Atacama Crossing Blogs 2019

View All Posts 2019 From : MIKA KUME

After stage 5 – rest day.

04 October 2019 10:10 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

We are relaxed in the camp. I was back to the camp at about 3am and after 8am, 9am people were still coming back home. My friend Helen came back at last around 10am and everyone came to meet her at the finish line. Her sprained leg was still bad condition. Julia was staying with her on the course. They were moving 2km per hour pace and made the finish line impressively. This time we found that Helen’s boss at Shangrila hotel, Jürgen was my good friend and a training partner. What a small world.

My camp mate Andrew came to the finish line at stage 1 and 2 to carry my bag to the tent. Nice of Andrew and thank you. His wife and Volunteer staff Yumi smiles and says ‘wish he was like that at home’.

Ben, thanks for asking about my blisters. I have 5 blisters and losing 2 toe nails. I learned how to poke the blister to liquid out and tape properly and took care of them every day. I was producing a new blister every day. I knew I go to visit the medical tent every day and usually all doctors are young and handsome. I went to Sakumi’s nail salon before I came to the trip and she made my nails beautifully done but losing anyway. At least one of handsome doctors Greg said when he took care of my blisters, “you have pretty nails” and I was happy. All doctors were very nice and helpful. All toes and feet are swollen from fatigue. My face must have swollen too. After sahara race my face became a grapefruit. But if I see Nick’s face, it became wild (also cos of beard) and even more lean and mean looking. I have to feed beers to him eventually after the race, tomorrow at finish line to begin with.

Thank you very much for emails and comments for the blog. I enjoyed reading all those. Thank you for following our progress during the race. Thinking about all friends and which made me keep going. Cannot wait for seeing all of you and tell you more about it.


Comments: Total (6) comments

Eugene Beattie

Posted On: 26 Oct 2019 05:00 am

So tough! What a story in teamwork and perseverance

Nel Payne

Posted On: 06 Oct 2019 07:59 am

Following your amazing progress, well done, great effort. Neil

Yukari Oimatsu

Posted On: 05 Oct 2019 10:08 am

If you have to buy beer for nick, I will buy beer for you , Mika san! You have one more day left so enjoy yourself!! Take care . Go Go Mika san !

Mark Richard Shrosbree

Posted On: 04 Oct 2019 11:55 pm

Amazing Meeks! Through all the pain and exhaustion you still have the energy to make us laugh and smile and cry all at the same time! I can't wait to read your book about your adventures. One more stage to go!

Alan Cannon

Posted On: 04 Oct 2019 11:24 pm

Way to go Meeks! I am sure it is nice to get compliments on your nails in the desert?! Keep safe and get ready to tell us all about your adventures. Alan

Kenneth Pechter

Posted On: 04 Oct 2019 11:24 pm

Mika, I feel your positive spirit even when you are talking about blisters (so many!) and lost toe nails (even 1 is too many!). I love the photos with your big smile, but I have also seen your race face during Ironmans, and I can imagine your determination during the stages. Keep it up -- we are all so proud of you!
Stage 4

03 October 2019 10:10 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Stage 4


It was a long and horrible stage. The surface of the desert are lots of varieties such as deep and soft sand dune, the salt and rocks part everyone hates is like broccoli or cauliflower, I would say the head of “elephant man”. Mars would be like that. Some part looks tiramisu and another one looked tapioca.

Very uneven and difficult. Mostly very hard surface but sometimes when you step in the ground, the feet unexpectedly gets into very deep.

We were struggling the first part of uphill and downhill of dune. Taking time for walking and about 10 of us missed the cut of time of checkpoint 1 for 10 minutes. However we were ok to have gone through. Phew… I was with Kurokawa san and Rika. They have been taking photos and videos and never care the timing. Nice of them for taking my video as well.


Shibata san is wearing eggplant the whole way. It makes me feel like eating eggplant. Shibata san is a chef in the hospital. Mika “what is your favourite way to cook eggplant?” Shibata “Fry first and boiled with dashi soup is the best” I was watering in the mouth.   


Towards the end Kurokawa san and myself were a bit rushing to make it before getting dark. Finished at 7:30 (11.5 hrs in the desert) and crossed the finish with Kurokawa san. My place was back to 70th but never mind. Happy to have finished before cut off.


Btw I have found out we can use Japanese in the emails. ???OK????My info was rusty. Also I was impressed with toilets here. It’s a proper toilet!! 10 years ago toilets in the camp in the deserts are only made of carbon boxes and holes. You needed to do a proper squat to make it neatly.  

