Floating tent

After a day of cycling on the gravel road, I reach the bank of Rio Baker river. Each screw of my body is loose. I wipe off the dust and sweat on my face with the cold turquoise-blue water of the river. It is very quiet but in my head I can hear the bicycle wheel scratching and bouncing on the loose gravel.

I breathe in and out feeling the scent of fresh vegetation. My mind begins to clear up. I see the river meandering through the valley. The sun is setting. Long shadows are creeping up the mountains.

I pitch the tent on a soft grassy patch; a couple of feet from the water level. I have an uneasy feeling in my empty stomach, but my mind and body are too frazzled to cook. I pull everything out from the shoulder bag. At last, I find the boiled eggs and the bread which I stuff in my mouth and swallow.

As the moon rises above the mountains, the valley is covered in a soft blue hue. I sit on a boulder on the edge of the river and write my daily diary. Slowly, it becomes chilly; I crawl into the tent.

I am hardly asleep when it starts to drizzle. I go out, dismount the bags from the bicycle, and bring them inside. Soon, the rain begins to pelt down. I hide my head inside the sleeping bag and close my eyes. I try to ignore the rain, changing sides, turning around in the sleeping bag, but the sound of heavy rain keeps hitting my ears.

Suddenly it dawns on me that I am camping only a few feet from the edge of the river. Rio Baker is the largest river in Chile. Many rivers, small and big, fall into it. The water level of the river may increase due to the rain and reach my tent. I put my glasses on and go out in the rain with my headlamp to check the level of the water which seems unchanged since I last saw it. I look for a higher place to move the tent but by now everywhere is wet! Unable to think, I go back in the tent, praying to the God for safety. It continues to rain. Every sound of the river wakes me up. I keep peeking outside and using the headlamp to make sure that the water is not nearing the tent.
Late in the night, I feel that the sleeping bag is getting wet and the tent is rocking. I fumble around in the dark to find my glasses. Instead, my hands splash in the cold water. Hurriedly, I open the tent zippers. Freezing water comes rushing in. Before I can even think, the tent is half submerged in the water.

In the dark, I can see the silhouette of my bicycle flowing away in the fast river, along with the bags.
I wade through the chilly waters in a daze and move towards the floating bags which are partially stuck to a boulder. I take a plunge and manage to get hold of two of them. As I drag them towards the shore, they open and all the belongings inside are swept away with the gushing water. I see the diary floating and grab it. The rest, my laptop, cameras, everything vanishes in the river.

I look here and there for the bicycle. Far away, the waters turn the bicycle around in a circle, it sinks slowly and then disappears. I crawl out of the river with the diary in my hand. The rain has stopped. The moon is behind the clouds. The river is calm and quiet!

My dream to travel the Americas is shattered. I sit down on the boulder shivering from the cold. In my hands is a wet diary. I carefully open it. The ink runs down the pages, the words dissolve and disappear. On the same boulder, I was happily writing in this diary a few hours ago. Now, I have lost everything. A deep sadness overcomes me and my heart sinks into the pain of loss. I begin to cry. With each falling tear, the river level continues to increase. A tidal wave sweeps me into the river. My mind goes black.

A while later, I wake up trembling. As my vision clears, I find myself inside the tent. The pillow is wet from the tears – still flowing. The sleeping bag is warm. I carefully open the tent and glance outside; there is no rain. The valley is lit with the warm morning light. The bicycle is at its place. The bags are inside the tent and the water level of the river is where it was yesterday.

After having breakfast, I look for the diary to write about this dream but cannot find it in the bags. I quickly go to the boulder. I had forgotten my diary and pen there last evening. The pages of the diary are wet, but the ink hasn’t dissolved.
My dream is intact!

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