Argentina 5: Mendoza Wineries

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two raced from the funky cultural town of Valparaiso to Santiago, the capital of Chile. Having received a clue to make their way to Argentina, they book a ticket on a fast Tica international bus over the Andes. While they waited over night for their bus to depart they checked out the city’s best eatery neighborhoods before they returned to their Plaza Del Armas hostel to rest ahead of the next day’s journey.

Waking late the next morning in true Latin American style, the team checked out of the hostel and raced to the bus station. They quickly boarded the midday bus to Mendoza and were soon heading east over the Andes towards Argentina. Their bus was virtually empty of passengers and made its way through vineyards and up the windy roads and switchbacks into the high Andes.

Bus station souvenirs? Climbing up into the Andes

At the integrated border control (Chilean and Argentine customs officials in the same booths side by side), they got their exit and entry stamps and were once again back in Argentina. The bus snaked its way down the valley towards Mendoza city where they arrived in the later afternoon at the bus station. The team raced to their accommodation and checked in. There they commenced their first Mendoza challenge, they were to wait until the morning when they would be given their next clue.

Snake road Decaying avalanche protection for a train line no longer functioning

Early the next morning, Simon and Ang were given their next task. They read the clue and couldn’t believe their luck. They were to set off with Trout and Wine tours on a trip around the wineries of Mendoza. Joining them on this challenge were teams from America, Paraguay, and England and New Zealand.

The first vineyard the teams visited was Mendel, a smallish place with limited production focusing on quality. There the team tasted a selection of wines and marveled at the wine making process, and the old adobe construction of the facility.

First winery of the tour Delicious Malbec
Mendel’s sorting room
Grapes ready for the next stage of wine making Picking out the twigs

Back in the van the teams all jumped and drove to the larger facility of Dante Robino. This vineyard produces about 100 times the production of the first. The group toured the architecturally designed facilities, then headed to the tasting room. Once again a range of great wines were drunk. For team Australia this was an education as they were able to try some varieties that were new for them. These included a glasses of Torrontés and Bonarda.

Late harvest grapes Old Dante truck
Vines! Argentine wine maker next to some barrels
Aging barrels with art works on display Barrel art
Wine bunker Dante’s tasting offerings
Dante Robino whites tasting… nice! Mighty Dante Malbecs

With tasting completed, the team raced back to the van and were driven to their next stop. Arriving at Topaz, they embarked on a quick tour and olive oil tasting before they entered the lunch room. There the team’s challenge was to eat a five course meal that, being in Argentina, involved a huge amount of meat and of course matching wines to suit each course. Simon remarked that “it was a ridiculous amount of meat, easily +800gs of prime Argentine beef, so while probably not good for your long term health, I could get used to doing this”. Sadly the challenge was over all too soon and the teams were allowed to leave the dining room.

Lunch at Topaz! Non beef entré
Beef based main (Argentina knows steak)

Despite wanting to have an afternoon nap, the team piled back into the van and drove to the last vineyard for the day, the historic Bodegas Lynch. Once again, the facility was of adobe construction, a large collection of historic gaucho ponchos and included a massive asado hall and the typical subterranean aging cavern. The final wine tasting was sublime. The team enjoyed the range of wines they tried and just wished that they could take time out from the race to arrange to ship some of the wines home.

HDR barrel bunker Final tasting stop for the day

With the final vineyard toured, the last glass sipped, Ang very merry and dancing around, the team received their next clue. They were to head back into the nearby Andes and on to Aconaguaga national park. Happy they had finished a great stage of the race, the team jumped back in the van and were driven back to their accommodation. There they enjoyed an involuntary rest period.

After waking, and because they had yet to have enough Malbec, the team headed out to dinner. They enjoyed another fine steak and with it more fine Malbec before returning once again to their accommodation for rest ahead of the next day’s challenges.

Pre dinner drinks Ang is still impressed by the Argentine Malbecs

….To be continued.

