It’s a pretty long flight from Europe. Very long. Terribly long. Just under 32h. But we are going to the South of the South. To Patagonia. Pure wilderness, beautiful mountains and crazy colours. A country full of contrasts. True? We will see…
TO THE SOUTH OF THE SOUTH.
For flight 4/4, Jordi and me met in Santiago de Chile, he came from Barcelona via Lima and me from Salzburg via Frankfurt and Madrid. For the fact that our final destination is almost at the other side of the world, the ticket price of around 850€ total was pretty good. It’s our 3rdtrip together, far away to the Ultra Fiord race, he as photographer and me more as runner than photographer – an ideal excuse for both of us to get there.
Getting some fresh air on a little city night trail in Punta Arenas (hey, also Jordi ran!) and Sauna & Whirlpool after in the hotel SPA was the perfect way to move the stiff legs and relax from all the hanging around in the airports.
Driving along the coast road of the Strait of Magellan, the first light of the day turned the harbor and the beach into a bright golden nature spectacle. Dolphins jumped out of the water, huge birds draw their circles into the burning sky. We knew: it will become a fantastic trip!
Heading more North to Puerto Natales, a small city with around 20.000 people built on the “Fiordo Ultima Esperanza” (Fiord of the last hope) in the “Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena”, we experienced what windy means in Chile. All the trees are deformed by the strong storms, the car gets shift while driving and sometimes it’s so intense that rocks get flipped up and break windows.
Stopped for some food, the La Mesita Grande pizza place was recommended in google and we can only confirm that. The restaurant has only one big table and so you are next to someone you have never seen before – interesting conversations promised (if you like).
On the last part of the approx. 5h road trip we stopped for some easy climbing and scrambling and finally got to see the Nationalpark Torres des Paines for the first time. It was just overwhelming. You immediately feel like if you would be in a painting. So surreal. So immense. So beautiful. Almost too beautiful.
Entering the hotel Rio Serrano we must still have looked a bit dizzy from that feeling, the receptionist asked seriously if we were fine or need to get some rest first. He would recommend the SPA to relax. Honestly, we are right at the border of the National Geographic’s TOP 5 places in the world you MUST visit, are 1,5h away from the next village, in the middle of nowhere and have Sauna, pool and a gym?! Okay, Jordi, let’s go…! Floating in the warm water and listening to the sound of the birds that went to sleep, we got to see wild horses just passing by. More surrealistic. And the food: it was just perfect!
But hey, we are not (only) here to relax! It’s time to run. At least for me 😉 Breakfast at 7:00, leaving at 7:30, driving to the start of the Ultra Fiord VK. Another last minute decision of me yesterday. Why to rest for the 70km when it’s 4 days in between?
As there is no internet in the park Jordi had pre-downloaded the maps and so we pushed forward pretty well, even after you enter the park it’s dirt-road only. After about 45min I was a bit curious about the direction and we checked the maps again. Damn, wrong, we missed a turn in the begin and not the GPS says 9:55 for the arrival. Race starts at 10:00. Booooom #TimeToDrive
And then suddenly the sky cleared up, the clouds got blown away and we saw the whole Torres del Paine massive. Should we stop for a picture? But we are in a hurry, we don’t know the road conditions and if the GPS calculates right, I need to get my bib too. Whatever, it’s to awesome not to stop, just 30sec. 29, 28, 27,26,… only 10 remaining seconds and we were back and continued., Not sure how Jordi managed to changed lenses that quickly. Must be professional 😉
As there was just no time for a warming up, I jumped out of the car, took my bib, Jordi went a bit higher for the best (still) reachable photospot and we took off – 1.100m+, 5km and afsp (as fast as possible) Ouf, that hurted! With my skiing legs the steep parts were quite good and so I managed to escape and finished 1st. But my biggest challenge was not to stop and take some pictures from the incredibly scenery. Haha
In the next two days we discovered more parts of the national park, did a photoshooting of Salomon (still secret, sorry), were running and hiking around and just enjoying the intense surroundings. But I don’t wanna write more as pictures can say way more than a thousand words:
Driving back to Puerto Natales for the race start the next day, it was pretty cold, clear sky but only about 2°C and strong winds. A woman was hitchhiking and as there is maybe one car coming every 30min we could not leave her in the cold. And we went her direction. She was around 40 years old and came from Columbia to work in Chile as in her country it’s difficult to find work. “I am here for two month now, will probably stay for many, many years more. The circumstances in my country are so poor that I needed to leave. No way to make a living at home.” That really brought us “tourists” back to reality. You are in one of the most beautiful places on earth with these giant majestic granite rockfaces but also there is poverty and human problems. Like everywhere.
CHANGES forces CHANGING.
Exiting the park after a couple of hours being disconnected from the outer world – realizing that you don’t need a strong WiFi for a better connection – we received the message from the Ultra Fiord organization that all the races are cancelled due the expected bad weather, the upcoming snowstorm and the rough winds. As in the middle of the race there is a 50km stretch where you can only enter by foot, helicopter or boat from the fiord, it’s just too risky to send 300 runners through that super remote place. Actually, the race organizer Stjepan Pavicic from NIGSA events told us after that back in 2014, he had created this path just for the race, cutting trees and bushed for more than ½ year. That’s trailkeeping!
But they also wrote that there will be a 35km fun-run the next day, more like a big community run for all runners of the 30km, 42km, 50km, 70km, 100km and 100miles. Sure, we want to join that!
Well, it was a wild run: river crossings, straight through the bushes, always up and down, a huge rainbow for more than 1 hour in front. Tried to get that pot of gold at the end of the colours but it went on with the same speed that I ran. But in the end it was a bit too flat for my skimo legs and pretty tough to make it to the finish running. 5thon the end. Very well done my Mexican Salomon teammates!!
The next days we took it easy, went for more discovering, some easy running, tried to catch the Puma in the early morning (but not to the caught by him), went out for some rock-climbing but got washed down the wall by a rainshower arriving faster than we could remove the rope. First treadmill-experience for the Catalan followed by a core training with me as coach. Still sore muscles Jordi? Off-road-driving craziness to the around in our 4×4 vehicle – hope it did not take too long with the cleaning RecarSur 😉
And learnted 3 new words: Atomico – Mortal – Bakan
Can you guess what they mean? Should not be too difficult.
The last day arrived more quickly as we hoped unfortunately. Heading back to Punta Arenas after a souvenir stop in Puerto Natales, Jordi had the idea that we MUST enter Argentina just for a stamp in his passport to complete the stamp collection. As we did not have the international car insurance it was time to walk the 4km to the border. Well, now we have the stamp but it was not that easy to come back…
Au revour wild Patagonia. Surreal colours. Immense contrasts. Magic surroundings. Perfection carved in granite. You had been more beautiful as everyone told!
9As the experience was so awesome, we want to offer you the unique change to go with us to Patagonia again. Trail & Photo Experience PATAGONIA 13.-19.10.2019.
FIND MORE DETAILS HERE soon…