We aim to land-sail 2,500 miles from the southern tip of South America to the capital of Chile, and climb the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas, Mt Aconcagua (6,962m), in 56 days, for charity

“It’s called a Whike,” said Ned matter-of-factly, as if I should know exactly what he was talking about. “A recumbent tricycle with a sail,” he continued. “Naturally,” I mocked. Two metres in length, slightly wider than a normal bike, two pedals, two wheels at the back, one at the front, and a 1.6m sail mounted on top. This bizarre contraption, I thought to myself, should belong on Mario Kart, not on a road. Nevertheless, Ned promised me that when a strong crosswind catches the Whike's sail, combined with a good old leg pump, it can reach speeds of over 50km/h. Easy!

It is with two of these Whikes that my good friend, Joe Barrs, and I will try and avoid a post-university desk job for another few months. This week, when the rest of you will be happily on your way to starting the New Year with a hangover, we shall be tucked up cosily in our sleeping bags in the sleepy Argentinian city of Ushuaia, ready to set sail and begin The Pan-Andean Challenge – an expedition in which we aim to land-sail 2,500 miles from the southern tip of South America to the capital of Chile, and climb the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas, Mt Aconcagua (6,962m), all in 56 days. In doing so we shall hopefully break the record for the longest ever wind-powered land journey, and also reach our ambitious fundraising target of £25,000 for our two chosen charities, The Foundation for Prader-Willi Research and The Ann Dodgson Foundation.

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Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, is a popular spot for cyclists to begin long, and often unusual, journeys, so we will not be alone as we weave our way through sparsely populated Patagonia. A region renowned for its fjords, forests, steep mountains and gargantuan glaciers, it is no wonder that so many people choose to go there. We would probably blend quite inconspicuously into the crowd of Lycra-clad tourists if it weren’t for the huge masts we will have announcing our arrival. The ‘regular’ cyclists may smirk at our Mario Kart-esque buggies, but (assuming all goes to plan) we will have the last laugh when we fill our sails with the immense gale-force winds so common in that part of the world.

Once we have negotiated Patagonia, we will edge our way towards Mendoza, the Argentinian city that sits opposite the Chilean capital. In between the two cities are the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, lined up like children in a school photo. The lankiest child of all is Aconcagua, towering above his classmates. Imagine Kilimanjaro, and then add another 1,000m. It is a section of the trip neither Joe nor I can really digest at this stage, as we have never done anything remotely like it before.

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Aconcagua

The journey boasts such a low summit rate not because of the technical difficulty of the climb, but because so many people underestimate the threat it poses near the top. They say that above 6,000m, atmospheric pressure is about 40% of sea level, so even the fittest can be affected by severe altitude sickness if they do not acclimatise properly. We are going to spend nearly three weeks perched on its perilously steep slopes.

For the past three months, we have been training hard to give ourselves the best chance of completing the expedition in the 56-day time period. Last month we cycled 400 miles in four days from Perthshire to Cambridge, which rudely awoke us to the realities of sitting in the saddle for days at a time. However, once we have surpassed the pain of blisters and sore muscles, the sternest test will be a psychological one, and hopefully the beautiful Patagonian backdrop and each other's company will be enough to keep the legs turning. Christmas arrived at the perfect time, with plenty of carb-loading to fill the tanks before the long haul north!

Follow our journey at www.thepanandeanchallenge.com

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