TOKYO (Reuters) - Four Japanese adventurers have tweaked the nose of fierce seas, unforgiving mountain terrain and hypothermia to enter one of the world’s most dangerous races.
The first team from their country brave enough, or mad enough, to enter the hair-raising Patagonian Expedition Race, the Japanese are more concerned about being nice to each other.
“Some of my scariest moments have come when we have had arguments during the race,” professional racer Masato Tanaka told Reuters before the brutal nine-day, 600-kilometers test.
“We’ll try to avoid that. Our biggest challenge may be the kayaking sections — I’m a bit nervous about the rough ocean. We will also be careful about hypothermia in the mountains.”
Tanaka’s sage advice to his three inexperienced team mates comes after two Americans got lost while trekking last year and needed to be rescued by helicopter.
Chile’s Tierra del Fuego hosts much of this year’s race where survival is the priority for the 16 four-person teams kayaking, trekking and cycling across grueling terrain.
“We have some beginners in our team so we’ll take things carefully,” said Tanaka before leaving for the high-endurance event that begins on Tuesday.
“This is one of the toughest races in the world so we have to treat it with respect.”
The 41-year-old added: “Our first objective is to finish the race.”
Easier said than done.
Canada’s team plunged into a icy river last year and two of the competitors caught hypothermia.
This year’s edition adds maze-like forests, flesh-tearing thorn bushes and peat bogs to the mix.
The American pair lucky to escape with their lives in 2009 return for more punishment along with teams from Britain, Canada, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Finland, Brazil and Chile.
American Druce Finley is taking his ex-marine father and a nurse along for the ride this time round after his close shave 12 months ago.
“We ended up getting lost in the mountain and we had to go down to the Straight of Magellan and hook around,” he said of his ordeal.
“We tried to swim around the cliffs and it almost killed us. One of our team mates became like an uncontrollable animal. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“He tore through about two kilometers of bush desperately trying to find a way out.”
Tanaka played down the risk of death.
“This race has a real adventure factor,” he deadpanned. “That’s what attracted me to go.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford