Atacama Crossing Blogs 2023

Joelle Kabbaj



Atacama Crossing (2023) blog posts from Joelle Kabbaj

29 September 2023 05:02 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

 "The salt of the earth"
The salt of the earth is the title of a movie Younes and I both love and have watched many times and after this week, it will also be the memory of what has been our running ground for the last 2 days. Salt salt salt, it can take many aspects, sometimes looking like icy snow, sometimes looking like iced sugar, sometimes very hard, sometimes unexpectedly soft and wet and in the past 2 stages we have been tasting all of its forms. One constant however is that it is never easy to navigate on a salty terrain. It is sometimes so sharp that when crossing the salt flats, I was worried that the sole of my shoes would be cut to the point that I would not have shoes for the last 2 stages. Thankfully my shoes resisted and carried me to camp 6 after another 72K. After this "Long march" we are now all having a day off at camp, eating, hydrating, taking care of our feet and taking time to chat with runners, volunteers and organisers. Everyone is in a happy mood, relieved to have survived this very hot and difficult long day. Apart from walking in salty grounds, we have also had a lot of sandy parts including a high dune which from the bottom seemed almost unmanageable. I am sure you will see a lot of photos of it on the webiste as it is very spectacular and certainly very photogenic too. We looked like little ants trying to climb it and when reaching the top, looked either exhilarated or exhausted. I belonged to the second category. Like I heard some people say: "it was brutal"!!!! This is when I told the cameraman that it would be the first time he would catch me not smiling. 
Anyway, once again, it was all worth it as at the top of this dune, we walked on a plateau which was unrreal, lunar, wild. I am not sure it is possible to go to this place in other circumstances. The views, the openness of the land and of course later on, the full moon rising from behind strange rock formations, this is absolutely unique and helped us go through the long march. Last but not least, the sweet sound of the tambour and the cheering of volunteers and participants when we finally reached the finish line brings a very special feeling of achievement and joy. 
Younes and I are now enjoying "the day after" even though we still have 16K to run tomorrow. We have taken the time to read all your messages with great pleasure and delighted to get news from family and friends. Thanks again for that. 

Comments: Total (9) comments

Benedicte Dirckx

Posted On: 30 Sep 2023 04:30 pm

Joëlle et Younes, vous êtes exceptionnels par votre determination! Quel superbe exemple de persévérance, d’endurance et de résilience. Chapeau bas…Bravo! Nous attendons avec impatience de vous revoir à HK! Philippe et Béné

Patricia Heymans

Posted On: 30 Sep 2023 06:25 am

ÇA Y EST, YOU DID IT THE VERY EXTREME LONG MARCH, BRAVOOOO !!!! Mais quel parcours mais quel parcours les amis !!! Des obstacles encore et encore, la façon dont tu décris les conditions des lacs salés et l’angoisse en plus de se faire transpercer les pieds, cette dune qui paraît insurmontable, les pensées qui ont dû vous traverser l’esprit, my god !! Et puis la récompense du spectacle époustouflant en haut de la dune, la pleine lune en prime!! Je vous imagine dans un état second, en train de planer… J’ai full admiration pour vous deux, vous avez poussé vos limites à l’extrême, vous êtes capables de tout, the world is yours !! Et quel cadeau pour nous qui vous suivons!! Vous nous avez fait frissonner et vibrer et vos histoires et efforts nous ont permis aussi de prendre un peu de la hauteur… Profitez bien de votre dose d’endorphine, de sérotonine, et tout ce qui ce qui est bon et se termine par” -ine” 😃et je vous souhaite de vous régaler pour la dernière étape avant “d’atterrir” en douceur… Big biiig hug 🤗

Deepti Gupta Pelletier

Posted On: 30 Sep 2023 04:25 am

Incredible!!!! Really simply amazing what you both hv achieved , bravo 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 Hopefully you both get to rest up your feet soon , last 16k to go than repo 🤗🤗🤗 All the best and can’t wait to see picture of the finish line !! Kisses from Laurent & me 😘😘😘 Kisses from Laurent and me, in Hong Kong

Laurent Pelletier

Posted On: 30 Sep 2023 04:24 am

Un immense bravo à vous deux. Le plus dur est fait. On voyage avec vous en lisant ces blogs. Profitez de la suite bien méritée. Laurent

