Mar 2, 2009

Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race Race Report

Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race
Spain and Canada teamed up to produce Team Buff. Chemari, Kapi, Javi and I met on Feb 9th to begin what would be a true adventure throughout Southern Patagonia. The meeting place was Punta Arenas but the start was Glacier Grey (the border of the famous Torres de Paines). For me it was a little bit of a whirl wind; racing from trans Andes challenge to Temuco to a little nap in the Santiago airport, and finally arriving into Punta Arenas at 6am greeted by pouring rain and cold air-phewph. The beginning is a blur: I remember meeting my teammates (there was some sort of spanenglish going on), I was a little bit tired a little bit confused and a little bit overwhelmed and just sort of threw certain clothes in certain bags, happily put on the yellow pants of team buff and all their matching outfits, didn´t quite pay enough attention to the order of events and didn´t always fully understand what my teammates were saying (most of the time...). The next thing I knew we were in the Plaza de Armas getting photographed, interviewed and pushed onto a bus that would take us who knows where?... the bus ride seemed to go on forever and I was trying so hard to get to know my partners that I was going to spend the next 10 days in the wild with but at the same time trying to catch a snooze here and there to try and catch up from missing zzzs from the nights before. There was a flat tire at about 11pm and then some sort of freezing outdoor crazy chilean lamb bar-b-q (for a veggy girl a little frightenening but an experience nevertheless) I tried to stuff as many potatoes and salad into my mouth as I could befor my hands froze. At about 1am I found myself in a tent with my new teammates.

So that was my intro and it only got better from there.

The morning of the race we got woken up bright and early only after a few hours of sleep (not enough for me) and brought to breakfast (a favorite: bread and jelly) but my gosh the views... they blew me away... I was in Patagonia about to start a 10 day adventure... ES LA VIDA (my motto from the beginning until forever).

I thought I was gonna get blown to sea before the race even began. Still half in a daze and not too sure what was going on. Freezing cold I was forced to strip and put my wetsuit on in the windiest place I have ever been... and let the fun begin! We were off on our 90km paddle down the most gorgeous river I have ever paddled... past glaciers, peaks, howling winds, strong currents, massive waves: grinning, crying, cold, happy, blown away!!!! We were forced to end the paddle early due to heavy winds and dangerous sea conditions.. Forced to stop at the bottom of the Sereno Glacier... GORGEOUS (even more gorgeous when dry and warm and letting the boat do the work instead of me..)

Biking... well it was 100km of fast road riding with three guys who love biking! My favorite part was stopping in Peurto Natales for a hot bowl of soup and warm bread... a first for me when racing but I wasn´t complaining.

Trekking Numero uno (50ishkm if taking the fast route....for others a little longer)
Here I got introduced to Turba ( an infamous part of trekking at the Patagonia Adventure Race). Turba is like very wet moss that sinks to about your ankles. So in the end it is as difficult as walking in snow without snowshoes but wet and cold. It doesn´t sound sooo bad but after two days of it the anomosity begins to grow. The forests in southern Patagonia are different as well. Lots of dead broken down tree trunks that break at the most inopportune times, mud, slick moss and prickly plants... There is lots of Bosque (forest in spanish... a word I lerned very quickly). We managed to cross some pretty high and fast rivers, some not as smoothly as others. They weren´t warm and they were a little firgthening but in a race: you gotta do what you gotta do. My favorite part was the high mountain pass; The views were breathtaking and the rocks were a welcoming step! This trek took a lot out of us. The rain wouldn´t stop, the wind was fierce and the cold air would freeze the outer limbs and leave us shivering most of the time. The tents no longer functioned due to wet wet conditions; making a fire started to become mearly impossible and sleeping just wasn´t a rest at all. Spooning became a necessity and that one set of dry clothes was heaven in a bag. If you can even picture this scene you may be visualizing a funny portrait of four adventure racers huddled together by a fire created under a little section of somewhat dry tree trunk created by a slight lean by the tree and the four of us huddled so close to the fire that our shoes started to melt, I think i was yelping throughout the night due to coldness. The last kilometers were the toughest we were deep into the forestm it was about 1am, dark, raining, cold and we were searching for this road that seemed almost imposible to find. Funny enough when we found it, we were even sure it was the road as it looked like a river of mud instead. We stumbled into the checkpoint to find it completely empty. I think we were so tired, cold and hungry that we didn´t see our bike boxes and didn´t undertsnad why the check point was empty. We did however manage to find a tent and some food... so we huddled ourselves into the tent, managed to get out of our wet clothes (it took awhile as I couldn´t even unzip or undo anything as my fingers and hands didn´t seem to function no matter how hard I tried), and ate and drank whatever we found and then fell asleep in our sleeping bags.

Biking 140km of beauty and winds. We were still trying to recover our bodies on this section. Javi was having some trouble. He worked so hard the last two days that he found himself exhausted.

kayak (a portage I will never ever forget)
Our last kayak section was not one to take lightly. It was a tough paddle across a windy channel. The weather was cold, the rain was non stop and the waves gave us a tough battle and did not let us rest. Once we reached the calmer end our team needed a rest. A zodiac came by and there was chat about stopping here. This was a point in the race whre the language barrier caused some confusion. I wasn´t too clear on what was going on but my guys found some energy and we were off again. The last section of kayak was beautiful and much calmer.
The portage was something I will never forget. Javi is a machine. He pulled these kayaks across, over, under and through some amazing things. 18km of trekking with kayaks (as we called it) was unbelievable. We pulled them through turba, through thick forests across fast flowing rivers up and over mountains and more. We created a tippy kayak type shelter to sleep in and finally after lots of hard work, many emotions and climate changes we found ourselves paddling out the river and on the straight. Seeing the volunteers at the check point was a welcoming relief. Unfortunately, terrible blisters,allergic reations, wrong equipment and pure exhaustion our team decided to finish the race here. The next trek could have proven to be too dangerous and with no way out things could have gotten a lot worse.

That was the end for us. The naval boat ride back to Punta Arenas was long and packed with media and organizer folk. We chatted and shared stories for the media, ate and rested. It was a blurr... What a fantastic ride. I have been blown away by this unbelievable expedition and if I am able to come back I would in a heartbeat. I have fallen in love with all of Patagonia from its harsh ever changing weather to its magical beauty.

It was a beautiful experience that I do not regret. Racing with a new team from a different country with a different style and speaking a different language allowed me to grow, learn and appreciate the experience more deeply. Thank you team Buff for an experience of a life time.

live, love, laugh,...DREAM!

1 comment:

Chris said...

Good to see you down there Lina!

The invite is still open to you guys for some whitewater this spring/summer.