The epic journey has begun, but for some it is already over.
Spotted amidst the frothy waves on the Strait of Magellan, with their kayak pointing in the wrong direction, the Brazilian team ‘Go Crazy’ were lost at sea, some distance from their target of Isla Dawson.
Barely 12 hours into this epic eight-day multisport journey, the waters that Ferdinand Magellan successfully navigated nearly 500 years ago had proven too much for these adventurers. They eventually reached their destination safely, but several hours after the other 18 four-man groups and well outside the first cut-off time.
It was a brief adventure for the Brazilians, but they did get to see one of the region’s most prized spectacles: at 2.30am on Tuesday, at the start line in Punta Arenas, the sky opened up to reveal a spectacular starscape.
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A cold and harsh Patagonian wind also greeted the racers as they began their opening bicycle run – and it helped blow them quickly down the coast. A calm morning stillness set in as the lead group then took to the water.
Briton Nick Gracie described the morning ride as a "warm-up". He has won this annual event three times before, and his team were the first to climb into their kayaks, hours before most normal folk would consider getting up.
The trip across to Isla Dawson looked short, but as the morning wore on the seas roughed up, and the latter teams struggled in the spray, carefully watched over by the Chilean Navy, who look after racers' safety on the water.
The target for the opening two days was to reach Tierra del Fuego. By nightfall on day one the teams were already taking a welcome rest, having lugged their kayaks over 10km of bushy ground to the entrance of Canal Whiteside, where regulations required them to wait until dawn before returning to the water to complete their route to the archipelago.
The Patagonian Expedition Race is an incredible logistical challenge, in which the support staff find themselves racing the racers, utilising Patagonia's transport infrastructure to reach each checkpoint before the teams do.
Sometimes they struggle to keep the pace as they are forced to take wide detours around mountains and fjords, while teams trek on through. Other times it is the teams who get slowed down by the Patagonian equivalent of a brick wall – thick twisted bush or thorny bracken that slows the pace down to as little as half a mile an hour.
This uncertainty means strict cut-off times are required, which can sadly halt the fun a little too early for some.
So, as the Brazilians contemplate a return to warmer climes, the remaining teams continue to the magical land of Tierra del Fuego.
Over the coming day or two, they will tackle boggy and forested valleys, passing along the Rio Condor and through the Karukinka Natural Park – when they come out is anyone’s guess.
For more on the race, go to www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com.
To learn more about the region go to www.chile.travel/en/where-to-go/patagonia.html