Extreme sports: Winter Desafio Aysen 2012 in Chilean Patagonia

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Coyhaique -- Teams from Chile, South Africa, France, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia showed their courage and face up to the challenges of kayaking, trekking and mountain biking and crossing lakes, rivers and mountains for two days of competition.

“The race was very difficult. The winter conditions were a determining factor. But it was still a tremendous experience. We’re very happy,” said Nicholas Alfageme, a member of the winning team of the bike and kayaking category from Argentina (Bariloche). These words encapsulate his unique experience in Aysén, a hub for extreme sports in the Chilean Patagonia.

Two weeks ago (August 16-18), the Aysén region transformed into the capital of extreme sports welcoming 72 athletes from all over the world. They covered a back breaking distance of 145 kilometers distance under extreme weather conditions of Patagonia to bring the Desafio Aysen to life.

Local and foreign participants were divided into 36 pairs and faced their most extreme and harrowing challenges comprised of 25 km of kayaking, 40 km of trekking and 80 km of mountain biking. These combined with the jaw dropping unique visuals and harsh weather conditions of Patagonia tested the athletes’ spirit of camaderie and physical performance.

Francisco Vio, organizer and director of Desafio Aysén thanked the participants and expressed satisfaction with this particular race: “The Winter Desafio Aysen 2012 is a unique event that aims to promote the beauty of Aysén through sports while preserving its environment in a sustainable way.”

One of the participants, Enrique Fernandez from Caleta Tortel, referred to the difficulty of the competition and highlighted how the team’s equipment had held up. "The stretch between the cold lake and the El Fraile Ski Center was one of the most difficult. In some sections, the snow was up to our hips and more. The bike had cost us a lot but it was worth it,” he affirmed.

The first place in the adventurer category went to the team of Manuel Medina and Pablo Miranda of Coyhaique. Medina told us about his previous experience in Desafio Aysen: “I had experienced the summer version of Desafio but the winter one is a whole different thing and has different requirements. For one, they are both very different, both physically and psychologically and have striking contrasts of scenery.”

Garnering first place in the expert duo category were the Argentine team Oscar and Mabel Ramirez Ferre and in mixed adventurers category were Anelle Rabie of South Africa and Natalia Gorroño of Coyhaique. Gorroño described the race as one of the best she had ever participated in. “The people warmly received us in every place we stopped. Much of our bikes were covered in ice and frost but we kept calm and persevered. It also helps knowing how to get there,” she said.

Francisco Lazo, the Aysen region director of SERNATUR (Chile's national tourism service), believes that the different attractions of each season coupled with the Desafio Aysen would strengthen the lure of attraction for fans of adventure tourism. “The region is combining sports and tourism. Participants of the challenge are experiencing the best of what the Aysén landscape has to offer through this race. It is for this reason that SERNATUR will continue to support it,” he emphasized.

Through this government entity and the sponsorship of the Regional Government of Aysén, a media press trip of the race was launched targeting its promotion in countries like Brazil and Argentina.

This race is produced by Ocean Andino and the Escuela de Guias de la Patagonia. It also features sponsors like SERNATUR, LAN, Garmin, Andesgear and the local Coyhaique government. The organization consist of more than 30 volunteers belonging to public institutions such as the municipality, CONAF, the Chilean Army and the Chilean police who work together on checkpoint security, communications and production.

Media response

In the fourth Desafio Aysen, 9 teams of journalists participated. They marveled at the unique landscapes of Aysén-Patagonia and couldn´t help but be enthusiastic about the region and its tourist potential.

Eduardo Carazo, director of the Argentinean magazine, “Todo Aventura,” noted that this region is one of the most beautiful places he has ever seen. “The trends of geography and tourism ventures really make a difference. The goals for each Desafio Aysen is a positive 50 percent impact on sports and the other 50 percent on boosting tourism. The organizers are acting collectively to promote adventure tourism. I think it's the perfect combo for this region to have a significant turnaround and increase the numbers of tourists.”

RedeTV Brazilian journalist Fernando Navarro said, "This experience has been a very cool one! I am impressed with the tourist potential of the region. I think there is a lot of exploitation of nature and adventure sports are a good way to conserve more of the environment.”

Said the photographer of Caras Magazine, Camilo Melus:  "In this region are rare places for spectacular scenery. It is so large and distinctive that you will discover new things everyday. And every photo you take will awaken different impressions and feelings, speaking to you of so many different things.”

Photos for Patagon Journal by Cristián Duffourc and Claudio Frías

Translation by Kate Yu


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