It’s very nice to have a proper toilet of course but it’s not how we do a desert life.

Comments: Total (0) comments

Day 5 Day 1

03 October 2019 10:10 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago


Stage 5


It’s an overnight stage of 80km. I had a diarrheal in the morning and a doctor gave me Imodium (?) and he says maybe I shouldn’t eat today. It was check point 3 and we had such a treat unexpectedly fresh oranges were served there. Of course I wanted to eat and grabbed some (fantastic), but after that I didn’t feel hungry at all. However, the idea I cannot eat today made me very worried. Although I wasn’t feeling like eating at all, I prepared rice to eat at CP5 as they have a hot water at cp5. Maybe diarrheal is better than bonking. Another doctor gave me another Imodium and I had a meal anyway.


Btw after cp3, going up the difficult sand dune and reaching at the top, wow such a spectacular scenery was spread in front of me.  I was speechless…. Not only because of the view but also because of crazy strong wind. I was trying not to be blown myself away.


At cp5, it was 7:30  and getting dark. We have another 31km to go in the dark in the desert. Made my headlights ready and off I go. However walking in this pitch dark in the desert alone is too spooky. There are green penlights to show the way but easy to miss if you are not careful. Ground is not always even as well. I know there were Zeana and her sister Raina and brother-in-low Evan coming soon from behind and waited and asked if I can try to stay with them. I know they are faster walker than I am though. Zeana “Sure join us!” and another 31km to the finish line for 7 hours I was with Zeana’s team the whole way.


We had a nice chat and I was mostly with Raina, we were talking what we would like to eat, I always would like to have fresh tomato in the desert. Raina wants to have hamburger badly, very American. It was freezing cold especially when we stopped at the check point. We had a quick eat and left soon.   After cp8 which was the last one, we had 5.5km to go to the finish line. They are walking and I was half jogging to keep up with them until them. My back pack is still heavy as the bag is too big and my shoulder is sore. Zeana “let’s make it before 3am”. It may be a bit challenging  for me and I said “if I am behind, make the finish line without me”. Zeana”No, Mika, we will make a finish together”.

Eventually we smelt the smoke of the camp fire in the dark. I said “we have 1.8km to go”. Heard the sound of drum which announces someone is coming to the finish line. “That’s for us!”. 4 of us crossed the finish line together after 19hours of the battle.

Comments: Total (0) comments

Stage 3

01 October 2019 10:10 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Stage 3


Getting better every day. Stage 1 , 77th, stage 2, 73th and Stage 3, 58th place. Ran a bit today but walking people kept overtaking me. The terrain was difficult with soft sand, spiky plants growing ground, very dry cracking ground etc. today was not so hot and very comfortable.

Not so cold at night time either. The first night it was minus 1 degrees and freezing. The sky is full of stars and milky way. We found the southern cross as well.


At least I didn’t get lost today again and it was great. As for the first days incident, the shepherd took out the flags earlier and fast runners got problem too. Some were ok because Fernando (motor bike guy) was there to guide them. Some couldn’t find flags like me and in panic like me. Eventually Fernand turned up after 1 hour and helped. It was very scary getting lost in the middle of desert!! Helen also was looking for flags and sprained her ankle. Actually I also fell into the hole while I was looking for and twisted my ankle too but not as serious. which means it effected the run afterwards as well. Some fast runners said they should consider the timing and should reduce some but apparently Sam (boss) said no. I think they should take out Stage 1 between check point 1 and check point 2 timing from everyone’s timing from total when they make positioning. What makes me upset is they knew the incident but didn’t make the solution soon. Why Fernando didn’t put flags again soon after they discovered?


Just saw Sam in the cyber tent and she also is thinking the solution such as calculating the timing of start to cp1 and average it etc. will see how it goes.


My bag is still heavy and should eat more things. Sheila from my tent, she says hers initial weight was 6.5kg. she came in 2nd female in Gobi a few years back and has done Switzerland 500km over 9 stages race etc and very professional.


Today’s stage was just Sam said it must be the hardest. The lucky thing was the sun was not out. Tomorrow’s one is longer so must be hard too.


I am getting used to “eat, sleep, moving in the desert” life. When I go back to Japan, I may finally be able to throw away many things (danshari). Even now thinking about throwing away some food here I cannot eat any more.


When I wipe my buttocks with wet tissue, I feel so happy. Those small things makes me happy in the desert life.