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Chile 8: Valparaiso

Ang and Simon enjoyed a delicious paradilla asado to celebrate their very long winning streak. They enjoyed their rest stop in Santiago before returning to the check in mat to recommencing racing. Their next clue required them to travel by bus to the UNESCO world heritage listed city of Valparaiso. With the clue read, they ran to the metro and took the train to the central bus station. Tickets to Valparaiso were purchased and the team boarded the bus.

Before the construction of the Panama canal, Valparaiso was a significant stop over port for international sailing and freight. Significant investment from shipping companies helped build unique city set amongst spectacular and steep hills. Residents would travel to work from their homes via trolley elevators. With the opening of the Panama canal, the importance of this port declined. Today the city is Chile’s cultural heart and is experiencing a resurgence of visitors in the form of increased tourism.

Arriving in Valparaiso a short bus ride later, the team jumped in a waiting taxi and were drive to Cerro Concepción, a colourful suburb with buildings that follow the natural contour lines of the topography. After trying a hostel that was full, they found a great bed and breakfast and secured lodgings for the night. With this challenge completed, the team was given their next clue whilst they ate an awesome lunch. Their task was to complete the morning walking tour of the city of Valparaiso.

Se Prohibe Pescar (Fishing is Prohibited)
Funky graffiti

The next morning the team woke up and raced down to the main square in old Valparaiso. There they were met by Nancy from tour4tips and commenced their tour. Nancy led the team on a great tour of the most interesting sections of Valparaiso including the Muelle (wharf), Cero Concepción and Cero Bellavista. After a great three hours, the team arrived at their final stop for the tour, a fantastic artist gallery at the base of Bellavista. There they were given a celebratory Pisco Sour and their next clue. They were to climb up to the top of Bellavista and locate the house of Pablo Neruda, a Nobel prize winning poet.

Plaza del Armas
No boring art in Valparaiso More wall art
Yet another painted wall
And even more street art
Birdy
Antique elevator Remains of a building destroyed by a gas explosion
Riders jump through this at the end of this video of downhill mountain bike racing Arty stairs
El Pollo al Trebadore
Tiene Problemas (you have problems?)
Typical Valparaiso buildings
Clever Valparaisians Musical staircase

Simon and Ang rapidly made their way up the maze of streets, soon locating the stalls outside of the open air museum. As they raced towards the entrance, they met up with Peter and Zoe, who they had previously last seen during the Antarctic leg of the Amazing Exclusive Race. The teams caught up on the challenges they had completed since they last met and raced into the grounds of Pablo’s house.

Colourful Valparaiso
Reproduction of a masterpeice
Pablo’s house Huge billboard sized art
Yep, ’bout sums it up

Both teams were given their next clue. Simon and Ang were directed to make their way as rapidly as possible to the town of Mendoza Argentina. Simon and Ang were excited, said goodbye to Peter and Zoe and raced as quickly as they could back to their accommodation. They checked the bus times and determined that they would not be able to get on daily international bus until 10am the following morning.

Valparaiso harbour and antique elevator on right
Another Valparaiso harbour panorama
Rabbit teeth!

So they decided to head back to Santiago to see if they could get an earlier bus. They checked out of their Valparaiso accommodation, rode the elevator down the hill and raced to the main bus station. They jumped in the first bus to Santiago. Arriving there a short while later, they found they would indeed have to wait until tomorrow to get back to Argentina. So they bought tickets for the following day’s bus ride and raced back to Plaza Del Armas where they checked into a hostel for the night.

Santiago’s Plaza de Armas from the hostel room

That evening they checked out the suburb of Lastarria for a late 11pm dinner, before returning to the hostel to rest.

To be continued…

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Chile 7: Easter Island

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, Simon and Ang raced to the Chilean city of Santiago. After completing a challenge that required much partying (and next day suffering), they were given their next clue and boarded a flight to Easter Island. Once there, they expected to check into the pit stop, but were surprised when they were told they were still racing.

