2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race – Part II: Kayaking

After an hour delay, the teams are sent off into Lago Grey in their two-man kayaks with spaced intervals. In the confusion of the delay I am told, with all of my baggage for the whole race, go to the beach. Then on the beach, with all of my baggage for the whole race, “Why are you here? The trucks are waiting in the parking lot for you. Hurry or they’ll leave without you.”

Members of team Adidas TERREX/Prunesco from the UK prepare for the 47 kilometer kayaking section

Noel Duffy (Australia) from team Dancing Pandas checks his gear before starting off with his team in kayaks.

Don’t stop here. More photos and story after the Jump>>

“Are we going to the boats or to the pass?” the media team asks the driver. “I’m supposed to drop some of you off at the pass, then others at the bridge. After all the teams have past, I’ll take you to the boats.” But this means all of the photographers and most of the video guys wind up on the same boat, meaning we all covered the same teams.

I climb into a two-seat “cable car”, which I assume was the only way to get across the river before the bridge was constructed. From this vantage point I could see the kayakers coming around the river bend with a beautiful view of the snow-capped mountain in the background. But the teams pass on the opposite of the river, too far to get a close shot. The truck finally comes back and takes us to the staging area for the zodiac boats.

T.C. Worley, a photographer and writer from Minnesota, enjoys looking like an orange marshmallow in our dry suits.

Orange jumpsuits. Waterproof dry suits. I feel like a marshmallow. We load onto the zodiac, which seems to purposefully take the turns as tight as it can, spraying water all around. We catch up first to the Japanese team as they paddle through the milky green-blue glacier-melt water with the Cordillera del Paine dominating the background. The paddling section doesn’t seem technically challenging, more of an endurance test, which is split by a 100-meter portage around a large, powerful rapid. The teams finish the first kayaking at an unassuming spot on the side of the river, where the second checkpoint is set up.

Team East Wind from Japan enjoys their paddling session.

Members of Team East Wind pull their kayak through the portage that bypasses a very large and impressive waterfall/rapid.

Jorge Cifuentes (Chile, Todo Aventura – La Segunda) Helps his teammate pull their kayak through the mandatory portage.

GearJunkies.com pulls through the final legs of the first kayaking portion of the race.

Were everything to operate smoothly, the teams’ gear for trekking and food would be waiting at this checkpoint. But nothing goes as planned. The first few teams decide to face the jungle in the night without receiving their food or other gear, though the gear arrives only ten minutes later.

Teams organize their gear before they embark on the massive trekking section

Fiona Spotswood (UK, Team Addidas TERREX / Prunesco) prepares to start on the trek.

Peter Spagnoli and Mark Lattanzi (US, Team Dancing Pandas) pull their kayak onto the shore

Chelsey Gribbon (US, Team Gear Junkies) takes time from organizing her gear for the trek

Kay Waki (Japan, East Wind) helps to pull her kayak up the river bank.

Stiven Vunic (Croatia, Ad Natura – Karibu) Helps his teammates pull their boat onto the river bank before taking off on their trek.

Marcelo Sinoca (Brazil, Selva NSK Kailash) pulls their boat ashore.

Ricardo de Silva (Brazil, Selva NSK Kailash) never failed to have a huge smile on his face.

Tim Kuenster (US, Perdido en el Turbal) stars off on the trekking section, walking with little rest for 73kms through unimaginably impassible wilderness.

Melissa Griffiths and Jason Urckfitz (UK, US, Perdido en el Turbal) start on the trekking section.

Arnaud Marchand and Tony Hoare enjoy a break from photographing the race, just long enough they can get some food in them.

With the trekking underway, the media team rushes to jump to checkpoints ahead in the race. Photographers Tony Hoare, Yosuke Kashiwakura , and I are delivered to Checkpoint 4, hours behind schedule. We had planned on hiking to PC3 and camping, but we didn’t arrive at PC4 until after 12:00 am. And hiking into unknown terrain in the middle of the night didn’t excite any of us.

CLICK ME!!! The story continues with more photographs in the next post.