April 1, 2015
Dear family and friends of the sea,
I am now back in Canada after 4 ½ months of expedition time in Mexico. Right now I have the pleasure of two couchsurfing guests in my home from Germany, and Rebecca Bruch has kindly offered to type this blog for me. It’s quite lovely to hear my father’s accent again and there’s a kind of cultural ease being with people who share certain basic understandings. I sometimes forget how comforting it can be to be with people from my tribe!
My actual return date was March 10, and within hours of arriving home I went to visit my son Silvan’s memorial bench. To my horror, the beautiful little Mexican hand painted urn that I had glued to the top of the bench in early fall had been stolen. My shock was immense since I could not even have imagined someone having the audacity to steal my son’s ashes. I thought this was a universal taboo and whenever I thought of this beautiful memorial bench during my travels I visualized it as a standing guard for me. It never once occurred to me that I would come home and find it stolen. It ripped open a wound that had very very slowly begun to heal. What happened at this memorial site in some ways is what is happening to Marine Sanctuaries the world over. Illegal fishing often goes unabated, tearing at the web of life.
While I was swimming around the island of Cozumel, accompanied by the Cozumel National Park’s vigilance boat we encountered numerous illegal fishing boats. Whenever they saw us approach, they would ditch overboard all the Queen Conch they had already gathered, in the hope of retrieving it later after we had passed by. It turns out that most of the people who work on the vigilance boats for the National Parks are former “pirates” and are very familiar with the practices of thieves of the ocean. Once I was asked to dive down and retrieve the net bags containing the Conch meat. Of course I am hyper buoyant and there’s no way I can dive down 7 or 8 meters without a weight belt. So inevitably one of the staff would have to dive down to retrieve the illegally gotten seafood. After working together for 8 days, we had quite a stash which sadly all went to waste since the National Parks CONANP cannot eat or sell illegally gotten seafood so it all ends up being thrown away after being carefully logged and categorized.
Thus in some ways my swim served the useful function of catching one or two illegal fishing boats every day. Unfortunately CONANP cannot arrest anyone, they can only record misdeeds and pass the information on to the authorities who usually do nothing! This means that there is very little incentive for fishermen who catch seafood that is out of season or in danger of extinction to change what they do since there are plenty of restaurants who will purchase Queen Conch. In fact I saw it on the menu in numerous restaurants while I was on Cozumel! Therefore it really has to be the customers who must educate themselves and refuse to purchase seafood that is on the CITES endangered list!
I try to convince everyone that I come in contact with to only eat seafood that is sustainably harvested. Every single time I eat in a restaurant, even in Canada, I inquire about the seafood on the menu and have often gotten up to leave if a restaurant did not offer sustainably harvested seafood and certainly would not purchase any seafood that is not labelled “Ocean Wise” or “Monterey Bay Aquarium” certified. Last night my guests and myself had a lovely dinner at the “Blue’s Bayou Café” that actually showed me their sustainably harvested tiger prawns in their original packaging. I am quite aware that up to 30% of restaurants lie about the origin of their seafood!
My swim around the island of Cozumel took 8 days, not all of which were 8 hour days since my logistics were done by CONANP and had to take into account departure and arrival times and peoples’ work schedules. I am utterly grateful to Christopher Gonzalez, the director of the Cozumel CONANP, for taking on this project and seeing it through to completion! It reinstated my faith in the possibility that a government organization can do good!
Of all my swims, the swim around Cozumel was the one where I had the most support and the least to worry about. It was such a relief to simply do as I was told! I have gotten so used over the last 7 years to have to do everything, absolutely everything, all by myself, all the logistics, finding hotel sponsorships, finding media contacts, finding boat support and on land transportation that it was a huge relief to have all of this taken over by incredibly competent people!
I was able to spend a lot of days teaching since I was unable to coordinate a swim along the main land from Punta Allen to Cancun, which I hope to do next January, once again supported by CONANP. All together I was able to speak to over 1500 youth on the island of Cozumel, which is something I really love to do. Working with young kids is really rewarding since they understand perhaps more than adults what is at stake. Often it is the kids that educate their parents about making changes to live more lightly on our mother earth.