Racing away from what they thought was the check in mat, Simon and Ang read their next clue as they headed into town. They were tasked with attending a traditional Easter Island dance performance, called Kari Kari. Ang was excited about this challenge as she had been looking forward to this since reading about it in an in-flight magazine a few legs earlier.

Simon and Ang walked along the pleasant island streets. As they were rounding a corner they were spotted by none other than Dave and Lara from Team Britain in a 4wd.  The two teams had previously met each other on the 5th Chilean leg, Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt.

The two teams caught up with each other and worked out they were both tasked with attending the same Kari Kari challenge. So since they had some time to kill before the show started, both teams did the obvious thing and went and had drinks.

A few cocktails later, they found themselves in a traditional Easter Island theatre (a shed). The performance of Kari Kari started and after the teams watched some of the great Polynesian dance, they were both given road blocks to complete.  Simon and Dave volunteered to complete the Easter Island dance challenge and were both independently brought on stage. Luckily for both of them, there was no need to have any actual dance skill, they just had to spend the required time on the stage, roughly stomping feet in time with the music.

With that challenge completed the teams received their next clues.  Simon and Ang were tasked with hiking up to Orongo crater.  The next morning they completed the hike through the eucalyptus forest and up to the spectacular crater.  Fighting their way into the wind, they raced around the village on top of the cliff and found the next clue.  They were to join with three other Amazing Exclusive Race teams and complete a survey of some of the 880+ big giant moai heads scattered around the island.

Looking towards Hanga Roa through the gum trees
Rano Kau Volcano crater
Volcano floor
Pacific vista

Early the next morning before dawn, Team Australia joined teams from Scotland, Canada and Singapore in a hired 4wd. They raced out of Hanga Roa and headed to the north east of the island. There they watched as the sun rose behind 15 big giant Moai heads. Simon and Ang took a bunch of photos and enjoyed the sight by sitting and taking it all in.

Big giant heads!
HDR moai heads Head and quarry mountain

After the sun had risen, they rejoined the other teams back in the jeep and headed off on extensive tour of the major sights around the island including Anakena beach and birth place of the moai, the Rano Raraku quarry. After a packed day, they returned the car, having seen about 60% of the major sights. To celebrate, they enjoyed sunset drinks over the ocean in the company of several big giant heads.

Anakena beach
Don’t fall off the big giant head Don’t dance on fallen moai
Scratching the big giant head’s head
Easter Island coastline from the quarry
Hugging the big giant head Leaning big giant head
Keep watching the skies! Horses and heads

The next day, they again met up with Dave and Lara. Team Britain had hired a car for a couple of hours to complete their visit of all the sights on the island challenge, and were flying out to Tahiti that afternoon. With time remaining on their hire, they kindly gave Simon and Ang use of the vehicle, which would allow them to complete the tour of Easter Island.

Waking early the next morning, the team set out along with the teams from Scotland, Canada and Singapore that they had driven with the previous day. The last remaining sights were seen and the team arrived at the final location, a cave system on the north western coast. They explored the cave and after an extensive search Simon located their next clue. Simon and Ang’s task was to return once again to the Anakena beach. Since it was Easter, they were to complete an Easter Egg hunt.

15 big giant heads
That way to the big giant heads
Crater lake
Where’s Simon? Simon emerges from the lava tube
Sunset heads

Simon and Ang raced amongst the giant heads and the palm trees, hunting for the little delicious chocolate eggs. They were soon rewarded with their next clue, they were to make their way back to Santiago and the Bella Vista, the pit stop for this leg of the race. They raced back to town, dropped the hire car off and checked out the flights back to mainland Chile. The next returning flight would leave the day after the next. So the team decided to spend one final day getting some more beach time in the company of the giant moai heads.

The next day, rather than hiring another car, the team decided to hitchhike over to Anakena beach. Walking out of town, the team stood under the shade of a gum tree with thumbs out. It took them two car rides with friendly local Easter Islanders (both originally from Santiago, one in a taxi) to reach the beach. Before swimming, they walked along the coast for a bit before deciding to return to the best beach on the island. There they enjoyed the warm sunshine and floated around in the Pacific until it was time to head back to town. They walked into the car park and managed to get a lift with a pair of local chicas back to town.

