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The South Americans

It is the second day of The Last Desert and, with dangerous conditions at Deception Island we are making our way towards Trinity Island. Sitting in the lounge of the expedition ship, we find a pair of competitors from South America. 

Nahila Hernanzez Juan was born in Cuba, raised in Mexico and currently lives in Chile with her partner Christian Sieveking, who is part of The Last Desert Course Team. She is joined by Argentinean Grand Slammer Christian Colque. 

We begin by asking them if there is anything surprising about being here in Antarctica.

“The movement of the ship!” says Christian. “Also, the elements and the temperatures, how they can change so quickly.” For Nahila, she says it’s the endless light as spring comes to this southernmost continent. “It’s weird that it doesn’t get dark,” she says. “I never imagined this much white. Also there is more elevation difference here, I thought it would be more flat.”

Despite being relatively close when compared to other parts of the world, they both say that Antarctica is far from the minds of their friends and family back home. “Not many people have a chance to come here,” says Christian. “Even the local people in Ushuaia were excited!”

For Christian, it’s been an intense year and the aim to reach Antarctica was the original driving force. “I wanted to run all seven continents before I got to the age of 40,” he says. “I am now 38. I ran in Greenland and heard about The Last Desert from Paolo Barghini [4 Deserts Club member]. Now, Australia is the only continent left. Antarctica was also appealing because it is so rare. I feel blessed to be here.”

For Nahlia, the first Ibero-American to complete the 4 Deserts series, she admits that only a race would bring her here. “ I never planned to do this,” she admits. “It’s so far from my natural environment. It was because of the race. It’s very beautiful here and I enjoy it but the environment is not natural for me to race in.”

Christian says that he has been having some emotional moments on the race. He and his good friends, Jeison Costa and Vicente Garcia Beneito decided to take on the Grand Slam at the beginning of the year and they’re now coming close to their goal.

“Yesterday, in Stage 1, I ran together with Jeison,” he explains. “The power came from our minds and our hearts. It felt emotional to be running. For us, Stage 1 was a good race. When the conditions changed with the melting snow in the afternoon, it became another race. Let’s see what happens in the other stages, conditions can change anytime here.” 

By Clare Morin

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