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German Reprises Quest to Swim Pacific Coast

January 16, 2009

After running out of time and sponsors a year ago, Renate Herberger is back. The 53-year-old German from western Canada swam nearly 750 kilometers of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to raise awareness of threatened marine life (TT, Jan. 25, 2008, April 18, 2008). Today, she returns to the water to renew her border-to-border quest.

“This time, my hope and my intention is to do everything,” Herberger says of the approximately 1,000-kilometer journey, which she will begin at Punta Burica near the Panamanian border. From there, she’ll swim eight hours a day, five days a week, for almost three months until she reaches Bahía Salinas near the Nicaraguan border.

“I came so close at the end,” she says, “but it gave me a wonderful excuse to come back and do it again.”

Like last year, when she relied on the kindness of strangers after a sponsorship fell through, Herberger is seeking support in the form of accommodations and accompaniment.

For safety reasons, she must travel with a boat to provide water, yogurt and a midday break. While she hopes for a boat operator to step forward and sponsor her entire trip, she has resumed contact with many of her helpers from last year and is piecing together an itinerary.

Meanwhile, her map shows plenty of gaps. “There’s still a lot missing,” she says. “I’m perfectly happy to stay in employee housing if a lodge doesn’t have room. If they have a tent, I can use it. I don’t need luxury.”

If that sounds modest, so are her aims. She would be the first to complete such a border-to-border journey, but she says her swim is “contemplative, not competitive.”

“This whole swim is about connection – with the sea, people and the community,”

she says. “I met such magical people along the way.”

A dance therapist by profession, Herberger will offer workshops to spread her message of environmental connectedness and compassion during her brief forays on land. She feels at home in the water, having suffered a thrombosis following a knee injury in 2005 that left her with a minor disability.

“I turned my entire life over to swimming,” says Herberger, who plans later ventures retracing the epic journey of Ulysses to raise money for fire victims in Greece and a swim along the western coast of Africa to benefit victims of slavery.

“Swimming to me is soothing; it relieves the pain,” she says. “Every time I get out of the water, it’s back to square one.”

And what if she comes up short again? As long as her message gets out, that’s fine by her.

“My goal is to swim as much of that coastline as I can,” she says. “And if I come up a couple of days short, then I’ll still go home happy.”

For information on Herberger and her journey, see www.costaricamermaid.net.

 

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