On The Brunswick Peninsula
The Patagonian Expedition Race is reaching its later stages on the Brunswick Peninsula, to the south of the main town and port in the region, Punta Arenas. (This is the race home base and where teams fly into and out of.)
The peninsula is actually part of the Punta Arenas municipality, but there is nothing municipal about it. It is a vast area for wilderness with access only on two coastal roads from Punta Arenas and some offshoots which run into the hills. There are two large natural parks in the north of the peninsula, which is flanked for the most part by the stormy waters of the Straits of Megellan.
Its southern most point is Cabo Froward, which is the southernmost continental point in the world (next stop Antarctica), but this isn’t accessible by the roads. It’s a 4-5 day trek to get there (for ‘normal’ trekkers) with some hairy river crossings, which very few people ever make, and this was the end point for the 2009 PER.
Putting a finish line at such a remote and iconic spot was one of Race Director Stjepan Pavicic’s more quixotic moments and the ‘flag’ he has dropped right in the middle of the mountainous part of the peninsula this year and asked teams to reach is a close second. In 2009 I recall the race leaders moved about 2km per hour across the peninsula, which gives an idea of the terrain.
Race leaders then were UK team Helly Hansen Prunesco, which then became Team GODzone, and British teams have won the last 5 races, but that is about to change, with Team Bend Racing (Yogaslackers) of the USA now starting the final trekking stage to the finish line. (With Columbia Vidaraid of Spain in second.)
They are earlier than expected as the only kayaking stage in this year’s race has been called off (for the lead teams at least) due to the weather conditions. Rather than paddle northwards up the coast Bend Racing have ridden along the road as an alternative route. It is very hard to hold paddling stages at the PER as wind, weather and sea conditions are not often suitable to kayaking under safely controlled conditions. (There are 41 lighthouses along the Strait for a reason ... )
(The Chilean Navy supports the race and they have a say in paddling stages going ahead or not, and conditions today were for offshore winds from 15 knots with gusts to 25.)
While the majority of the race teams continue their trek across the peninsula, the leaders are heading for the finish which is on the outskirts of Punta Arenas near the Club Andino ski resort, on the edge of the Reserva Nacional Magallenes.
From the hills here they will be able to look down on the lights of Punta Arenas below them sometime tonight, and know the end of an epic race is close by.
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