Talk about the glamour of international travel. We often had this wonderful idea that travelling to the ends of the earth to do races is really exciting and intrepid even. The reality of it all is that you spend a lot of time sitting around in airports. The All Blacks don’t know how good they have it, priority boarding, business class seats, VIP lounges – as I read in the Air NZ magazine on the flight up to Auckland. For us in minority and fringe sports travelling is packed with waiting, queuing, waiting some more, cramming into all sorts of positions and locations to sleep did or just get comfortable! All part of the adventure I guess… Enough complaining anyway, Adventure racers to a bit of that but that certainly does not stop them from getting on with doing the job and coming back for more!
Over a week ago Team Motueka departed from their various corners of the South Island of NZ and converged on the big smoke of Auckland, from there it was direct to Santiago and then Lima and finally Quito. Spanners were thrown in the works early, some repacking was required in Auckland airport. Then in Santiago, Quinn and myself had 30min different flights to Meg and Brent… this should not have been a problem but Quinn and I faced a 9 hour delay in good old South American style! We opted to stay in the Airport to wait out the time, both on Santiago and Lima to reduce the stress of getting too and from the airports to hotels, but we were forgoing comfortable sleep which was not ideal. It was beginning to feel like it was going to be a miracle of all of our gear ended up in Quito as expected.
I can confirm miracles do happen and within 30mins of our arrival in Quito, the bike boxes were loaded up and we were off to our hotel for the night and some rest. Brent doesn’t appear to enjoy resting too much, so with our bikes built up and checked over we cruised around town doing a few little messages, picking up extra gear etc. Once this was done, it was off to visit the old town for some dinner.
Our hosts at the hotel were all too accommodating and offered to drive us into town. We piled into Martiza’s jeep and were given a brief tour of some of the sights accompanied by her daughters music that had apparently 30,000 downloads off Spotify. The old town itself was definitely worth a visit, there was some cool old buildings and we had a chance to try out some of the local food such as Hot chocolate with Cheese, figs with Cheese, Empanadas with Cheese and some roasted vegetables and bananas…with cheese of course!
The next morning we were off to Banõs, the Headquarters for the race. We shared the Journey with the French team Kiwani. It was a bit cramped in the bus/van but that didn’t stop us from getting some more sleep and food in. It was a rather fast three hour trip to Banõs, which was ideal for the pre race prep. Again the bikes had to be built up and there was some more gear sorting to do as well as purchase some race food. Not quite enough time to explore the town as a much as we would have liked. After dinner in town we headed to bed ready for the days preparation ahead. I was feeling all a little under prepared but we needed a good night’s sleep as the race morning was going to be an early start.
Race registration was just after breakfast for us, in the first time slot. Somehow we had not realised that the registration was not actually at the race hotel, the race headquarters and it was actually at the coliseum down the road. So with all of our gear packed up we wrangeled a ride down there and went through the registration process. It’s probably a good thing we did do the registration as we actually figured out we were missing a few pieces of gear! Whoops… After about an hour and a half of moving our way around the stations things were starting to get real and the need to pack was also playing on my mind.
We had 4 hours to pack by the time we had got back to the hotel. As anticipated we used all of the time allotted to us and a it was a stressful packing session especially the last few minutes. Then we had to get the boxes and other gear bins all weighed and checked off, a little bit difficult when you don’t speak the language and have to rely on the organisers to help you out with transport. Despite all of this these guys were really helpful and we were all checked off and ready to go…hopefully…. poor Meg hadn’t got to check off her gear completely and was relying on us ot have put it in the right boxes!
Once all the gear was dropped off were able to relax for the next 2 hours while we waited for the briefing and the map hand out. After that it was all go from then on in. At the briefing we were met with Juan who was our translator for the briefing. It was really cool to be able to have him there and able to explain everything to us about the course. The brief overview of things showed we were heading into the Amazon Basin tos start with, then biking and trekking our way up into the Andes, wandering around some pretty high tops and mysterious jungles and then climb up the local Volcano to finishing back at the hotel.
It’s always a nervous time from when you get the maps until you get the route sorted out, but that was Quinn and Myself’s sole focus, while the other two looked for somewhere where we could eat while all this was going on. By the time our dinner came out we had it mostly all sorted, which was a relief. We then spent about an hour sealing the maps up on the perfect surface table made of marble in the hotel lobby. By about 10:30pm we were all done, headed to bed for the final preparations and off to bed for a short sleep.