach the line. I touched the aim, I could stand up and walk, which I had doubted. After such icy cold, the air felt warm in my skin; then, there came the hugs and the congratulations of my mates. My father struggled vehemently for me to wrap up warm – I was already insensitive to the cold temperature but I could not dismiss his being worried and I headed for a hot shower in the restrooms. My mates – all of them had already reached the finish line well ahead of me- were very satisfied with their performance. As fate would have it, I was not the last of the bunch: there were a couple of swimmers who saved my honour. However, I must confess that I had overestimated my potential or underestimated the challenge. It was an exhausting race. In the prize giving ceremony, the two women of the pack stepped up on the podium. The satisfaction and surprise for this achievement smoothed all the obstacles that had stood in the way.
At night, we gathered to dine and to celebrate. Assistants and swimmers were enraptured by the river which filled us with happiness for having overcome the challenge satisfactorily, and for having dived into those waters to merge triumphantely with a pinch of its greatness in our hearts.
Will we return? Definetely. We might swap roles or we might not.