In one of the public schools where I taught, one of my teaching tools, a beautiful plushy mermaid that was given to me by my son, was stolen. I decided to make this a really big deal and for a whole week the children turned each other’s houses upside down. The principal was terribly embarrassed about something so precious being stolen from a volunteer teacher and did everything in her power to encourage community action to have it retrieved. On my very last day, when the principal had asked me to receive my volunteer certificate in front of the kids and thanked me formally for my week spent at the school, just after handing me my beautiful certificate she surprised me with my beloved stuffed mermaid. I burst into tears since I already had given up hope. To me this was miraculous and I now hope for a similar miracle about the return of my son’s ashes who had given me this lovely mermaid.
I see a powerful symbolism in the theft of this mermaid who for me represents the magic and mystery of the ocean and the kind of community effort it took to have her returned.
We must begin to act as a worldwide community to protect our oceans from the rape and pillage of the huge bottom draggers and long liners that are decimating our marine life and thus endangering the web of life all together on our planet. It was difficult for me to leave Cozumel where I was treated with such respect and love. I had spent 10 nights altogether at the home of Doris Uribe, a local lawyer and feminist, and enjoyed every minute with her and her loving dog Tas. I took him for walks every evening and he was the gentlest dog I have ever met, a big Golden Retriever with a heart of gold that everybody loved. I made so many new friends walking about with him in the evenings!
One of the teachers whose students I taught, Cristina Pelaez, invited me to stay with her also, and I spent 4 wonderful days with her. We took yoga classes together in the evenings and she enjoyed my cooking after shopping at the organic market. It seems that both of the women I stayed with didn’t like cooking, which gave me a chance to explore the marvellous organic foods in the area. So often when I travel I don’t get much of a chance to cook because I’m usually hosted by hotels, and so I really welcome opportunities to cook healthy food and make big salads of organic greens.
Swimming around the island of Cozumel was absolutely splendid since the visibility can be up to 40 meters depth, and this is not something I had experienced before. Especially in Costa Rica I rarely saw the bottom of the ocean during my big swims and had to content myself with just the sensation of warm water embracing me and the inflection that light makes when it hits the water. It creates a spinning funnel that is quite trance like to observe and guides me in my swim meditations. But to see coral for mile after mile is totally spectacular! Swimming in the Atlantic is so different from the Pacific, even the waves feel different.
The last couple of weeks at home I have witnessed the miracle of spring blossoming, and my Easter Lilies are at full peak right now carpeting all the grassy areas on my property. I feel so fortunate to be graced by such an abundance of endangered species of flowers surrounding me and reminding me of nature’s capacity to renew itself.
I wish all my readers a beautiful Easter/Ostara season with lots of magic and new life!
February 4, 2015
Queridos amigos del mar y de la tierra,
En este momento tengo el apoyo de B., quien es recepcionista de la tarde del Hotel Casa del Mar. Me tomo 3 meses encontrar una persona que me pudiera ayudar a escribir un blog, por eso no han escuchado de mi. Con mis problemas de tendonitis en mis brazos, captar es sumamente doloroso y solamente escribio lo mas necesario porque hasta me puede dar problemas durante el nado, lamentablemente esta condicion en los a;os pasados nunca se resolvio y el dolor es aun mas grande que anteriormente.
Hoy fue mi septimo dia de la circunatacion de la Isla Cozumel y solamente falta otro dia para cumplir esa meta. he tenido muchisima atencion de la prensa durante esa travesia a nado y pienso de todos mis nados es la mas publicada en un lapso tan corto.
La meta de esta travesia principalmente es llamar la antecion, los delfines encarcelados en delfinarios y aqui en la Isla Cozumel hay dos delfinarios. La Riviera Maya lamentablemente esta llena de Delfinarios y mientras ahora es ilegal tener animales en los circos y esta ley se cambio hace pocos dias pero no afecta a los mamiferos marinos. Me gustaria muchisimo participar en una demostracion en contra de los delfinarios de Cozumel. Dos dias atras vino Rick O’Barry para dar una conferencia de prensa en Cancun y guiar una conferencia paficica en contra de los delfinarios en la Rivera Maya. Los delfines son capaz de suicidarse y para evitar eso y perder mucho dinero les dan Diazepam, un medicamento del grupo de los Benzodiazepam. Todos son muy adictivos. La vida de los Delfines encerrados en sus carceles es una vida de tristeza y luto, nunca estan con sus familias y ellos son muy apegados a ellos.
