It all began in ice, snow and blizzards. We found ourselves swimming naked through sub-zero rivers in a Patagonian winter, wading through snow drifts, stumbling over jagged coastal cliffs, crawling under crowded limbs of southern beech forests and chasing puma tracks on our way to the most southerly point of continental South America, Cabo Froward.
On 28 July 2012, we finally found it, lips numb with cold we announced the start on film and there began the most gruelling (physically and mentally) endeavour of our lives. Since then we have slid over ice, run through battering, freezing winds and drenching rain. We’ve broken three axles and re-built the trailer three times. We’ve met extraordinary warmth from people sharing their homes, gardens and houses or simply passing water and food through their car windows to us. We’ve met incredulity, understanding, laughter and on a very few occasions hostility; due to our nationality.
Stumbling into a Patagonian armadillo, a line of leaf-cutter ants or a rapidly retreating snake shoots a spring into our step. These meetings and the pockets of healthy landscapes through which we run are why we are running. Running, walking, sitting.. whatever…but doing this with fewer in the morning’s birds chorus or with less of the most extraordinary and mind-boggling animals in the canopy above would be miserable. So we are raising money for some of these last wild places and their wild inhabitants, chatting to passers by and schools to remind everyone of the relevance of wildlife and wildplaces to life; to us all.
The school presentations have proved to be one of the most satisfying elements of the run; sharing our expedition, wildlife sightings, surveys and ecological understanding of the landscapes we’ve been running through and in turn learning from the pupils and teachers. While meeting schools at home through our BigToe Blog, Questions and Extension Materials fuels our running miles; as our minds chunter with new examples and links.
After the mystical temperate rainforests of Chile and the snow-capped Andean passes, we entered a new phase of the expedition, wind. Since entering Argentina in November wind has plagued our passage; bending our progress, screaming in our ears, whipping sand storms into our bodies and tent. The three “S’s” of Sand, Spikes and Sun have added to the concoction leaving us low and exhausted.
A couple of days ago we ran over the pass from Bardas Blancas, a little Argentine town, south of Mendoza. Below us stretched the rippling haze of nothingness; desert. This is what we have sought. Tired of the punishing ascents and descents of the Andes, we desired plains and flatness. Now we will find out what the new landscape has in store for us……..