If you want to go play in a place where people look at you blankly should you say ‘heatwave,’ Patagonia in the south of South America is a good choice. To be sure though, plan to go to the very south of the south, where you can almost sniff distant Antarctica.
Source four drysuits, ice picks, crampons and extensive baselayers, along with hats, gloves, sleeping bags and tents – in our country which is on the bottom end of another continent and whose money is now sniffed at disdainfully by the rest of the world. Gather certificates from doctors, insurance and first aid courses, seakayak and ropework competence evaluations, rent satellite phones and radios, pack marine knives, paddles and bikes and then book tickets to the end of the world.
Punta Arenas means “Sandy Point;” a rather benign description for a place that saw the first Spanish settlement fail due to the harsh weather, the second attempt renamed Port Starvation and subsequently used by Chile as a penal colony and a disciplinary posting for military personnel with “problematic” behaviour.
It has a subpolar oceanic climate, a daily mean temperature of 10 degrees in Summer and winds of up to 130km/hr blasting through February.
And, on 13 February 2016 it is the start of the eleventh Patagonian Expedition Race and next challenge for the certifiably mad Merrell Adventure Addicts team.
Referred to as The Last Wild Race, this proper expedition allows overused and worn out adjectives such as “untouched, pristine, remote and adventure” to regain their impact and dignity. It’s been on the wish list of the team for ages and after a two year hiatus, the organisers are back with a new area to explore.
“It couldn’t be more different than World Champs in Pantanal last year, which hit us hard with the heat and humidity.” Said Captain Graham ‘Tweet’ Bird. “We don’t quite know how to train for this. A friend offered the use of his walk-in meat freezer. But the views just weren’t the same.”
Twenty teams will compete in the glaciers, fjords and steppes of the magnificent area on a course covering 700km and expected to take the winning team six days to complete with the usual disciplines of trekking, paddling and mountain biking along with abseils and complex navigation.
One team is local from Chile, eighteen are from countries in the far northern hemisphere where they are accustomed to sending smoke signals with their breath and one is from Africa. Merrell won’t be the Cool Runnings team of this race however. “With proper gear and equipment backing us up, we can focus on the momentous task as well as the cold blooded people. We have strong heads along with our fitness and skills. The only thing that could slow us down is if Hanno and Grant keep making snowmen.”
Graham Bird, Hanno Smit, Grant Ross and Robyn Kime make up the Merrell Adventure Addicts team who will take our flag to the end of the world. Supported all the way by Merrell and product sponsors Black Diamond, PVM Nutritional Science, Extreme Lights, Giant Bicycles, Squirt Bicycle Lube, Island Tribe Sunscreen, ButtaNutt Spreads, Ocean Eyewear and Llama Bars.