Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ha Long has it been since I've had the wind knocked out of me like that?

The routes we'd done so far had been easy.  And for the moment I was happy with how high I'd coaxed myself to climb and release from the wall.  Next I'd back off on the height a little and try a backflip.  It should be a simple hop, crunch, tap the knees and layout for a graceful entry.

Deep water soloing in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
I surveyed the jungle-topped limestone karsts that enclosed our section of the bay, peered down at the dark green water below and buzzed from the morning's dose of potent Vietnamese coffee.  Before my resolve could shake, I was off.  I hopped, crunched, tapped my knees and arched back into a perfect layout, but where I expected the now familiar plunging sensation there was nothing.  I felt sick to find myself looking at the sky again.  This was going to hurt.

In the darkness under water, my mind raced through what I knew to be the worst cases for deep water solo injuries. Broken back?  Ribs?  Lung collapse?  I need to be able swim or I'm done.  Don't gasp.  Wait.

When my face cleared the salty water I heard an animal's drawn-out bray escape my clenched torso.  Did the trauma knock me into some base survival mode?  Maybe this is the wind knocked out of me like back when I was a kid.  Fitting that I should sound like a jackass.

Amid the stinging numbness from my backside, the nauseating ache from my organs, and the almost-popped feeling from my lungs, I found that I could tread water just fine.  That's a good sign.  Really good.

The sound of my back slapping the water had attracted the attention of our basket boat around the corner.  Do I get them to come fast, do I need to be saved?  Or do I let them come slowly while I regain my dignity?

I tried to look nonchalant and assured myself that I was indeed treading water with no problem.  If I can do the heel hook and mantle to get onto the boat I'm going to be fine.

Toenails stained a lovely orange from my climbing slippers.
I hooked, mantled and rolled onto the deck of our dinghy of a boat.  I faced the driver and guide, who could speak no english.  How do you say, "I was trying to do something cool" in Vietnamese?

No comments:

Post a Comment