A Cracker from Caracas,
Atacama Crossing 2010 Competitor
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Later....A Post Script
17-Mar-2010 12:24:43 PM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010

Later....... a Post Script

I am suffering both from sore feet and from withdrawal symptoms!

Last week at this time I was in the desert with all my new friends, battling against the elements, helping each other to reach the next checkpoint, the next campsite. This week I am in Vina del Mar with some super friends who I have known for 25 years, but I have been to the hospital twice for extensive treatment for my feet, and now have to lie with them raised, doing nothing.

Snap out of it, Marilena, I tell myself. Last week was super, a great experience; new friends; lots of money raised for the Friedreich´s Ataxia charities, wonderful messages from around the world, and a most impressive medal to prove that I actually did complete the Atacama Crossing. Imagine: 250km across the driest desert in the world!! And the doctor told me this morning that I would be running again in matter of days, not weeks or months as I had first feared.

Life is good, and I know that I am a better person for having tested myself to the limit in the desert. For the few days before the vent and then during the entire length of it, I got close to a great bunch of new friends, some almost as crazy as me. It was really hard to say goodbye, and I look forward to keeping in touch and seeing them again in the future.

Thank you to the Atacama Crossing organisers and all the volunteers and staff who made it all possible. The smile which was permanently across my face was real. I loved it, every minute and every hard earned kilometer of it, and, as Alan is always saying: If the Pope´s a Catholic, I am going to do another of these crazy 4Deserts events!!

Lots of love to you all,


Comments (3)

Stage 5 - The Long One!!
15-Mar-2010 06:28:09 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010
Stage 5 was tough. I set of at 7.30 Friday morning with 75kms lurking menacingly ahead. That is why my mind needed to be so strong, and I am so grateful it was. The terrain was rocky, uneven, harsh and so we pushed on through it. Some softer sand, and sweeping dunes, but today they all seemed to send us uphill. Mind again! Through the day we moved on, and it got hotter and hotter. I remember when I lived in Chile (too many years ago!) the hottest time of the day seemed to be 4pm - and I knew therefore that I was inexorably heading for hotter and hotter temperatures, with not even a hint of cloud or shade to lessen the effect. Evening, that is what I was looking forward to, but I also knew that the length of this stage would mean several hours in dark, and I asked my self how cold it would get when the sun fell out of the sky to the west. The answer, I quickly found out, especially as a strong wind sprang up, was chillingly low. And still we trudged on - for now we were indeed trudging! I still felt good, but when the sun went down, at about 8.30, I had been out for 13 hours, and still had something like 20km/half-a-marathon/2 10ks still to do, and by this time I was walking with Bert, my Belgian friend, who speaks fluent spanish from Spain, as he is married to a lady from Spain. 20km to go! Mind yet again! It hurt, especially my poor feet and the horrible blisters. Why had I developed blisters? And why such bad ones? Every step was painful. How to overcome that pain? I thought of the charity I was running for, and all those suffering from FA. I thought of Paolo with MS; Tremaine running all 4 Deserts this year for Cancer Research; I thought of the Help the Heroes Team. I thought of my family, and all my friends around the world supporting me. My mind still was strong, and even though it was so cold, and Bert was not feeling very well, we pushed on, not stopping for more than a couple of minutes at any of the checkpoints - we feared that if we can stopped for longer we would not have been able to get ourselves moving again. It was so cold, but the 20km became 15, then 10, then 5, 3, then 1, and finally, finally, some time after 1am the campsite could be seen courtesy of the brilliant show the billions of stars were putting on for us. Exhausted, but with a wonderful sense of achievement, I reached my home:Tent #12.
Comments (4)