Simon gives the thumbs up to the beach Ang walking along Easter Island coast
Anakena beach from the sea

They spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the relaxed island life and packed their bags in preparation for the flight the next day. Simon and Ang watched the sun set one more time into the western Pacific over the moai heads, having completely enjoyed their time on Rapi Nui.

Even German shepherds like watching sunsets Mystical sunset heads
Another spectacular sunset Chocolate Easter Head

The next morning the checked out and headed to the airport. Five hours later their plane landed in Santiago and the team raced back to the Bella Vista hostel. They checked in, and were once again first to arrive, continuing their winning streak.

Easter Island rainbow

In a post race interview, both Simon and Ang said that they were glad to have gone to Easter Island as it was a really cool and relaxing place. They commented that the race had been going on for months now, and despite winning each leg they were not tired of racing, and looked forward to the coming challenges.

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Chile 6: Santiago

Simon and Ang, who were the first to arrive at the Bariloche pit stop at 6pm, received their next clue at 6am.  They were to make their way back across the border to Puerto Montt via bus. After reading the clue, the team left their accommodation and jumped into a taxi. A quick ride to the bus terminal and they were soon on a bus heading back over the Andes and once more west.

The Argentine border crossing passed quickly and the team enjoyed the marvellous scenery on the bus ride between the Argentine and Chilean borders. Arriving at the Chilean side, they were lined up with the other passengers whilst the sniffer dog did its thing for illegal food and drugs on people and in bags. Unfortunately the Chilean customs official was not as thorough as his dog and while chatting to a traveller, missed the paw on one lady’s bag. Simon and Ang were forced to discard a carrot, but were lucky the dog didn’t get stuck into their enormous haul of chocolate.

Back on the bus and the rest of the trip to Puerto Montt passed without incident. At the bus station they were given their next clue. They were to make their way to Santiago where they were to check into the Bella Vista Hostel. The clue said that there was an interchange ahead.  An interchange is where two separate Amazing Exclusive Race teams join together to complete a challenge.

Simon and Ang were both excited at the prospect of meeting up with another Exclusive race team and were looking forward to visiting Santiago. They weren’t looking forward to a 36 hour bus ride, and knowing that they were racing to win they decided to purchase flights.  Running to a nearby Sky Airlines office, they picked up last minute flights for not much more than the cost of a bus trip for that evening.

While they waited out the time to head to the airport, they sat in a friendly karaoke bar and amazed the locals with their Australian accented Spanish. A few hours later it was time to leave Puerto Montt, so they collected their bags from the bus station and raced to the airport for a quick multiple stop milk run of a flight up Chile to Santiago.

Arriving in Santiago, they raced out of the airport and straight to a taxi for the quick ride into the city centre  and onto the suburb of Bella Vista. There they checked into the Bella Vista hostel and were given a room for the night as the interchange would not begin until the other team arrived later the next day.

Waking, they checked out Santiago on the free walking tour, and in the afternoon headed back to the accommodation to begin the interchange. There they were reunited with none other than Team Ireland. The teams had not seen each other since Colombia. After they had a chance to catch up, the two teams were provided with the interchange challenge. They both were to attend a BBQ party that evening with hostel-residing Chileans and party as they do.

Panorama of Santiago city
The presidential palace, Santiago
Conquistador founder of Santiago

Both teams were excited by the challenge and decided to have some pre drinks and get some additional supplies for the evening. The actual party was a blur and at around 4am the team found themselves in back in their room and were soon sleeping.

Waking at 10:30 am for checkout at 11:00, it was clear that this would be an enforced rest day. Ang was not capable of moving and Simon was just as seedy. Meeting Tarun from Team Ireland, the two teams waited in the reception foyer until it became clear that Ang could not move away from the bucket. With Ang checked back in to the hostel, only this time being forced to serve out a penalt, being a single bed in a 16 bed dorm for the team to share, Simon tucked Ang in, and went and saw Tarun off to Valparaiso. Both Teams were supposed to head here for the next race challenge so it was a disappointing day for team Australia to be left behind, but happy they were happy that Tarun could continue.

