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Stage 5 - The Long March
11-Mar-2011 06:28:05 AM [(GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
It is now 10AM.  I got in here at 3.15AM, completed the stage in a little over 19 hours, including 2.5 hours of R&R.  My body has no feeling below the hip and I am limping back to normal.  My lips look like the salt flats I just crossed, torn and dry!
The stage started with 15km of extremely difficult salt flats (to CP1) followed by another 10 odd km of hard and crusty sand (to CP2). I did decent time here and also managed to reach CP3 by 1PM, given the cut off was 7PM.  CP3-CP5 was brutal.  Desert heat and no shade anywhere.  I was hobbling for the most part, given my bad legs from yesterday and at on point almost felt like giving up.  Oh, well.  It is also funny, how at times you pass people, people pass you or you are moving on alone for miles and miles, just you and your thoughts.  The key was to just keep sucking up all the good thoughts and wishes and channeling them inward, to move on.
Nutrition wise, the day did not go well.  I could not eat any solid food for the last two days and had to force some soup in at the end of Stage 4.  To ensure no nausea or giddiness, I kept nibbling on a few sugar bars during the day, washed down with loads of water and antacids at each CP.  Consulted the doctors monitoring us and I was assured no cause for concern.
At CP5, took a break for 2 hours.  Had a large cup of miso soup and took a short nap.  At this point, I had company - Len (my tentmate) and Gary and Brad (both of whom I met a day ahead of the race).  We set off from CP5 around 10PM.  CP5-CP6 took us almost on the border of Argentina-Chile and we were told that because of border issues between the countries, we were passing through a landmine field for 6km.  Oh, fuck!! Well, onward and upwards.  Gary, who worked in Tanks in the Canadian Forces took lead and we followed.  We kept to the path, following the glowsticks and not straying too far from the designated path till we reached CP6.
Post CP6, we walked on through a difficult creek/river canyon.  We stopped many times to look at the night sky -Beautiful to see the entire milky way, a sight you will never see in a city, thanks to light pollution.  We identified the southern star, orion,  the two bears.  I mean, against the backdrop of the black sky, the glowing stars were so refreshing to see.
The road into camp reminded me of "on a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair" minus the warm smell of colitas wink wink.
With all this little soirees to keep our enthusiasm going, we finally made it to camp at a little after 3 this morning.  The four of us crossed the line together - great camaraderie. 
I am more refreshed now, will be eating some soup and food soon.  Tomorrow is a 16km into San Pedro where pizza (lots of it) and beer (more than lots of it, I trust) await us.  Thank you all for your kind wishes.  There are many who have written in, who I do not know personally.  Thank you as well.  These are what have helped me complete six days in the desert.
See you all soon. 
Comments (175)

Stage 4
09-Mar-2011 07:05:51 AM [(GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
Completed Stage 4, The Salt Flats.  Am screwed physically, legs hurting badly.  Going to rest and recoup ahead of tomorrow's long march - 73km in total.
Will update once I complete that.  Keep your wishes coming, they sustain me throughout.
Comments (35)

Stage 3 - The Atacamenos Trail
08-Mar-2011 07:28:42 AM [(GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
The day started at 8am.  Course detail was 40km in total.  The first leg to CP1 was brutal for almost 5km.  It was crusty and hard salt that could cut ankles if we were not careful.  I managed to run to CP1 in about 1.45hrs and after a brif stop started onwards to CP2.  Cutoff for reaching CP2 was 2pm and I made it around 11.10am.  The trail was relatively difficult, we were moving through waist high grass, as well as dried grass.  Very deceptive terrain and a bit difficult.
After refuelling at CP2, I started onwards to CP3 and this was where a bit of hell began.  While the first part was OK, the second half (almost 5km) was a rolling sand dune, simply brutal terrain.  I managed to reach CP3 at 1.15pm, 10km in about 2 hrs or so.  Rested at CP3 for 15-20 minutes and then I set out for CP4 (Camp for night as well).  The distance between CP3 and CP4 was roughly 11.5km.
To call the terrain enroute to CP4 murderous is an understatement.  The first half was very sharp rocky surface (the kind that could cut your shoes (if you were lucky) or seriously slice your leg).  I lost time here since I was exhausted (temperature must have been about 40C and dry heat).  I just kept drinking water like it was going out of style.  The second leg (roughly 4km odd) comprised steep sand dunes (45-60degree incline) that we had to climb and descend.  Luckily for me, I had a buddy who came out of no where - Scott (check him at  He stayed with me through the last 4 km, through and through and helped me reach Camp.
I came in 60 today, about 8 places up from yesterday.  What really worked was just going from CP to CP and not thinking about the finish line.
Afterthought - for those of you who saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - now I know what Tuco went through, when Blondie left him in the middle of the desert about a 100 miles from the nearest town, and that was without water, methinks.  Phew!!
Tomorrow, we tackle the infamous Salt Flats - 42 km on crusty, dry, hard salt.
Keep the good thoughts and wishes coming.  I am grateful for your support and will see you all very soon.
Comments (2)