Conoci a B. ayer, ella esta en el area de recepcion en el Hotel Casa del Mar y cuando a ella le preguntan sobre nado con Delfines, ella les comenta a los huespedes la crueldad con la que son tratados esos bellos animales, y alienta a los huespedes a no ir a esos lugares que fomentan el maltrato animal mas cruel que hay. Estoy feliz que hay empleados que a si mismo hacen su activismo ayudando a no enviar personas que pagen para nadar con los pobres Delfines que estan encerrados. Hasta que nadie compre esos servicios va a continuar o hasta que la ley cambie. Entonces la gente mas humilde de este pais puede ayudar de esa manera. Hoy me entero que el salario de recepcionista puede ser tan bajo de 85.5 pesos por dia, es decir en un mes se gana 2,550.00 , es decir menos de 200 usd americanos, y como recepcionistas nunca son incluidos en propinas es imposible vivir con ese salario sin una familia que te apoyo debido a que se tiene que pagar renta, luz y techo. Para mi eso es un gran choque, tanto como que COZUMEL es carisimo tanto como vivir en Canada. Una persona con un salario tan bajo como el de una recepcionista, nunca podra juntar dinero suficiente para poder comprar el equipo necesario, es decir un sistema F.M para su hermana, pues el costo es de 40,000 pesos mexicanos alrededor de 3,000 USD, esta conversacion me recuerda de un dia en Costa Rica, en mi sexta travesia a nado en la costa pacifica. Tuve que ir al Banco para pagar uno de mis capitanes, y como tenia shorts era obvio que tenia una media, no dos pues son compresivas, la mujer atras de mi me pregunto porque no estaba con dos medias, y eso me sucede mucho. Yo le explique mi situacion y ella me compartio que ella estaba en una situacio igual . Yo le pregunte, porque no usas medias compresivas entonces, ella me dijo, no tenia el dinero para comprarlos pues es caro. Yo le pregunte cuando costaba un par de medias compresivas. Me dijo 50 usd. Pues yo avanzaba en la fila para retirar el efectivo, cuando ya tuve el dinero me di la vuelta pues era su turno de ella, yo le dije , abre tus manos y cierra tus ojos y le di los 50 usd. Al abrir sus ojos empezo a llorar y dijo no puedo aceptarlo, yo le dije si puedes recibirlo pero con una condicion, tienes que llamarme a mi telefono personal, cuando este en tu pierna. Una semana despeus recibi esta llamada y la senora era sumamente feliz y me dijo que toda su familia estaba orando por mi…
November 11, 2014
Dear friends and family of the sea and land,
I, Renate Herberger, better known to some as the Mermaid, prepare for my eighth coastal migration, swimming along an entire coastline to raise awareness for marine sustainability, the need for marine sanctuaries and corridors. Today I write to you to find potential synergy.
As dappled brown colours fleck my land here up in the North, I pack my swim gear, anxious to further explore and expose interdependence between land and sea.
On my eighth migration I will add onto the 6688 kilometres swum thus far, starting from Loreto and hopefully swimming all the way to Cabo San Lucas.
I will be in Baja from the 27th of October, and hope that, as a public figure drawing international attention, I can help draw publicity to your cause. I can also do fundraising events with you or perhaps find another potential alliance. I have done this before extensively with other non-profits.
Education is a critical component to my mission, having interacted with over 25 000 children thus far I plan to continue teaching at least two days a week in the schools along these routes.
My work has touched countless lives of children and adults in Mexico, Costa Rica, Barbados, Canada and Germany with my message to act now in order to save our oceans. It is so vital to expose children to having a heart for the Ocean when they are still open to listening to it.
Specific issues on my socio-environmental agenda include the recognition of sharks as a protected species, the needs of endangered turtles and the highly sensitive, extraordinarily beautiful and unique marine eco system of the Baja Peninsula. How the Ocean and its creatures are under attack by indiscriminate fishing, pollution, pesticide runoff, climate change, toxic algae like Caulerpa taxifolia and other invasive species. I underline just how important its preservation is to our own survival as a species.
My hope is that my appeal to governments, businesses and the general public will inspire public policy to extend ocean protection beyond its current 1% portion, especially in Baja.
What do I ask in return? My intention is to support your cause, however any auxiliary help through allowing the use of a boat and driver, or however else you could support the swim, would be highly appreciated. Additionally I am seeking an opportunity to clean some of the coral reefs of the Alga Asesina along Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Jacques Cousteau.
