Trail Diaries from the Andes Pacifico

Words Chris Johnston
Date Feb 18, 2015

What a whirlwind week. It feels great to be home and sleeping in my own bed again…. but at the same time what an amazing trip.

As you may have seen Wolsky and I headed to Chile for the Andes Pacifico race. For me it was a race that I was quite nervous heading into, especially after my injury there last year. My plan was just get through the race and enjoy it. Finishing in third place was a nice bonus.

1 Unpacking

After a long time sat on planes it was good to get the bikes unpacked and built up. A quick spin around town helped loosen the legs up.

2Nico's BBQ

A pre race BBQ at fellow Santa Cruz rider and Chilean native Nico Prudencio’s house was a good way to start the trip and catch up with friends after the off season. A Chilean BBQ consist of red meat and lots of it, which was watered down with local brews.

3 Eduardos vineyard

The day before the race we were lucky enough to get a grand tour of Eduardo’s (one of the event organizers) family winery. Perfect pre race relaxation and it was amazing to see the work that goes into producing some amazing wines.

Our temporary home from home. On Tuesday afternoon we were transported to our first campsite in Antawaya at the foot of the Andes. After a long drive down dirt roads I don’t think many of us were expecting such beautiful facilities and camp area.

5 Dinner time

Those who ride together, dine together. There were many stories shared over dinner from the days adventures.

6 Meeting

At every race there is a rider briefing to let you know the race format, rules and other bits of logistical information that you need. Event organizer Matias briefed the competitors on what lay ahead for the following day which as well as being informative, contained some light hearted humour. ‘You will see a lot of cactus, don’t look at the cactus because you will end up in the cactus’ and another favourite of mine, ‘Be aware of the festival of switchbacks in this stage’

7 Liftie lunch

Given the fact that we were in the middle of no where the lifties have to make do with limited catering facilities on the mountain, cooking up their lunch on an open fire while helping riders onto the lift.

8 The Nomads view

The views were mind blowing, you really couldn’t ignore them. We made sure we made time to stop now and then just to take it all in.

9 Cow country

This isn’t Alberta but we were deep in cow country. Here Chilean cowboys round up a herd of cattle on our way to Camp Antawaya.

10 Start Pano

This is the panorama of the view from the first stage. Pretty stunning stuff.

11 Red bull start gate

Into the unknown. This was the start and my nerves were pretty high at this point.

Even the trails for the transfer stages were pretty fun and surrounded with amazing vistas.

13 Empanadas

Food! At the end of a long day and 6 stages of racing, we were treated with some delicious Chilean cuisine. Empanadas, the South American equivalent of a meat pie. Yum! Suffice to say these boxes emptied out quickly after all the racers had got stuck in.

14 Food colage

Trying new cuisine is one of the most enjoyable parts of traveling around the world. Every meal was delicious with a great variety including local specialities and plenty of it.

Day 3 saw us in quite different terrain as we started from Santa Cruz in the Colchagua valley wine region. This is the start of the day, setting off from camp to the top of the first stage.

After a short stage in the morning, lunch was prepared for us in a vineyard. Riders topped up their hydration packs before setting out on a 3 hour hike-a-bike to the top of the next stage.

17 Hot day

Coincidentally on the day of our longest hike-a-bike, temperatures reached a record high for the summer. The climb was exposed and shade was hard to find so improvisation was key.

My Garmin showed a sweltering 46 degrees. A tough day for sure, the climb was long but we were rewarded with one of the best descents of the week.

After a long hot day we had the option of taking a wine tour at some of the local vineyards. We visited Lapostolle Winery, 6 stories tall (5 underground) which allows them to process all their wine by gravity and also allows them to regulate the temperature in the building, keeping it at a cool 15 degrees. In the tasting room the glass table (pictured top left) is also the entrance to a 2-storey cellar housing 6000+ bottles below.

20 4x4 line up

Due to the rough nature of the shuttle roads throughout Andes Pacifico 4×4 trucks were a must. We had a shuttle or two each day for some of the longer climbs.

21 High fives

High fives all around. Santa Cruz marketing man and BMX legend Allan Cook offers up high fives the local kids who were out cheering us on.

The famous “anti-grip” surface. The moon dust-like dirt can make slowing down and changing direction challenging.

After 4 solid days of racing we made it to the Pacific ocean. We arrived in the small coastal town of Matanzas.

24 Podium spray

After not completing last years Andes Pacifico due to a broken elbow. It was a good feeling to not only make it to the ocean this time but also to be standing on the podium spraying some champagne. To be just behind Nico and Fabien felt great and it is a good start to my season for sure.

25 No Pisco no disco

No pisco, no disco. Its a tradition here at Andes Pacifico, and it even has its own hashtag. The bartenders prepare Pisco sours for us to enjoy. #nopisconodisco

26 Ap group photo

Andes Pacifico 2015 was an unreal event, a true adventure and many memories that will not be forgotten. Thanks to all the organizers and staff for such an amazing event and well done to all competitors who took on this awesome adventure!

27 Sunset

The final epic sunset. Wolsky and I on the beach at Matanzas and a great end to an amazing week. 

Redemption is returning to the site of your season-ending injury and stomping to a podium finish! Well done Chris!

Is there an Andes Pacifico adventure in your future?

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Jerry Willows  - Feb. 19, 2015, 8:46 a.m.

Great article!


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