Cecile Ducreux

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 10:56 pm

Bravo ! Bravo ! Bravo à vous deux !!!!! Incroyable mais je le savais … vous êtes extraordinaires tous les deux !!!!! Merci pour le récit qui ajoute encore un peu plus d’admiration… car les photos et videos sont aussi un témoignage sans mot … qui en dit long !!!!!! Bravo ! Reposez-vous les pieds !!! A+++++ Bises de Sumba … je marche sur le sable … j’ai aussi l’impression que c’est du crunchy salt !!!!! 😂😂😂🙈🙈😎🤪

Cecile Ducreux

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 10:56 pm

Bravo ! Bravo ! Bravo à vous deux !!!!! Incroyable mais je le savais … vous êtes extraordinaires tous les deux !!!!! Merci pour le récit qui ajoute encore un peu plus d’admiration… car les photos et videos sont aussi un témoignage sans mot … qui en dit long !!!!!! Bravo ! Reposez-vous les pieds !!! A+++++ Bises de Sumba … je marche sur le sable … j’ai aussi l’impression que c’est du crunchy salt !!!!! 😂😂😂🙈🙈😎🤪

Cecile Ducreux

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 10:56 pm

Bravo ! Bravo ! Bravo à vous deux !!!!! Incroyable mais je le savais … vous êtes extraordinaires tous les deux !!!!! Merci pour le récit qui ajoute encore un peu plus d’admiration… car les photos et videos sont aussi un témoignage sans mot … qui en dit long !!!!!! Bravo ! Reposez-vous les pieds !!! A+++++ Bises de Sumba … je marche sur le sable … j’ai aussi l’impression que c’est du crunchy salt !!!!! 😂😂😂🙈🙈😎🤪

Cecile Ducreux

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 10:56 pm

Bravo ! Bravo ! Bravo à vous deux !!!!! Incroyable mais je le savais … vous êtes extraordinaires tous les deux !!!!! Merci pour le récit qui ajoute encore un peu plus d’admiration… car les photos et videos sont aussi un témoignage sans mot … qui en dit long !!!!!! Bravo ! Reposez-vous les pieds !!! A+++++ Bises de Sumba … je marche sur le sable … j’ai aussi l’impression que c’est du crunchy salt !!!!! 😂😂😂🙈🙈😎🤪

Emmanuelle Mayrargue

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 10:46 pm

Que dire que BRAVO! Félicitations à tous les deux ! vous êtes un exemple de volonté ! Je suis pressée que vous nous racontiez tout ça de vives voix! Bon courage pour demain même si ce n'est qu'une broutille pour vous mais pour moi c'est encore beaucoup ! Résiste !Prouve que tu existes ! Bon là il vaut mieux que j'arrête ... Bises

29 September 2023 10:00 am (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Dear All,

Tomorrow is the final stage of our race, so this is most likely my last post. 
It is nearly 16:00 somewhere in the desert not too far from San Pedro de Atacama. We all had a very quiet and restful day, refuelling, sharing our impressions of the long march and comparing the state of our blisters, trying not to think too much about how we are going to start running again tomorrow but rather making plans of all the blissful things waiting for us once we pass the finish line: pizza and coke immediately after the race, a shower and clean clothes (that is what I want the most at the moment), a good bed instead of a noisy inflatable mattress with less than 6 persons in the room and of course sharing this incredible experience with all of you who supported us and cheered for us all along. You were always in our minds and knowing you were following us helped us carry on when we felt really tired. 
Fundraising was also a great motivation to keep running. Thanks again to all for supporting RUNHK. 