I hope that together, we can work on extending the boundaries of the marine sanctuaries around the islands, and I trust we can find a way to make this happen together. My dream is to see the entire Sea of Cortez protected!
Renate Herberger MA
October 02, 2014
Dear Friends and Family of the Sea,
I owe you an apology for such a late blog at the end of my 2014 Winter-Spring expedition.
Today is the 17th anniversary of my mother’s death and I send thanks to all the mothers of our planet who have helped life to spring forth everywhere.
The last part of my expedition led me for the fourth time to the island Archipelago of Murcielagos, in the northern most part of Costa Rica. I had great difficulty securing boat support and finally arranged to be accompanied by the head of the fishing association in Cuajiniquil. This man arrived several hours late with his assistant at the Flamingo beach and he was unable to begin the journey because he had not brought any gas. This was the first time someone came to pick me up with a completely empty gas tank, especially since this involved working together for 6 days in an extremely remote area where running out of gas could quickly become life threatening. So this day lost another couple of hours in my search for a large amount of gas sufficient for a week. Unfortunately he did not bring enough containers to really acquire enough gas to work everyday of the week. He insisted that more gas would be brought to the field station and this of course never happened. So we had several days where we were unable to work simply because of lack of preparation on his part!
They also had not bothered to bring their own food supply which was something that was written into the contract. I was not aware of this until the end since they camped in a different location than myself. The assistant told me he went hungry on most days. So even though I was in one of the most idyllic locations on the planet it was hard to enjoy it because I was so worried how we would leave with insufficient gas.
I was so happy that the field staff had quietly trapped the overwhelming rat population and that this time it was possible to sleep outside without having rats try to nest in my hair, I realize that this went against the code of ethics of the National Parks but rats are not exactly an endemic population!
It was wonderful seeing staff again that I had met in other years and to share our food, creating more variety for all of us. They still only have a tiny refrigerator so none of the food brought there can require refrigeration. They were most pleased about the watermelon, pineapples and papaya!
2 months have passed since the draft of this blog was last written, unfortunately I lost my typing assistant and this has caused yet another delay in getting this out to you, the reader!
Because there was no delivery of gas to the outlying Field Station, there were two whole days that I was unable to continue this swim in the island archipelago of Murcielagos, something I felt very sad about it since I knew I would likely never have another chance to do this. I just hoped we would not run out of gas on the long return to the base village of Cuajiniquil… The plan had been for me to stay the one night I had to spend in the village with the boat captain, but the wife of my assistant very quietly took me aside and warned me not to go to this man’s home, that if I went there he might steal my luggage. There were some rather shady dealings on the dock, it appeared that my boat captain owed large amounts of money to two Colombian men who were pursuing him, & I was not sure I wanted to be caught in the middle.
I had no idea what to do or where to stay at this point, and so the family of my boat assistant decided to take me home for the one night I needed before returning to the capital of San Jose.
It was the one night out of seven expeditions where I experienced and saw abject poverty. They lived in a tiny house constructed from garbage, cardboard and bits and pieces of found wood and debris. There was no indoor plumbing or kitchen. I shared a bed with the two adolescent daughters. The family was incredibly kind to me and I shared all my leftover food with them.
My assistant decided to accompany me on the bus to Liberia, the next larger town with a bank, in the morning because he felt he would not get paid unless he was with me as I went to the bank to retrieve the cash for payout. I could not directly pay him myself since my contract was just with the boat captain, but I myself wanted to make sure he had received the pay he had been promised by his boss! Payout was to happen at the hotel were the big bus to San Jose would pick me up half an hour later. However, my boat captain refused to accept my payment since he wanted a lot more than we had contracted for.
Staff at this hotel tried to help, but to no avail. The boat captain called the police and involved them in the settling of our contract, hoping I would get in deep trouble. The policeman that came asked if I had a written contract! I sign contracts with every single boat captain I work with during the expeditions, so I was covered and this policeman explained to the boat captain that he could not expect payment over and above the contract we had both agreed to.
I made sure that the assistant was paid directly in front of my eyes because I could see that without my presence he would never have gotten paid at all. Unfortunately I have heard this story way too many times, that the people who actually work for me do not always receive their salary even though I pay their boss in full.
