By Dre Hestler
Published: January 30, 2010
Nothing good comes easy. I guess this is one of the mottos I live by, but man, did someone take some liberties when applying it to the Trans Andes Challenge. Actually, all of the hard stuff is generally self-induced, which means there is no one to blame but myself (doh!). Of course, at the end of every awesome week of riding it's time to saddle up the beer steins and celebrate. Perhaps this is also one of the credos I live by, and heck we sure earned it.
Day 3 saw my legs come around and the routine begin to take shape, then it all became a blur of super radness. The big difference between this and the normal rides I do in January—and for that matter, between a good business and a bad business—is location, location, location… and a bit of timing.
My head is foggy now as I attempt to recount the tales of the last few days. Last night we celebrated the completion of the route, and together we shared this accomplishment and together we celebrated. And what better brokers friendships, multi-national relationships, or simply some camaraderie than sharing not one, but six, epic rides, six nights of camping and some 18 meals together? We’ve become something of a family over the week and parting ways becomes a wee bit sad, but we all know there will be another event in the future and likely we will see the same smiling faces again.
Day 4 was by far the best pure mountain bike day yet. We ripped up an amazing piece of trail that wove around a pristine alpine lake. The forest was like nothing I have ever seen before and riding another surreal experience becomes commonplace as again and again the sublime beauty of Chile is revealed. We came together, eleven of us, late into the day on this piece of singletrack. Some were going forward, some backwards, but all of us were fully moved by this particular small moment and the experience it provided.
Strengthened by the days of riding and the fresh air of the forest and the mountains we all seemed to find new vigor and push through to finish the longest day of the event.
Day 5 was rumored to be the “Queen” stage, but we were reminded to keep our heads up and take a glance or two behind, as the views were not to be missed. The trail was clearly marked but sometimes one can lose oneself anyway, and so it was that I meandered off the course, had a mechanical and managed to make an absolute botch of this day’s navigation. Thank God it mattered little in the grand scheme of things as I caught some different people and managed to spend the day in good company enjoying myself thoroughly.
Onto yet one more hot springs resort with a beautiful river and boat load of pasta to quench my endless hunger. This was an epic day and we were not sure what the final stage would bring, but having made it through five, the sense of near completion was exhilarating.
Day 6 followed a 9.5-hour sleep, and it feels like I could go on riding my bike forever at this point. Our routine is smooth and the weather fair, the food is plentiful and my taste for exploring is not quenched, so why stop now? Ah yes, life comes crashing back and it's time to go home. A short 25-mile jaunt into Pucon (the Fort Lauderdale of Chile) with some climbs in the front and some fast descents in the back has me winning the stage, placing second in the over all, but more importantly putting to rest this amazing chapter and journey through in and around Chile. Get out of the ordinary and get on with the strange, I say. See you around.