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[RC] Torres del Paine - OMG!!!! - Steph Teeter

This is without a doubt, sin duda, the most spectacular place I've ever been to!! Just a quick update, then I'll try to get some photos uploaded.

I had breakfast today with Luis Enrique Opaza - the mastermind behind this event, and Endurance-X. I can only think the X stands for extreme, exciting, exceptional, extraordinary.. I'll have more on Luis and EnduranceX later, but basically he's retired military, played polo so he knows/loves horses, fell in love with Torres del Paine, and along with his Endurance friends thought this would be a great place for a ride. This is the 5th year now, he's fine tuning the trails and the event, and he's added an FEI 80km ride in hopes of growing the international draw - esteem - for an event here. His dream is to offer the icon of endurance riding - technical trail, incredible scenery, all that. He's also doing endurance rides on Easter Island, and Atacama (San Pedros) the most arid desert in the world, a special place, some say a spiritual place. The three most spectacular places in Chile ... and Luis will have endurance rides in each of them. (more on that later)

I went out on the trail today with Elizabeth Huyghe, one of Chile's first endurance riders, who is here as the Technical Delegate for the FEI sanction. We took some of the stable horses out and rode for a few hours, checking the trail (the TD's job) for safety, and markings. OMG!!! It is so incredibly beautiful. Even without the torres - the unlikely granite thrusts that reach to the stars - even without the snowcapped peaks - it would still be breathtaking country. Vast, open, spectacular. And the mountains and the torres make it beyond beautiful... so beautiful and vast that I couldn't absorb it - just gawk.

I'm going to be riding tomorrow, just the 40km ride (25 miles) but I'll be riding with Lilian. I'm not going to try to spell her name until I get it written down, but she is the grand daughter of one of the original 'homesteaders' in Patagonia. Her family owns the Cerra Negra estancia where we stopped for tea yesterday on the way to the park. And the family also owns 5000 hectares of land within the Torres Del Paine National Park. They built a hotel here (I think it's actually a 5* hotel) which is very cozy and rustic, long hallways and large circular dining and reception areas with glass all around so the scenery is constant. The hotel is set against the backdrop of a snow capped mountain. The ride actually goes through the ranch - private land - which makes it possible to hold an endurance event here.

I also met Lili's brother too (Joe?) - they both speak perfect English, they went to school in Texas as kids. They're very close and two people who obviously love life. They spend all of their summers here, and are never away for long during any time of the year. I also met Lili's mother and grandmother. Her grandmother is a very special soul. Her name is 'Amor' and it is who and what she is. We talked a little (broken english and spanish) - I told her my life, mi vida, was endurance and horses. I said I was lucky. She had a glow about her, and said - yes, but in life we must find our own luck, it is not always given to us. (of course it sounded better in Spanish! :)

The family maintains the ranch, they run cattle here, and the children and grandchildren help manage it. Lili has recently started endurance, and I can tell from the look in her eye that she's a natural - she has that passion for the horse, and the land, and the gypsy - gitano- spirit that makes one want to keep moving. She came here (from her winter home in Buenos Aires) to ride her mare, an Arabian, but the mare is lame. She was so disappointed - so I suggested we take out a couple of the stable horses - the criollos - on the short ride just for fun. Ok then! The guachos round up a couple horses for us. I'll be riding 'Matako' - a black criollo - he's a good horse I was told, just a little hard to stop:) Well - this terrain is so technical that I don't think that will be a problem. Lili's horse is a smaller dapple gray criollo. It should be fun. We haven't ridden the horses yet, it was almost dark by the time we got them vetted through. But the 40k doesn't start until 11am, so we should have time to round up some saddles and try them out before we start. Another adventure :)

We took the horses back to the stable and Lili brought me into the tack room to warm up. It was actually a perfect sunny day with no wind, very nice, but as the sun set the warmth disappeared into the cloudless sky and it got colder and colder. There was a stove in the room, one of the gauchos was playing guitar, saddles, blankets, bridles stacked or hanging in every free space. They passed the matte around, it was warm and absolutely perfect in that little room.

It's almost 6:30 and its dark now. There's a half moon, a little linger light from the day. I'm hoping they start up the music again in the Arboleta room near the reception. Now - photos to come.




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