Good boat support is absolutely essential for the safety of my swims and so I have to depend on the people I work with to make the swims happen after all.
I am fully aware of the irony that in order to do the swims I need to have access to fossil fuel which is one of the main reasons why the oceans are having such trouble. There is simply no other safe way to perform the swims than to have motorized boats support beside me when I swim in the open ocean. During swims in safer inlet waters I always utilize kayak or non-motorized boat support because I am aware of the environmental cost my swims themselves cause the ocean. However, they receive such wide publicity that I believe it still outweighs the cost. And it is this publicity that has allowed me to talk to over 25,000 students from kindergarten to university so far in three countries.
I had an opportunity to talk with Laura Chinchilla, the president of Costa Rica from 2009 until 2013, she was well aware of my swims and perhaps in part due to my work, as an outgoing gesture, changed a very important law so that at this time shrimp bottom dragging is illegal in Costa Rica!
I feel very pleased that I was a part of a history changing decision along with some of the environmental organizations that worked very hard on the ground, like PRETOMA and MARVIVA.
Running out of gas in open ocean can be truly life threatening and I have been in the situation way too many times. Especially in the last couple of years I have had a tiny budget so I have to depend on people who are willing to work for a modest wage that I could afford. A generous budget has not been available to me since I lost my principal sponsor in 2012. So I will have to continue taking these risks and it will not stop me from continuing with the swims.
Environmental activists like myself in general are not known to have access to huge amounts of funds, so we struggle on as best as we can.
Today is October 2, 2014 and now is the time to begin the serious planning of my 8th season of long haul swims!
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
March 17, 2014
dear friends and family of the sea,
today my very flagging spirits were revived by hundreds of angelfish that crowded around me during a scuba diving expedition to Catalina Island in Northern Costa Rica.
I have never before petted fish, but these lovely and gorgeous angel fish approach big fish and thinking we were perhaps a shark decided that we might need a good cleaning. We had apparently dived into a cleaning station, kind of like an underwater spa or beauty salon. We had no competitors at that time so received all the attention of the hundreds of angelfish looking for a feast of bacteria and algae.
it was such a treat to be invited to go diving today, I really needed this experience after many frustrating days.
Because of serious tendonitis issues in both my upper arms I am unable to type long blogs and have to rely entirely on voice recognition, and that means having excellent wifi which doesn’t happen very often in Costa Rica.
I appreciate all my readers patience, some of you may have noticed I have begun to write on Facebook once in awhile.
Only one more week and this year’s project is finished!
As always, my last week’s swim takes place in the northernmost and wildest part of Costa Rica that hardly anybody has ever been to, the magical Peninsula de Santa Elena and the bat islands.
it is the largest national park in Costa Rica thanks to the brilliant idea of a Danish biologist named Daniel Jansen who convinced a number of extremely wealthy people to buy private properties so they could be turned over to the park. I cannot imagine a better investment for wealthy persons than to buy private properties to turn large tracts of damaged earth into beautiful national parks… and what a beautiful legacy to leave to one’s children!
Tomorrow will be my last teaching day of so many days teaching in Costa Rica and Mexico, and I will be able to do this because the owner of my current hotel sponsor, Simon Preston of Conchal Hotel,, kindly offered to drive me to the schools.
They usually cannot provide transportation and this hotel is quite close to a number of schools, so it will give me a chance to end my work here on a really positive note.
This year, I have done a number of long day swims as demonstrations for local causes that included media interviews and press coverage.
One of those swims will be in a documentary made by a staff writer for Tico Times, the largest English speaking newspaper in Central America.
The owner of the hotel that sponsored me at the time, Patricia of Sano Banano in Montezuma, after viewing the film showing of the end of the line, decided that from now on she would only serve sustainably harvested seafood at her restaurants!
I immediately put her in touch with the directors of Costa Rica’s most well-known marine conservation organizations, Mar Viva and Pretoma.
I know she will follow up on this and will be a leader in her community to convince other restaurant owners to begin to serve only sustainably harvested seafood from now on.
It is once again the beginning of a red tide here in northern Guanacaste.
For all of us it is so important to only use biodegradable soap and shampoo as well as eating organic whenever possible. Red tide Dinoflagellates is very much connected to the runoff from the many rivers full of the phosphates from regular soap and the nitrogen from fertilizers. This also helps to create super red tides that kill off all the corals.