Stage 2
07-Mar-2011 06:27:08 AM [(GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
After a good night's sleep, I woke up very refreshed and mentally ready to tackle Stage 2, "The Slot Canyons". 
The first 20.8km were sheer hell - 3km by road - 8km in a river canyon where I got soaking wet upto my knees and at times, thighs - one km on a 4x4 track (and this was just upto checkpoint 1).  The next 9.6 km saw us climb up and up and up.  Great scenery but I wasn't in a frame of mind to appreciate.  The incline was really steep, at times almost 45-60 degrees.  The route to CP2 ended with a tumble down through an endless sand dune, which sloped at an incline of 60-70 degrees (almost vertical, if you ask me).  As a reward, I received my first blister of the race, which was quickly treated at CP2 and after a brief rest, I set out for CP3.
The route to CP3 was an off road track and I was walking this at an easy pace of 4-5km per hour.  The terrain was just loose sand, packed at some points, rocky in the other.  What hit most of us was that the sun was right out there and blazing away.  I must have consumed about 2.5 litres of water just to keep from dehydrating.  And I promise you, CP3 was a sight for sore eyes.  I filled up and headed out to CP4 (also camp for tonight).
The route to CP4 was just crusty and sandy terrain.  Lots of scrub/bushes which made one look out carefully for the route markers.  I can only say this - there was one single tree about 4km from CP4.  And this was the only tree for the last 26km or so.  When you see this, you only feel grateful to Mother Nature.  I rushed as quickly as I could manage and took a 5 minute stop and refreshed myself with water and salt tablets.
Reached CP4 at 5PM, a total of 9 hours in the desert. I can only sum up my feelings at this time - gratitude and a renewed respect of the sun.
I am off to dinner now and then a night's rest, getting ready for tomorrow's stage 3 - The Atacamenos Trail.
More tomorrow.  Keep the good wishes coming in.
Comments (11)

Stage 1
06-Mar-2011 07:03:41 AM [(GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi]

Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2011
Well, we arrived at base camp last night after a one and a half hour drive into the desert.  Base camp was at Rio Grande.Managed to sleep well and woke up well.  Apart from Michelle the other Indian competitor, we have among others, Jagjit and Tan from Malaysia, Len and Stan from Canada, Pam from the US and Richard from HK.  Great people, I have made several new friends today.
Stage 1 was navigation through rock.  A total of little over 35km with three cheeck points.  Starting altitude was a little over 3,250m and we come down to 2600m at the end of the stage.  got through CP1 and 2 in 4 hours.  Terrain can best be described as a roller coasteer of loose gravel and very soft ground, followed by a walk through a winding canyon that was once actually a river bed/basin at some point in time.  Most important lesson learnt was that distance can be deceptive, followed by the importance of water conservation.
The run/walk from CP2 to CP3 was what beat the mickey out of me.  We ran through a undulating course that just keot going up and down and up and down and up again forever.  It was at a slightly higher altitude and given that we were coming down, I did not expect an uphill climb again.  Further, the route was absolutely still, no air passage at all and at times, I got a bit breathless so had to force myself to stop.  I had a great companion for CP2 and 3, Gavin from the UK.  Thanks mate.  He was who got me through CP3 and onward to Camp 2.
Covered the entire distance in 7hr15min, including R&R of 45 minutes.  I stopped several times enroute to CP3 and then to Camp2.  Took a short nap before I wrote this up.  Now it dinner time and then bed in a short while.  Back hurts like hell after lugging my backpack, so will probably stretch a bit.
Tomorrow, we tackle the slot canyons.  41.8km through difficult terrain.  So will write, once I complete the stage.
Thank you all for your kind wishes.  Nandita, Atri - love you very much.  Your pictures are what kept me going and provide inspiration.  See you all in a week, successfully.
Comments (2)

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