Teetering on the edge….
St Francisville, Louisiana. 19 October
The title of this blog is intentionally ambiguous in its meaning. I have checked and re-checked the calendar and whichever way I view it, we have only 6 days until we reach New Orleans and the end of our journey of 2,320 miles down this most majestic of rivers. But we still have 6 days to negotiate. A strange series of sensations and emotions are beginning to well up as I approach these last sections now that we are clearly in sight of the line. But we are also on the edge in other ways too.
Both Paddy and I were cognisant of the warnings of the physiologists, nutritionists and medics, who cautioned us that towards the end of the journey, we were going to struggle. They were unconcerned about our ability to row between four to nine hours every day for 3 months. They knew that we were driven to succeed. What concerned them was the accumulation of fatigue and how that might impact us over the last few weeks. We were by no means dismissive, but we were frankly sceptical, especially as we seemed to bounce back even after the most gruelling of days (of which there has been no shortage). Then this morning, as Paddy and I were chatting over early breakfast, we realised that much of their predictions are now beginning to emerge. We are both now carrying residual problems.
Paddy has a sore back that is seemingly getting stiffer each morning. Alex is manipulating him and he tries to loosen up each day, helped by Ibuprofen. He also has some nasty blisters which have blown up under the callouses he has built up during the first two months. These are hard core nasties and even he now has to wear a glove. He also confessed this morning to feeling weary – which I can echo only too easily – as we stopped in the boat and quietly shook hands as we passed the 2,000 miles done mark.
I had cuts on my hand and foot that have taken 5 weeks to heal. I have some sores now on my backside that are not blisters or chafing from the seat, but residual sores from sitting and rocking back and forth 20 times a minute for several hours a day. I am also deeply tired. The fact of the matter is that we are just not healing, as each of these ailments would, in “normal” life, disappear in a day or two. But not now.
On the other hand, we now have (whisper it) a very light northerly wind! In addition, the weather front parked off the Louisiana coast, helped by a similar front somewhere around Memphis, suggests that this weather is fixed until at least next weekend. This is, as you can imagine, a source of unalloyed joy for us after literally months spent crunching into a southerly headwind.
In addition, we have some absolute stellar crew members around now. Matt (Fresh Meat) Brittin left this morning after two cracking days dragging me down the River. Marysh and Alison are here through to the end to help us and we have just been joined by Big Jim Pew, another member of the 1986 Hell Boat crew and seriously large, strong and a very good sculler. To cap it all, we now have Jerry (not so much a human, more a collection of stories) Dale with his unimproveable wife Julia here too and staying to the end. Finally, I am overjoyed that Julie and Charlie join us on Tuesday, to savour the run in. There is a true sense of momentum building now, so I am doing my very best to maximise this last week. I am trying to keep a lid on excitement, conscious that this river will unquestionably continue to test us, as it has for three months. But I am also trying to enjoy every minute of the rowing, the scenery, the atmosphere and the wonderful Louisiana folk.
We are definitely teetering on the edge of something truly special. I am emotional even writing that we are approaching New Orleans.
But we are not there yet……