Comments: Total (0) comments

27 September 2023 10:00 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

  quick recap of Day 4 before it gets too dark to write. When you think it cannot get harder, it actually does! The leader told me it was the hardest terrain he ever ran on, I have to agree with him. I do not even have the vocabulary to describe them but I am sure you will see photos and comments on the website to get my point. I spent a lot of time telling myself “c’est vraiment un truc de Ouf” or like my Dad often says “c’est bientôt fini cette petite plaisanterie?” 
Younes started superbly and for at least an hour he was ahead of me. Then I took off with 2 other ladies who I have been running together with on and off since the beginning of the race until check point 1. Then I was on my own for the next 10K until CP2: the beginning of the crazy salt flats. It was a huge challenge but also an incredible experience. Again I felt I was on another planet and to be fair, I felt good today although it was a never ending stage. Apparently it was also getting super hot (over 50 degrees C) so the organisers made the decision to stop the runners who had not reached CP2 at 12:45. I say “apparently” as I did not feel that hot probably because of the constant breeze. It still felt super dry. Younes arrived at CP2 after they made the decision to stop so he was not able to complete the stage, together with roughly 30 other people. Those people are still in the race with an extra time added to their total time so far. He was a bit disappointed but that was probably the best decision as those salt flats were a killer.
I am going to stop here for today as I still have to get ready for tomorrow, THE LONG MARCH. In case you will be following us, we might all have to take a 2 hour break mid day when the temperature is at the highest so do not be surprised if you do not see us moving between 1 and 3 pm Chile time. 
Emmanuelle, je ne peux pas répondre à toutes tes questions car tu en sais déjà beaucoup plus que nous sur  place!
Soha: tu as raison ce n’est pas facile mais so far on s’en sort. More about it in a few days de vive voix. 
And again, to all who sent messages, thank you very much xx

Comments: Total (5) comments

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 29 Sep 2023 07:29 am

Hello Joelle (and Younes), fellow Hong Kongers, amazing performance in a very difficult race. Congratulations. I see that you are raising money for RUN HK, what a great organization managed by fantastic people. A huge congratulations to you both. I hope to meet you in Hong Kong one day or at another race soon. Warm regards, Mary

Patricia Heymans

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 11:23 pm

Mais quelle ENERGIE, mais quel mental, mais quelle volonté, mais quel surpassement, BRAVISSIMO Joëlle et Younès 👏🏻👏🏻💪🏼💪🏼 vous êtes formidables !!! Et aussi merci pour tous tes partages que je découvre à l’instant, et oui je suis miss bombe à retardement bis 🤪, mais là je ne vous quitterai plus d’une semelle car j’ai tant de plaisir à te lire !! C’est vraiment un truc de malade ou pour reprendre tes mots de “ouf”, tu décris si bien les conditions, les paysages, vos émotions que rien qu’à te lire on a presque l’impression d’y être et je souris avec toi de ce que tu es capable de faire, sacré Joëlle, suis over fière de vous !! Bon courage demain et kiffez les petits moments de grâce sur votre chemin, je vous embrasse fort 💪🏼😘💪🏼😘

Deepti Gupta Pelletier

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 06:41 pm

Sorry no idea why my post was posted 3 times 😱😱😱😂😂😂

Deepti Gupta Pelletier

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 06:36 pm

Joelle & Younes wow wow and wow!!!! So so crazy proud of you guys, bravo 👏🏽 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 I would honestly first say sorry .. yes sorry as it took me over 4 days 🫣🙄to realise you are writing a blog!!! And I can reply to it!!!! Am in awe of both of you♥️♥️♥️ Keep going we are right there following you both even when sometimes we take time to express it 🙄🤣 Let me tell you, am in a plane going back to Hong Kong after beautiful 2 weeks with my Alissa in London!! Took wi fi on board 1st time, loving it btw, as I realised I couldnt follow you guys last 2 days 😱😥 Bon courage 😘😘😘😘😘

Audrey Tyteca

Posted On: 28 Sep 2023 06:35 am

hello Joelle et Younes, Cela a vraiment l'air incroyable! bravo a tous les deux!!! Joelle, comment tu peux ne pas avoir chaud dans un desert a plus que 50 degree??? bon courage pour le next stage. xxxx

26 September 2023 08:58 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Before I start writing about Day 3, I just want to say again a massive thank you for all your messages : in my last post, I had to stop writing as it was getting too dark and did not have time to thank everyone. In addition, we got more messages today when we arrived at the camp so Mathilde, Deepti, Bertrand, Tariq, Cyrille, Betina, Marguerite, Valerie, Anouar, Vicky, Papa, and to those you write everyday (you know who you are) THANK YOU XXXXXXX