Comments: Total (13) comments

Lesa Thompson

Posted On: 04 Oct 2019 02:07 pm

Congratulations on finishing, Meeks!! You’re an inspiration. Absolutely amazing effort. Well done 😃

Arnaud de Herrypon

Posted On: 04 Oct 2019 03:57 am

"When I wipe my buttocks with wet tissue, I feel so happy. " = classic Mika! Well done

Mika Tokairin

Posted On: 04 Oct 2019 02:29 am

I finally found your blog! You sound so relaxed and natural as if you are natural-born desert runner! Keep running and walking with your smile!

Ian Coppell

Posted On: 03 Oct 2019 05:15 am

I love reading your posts Mika! Sounds like you are having a wonderful, although slightly dry, experience! Keep on running, and listen to my grandfather.... he always said to me, "Never trust a Chilean shepherd."

Jeff Loucks

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 08:08 pm

What an amazing journey, Meeks! Does all that time in the desert help with decluttering the mind, too? Good luck on the big stage coming up!

Keren Miers

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 12:48 pm

You are my hero! Keep going and keep smiling. K

Lesa Thompson

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 12:34 pm

Woohoo! Fantastic progress, Meeks! So happy to hear that you're enjoying the challenge more now. Can't believe you're thinking about life at all in Japan when you're in the middle of the desert, never mind about decluttering. Long may your wet tissue supplies continue ;-)

Alan Cannon

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 06:06 am

Meeks: I also should learn to move in the desert with less stuff... or at least pack less for cycling with junior. I am envious of your night skies and views of the Southern Cross! Please enjoy fully so you can tell us all about it! Alan

Stan Chow

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 05:05 am

Incredible Meeks! I am captivated by your journey and your daily updates. Ganbare on Stage 4!!

Tony Collins

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 03:49 am

Hi Meeks. Great to read your blog. keep going and make sure you give Nick a poke up the bum with one of your poles ! Hope your ankle gets better and enjoy the rest of the race. Always admire your attitude. Take care !

Yukari Oimatsu

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 03:48 am

Good to hear that you did not get lost! Your such a tough woman! Eating food makes you more powerful so eat and reduce the food from the bag! Sleep well, mika san and gambare for tomorrow!!!

Kenneth Pechter

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 02:43 am

Meeks, 58th place is amazing. There are 7.7 billion people in the world, so that means you are beating 7,699,999,942 people! So excited by your race, and sorry again about the flag issue making you lost. But you have a fantastic attitude. Love reading your posts, but please make sure you get enough rest :-)

Ben Dyer

Posted On: 01 Oct 2019 10:57 pm

Well done Meeks! You're getting into the groove with your running and into the groove with your wet tissues as well apparently! Wish I could see those amazing landscapes, constellations and Milky way with you. It must be truely amazing. Glad not so many rivers and freezing numb feet today. Nick mentioned many including he is struggling with blisters a bit. How are you holding up? Have a great day tomorrow a long one but that is your strength. Go for it Meeks and enjoy Stage four and above all those little pleasures that you appreciate along the way. Thanks for all the wonderful updates.
Stage 2

30 September 2019 10:10 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Stage 2


At the start line of stage 2, Nick came to me and said, “I am going with you today” mika, “I am walking, you should go ahead”. Nick “I am walking too”.mika ”Oh” (I don’t believe you). The next moment the gun went off, Nick started running out of sight. (I knew it).


Today was much better than yesterday as I didn’t get lost. Terrain was beautiful and lots to do such as river crossing, running down dune, etc. river was too cold and my toes were numb. The river was sometimes up to my thigh. Didn’t expect we had to cross so many rivers. My pole was helpful as the current was quite strong.


Always other people around and I was going with others (never Nick) which was fun. It took me more than 9hrs again but enjoyed it.


Would like to write more but the cyber tent is closing.


See you tomorrow.


Comments: Total (4) comments

Sumie Kawakami

Posted On: 02 Oct 2019 12:16 am

How impressive. I've got huge admiration for you!

Yukari Oimatsu

Posted On: 01 Oct 2019 08:55 am

Glad to hear you enjoyed with others! Hope you can enjoy day 3 as well.

Alan Cannon

Posted On: 01 Oct 2019 06:10 am

Meeks: I am sorry we are not there to sing camp songs and take funny pictures with you. Glad your stocks work well for river crossings but hope you can keep your toes warm. Please enjoy the spectacular scenery! Love, Alan

Arnaud de Herrypon

Posted On: 01 Oct 2019 04:17 am

Glad things are back to normal... no getting lost , just running 9h with a 10kg backpack... you are amazing! Arnaud
Stage 1

29 September 2019 10:00 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

The Shepherd took away flags - Stage1


Thank you very much all emails. I am sorry I cannot reply each one but read all and am very very touched. Will reply you later and for now please read my blog for my update.