Stage 6 - A stroll to the finish??
15-Mar-2010 06:11:56 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010
Stage 6 A stroll to the finish?
Errrrr, no.
With most of us finishing quite late last night, with no briefing today, and with the final little stage not due to sart until mid-day, it should have been a lie-in for us all today. Yes?  Errrr, no! There was excitement around the campsite from 7am onwards, and any further sleep soon became as unlikey as a short sharp shower. It seemed an age, therefore before we were all assembled at the starting line for our dash for home. Yes? Errrrr, no. The first 2 km were all uphill through jagged rocks, and I think that for most of us they were probably the slowest 2km of the week. And my feet hurt!
Eventually, the course flatenned out, the speedsters raced ahead, and I realised that my race, which I had prepared for for so long, which had been gruelling in the extreme - cruel at times - but which I had enjoyed so very much, was quickly coming to an end. But even with the pain, I didn´t want it to end. I concentrated on the scenery - the dry, arid lansdcape, the volcanoes in the distance, the sheer never-endingness of it. I looked without success to see my 3rd bird of the week. I savoured every minute, almost hoping the finishing line would get further away rather then ever closer. All too soon, I was in the final straight, and I remembered my lines: I unfurled my Venezuelan flag and held it high and wide just like I had seen the Olympic champions in Beijing; I brought the broad grin back to my face even though I was not pleased to be finishing my race; I completely forgot my painful feet; and to a crescendo of cheers, applauds an drumbeats, I crossed the line: tired - exhausted even - but so happy. Alan was there to put the medal around my neck and give me a hug and a kiss, and so were all my new-found friends who had all helped make this such a wonderful week. And yes, over to the side, as promised, there was pizza and coca cola. I grabbed a piece, then another, and then back to the finishing line to cheer in some more of my new friends, more photos, more hugs, more tears of relief, of happiness, and yes, of achievemnt.
What a week! I will never forget it. But I hope my feet will!!
Comments (0)

Stage 5
13-Mar-2010 11:20:59 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010
I have finished the long stage 76km in one go.
It was an amazing experience. Very painful because of my blisters, but apart from that my body is feel fine,
It was difficult all along, the salt plains weren't as I thought, smooth  all along, no way, it was crusty and very difficult to even walk on it, and with my feet, horrible.
We had long march along stony, sand uo hill. Very long along sand with  magnificent surroundings.
Then we had a very  long, steep sand dune, I don't know what I have done if I felt backwards -would have to do it all again.
After that there was a very  long path,  difficult on your feet. More sand, up and down.
Our last strech in the dark we thought was going to be easier, but not, it was  gruelling. Up hills, down dunes, up again and down along this beautiful canyon, sometimes you had to sit down to jump to carry on walking. Very long, but the sky was beautiful, full of stars. After that we had a long strech all the way up and down to our camp.
It was a very long day, difficult, but I'm glad I did it.
Will tell you with more details later.  Today we have only 10km to our fiinish line.
I will talk to you all later. Looking forewrd to real food, a nice sort bed and of course to a very cold  Pisco Sour.
Take care, many thanks for all your messages and good wishes.
Love you all.
Marilena x
Comments (7)

Stage 4
11-Mar-2010 06:59:44 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010
Hola a todos mis amigos, mi Wilko, Crista, Robbie y Ale.y toda mi  familia.
Les cuento que estoy bien, pero un poco adolrida, pues tengo unas ampollas gigantes en la planta del pie izquierdo.
Hoy fue un dia divertido pero muy duro, tuvimos subidas interminables, dunas en subida y bajada. Las de bajda eran tan empinadas que tenias que bajar casi acostada. Increible.
Luego tuvimos que cruzar un riachuelito sucio y lleno de no se que. Luego mas subidas y despues pasar por un  pueblito muy pinturesco.
Y al final cruzamos  el Salar de Atacama por 14km, lo unico malo fue que cada paso que daba era tan doloroso, peropudo haber sido peor.
En total 43km.
A mis amigos chilenos,espero esten bien. Mis pensamientos etsan con ustedes'
Hi there,
Today was a tough  one, four gone but the big one is tomorrow'
Today we had a long way up and up, never stoped, then had sand dunes, a dirty stream crossing. More dunes down hill, very funny and fun to do.
We had  to go  down almost laying side ways so we didn.t fly forwaed all the way down, exciting.
Then as this was not enough, we had to cross a dirty stream. More dunes, through a very small dusty town,  and finally the salt plains, not  bad,
the only thing I had a big blister on the sole of my left foot, every step  I made was so painful. Then back to camp along a dusty roas.
I had my blisters looked at and they gave antibiotics. I hope they will be alright for tomorrow, for the long march- 75km-
Anyway I will finish it, God willing, even if I crawl all the way.
Take care you all. I love you very much,  and you are all in my thoughts along the way.
Besos y carinos
Marilena, macki, mama xxxxxxx
Comments (22)