Tired Plaza Del Armas residents

The next morning, after serving out the enforced rest break, they woke early and were given their next clue. They were directed to find the Mercardo central to eat a fantastic seafood meal. They raced through the metro and found their way to the small, not touted, locally frequented restaurant where they ordered a hearty seafood meal. Ang ate what she called the “best freak’n seafood of the whole trip”, and said “it was cooked to perfection”. With this challenge passed, they were given their next clue.  They were to make their way to Easter Island!

Mercardo Central

Simon and Ang were pumped about heading to the famous Easter Island. They were booked on a six hour flight the next morning. For their last night in Santiago, they ate a delicious paradilla and went to bed early, sharing a single mattress on a bunk bed yet again as the hostel was completely full.

Santiago coyote style

Waking early they raced to the airport and boarded their flight to Rapi Nui. Five hours later after flying across half of the Pacific, they landed, bought their national park tickets, and were met and driven in the back of a ute to their accommodation, a seaside hostel, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

There they expected to be checked in, but were told they were still racing…

…To be continued.

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Chile 5: Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt

After the optional rest period, the team received their next clue checked out of the pit stop.  They were directed to make their way by boat to the city of Puerto Montt. Simon and Ang wasted no time and set off through Puerto Natales to the port.  There they enquired about boat options and directed to the Navimag office.

Pier to nowhere Puppies!

Passage was negotiated and tickets purchased. Having heard good things about this trip, Simon and Ang were looking forward to cruising the Chilean fjords. They had also heard that BYO wine was allowed, so after buying a couple of Chilean reds, they checked their baggage in and had dinner at a local parradilla, along with Team Wales and the mixed Team Australia and England from the Torres Del Paine leg.

Intrepid racers pause for a cross promotional photo opportunity

Soon it was time to board.  The trip began well with the team enjoying the humorous multilingual guide’s briefing.  Once all the passengers had walked on board and the cargo was eventually loaded early the next morning, the ferry set sail.  Simon and Ang were provided with their one task for this leg of the race, to spot a blue whale.

The mighty Navimag hauling stuff

The next three days of sailing was spent doing very little other than chatting and sharing wine with friendly teams from England and America, that ever plucky team from Wales, and a Team Canada, last seen during the Antarctic leg of the race.  Highlights of the voyage included completing the blue whale sighting challenge, bingo and an epic 5 on 1 on-deck giant chess game. Low point for Ang was the overnight crossing through the Golfo De Penas (Golf of Pain – no prizes for guessing why).

Fjords panorama!
Glacier panorama!
Early version of the Navimag
High tech Navimag bridge equipment That wheel makes the boat go faster
Most likely a blue whale Strato volcano and chess!

After four days of sailing, the ship arrived at Puerto Montt early in the morning and the team received their next clue.

Sunset on the Navimag Early morning end of the cruise

… To be continued.

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Chile 4: Los Cuernos to Puerto Natales

After a windy, but restful night, the team once again made breakfast and packed camp.  They set off early as they hoped to make their way all the through to high Torres camp.  There they would spend their final night and attempt to see the sunrise on the Torres the following morning, the final element of the Torres Del Paine challenge.

Simon tucking into the remaining snacks

Owing to the damage to Ang’s feet from her undersized shoes, her pace in Simon’s ‘hand me down shoes’ given to him by Stefan (the solo member of Team Germany, last seen in Ushuaia and previously the Sans Blas leg, was slow. Simon’s pace was also limited as his feet did not like Ang’s smaller shoes as well.

Despite their slower pace, and Ang changing into her thongs for the last hour of the walk, the team was able to make their way to the short cut and begin the ascent to the high Torres camp.  They arrived before the other Exclusive race teams from the circuit and set up camp.  Then it was another 45 minute climb to the summit mirador for a view of the famous Torres. The afternoon was spent looking at the spectacular view and taking photos before they returned back to the campsite to eat and sleep.