As it is, Costa Rica has lost most of its corals this way.
Please do not buy pineapple from Costa Rica unless they are certified Organic.
They are the main problem, as well as the banana production.
Remember that anytime you buy organic, you’re helping the ocean heal. remember that anytime you purchase a biodegradable soap or shampoo, you’re helping the ocean heal. And remember that anytime you choose to stay away from eating unsustainably harvested seafood like shrimp or tuna, you are helping the oceans heal.
And let the ocean invade your dreams and heal you too!
Tel. En México: 01152 1 624 8558
“Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
February 14, 2014
We have a special evening at El Castillo for you. On Sunday, February 16th at 4pm, you will have the unique opportunity to meet Renate Herberger who is currently on her seventh and final swim of the entire Pacific Coast our country.
In six seasons of swimming Costa Rica and other countries, she has accomplished 6,500 kms in long haul swims on a minute budget. She has talked to over 25,000 kids along the way, all 100% volunteer. Her goal?…she wants to turn everybody into a marine activist. She heavily promotes only eating sustainably harvested food especially seafood.
Come and join us for this free event. Renate will be available for discussions and will do a short presentation at 5pm. Sure to be very interesting.
Donations towards Renate’s passion are gladly accepted and much appreciated!
Read more at http://www.costaricamermaid.net/
And as a special treat Renate will offer Watsu for a donation to her cause. WATSU is a very gentle water therapy where the client does not have to know how to swim. S/he is held at all times and kept with the head above the surface of the water. The person is passively moved through a range of motions that are especially soothing to the spine. People with all kinds of back pain find this kind of therapy extremely relaxing, but it is delightful for anyone who wishes to experience it. All it requires is a bathing suit and willingness to surrender.
Short sessions available (approximately 15 minutes) by donation.
If you wish, you could sign up beforehand.
I personally have done Watsu several times and it is amazing. And this will be your unique opportunity to try it.
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday and welcome your support of such a great cause.
See you then!
January 18, 2014
Queridos amigos y amigas del mar y de la tierra:
Esta vez que escribo me está ayudando mi amiga Cecy Murguía en su computadora, captando estas palabras para evitar que me duela aún más mi hombro derecho.
En estas últimas semanas ella ha sido mi apoyo principal y yo no sé cómo hubiera podido hacerlo sin ella. Es increíblemente frustrante cuán lenta ha sido mi recuperación. Realmente no hay nada que ayude a sanar un hueso roto más que el tiempo…
Ahora recuerdo que la mayoría de ustedes tal vez no sepa lo que me ocurrió! Dejé La Paz el 29 de Diciembre para pasar el año nuevo con mi querido amigo desde hace 35 años, Jorge Villegas. Como el vuelo era muy largo y no pude encontrar mi inyección de Heparina, mis piernas me dolieron mucho cuando llegué. Así que le pedí a Jorge que me llevara a nadar para aliviar el dolor de mis piernas. El y su hermana me llevaron a un balneario llamado Temixco, que más bien era un parque acuático. Jorge y yo nos subimos a un tobogán acuático y escuchamos muy bien las instrucciones para subirnos en él. Nos dieron una colchoneta inflable para deslizarnos, el tobogán estaba mal diseñado y a pesar de que hicimos todo lo que nos indicaron, en la primera curva la fuerza centrífuga propia del tobogán, nos sacó fuera de la colchoneta y pasamos el resto del recorrido sobre nuestra propia piel del costado derecho…
La colchoneta estaba debajo de nosotros parcialmente, así que el peso de nuestros cuerpos nos hizo imposible acomodarlo de nuevo para completar el descenso.
Supe inmediatamente que estábamos en graves problemas!
Jorge se hizo varias heridas, así que los primeros auxilios se enfocaron exclusivamente en él porque estaba sangrando. Y como yo no estaba sangrando, a nadie le importó atenderme a mí!
Le dije a Jorge que deberíamos irnos y dormir para ver si se me pasaba el dolor y si al otro día me continuaba doliendo, pues que fuéramos a tomarme unos rayos X, y a él también.
Cuando desperté en la mañana, después de no haber dormido casi nada por el dolor, le pedí a Jorge que me llevara a un hospital para ver a un traumatólogo y hacerme unos rayos X, también le recomendé a Jorge que se hiciera unos estudios.
