I accidentally walked 20.873 miles. That’s 33.592 kilometers.
I think it’s fair to say that I could be described as stubborn. That personality trait probably comes into play in this story but the real truth is that failure pushed me to walk too far.
That failure came a few weeks earlier. It was last July, and it was the rainiest July I had seen in Costa Rica. Rain is great, especially in Guanacaste, where too much dry is often the problem.
But rain is difficult for camera traps and camera trapping. Rain ruins cameras. They’re waterproof and that’s nice, but an especially rainy rainy season laughs in the face of waterproof. On top of that, rain makes getting to the location where you want to put the cameras very difficult.
So on this occasion, it was raining, and I was attempting to reach two farms where I was planning to place 7 or 8 camera traps. There are no, let’s say, regular roads to these farms. To get there, you have to start in a national park and use the park’s interior dirt roads to get to the farms or there’s another access road, but it involves crossing the Tempisque River, where there’s no bridge (but there are crocodiles).
I thought ‘I have 4-wheel drive, it should be fine.’ Seven dangerous puddles later, I came to a point where it was clear my car wasn’t four-wheeling anywhere, and I backed out of the rough, flooded road and went home with my tail between my legs.
This leads us to the day of the Big Walk. I had failed to make it the first time, but it was a new day. Being an optimistic guy, I attempted to make the same drive that I had failed at the first time because there had been slightly less rain the previous weeks and maybe the puddles were passable. Of course, everything was still flooded, and I ended up pulling the same back out maneuver as the first time.
But this time there was no going home. I had looked at the locations of the two farms on Google Earth the previous night, if you zoomed out properly, it didn’t look like too far of a walk. So, I threw 8 camera traps, all of my other gear and as much water as I could carry into my backpack, clicked on my GPS (thus the odd accuracy of 20.873 miles) and started walking back down the flooded road.
Maybe 200 meters into my adventure, a park ranger spots me walking and asks where I’m going. I tell him where I plan to go and he makes a scrunched-up face like I must be confused and tells me that’s too far to walk. I tell him I’m going to do it anyway (stubbornness) and he calls ahead to my contact at the first farm, Ronald, and tells him something like ‘a crazy gringo is about to walk to your farm.’
Four miles or so down the road, I meet Ronald who’s perched atop his horse. He gives me the same ‘you’re crazy’ look as the park guy and offers to give me his horse and he’ll walk. I decline, obviously, and we head off into the forested trails of the farm to place the camera traps. The only issue is, we’re walking at a horses’ pace, which is about one and a half times faster than a normal person walks.
Two miles of walking later, all of the camera traps are successfully deployed on the first farm. I thank Ronald for his time and tell him where I’m heading next, and I see that the all-too-familiar scrunchy-faced head shaking that says, ‘your plan is stupid.’ Ronald, I assume out of pity, offers to accompany me to the second farm.
This means I won’t get lost, which is always great, but it also means that I’ll have to horse-pace-walk all the way to the second farm. After he offers to carry my backpack – which was pushing 30 pounds, it’s on, so we head towards the second farm.
Two rivers and about five and half miles later, we arrive at the second farm. It rained on and off and much of the ‘road’ was uphill, but we made it. We find a few good locations to place the camera traps, take a breath and start the walk back towards Ronald’s farm and then back to my car.
We eventually cross both rivers (fuller this time because it’s been raining) and make it back to Ronald’s farm. I thank him for giving me pretty much his entire day and start to walk back towards my car.
All in, it was another 9 miles from the second farm back to my car. I was sore the next day and several people now think I’m crazy but, did you see the photo collage at the top of this story? Totally worth it!
About the Author
Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring, is a biologist who works with camera traps throughout Costa Rica. You can contact him at: email@example.com