By: T.C. Worley
“The Wenger Patagonian Adventure Race is an adventure whether you are racing or not,” I told someone on day three of the race. All heads in the room (actually a tent) nodded in agreement. Reporting from the field is an experience that will either give you a higher mental threshold for handling disappointment, or it will break you down. I missed boats, missed meals, missed sleep and generally had a heck of a time trying to get my reports out. But the tradeoff is that I spent time in what I believe to be the prettiest, most untouched land I may ever see. It would take a fool to complain.
While the goal of every race is to win, most teams came just for the opportunity to race in what most see as the toughest, most beautiful, most demanding race on the planet. Nowhere else can you trek such pristine areas without mounting an expedition that would be far out of financial or logistical reach. So, being there is goal number one, finishing is goal number two and winning is just the cherry on top.
The 2010 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race is now history. All the fanfare and production is over and we are in the clean-up stage. We are all home with our families and routines once again. I wonder if the others feel the way I do. Coming home is a little bittersweet. There is no place like home, but the place we left was almost magical. No matter the hardship, suffering or disappointment any of us went through, we all walked away with a quieter soul and a larger grin on our weathered faces. I feel as though we were allowed to stroll in what is left of the Garden of Eden.
I think that the race promoters feel this way too, because the WPER is designed to be a vehicle for bringing healthy exposure to the Chilean Patagonian Area. The belief is that if we bring enough press to the area and show that it is precious, then maybe we can slow or stop the spread of man’s exploitation of the land. Oil wells, salmon farms and gas lines do not belong there. Eco-tourism is an acceptable means of “cashing in” on the resources of Patagonia. Small, controlled numbers of people would pay to be able to walk among the Guanaco. Honestly, even this bothers me a little, but it may be the only way to keep Chilean Patagonia safe and healthy. I am a part of this goal now. As you read this, I am spreading the news that Patagonia needs your help. Each racer knows it well and will hopefully go home to tell their family and friends. There are not many places like this left on our planet.
So what can you do? I am not really sure. I am a long way from Chile right now and feel a bit helpless. So, maybe helping Patagonia is not my job after this race. Maybe my job is to make the place I live more like Patagonia. Maybe I need to pick up even more litter, volunteer to clean up the Mississippi, teach my kids to “leave no trace.” I can drive less and walk or bike more. I can stop using soap to wash my vehicle and dry my laundry on the line. The Yogaslackers try hard to partner with companies that have high ethical standards when it comes to keeping the world as nice as possible. Stephen (the Gear Junkie), as well as myself, only owns one vehicle and bikes a lot for transportation. These are baby steps, but “stepping” by definition is “moving, toward some end.”
I did not mean for this to turn into a tree-hugging, green-loving, whine fest. The real message is that every year there is an amazing, rugged and globally responsible event that happens in my new favorite place: Chilean Patagonia. Registration is limited in order to keep the footprint to a minimum, so if you want in on this life changing event, you better start saving up and get in your race entry. With newspapers and Web sites headlining this event all over the world, I expect the WPER to become the king of adventure races. With a goal that is bigger than grabbing huge sponsor dollars and getting airtime on the hottest action sports TV station, I think that the WPER is hitting racers where their heart is—running around the woods, feeling alive from head-to-toe.
*All images property of T.C. Worley, please ask permission prior to using.
For more images and race info, please visit: Wenger Patagonian Expediton Race