Our gear is spread out all over the place. It looks like we could be organizing a yard sale, except there is no one but us in here. After a long day of paddling we stopped on a little plateau, right by the river. Despite the carcass of a dead guanaco nearby, the spot is pretty much perfect and it will be our camp for the night. Today is the 4th day of our expedition but it was actually our first day paddling down the Rio Tunuyan. Everything went smooth. Spirits are high. And while we all gather around the fire and start cooking, Ben runs down to go get some water. As he comes back lifting up a dry bag full of water, our friend Robert jokingly points out that Ben is unstoppable. And there was Ben Stookesberry’s latest nickname ‘Ben Bruce Lee’ (to be said with a Spanish accent).
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
At first I didn’t think much about it. I don’t think any of us really thought that one through. But after spending three months travelling and paddling through Argentina and Chile, it all makes sense. First Ben seems unbreakable. During three months we didn’t really stop, the only ‘days off’ were either travel days, or a lap down the Rio Baker! Anytime we had to run a +10km shuttle, Ben would volunteer (probably because he knew it would take way longer if I had to do it, but still!). And even after spending 10 hours driving through the night to retrieve a forgotten sleeping bag, he was still fresh the next day to start our long hike up the Rio Engano. If he loves lay over days and happily slows down for a picture or just to wait for me while I’m slugging in the back, Ben seems unstoppable.
Unstoppable is the appropriate word for someone who has been pushing the sport of expedition whitewater kayaking for decades. Literally. In this sense he is a sort of whitewater ‘Bruce Lee’ who devoted himself to expedition kayaking, who also happens to like playing with a camera. And if he is not an actor he can sure be a man model in front of Boomer’s camera!
I feel very fortunate to get to travel, paddle and learn from ‘Ben Bruce Lee’. I hope that one day I can become some sort of expedition kayaking ninja too. But nothing comes easy right?! Better start shouldering my loaded boat like a big girl and stop whining in French on long portages!