Torres Del Paine watching in the afternoon (points for spotting Ang) Ang gazes at the towers
Looking towards the park entry Final night’s campsite

Excited and freezing (Simon only had a +5 degree sleeping bag) they tried to sleep.  Hand warmers were cracked in an attempt to get warm. Eventually they gave up and decided to get up and commence the final walk up to see the sun come up on the towers.

About 40 minutes later they arrived and were treated to a spectacular golden hour. There they watched the towers and took plenty of photos and tried to stay warm. With the sun fully up, they returned back to the campsite, broke camp and shouldered their packs for the walk back to the starting point to complete the circuit.

Dawn light, Torres Del Paine style The team keeps warm and watches the light change
Simon impersonates a cat burglar with a manly beard

Arriving back at the main lodge, the team received their next clue. With the completion of the full Torres Del Paine circuit, they were to make their way back to the Singing Lamb hostel in Puerto Natales, the pit stop for this leg of the race.  Excited, the team celebrated by drinking some wine that a friendly pair of impressed holidaying day walking tourists bought for them while they waited for the shuttle bus out of the park.

Simon and Ang both give the circuit the thumbs up and seconds later received their next clue

On the return bus ride, Ang expressed how she really enjoyed the whole hike, despite her shoe pain.  Simon was amazed at the tenacity of Ang, and agreed, it was a spectacular walk. They covered over 100km in six days according to this vaguely accurate map to complete the challenge. They chatted with Team Wales and another Team America as they made their way back to Natales.

Soon they arrived into the pretty township and raced back to the hostel dropping off hired gear on the way.  Once again, they were the first to arrive, winning this leg of the race.

Busy Puerto Natales
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Chile 3: Campamento Los Guardas to los Cuernos

After a hectic four days, Team Australia woke and prepared for the final half of the circuit, completion of the ‘W’ section of the Torres Del Paine hike. Simon and Ang got ready, broke camp and loaded up their packs for the walk to Campamento Italiano.

Morning Grey Glacier!

Their walk took them south away from Grey Glacier, along the left stroke of the ‘W’. Simon had commented that he was yet to experience Patagonian winds and was rewarded gusts strong enough to almost knock both team mates off their feet. Despite having the more aerodynamic pack, Ang fared little better.  The two racers were blown all the way to the bottom of the lake over the next few hours, but were glad the wind was at their backs.

Simon uses his awesome strength to kick a tree over

During this stretch, the team walked past more people over the course of the morning than they had seen in the previous three days. It was obvious they had arrived on the popular ‘W’. This was also the barren section of the Torres Del Paine park that had been burnt out by an Israeli walker. Both Simon and Ang were once again thankful they were walking in the direction they were as the ash from the fire was at their backs and not in their faces.

Left over blaze rubbish
Windy patagonia

Ang’s shoe problems had now become acute and she was in considerable pain. Not wanting to cause the team to forfeit the challenge for a time penalty, Ang soldiered on all the way around to the mid point of the ‘W’, to the free Campamento Italiano. Late that afternoon, the team walked into the camp.  Ang struggled in with tears due to the pain caused by her new shoes.

Simon in the wasteland

After a concerned Chilean ranger looked at her feet, he advised that Ang pull out and get the ferry by walking back the way they’d came.  Ang being Ang decided that they had come to far to quit and took this as a challenge, plus they were racing, so she didn’t want to give up. She reckoned that she could walk the short distance to Los Cuernos campsite where she would be able to rest her feet.  After Simon put the campsite together, he decided that since the majority of the walk was now complete, he would swap shoes with Ang.  To see if he would have the capability to walk the remaining distance in Ang’s shoes, and because the cloud cover had lifted, Simon headed up alone into the Frances Valley as the sun was starting to set.

