Tuesday, 4 August 2015

A funny story!


I got lost once and it was the most amusing and wacky experience of my life. It happened back in January 1994. Although it might read like a slightly out of place kind of story, I want to share it with you because it’s my favourite one to tell!

Like migrating birds we flew south to warm weather for training. Our destination was Chile in South America, more precisely the town called Los Andes, where we were to spend the majority of the winter.  (Ok, at this point I might as well inform you, that I was a member of Slovenian wild water kayaking team.)

We flew to Santiago, the capital of Chile in late afternoon and then hit the road to Los Andes. We arrived in dark. The morning dawned and everything seemed new and different from our half frozen homeland in Europe. We enthusiastically set of for our first training on the river somewhat far from our base. River was grand and training was splendid. When done, our coach instructed us to do few more runs cooling down and then continue downstream until we see an opening in the vegetation on our left.  That’s where our van was parked. That’s where we should disembark.
Well, taken by the striking flora and colourful vegetation decorating the riverbanks, I went down stream with a romantic look at the whole setting.  Whistling away and just breathing in the exotic look of my new surrounding. Obviously distracted, I didn’t look left at the right time and went past the disembarking place unaware. So, I paddled and paddled and admired the nature and eventually realized I clearly missed it.
The river was not the kind to permit such mistakes. Too little eddies to even attempt progressing against the stream.  I did briefly consider getting out and walking back at one point of time but then I suddenly noticed a familiar hill with a cross on top in the distance and recognized it as a hill I have seen close to our base, the home stay kind of a house that hosted our team. The river was visibly going in the right direction so why not just follow it? I decided to get home on my own. Why have I not thought of my poor, worried coaches is beyond me now, but I guess at 21 years of age you don’t think of things, like a parent would. :)

The hill still appeared far off and the river’s gotten more rapid and alarmingly noisy. I vividly imagined those classic scenes from cartoons where a boat falls over a gigantic waterfall surprising all involved and I decided to disembark right then and there, as I was no Donald Duck and would not be able to survive such a cartoonish fall!  Just then, I spotted some labourers at the banks, collecting or separating stones. Armed with my French, Italian and some Spanish I was convinced everything is solved and they will tell me where to go. As it turned out they were Portuguese. Not the brightest ones either! Pantomime skills did the trick at the end and they pointed me in the direction where I was supposed to go. Ok, so far so good.

Geared up in complete kayaking attire with a paddle in one hand and a kayak resting on my shoulder (kayaks used in competitions weigh only 7 kgs), I started to march across vast tobacco fields following a Portuguese man, who kept smiling. Oh, boy, I am sure he was just holding back the laughter…honestly, so was I. The whole scene was very much in a bizarre category!
After painstaking 30 minutes walk through the tobacco fields we arrived at the seemingly deserted construction site where I met an engineer who spoke some English. Thank god! I briefed him on what has happened and he agreed to help me get back to our house. Did I mention I had absolutely no idea what the address was of the house we stayed in? Well, we just arrived late in the night and I didn’t count on getting lost the very next morning!
The young engineer suggested we take the bus. It must have been kind of logical that I had no money on me.  Seeing my hesitation he reassured me that he would pay for the ride. Perfectly dressed for the occasion (ahem!) I headed for the bus. Well, it would have been perfect attire if the bus were actually a kayak! Nevertheless, wearing my helmet, a life jacket and a paddle still in my hand, my neoprene shorts and spray deck dangling in front of my legs I boarded the bus and the entire bus went instantly silent and staring. I froze my smile widest and looked straight.

Not knowing the address I scrutinised the route we were on and tried remembering even a slightest thing from the day before. I had no clue where I was.  After 20 minutes or so, people still staring at me in disbelief, the bus took a left turn and I recognised the road. I started nodding enthusiastically to let my engineer friend know I finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. But then the bus took another turn and I shrieked, “No! Stop the bus!” I honestly didn’t want to part from the slightly familiar road.
We continued on foot.  By this time, I couldn’t care less what everyone thought seeing me parading the town in my kayaking gear. I turned into a hound dog trying to figure out where we stay. The familiar road became definitely the road I recognised from the night before and I knew where to go.  At last the light at the end of the tunnel became bright and obvious and I found our place. Hallelujah!

My teammates already finished their dinner, my coaches still on the search for me (oops!) I finally found my way back. I tried to repay the engineer who flatly refused to take the money and I felt absolutely victorious about the ordeal I went through. The last thing, to conclude the day, was facing my two coaches who screamed at me from the top of their lungs but I could tell they were happy to see me and were just letting out the steam, as they were worried sick.  The next day we went back to the construction site and picked up my kayak and everyone there was waving at me surely saying something like, “look at that crazy girl!” as I heard the word ‘loco’ couple of times. Loco, in Spanish, means crazy. Yes, what a loco day that was!

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