So now, about Day 3…. It was tough, hot, dry, looooong, but the landscape was just out of this world. We felt as if we were on another planet. In fact, some of the terrain we crossed is the closest you can get to what is found on planet Mars. The dunes are also amazingly beautiful but slowed us down a lot. Yesterday and today we arrived at the camp quite tired but after an hour or so the energy comes back.  Today even more so after I went to a pond nearby the camp where I could soak a bit and rinse my clothes. Life at camp is quite busy when we arrive. I always go to the medical tent first as they let us soak and wash our feet and help us take care of our blisters. Then I get my “bed ready” while there is still a bit of space in the tent as it gets crowded once the 6 of us are back. Afterwards it is time to stretch and lie down with my feet up which I did not have time to do today as it took me longer to reach the camp. It is getting dark again in the cyber tent and I cannot see the keyboard anymore so it is time for me to stop writing. 
A few quick personal messages before I go: 
Amane, you will be happy to know that a dog walked with me for a long while and I enjoyed his company a lot! 
Soha, so far Papa is doing really well and always arrive earlier than expected. So much so that his tent was not ready when he arrived yesterday…. 
Manue, tu diras à ton collègue que certaines personnes mettent des chaussures trop petites uniquement pour le plaisir qu’elles ont en les enlevant. Ça doit être un truc comme ça!
Marguerite, can you please lower your expectactions? It is definitely not a walk in the park so we take it one day at a time! 

Comments: Total (3) comments

Emmanuelle Mayrargue

Posted On: 27 Sep 2023 06:16 pm

Amane c’est le moment ou jamais de demander un chien ! Par contre Papi comptait s’inscrire pour l’année prochaine mais avec cette histoire de chien il ne veut plus participer !

Amane Kabbaj

Posted On: 27 Sep 2023 08:48 am

Bravo maman et papa! J’espère que c’est tout aussi amusant que la dernière fois même si c’est dur! Je suis avec les photos mais aussi maintenant avec le blog! Oui j’ai vu le chien!

Cecile Ducreux

Posted On: 27 Sep 2023 01:43 am

As I woke up...first thing is to check on you two !!!! I have no words... you are both "out of this world" ! So proud of you !!!! You still have the time to enjoy the scenery ... talk to a dog ... and write us everyday... this is phenonemal ! One day at a time ! Good rest ... hope the nights are not too "noisy" ...and your bodies/feet/legs/all of it can have a rest ! All the best for tomorrow ! Huge XX Cecile

25 September 2023 09:37 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Hi All,

Just a quick one this evening as the cyber tent is closing in 15 min. 
As Sam the race director told us this morning during the briefing, Day 2 is her favorite course and it was definitely a great day. The water crossing in the canyon was so much fun, going down the sand dune was equally fun, only the bit after check point 3 was long boring and tedious and even though I should have run in order to arrive to Camp 3 faster, I did not have enough energy to do so. Neither did the 2 competitors bedside me which was good in a way as I was happy to have some company even though we were too tired to chat. 
All in all, a very good day, I felt much more energetic than yesterday and Younes arrived in a good time too. 
As I am running out of time, I will use the few minutes I have left in the cyber tent, to write a few personal messages: 
Soha, thanks for writing my darling and for giving us some news from you and Amane. 
Emmanuelle: n’oublie pas d’aller opérer entre deux moments où tu nous suis….
Cécile, merci pour tes messages et…. Pour la laine de NZ que j’ai enfin utilisee aujourd’hui et qui semble m’avoir epargne de nouvelles ampoules xx
Virginie: Isabelle is in my tent, what an extraordinary runner! I will try to write about her tomorrow. Big hugs to all of you at RUN. 
Siegrid : you were right about today, what an incredible course. Congratulations for completing the race last year. Not an easy one….
Angelina, yes I did try to breathe the way you thought me :) How did your race go last Sunday?
Brett, Rena, so lovely to get messages from friends we made in Lapland. We miss you here. 
Béné, Sibille, Baby, Alex, Bruno, Jean-Marc, Thierry, merci de nous suivre assidument, tellement sympa de lire vos messages. 
Sorry if I forgot anyone, love you all!!!!