Simon raced up the hill and took a bunch of photos before returning back down to the camp, completing a 20km walk. Once back at camp he had dinner with Ang and Teams Wales, UK/Australia, America and Germany and compared notes. Once again, sleep came easily.

Half way up Frances Valley, Simon realises it has been five days since he last shaved Frances valley mountains, the back end of the Torres

Waking, Simon and Ang made breakfast and broke camp.  They moved at a relaxed place over to the next campsite just 1 hour away to Los Cuernos. There they made camp, and rested. Simon occupied himself by building a sturdy rock wall to act as a wind break whilst Ang opted to stay by the warmth of the fire in the refugio in company of other travellers drinking wine and eating chocolate.  Teams America and Germany pushed on and continued to the Torres Del Paine.  Teams Wales, and the combined UK and Australian team spent most of the day walking up into Frances Valley, then they also made camp in Los Cuernos.

Patagonian lake
Humble tent with Simon’s rock wall wind break challenge effort

…To be continued

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Chile 2: Refugio Dickson to Campamento Los Guardas

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two set out on an epic hike around the Torres Del Paine national park.  After walking almost 35km, the team arrived at Refugio Dickson, a remote campsite on the fair side of the Torres Del Paine national park.

Waking early the next morning, the team quickly ate breakfast and broke camp. Because Ang’s feet were still sore from the previous day’s hike, the team decided to make their way to the next campsite and attempt the crossing of the pass the following day.

Paine plants Ang crosses the ranging torrent

They were once again joined by the solo members of Team America and Germany and set off up towards the campsite of Los Pinos. Walking, but still at a sound pace, the team marvelled at the spectacular scenery and almost complete isolation, as aside from their own company, they only saw the odd ranger.

Waterfall! Simon rests his bones
Vertical Torres Del Paine

Towards the evening, the team climbed upwards and at the top of a rock pile were greeted by a spectacular lake, glacier and mountain site. Then it was an easier walk along to the Campamento Los Pinos where they spent the night. Their camping neighbours in an enormous four person tent were a friendly pair representing Team Wales on their own Exclusive pedalling race around Patagonia. Both teams traded stories about their respective races and previous legs before it was time to cook dinner.  As the campsite was less nicer than the previous grassy Refugio Dickson and was permanently damp and without a warm refugio camp fire, the team headed for the tent straight after dinner.

Stunning lake An amazing exclusive coffee ad looking for a brand

Planning to make up time, and because they would have to summit the pass, they woke before sun rise. A quick breakfast was eaten and the team set off through the bog and fallen logs up into the top of the valley towards the top of the pass.  Ang and Simon were the first Exclusive race team to leave camp, but were over taken on the long climb by another team Australia and eventually team Wales.

Both Simon and Ang didn’t care at this point and were actually a day ahead on account of their mammoth first day. They instead enjoyed every moment of the views they had on the spectacular ascent.

Simon climbs up to the pass The view down onto Grey Glacier

Taking time to enjoy the view from the top of the pass, the team’s breaths were taken away.  Below them was the spectacularly enormous Grey Glacier, part of the massive Southern Patagonia Ice Field. For both Simon and Ang this section would be the least favourite part of the circuit as they entered the tree line and commenced a scramble down the steep slope. Simon had to brace himself with each step on account of his heavy pack and Ang’s feet were in agony on account of the ill fitting shoes. Eventually they arrived at the base of the slope and started the long but spectacular walk along the glacier edge from to Campamento Los Guardas.

Team Wales pauses to be part of a spectacular panorama of Grey Glacier

After stopping for lunch, Ang strategically suggested that Simon walk on ahead because the next campsite was a free site and slightly more accessible to people doing the regular ‘W’ walk.  Both racers were concerned that it may be packed.  Simon set off ahead and after a couple of hours of walking, that involved crossing hair raising ravines, he arrived at the site.  There he set up camp and waited for Ang to arrive.

