The Long March… Stage 5

They call it the Long March and it is certainly that… 72 km.

So, we started out at 8 am yesterday morning. Chilly and off again through salt flat broccoli terrain. 15 km to the first CP. I fell into step with Matthew the Aussie. Leah from our tent hung out with us for bit too. Matt and I slogged onto CP2 through sandy, foresty terrain.

It might be odd to say we had a dog at our heels, but we did. On Stage 4 from San Pedro, one of the many stray dogs attached itself to the runners and crossed the salt flats with us! It is not easy running in the heat with a very sweet, panting dog at your heels. But, it was determined to follow us… and even had the energy to chase some horses and donkeys that were being exercised. As we trotted into CP2 the poor dog collapsed in a heap. Matt headed straight off. I sorted out a shoe problem and then headed off too.

CP2 to CP3 was fantastic. A dusty truck road and then heading off across gravelly rising dunes. It was perfect for running and I ran all the way to CP3, pausing to say hello to Vladmi and his guide as I went past. CP3 to CP4 was more salt crusts and seemed to go on for ever… Then suddenly, a very steep tall dune to climb.

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The climb was pretty good.

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What awaited at the top was like a different planet… a terrain that I can’t describe. Like something out of Star Trek… and finally down a sandy stretch into a hot CP4 where we given a lukewarm can of coke!

I set off in Matthew’s dust along a dry river bed. Matt was always just going round a bend ahead of me and it felt like we were stuck in a time loop. But, it was beautiful with the late evening sun still burning hot and the colours on the rocks glowing golden. CP5 eventually twisted into view and I treated myself to a hot meal then set off as the sun was setting behind me and the wind began to rise.

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I fell into step again with Dennis and we made good time to CP6. We got there just as the need to turn on our head torches was fully necessary. Warm clothes on, joined by Serge and Yves, we all set off with the bright full moon rising and the stars coming out. It was tough going and I could feel my energy beginning to fade… But, we made CP7 by 10 pm and gathered ourselves for the final push up through the Valle de la Luna.

I’d like to say it was beautiful – and it was under the bright full moon, giving eerie shadows to the rocks and salt all around us. But, my energy was fading fast and if I hadn’t been with the Canadians who kept pushing me on I would have ground to a halt. I was cold and a bit tearful, but we kept plodding on for what seemed the longest 9.7 km ever.

We crossed the finish line at about 12.40 am and apart from my amazement that the dog was lying there being fed, I was exhausted and emotional, but so relieved.

More updates to come later….

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