Comments: Total (3) comments

Bene Dirckx

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 04:11 pm

Trop incroyable, je vous suis comme on peut suivre une série télé que l’on arrive pas à quitter tellement on veut connaître la suite de l’histoire! Joëlle et Younes, vous êtes nos héros! Je vis avec vous une aventure magique sans bien évidemment trop me fatiguer…ca on vous le laisse😉. Vivement le commentaire sur votre troisième journée. Ici, à HK, avec les filles des HKWT, nous avons décidé de nous entraîner pour faire les 50km…c’est finalement une petite journée de marche pour toi…alors que pour nous, on va le sentir des les mollets😂. On aura bien besoin de tes conseils. On en reparlera. Bon repos ma chère Joelle ainsi que pour Younes, après cette troisième journée. A demain pour la suite de votre aventure. Bises. Béné

emmanuelle mayrargue

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 06:35 am

Mais vous avez vraiment fait la course aujourd'hui Younès et toi???? J'ai des doutes... d'une part quand on lit ton blog d'aujourd'hui on a l'impression que tu n'as pas souffert ou presque par rapport au blog des autres et d'autres part il n'y a aucune photo de vous ! Mais non c'est parce que tu es trop forte mais ça je le savais déjà ! Bravo encore ! Vous avez toute mon admiration ! Ca me fait tellement envie et même temps ça me parait tellement infaisable! Allez ! GO GO GO aujourd'hui encore ! Tellement pressée de vous tracker !

Cecile Ducreux

Posted On: 26 Sep 2023 02:11 am

Awesome ! Awesome ! Awesome ! both of you ! You are such an inspiration ...big respect for your dedication, adventure spirit and so much more about how to push your body & mind to the limits !!!!! Love to read your comments ! ...and always going through the pictures to try to see you both ! Good rest ... and more tomorrow ! xx Bises Cecile

24 September 2023 11:26 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Well, it is past 6 o’clock here in the Atacama desert and the last participant just arrived. She looked exhausted but most of us did when we arrived, or at least everyone I talked to once I was at camp. 

It was definitely not an easy first day as it got hot quite quickly after we started, we were told it was mainly going down but we did not really feel like it was going down much (!) and maybe because of the altitude, I did not feel very energetic but eventually I made it to camp 2 some time after 14:00 and Younes arrived about 90 min later. I also found the course not very runnable so I walked most of the time. Having said that, the first runner arrived in just over 3 hours so I guess it was actually runnable!!!
It has been nearly 4 hours since I arrived so I feel much better now and I am enjoying the other component of the race which is relaxing, stretching, eating, chatting with old and new friends and reading messages sent by our friends and family members. Thank you all and keep them coming, it is always such a treat to read them at the end of the day. 
I forgot to mention the course was beautiful today. Wild, dry of course, it is a desert after all but I managed to see lots of desert flowers (a friend in France said I should look for them) and a lot of lizards but no lamas! We saw them on the way to camp 1 though. My favorite part was when we were racing in the canyon. The rock formation was stunning. Hopefully you will get to see some photos of it on the website. 
Well that’s it for today. Younes and I are sending our heartfelt thanks to all of you who encouraged us before we left, who are following us now and who sent us messages via the RTP website. 
Gros bisous aux 3 p’tits choux and I’ll try to write again tomorrow xxx 

Comments: Total (3) comments

Emmanuelle Mayrargue

Posted On: 25 Sep 2023 02:31 pm

Il m’a fallut le temps d’une journée de course pour comprendre comment faire le Capcha! Je ferais mieux de courir ! Tout ça pour te dire que c’est avec la même émotion et admiration que l’année dernière que je vous suis ! Les paysages sont magnifiques, vos performances plus qu’honorables ! Tu imagines bien que je vous tracke entre deux consultations ! Bravo ! Bises à tous les deux !

Virginie Goethals

Posted On: 25 Sep 2023 12:52 pm

You both have this covered Joelle and Younes ! Getting started is always a bit tough, tomorrow will be great I am sure with another wild adventure ! Enjoy the stars and hugs from everyone at RUN!

Cecile Ducreux

Posted On: 25 Sep 2023 03:08 am

Excellent Joelle and Younes !!!! Amazing ! A big thank you for taking the time to write to us and share your feelings & experience ! We are ALL with you !!!!! You rock !!!!! Bon repos.... and can't wait to follow you again tomorrow ! Yuuuuuhhuuuuu ! Bises Cecile