South America: kind people with hearts which burn for orienteering

Posted on | February 23, 2017 | Category: News

Extraordinary maps and terrains, delicious food and nice beaches. That is travelling through South America while helping local orienteering clubs to improve and develop. That’s what Felix and Susen did the last three months. Here they tell about their adventures and experiences.

Much has happened since the last article in December. We visited Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and we are in Ecuador now. Everywhere we go we have met very kind people with hearts which burn for orienteering, regardless if they work for the military or are civil persons. That is important to say, because we didn’t expect to work with so many persons from the military. But orienteering in South America is mainly lead by the military, while the civil people in most countries just began with orienteering a few years ago. This has led to some problems in some countries, but mostly civil and military people work well together to reach more people and to spread orienteering.

Our jobs are always very different. We spent the last few days in Chile at the foot of the Llaima volcano on an exhausting, but nice, training camp on the probably most challenging map in the whole of South America. We stayed for free at a Refugio of the Chilean military. Our only task was to explain basic orienteering to the three military persons who lived in the Refugio on one afternoon. Otherwise we just enjoyed the beautiful and special landscape during orienteering trainings and long runs.

In the beginning of December, we went to the Argentinean side of the Andes to Villa La Angostura and Bariloche and took some time off from orienteering. We tracked the Nahuel Huapi Traverse, which was a great adventure and absolutely recommended to everybody who loves nature and visits Argentina.

Our next job was in Buenos Aires. There we helped civilians with some basic orienteering knowledge. One orienteer from Buenos Aires is a very good mapper, so there are plenty of maps in Argentina, especially of parks. We stayed two nights at the house of an orienteering coach who wanted to start training with kids, but had no idea how to do so. An easy task for us: We explained all the opportunities to teach children the basics of orienteering and showed him fun things like labyrinth orienteering and mass starts.  We also prepared an orienteering training in a park in central Buenos Aires and found a ten-year-old girl who was really talented. So maybe in some years’ time we will see an Argentinean shirt running successfully at JWOC or WOC?

We stayed one week in Uruguay for a mapping course and to begin to draw a map, which will be used for the South American Championships in 2018. So, a lot of work in a short time, especially when you go on a mapping course in Spanish and your Spanish skills are, to put it kindly, basic. But as told, everybody is very kind here and the five participants where happy for all the information and tips and tricks we gave them for using OCAD.

During Christmas and New Year, we stayed in Córdoba, Argentina, with and old friend of Felix’s. It was so nice to speak German with another person other than your partner. And our host really enjoyed to backbite a little bit about Argentinean habits, as he has lived in Argentina for seven years. We had a great Christmas and New Year’s Eve together with the family of the girlfriend of our host. Although Christmas is really not the same in Argentina and Germany. So we got a little bit homesick, but many great tours through the city with our hosts and some orienteering trainings in the park helped to remove the homesickness.

The next stop was at the Iguaçu Falls at the border to Brazil. The falls are an amazing natural monument and we spent a whole day in the national park exploring them and the jungle. There were many tourists, but the place is totally worth the scramble. One morning we ran to Paraguay which is some kilometers west of the falls and did another orienteering training on a map which was used for a WWOP travel before. Ok, we didn’t run the whole way – we took the bus the first five kilometers – but that was actually the first border we crossed by foot on out journey.

We spent the next week in Florianópolis in Brazil, together with the orienteering president of the local district. He showed us some nice maps and of course some nice beaches on the island where the city is situated! Florianópolis is one of the most popular holiday places in Brazil. We tested all tracks on the island, but some breaks in the cooling ocean were needed, because of the 38 degrees of air temperature. We showed the local mapper how to improve his maps and the course setter how to make the courses more challenging even in a park area.

Now we are in Quito, where we are training together with the military team and showing them how to become an elite orienteer. For us, it is an altitude training camp. For them, 2600m over sea level is normal. The normal work of the members of the team is orienteering, and they have three coaches and a physiotherapist and the most important thing: a lot of time. But the knowledge about how elite runners train and how they prepare for a competition is not here. So we give it to them, and hope to see them participate successfully at an international championship in some years. The mappers of Quito, already seven persons, got an advanced mapping course held by us! They learned how to improve the readability of their maps and got the knowledge about which information is necessary for the runner and which not.

Finally, the best thing about travelling through orienteering is that you really get to know local people. We stayed at hostels just a few times, but there you don’t get the same insight into the life of the local people, like you do when you live together with them in their houses. You can taste all the good food and drinks and understand how it is to live in that special country, because all that is very different in every country in South America. So we hope we can motivate some young orienteers from Europe to follow our example and have a great time on the other side of the world.

Felix and Susen on a Trip

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