3 Stages done!!
10-Mar-2010 05:50:01 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010
Hi there,thanks for all the mesages you have sent me. I really love receiving them.
Keep them coming.
Wel I have done three stages so far. Yesterday was tough, but I really enjoyed it very much, even with my horrible blisters.
We crossed a river about thirty times, cold water, but it was so much fun, the we went up and up and up, until we got to the top and down the dunes we came, it was one of the fun things I ever done, then we went along a very tedious long path, hot -45 centigrades.
I tried to help one of the competitors that was strugling, but it was very nice to have done so.
Today, it was tough, first we went along this salty crust with very dry grass, tha cut you.
Then a very long way along tall grassy patches, then more crusty salts.
More sand dunes up and down and very long way through difficult terrain, temperature again 45 centigrades.
Tomorro will be very difficult. But I.m hanging there enjoying every bit of the way.
Many thanks for all the good wishes. You help me all the way.
Love you al very much.
Marilena xxxxx
Comments (13)

Stage 1
08-Mar-2010 05:45:21 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010
To my Dear Family, Friends and my FARA and Ataxia UK friends.
A mi adorada familia, amigos y mis amigos de FARA y Ataxia UK
Yesterday we came to camp 1, everybody is very nice and we are all  the same -crazy-.
This morning we got up at 5,45am, to get everything ready for the first day. Panic, panic, but at the end I was ready, had breakfast,etc.
At 8,15am we all run at the sound of drums and local chilean music, so exciting. And to know that I am the FIRST venezuelan to do a Racing The Planet race.even more, my flag is flying among so many others now.
I'm glad to say that the first stage of  our race is over, 38km, the organizers warned us thst was going to be a very difficult race, and indeed it was a tough one, but thank God I finished it without any problem. There was a very long tedious,  hot and no wind canon, and all was uphill, But it was very interesting and amazing views.
I can't explain in so short mesage how amazing it was..
I'm glad to say that my body is fit and fine, but the only problem is my back pack, is  sooooo heavy, I don't know why, I think I'm going to eat a lot tonight to get rid of some of my weight,
You maybe say that I'm crazy,  because i REALLY ENJOYED IT. By wednesday I will take less time because my pack will be lees heavy.
The scenery, the deep blue sky and the magnificent stars at night are amazing, I'm taking photos and when I get back to Uruguay I will be sending them for all to see.
Tomorrow will be 42km, I will tell you all about it tomorrow night.
Many thanks for all the best wishes and all the love that you have sent me. You might not believe me, but you are all in my thoughts and when I'm feeling a bit down I think of you and even talk to some of you.
Take care you all,
Lots of lovre and kisses from me in the Desert xx
Comments (11)

Thursday 4Mar - Santiago
04-Mar-2010 10:08:32 AM [(GMT) Greenwich Mean Time: Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2010

Thursday 4Mar - Santiago
I know that there will be many horror stories about flights to Chile for the Atacama Crossing, but none of them can begin to compare with the horror experienced by so many Chileans as a result of the devastating earthquakes, and the subsequent after-shocks. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
When I made my on-line check-in, and was issued with my e-boarding pass, I thought my flight to Santiago yesterday was going to be hastle-free. But no. Alan got me to the airport at mid-day, having made two stops on the way for last-minute "provisions", only to find that my Pluna flight had been cancelled. We were told that any furture flights for the next week would be giving priority to returning Chileans and there was little chance of a flight for me before 8Mar at the earliest. What to do??
We spent the afternoon looking all other options, and just as we were going to book Buenos Aires to Salta and then bus over the Andes, I managed to get a flight on LAN to Mendoza at 7pm with onward connection by bus to Santiago. All passed without problem except that the Chilean immigration officers were not too happy with some of my provisions for the event and, annoyingly confiscated my beef jerky and my dried fruits.
I arrived in Santiago at 5am, at the extremely-dangerous-at-that-time-of-the-morning Alameda Sur bus station. No taxis, nothing open, really quite scary. One of the boys I had been sitting with on the bus said I could not stay at the bus station, and insisted I go with him to his Grandparents' house in one of the sprawling barrios of Santiago. What wonderful people: very humble, but they welcomed me into their house, gave me breakfast, and then took me to the metro and on my way to meet an old friend. I will never, ever, forget their kindness.
Am now on my way to the airport, being driven by the chauffeur of the CEO of HSBC Chile, and am booked on a 4.30 flight this afternoon to Calama. Fingers and everything else crossed!
See you all soon, I hope.

Comments (9)

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