The best traveling is time traveling. We (journalists and planners) awoke this morning in the early 1900’s. A potbelly stove strove to warm the dusty, drafty, and mostly forgotten ranch house built from 1903-1905. The house itself woke to find squatters in sleeping pods in every room and hallway. This ranch house is now used only once a year for a month of skiing. Skiing? I looked at Frederico Siha, the 67 year old man who owns the property and has lived here for over 50yrs. He didn’t strike me as a skier. Apparently the word for skiing and sheering (of sheep) is very close, my translator corrected with a smile. Senior Siha has three children, all living in the city, none with any interest in continuing the farm tradition, “You have to keep going till you can’t,” he tells me. Further, he’s sure they’ll just sell the land when the time comes. But before then, he wants to travel to Europe, a place he’s never been. When pressed for specifics he smiles and says, “Anywhere in Europe.” More…
The race started, like all good races, with a bang – this particular bang came from a Chilean policeman’s pistola. The beach was empty of teams long before the bullet fell God knows where. Getting to this point however was far from easy.
6:30am, Punta Arenas (Photos)
Everyone, including the first rays of sunlight, gathered in the town’s Central Plaza to board a fleet of buses…buses we would get to know very well. Many of us had already survived the greatest danger of the day…a frenetic ride in local taxis. We watched our last city sunrise for many days and packed into the tour coaches for transport to the kayak launching point and the official start of the race. The early hour muted some of the excitement as racers settled-in. Highly engineered socks started poking up from reclined bus seats by those achieving curious pretzel-nap poses only possible on chartered transports. Lumbering down the highway I watched the scenery change from graffiti-peppered buildings to industrial brick-making plants to just lots of plants being nibbled on by sheep. Lots of sheep. Then the vast nothingness of land, of that something we’re here to traverse and treasure.