Day 1 race started. The back pack is still heavy (10kg plus 2.5little water) so I was taking my time, walking and taking photos on the course.


We are supposed to follow pink flags on the course all the way during the race. Usually pink flags are well marked, very reliable and we never miss the course. They are put on the ground or trees or rocks every 20-50m or so.


After check point 1 I went down the hill, I reached a field area lots of sheep are around. Next moment I noticed there was no flag around at all.

Very strange… I looked around, going up and down the area, spent more than 1 hour to look for the flags… I opened the course map but does not help at all. Thought about calling the race director Sam but we were told unless its emergency we shouldn’t call (later Sam said it was an emergency and I should have called). I was waiting for the behind competitor coming but no one appeared. If I am the last one, the sweeper must come (I was not  the last one). Finally a motor bike guy with lots of pink flag on his back approached me. I was suspicious at first, he may have picked up the flags. “where did you get those flags?” then I noticed he is the one who put all flags on the course. “Trust me, you should just follow this trail”. He looks local but he speaks English fluently and he must be a staff. He came to save me here. “you just follow this trail all the way and you will find pink flags eventually”. Mika “how come there is no flag here?” motor bike guy “person who take animals took away those flags”. Oh no… shepherd did that. I became even more tired physically and mentally by spending extra 1 hour in this heat. Otherwise the course was really beautiful and breathtaking scenery but I couldn’t enjoy much to be honest.


My journey was all by myself. If there was a company it would have been different in terms of finding a course but never mind. The stage 1 was 35km trail and it took 9hours for me!! And today was the easiest day… very happy the first day has been done. Should rest well and get ready for tomorrow.



Editor's Note:  A local shepherd took one kilometer of course markers on Stage 1, and several competitors either stopped or went slightly off course until the situation was corrected. 

Comments: Total (1) comments

Yukari Oimatsu

Posted On: 01 Oct 2019 03:41 am

Well done, Mika San! I really upset while I was reading your report but I felt relief you finally meet the staff . You have strong lucky power! Sleep well tonight for tomorrow!
we are ready.. almost

28 September 2019 07:55 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Japan has just beat Ireland in World Cup Rugby. It must be a brilliant sign for our Atacama Crossing from tomorrow morning  

Everyone is excited here in San Pedro Atacama, which is a lovely town with 2,500 altitude. We will leave for the start line this afternoon, going up to 3,200 m altitude. 

Breakfast done. Packing a bag pack again for check in later to make sure we have everything . Our each bag has to have all mandatory items including sleeping bag, medical items, survival kids and 14,000 kcal of foods for 7 days. Will see how much weight my bag has. In Sahara my bag was 7kg as I were very competitive and we didn’t have to carry warm clothes  in Sahara. In Nepal and Gobi, my bag was around 10kg. This time I don’t care if my bag is heavy. I will walk most of the time. It must be freezing tomorrow morning and I packed extra warm stuff. 

Because of the experience in Nepal, so far I have been watching what to eat here so far carefully. Hope I will get through in one piece 


Comments: Total (6) comments

Kenneth Pechter

Posted On: 30 Sep 2019 10:33 pm

Meeks, oh my, that must have been such a psychological uphill battle when you could not find the pink flags and you were by yourself. Keep fighting, keep happy -- we are all cheering for you!!!

Lesa Thompson

Posted On: 30 Sep 2019 12:43 pm

Despite Japan beating Ireland in the rugby, I still support you! You are awesome & we’re following your adventure. Lesa & Jeff

Ben Dyer

Posted On: 30 Sep 2019 04:08 am

You look super happy Meeks. I bet the landscape is stunning. I'm enjoying following your and Nick's progress and looking at the pictures. Thanks for keeping us updated. Have a wonderful adventure and remember the pack will get lighter the further you go on! Enjoy the experience and we are looking forward to reading about it on your blog Meeks.

Mika Tokairin

Posted On: 29 Sep 2019 11:11 pm

Go Meeks and Nick! Ouen shite masi!

Roger Berman

Posted On: 29 Sep 2019 10:10 pm

Just as the "Brave Blossoms" can beat Ireland, my nickname for you and Nick during your adventure will be the Brave (nan)Banners! You Brave Banners can beat your Ireland i.e. the race! Cheering both our Brave Banners on from cold and wet London! Roger Berman

Yukari Oimatsu

Posted On: 29 Sep 2019 09:35 am

I found photos of you and Nick. You two look good!! Go go go, mika san and Nick!