Some racers stop for lunch in front of Grey Glacier The racers pose for a promotional photo in front of the Glacier
Another spectacular Torres panorama
Ladders on the circuit Ladders that have seen better days
Simon enjoys this panoramic view
The rough Torres trail Simon gives Grey Glacier the thumbs up

By this point, Ang’s feet were torture to her and she barely was able to walk the last bit into the camp, but was kindly supported by the friendly Team American and German girls.  Campamento Los Guardas was ideally located next to the tongue of Grey Glacier, so after dinner, Simon went to the nearby mirador and took some photos. Then Ang and Simon spent some time socialising with Team Wales, a Mixed Team UK and Australia and the other Exclusive racers at the small cosy campsite.

Sleep came quickly after three days of solid walking.

…To be continued.

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Chile 1: Ushuaia to Torres Del Paine

After the mandatory rest period, the team collected their next clue and embarked on the next leg of the Amazing Exclusive Race.  They were to make their way to the world famous Torres Del Paine national park in Chile and complete a full circuit, after which they would receive their next clue.

Quickly they ran down to the bus stop and soon were making their way out of Ushuaia.  Their bus wound its way through the Tierra Del Fuego, an almost unspoilt wilderness.  Their route took them across the narrow stretch of water that took them onto the mainland then on to the border with Chile.

The team races to their early morning bus Waiting to enter Chile
Tierra Del Fuego Ferry panorama

After an uneventful trip through customs, they arrived at Punta Arenas, the stopover before their onward bus to Puerto Natales. The team joined a solo racer from France for a walk around town and a quick dinner before they were back on the bus heading to Puerto Natales. The remaining trip passed without incident.

Patagonian puppy Punta Arenas sky

They arrived into Natales after dark and weirdly saw a giant Mylodon on a round about as they made their way into town. With the bus trip over and there needing to be some preparation time before they would be allowed to embark on the 9 day continuous hike around the circuit, Simon and Ang checked into the Singing Lamb Backpackers for the night.

Waking the next morning to homemade bread and gourmet porridge, they quickly set about acquiring the necessary camping gear and buying enough supplies to last them the entire circuit. As they were racing, both Simon and Ang decided to deliberately only buy enough food and take enough cooking gas to last 6 days. Ang said “we always complete walks faster than the advertised times and we were full of confidence after the Inca trail, we knew we’d have enough food”. They also decided to only take Simon’s big backpack and a smaller day pack and leave the rest of their gear at the most hospitable Singing Lamb hostel.

Next morning the team boarded an early morning bus to the National park along with a variety of Teams from other countries on their own exclusive races. Simon and Ang were both excited as they had planned an aggressive walking schedule for the first day which they were confident in doing. They had joined up with two solo member teams from Germany and America. Their first day’s walking would be approximately 35 kms.

Arriving at the park at 11am on the shuttle bus, the teams set off from Laguna Amarguna to Refugio Dickson in an anticlockwise direction around the circuit as the Torres were shrouded in fog and clouds.  The hike started easily enough.  Simon handled the 20kg+ pack well, but unfortunately soon Ang’s feet were hurting in her recently purchased (from Ushuaia), slightly too small for her feet, shoes.  The teams arrived at the first campsite at the 12km mark and were allowed to continue on to the next campsite.

The team pose for a photo before starting the walk
Paine panorama
That way!

They all kept up a solid pace and ate into the remaining kms. Simon and Ang were both amazed at the awesome view along the back side of the circuit. At one point, two majestic enormous condors glided overhead. Later on they were stopped and quizzed by two park rangers, as apparently their aggressive walking plan was frowned upon. Simon and Ang shrugged this off as they knew they needed to keep up a quick pace to win this race.

25km into the walk climbing a small unexpected hill
Simon’s enormous pack Ang’s… eh pack
Despite shoe pain, Ang is enjoying this challenge

After hours of walking, the team arrived just before dusk at their first campsite for the night, the Refugio Dickson. There they made camp, cooked up the first of their rather plain food and dried out in the Refugio by the warm fire, preparing for the next day.  Ang’s feet were not in a good state, so the team adjusted their plan for the next leg of the hike.

…To be continued

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