The Patagonian Expedition Race took 20 teams of adventurers through wild terrain over a month ago.
Racers received minimal support as they crossed the pristine southernmost region of South America (in Chile) by trekking, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking.
And they did it without fancy navigation gadgets or GPS – all participants had were simple maps and a compass for backcountry navigation. They covered hundreds of kilometres, often without seeing anybody else.
The race was founded in 2004 by professional geologist Stjepan Pavicic, who has always loved places as far off the beaten track as possible.
The idea was to imitate the great migrations of native Americans who, centuries ago, traversed plains, mountains, glaciers, forests, swampland, rivers and lakes. Those first travellers certainly had no maps – they were guided only by their mind, spirit and instinct.
Southern Patagonia is one of the largest regions of Chile, but also one of its least populated. More than 50% of the territory is protected as pristine nature reserves or national parks with majestic granite mountains plus ice fields, steppes, forests and peatlands. The area is also home to a labyrinth of fjords and islands with more than 40,000km of coastline.
The weather can be unpredictable and hostile, thus adding to the challenge of this event. Every edition of the Patagonian Expedition Race has featured a unique route. Past racers have found themselves in the Southern Continental Ice Field, the Straits of Magellan, Torres del Paine, Tierra del Fuego, the Beagle Channel and Cape Horn.
For the 2016 race, there were 20 teams (of four people each) with participants from UK, USA, Japan, France, Finland, South Africa, Chile, Canada, Germany and Poland.
In first place was the GodZone Adventure Team (whose members are from the USA and UK) who completed the route in five days, 22 hours and 25 minutes. Team East Wind from Japan took second place with a finishing time of six days, 13 hours and 26 minutes.
One of the main objectives of the race is to contribute to the conservation of the Chilean Patagonia. For centuries, the region’s extreme isolation has helped to protect it. However, in recent decades, vast areas of the southern forests have been devastated.
The organisers focused on three main areas: reforestation, environmental awareness and ecotourism.
For reforestation, the event had a “One Runner = One Tree” concept, where one tree was planted for every racer. Only native trees that have been grown in environments similar to the race areas were planted.
Unlike other adventure races where contestants are given cans, bottles or cups of isotonic drinks, this race had a “leave no trace” policy. Each participant had to bring their own non-disposable water container, which was refilled at hydration points. The aim of the organisers was to promote team responsibility for their own trash.
Finally, rather than the short-term exploitation of logging, the event aims to promote long-term sustainable development via ecotourism to this stunningly beautiful area.
Race Director Stjepan Pavicic explained: “From the beginning, we have focused on creating an experience that is not only a physical and mental challenge, but one that sends a real message: we must protect and preserve this remote and pristine region of Chilean Patagonia. Our event brings this message to the world.”
Info source: http://www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com, Wikipedia