Resultó que me rompí una costilla (la novena) del lado derecho y un desgarre en el hombro derecho.
El primer traumatólogo me recomendó ponerme un cabestrillo para inmovilizar mi brazo completamente por 6 semanas. Me dijo que me olvidara de mi próxima travesía a nado en Costa Rica, que supuestamente empezaba el 4 de Enero.
Me desesperé por este diagnóstico y Jorge me recomendó ver a otro traumatólogo para tener una segunda opinión. Esa tarde me llevó a ver al cirujano que había operado a su mamá de la cadera. Pensé que era una buena idea, y este doctor tuvo una interpretación de los rayos X completamente diferente!
Me recomendó que usara el cabestrillo tan poco como fuera posible, me prescribió medicamentos contra el dolor muy fuertes, incluyendo inyecciones de cortisona. Seguí sus instrucciones y mejoré milagrosamente rápido… mientras me duró la cortisona! Pero cuando pasó el efecto de la inyección, el progreso de recuperación volvió a un ritmo normal.
Después, fui invitada a una pequeña reunión en casa de una familia local, para celebrar una antigua tradición mexicana conocida como “Partir la Rosca de Reyes”. En esa casa conocí a una mujer llamada Cecy… que hoy la considero como una hermana. Su amistad fue algo totalmente inesperado y me ayudó mucho a disfrutar estas “vacaciones forzadas”.
Para sacar algo bueno de todo esto… decidí al menos conocer los lugares atractivos cercanos, ya que sólo me dolía el lado derecho arriba de la cintura y como el doctor me dijo que no podía cargar arriba de cinco kilos… mi amiga Cecy se ofreció a llevar mis cosas a los lugares que visitáramos. Gracias Cecy! No hubiera podido realizar estos hermosos paseos sin ella!
En 1994, tuve la oportunidad de subir a la pirámide de Tepoztlán con Rocío, la amiga que aparece en la siguiente foto a la izquierda de Jorge. Fue una experiencia sumamente espiritual, porque recordé una vida pasada con Rocío en este lugar! Estaba muy feliz de que Cecy me acompañara a ir nuevamente a ese mágico lugar. La subida y la bajada fue mucho más lento y cansado que la primera vez! A las dos nos dolieron mucho las rodillas… y sí, sentimos lo que es tener casi 20 años más!
Dos días después fuimos a Cacahuamilpa, una serie de cuevas conocidas como el séptimo milagro del mundo! También en 1994 visité este mismo lugar con Jorge y estuve completamente maravillada con la belleza de ese lugar! Em aquella ocasión acampamos una noche cerca del Río Dos Ojos y escuchamos a los murciélagos salir a cazar… ese sonido es algo que recordaré por el resto de mi vida. Esta vez, Cecy y yo sólo pudimos estar tres horas en las cuevas, pero disfrutamos mucho y tomamos muchísimas fotos!!! En una de las fotos abajo, pueden ver la forma de una mano abierta en las rocas del suelo… para mí es como un símbolo de que la Madre Tierra está cuidándonos a todos! Invitándonos a visitar sus entrañas… Es en verdad un lugar sagrado, como un templo dedicado al nacimiento mismo, porque hay muchísimas cuevas ahí dentro! Cientos de kilómetros! Caminos interminables!
En una parte de la Gruta se encuentra una cruz sobre una tumba, el guía nos explicó que ahí yace el cuerpo de un caballero Inglés, quien fuera una de las primeras personas que decidieron aventurarse a entrar a las grutas, llevando consigo a su perro… desafortunadamente el hombre resbaló y al caer sufrió múltiples fracturas y heridas que le hicieron imposible regresar. Su perro salió y caminó por dos kilómetros hasta el pueblo más cercano, buscando ayuda para su amo, pero nadie entendió su mensaje, lo creyeron enfermo o loco, así que el perro regresó solo con su amo y se quedó para morir con él, hasta que ambos murieron. Pude sentir el espíritu del perro en ese lugar sagrado.
Unos días después, visitamos la ciudad de Taxco, una de las primeras ciudades mineras del país. Ahí se encuentra una catedral tan hermosa como cualquiera de las más famosas que he visto en el mundo! este lugar me recordó mucho a Guanajuato, porque también está construido sobre montañas y también está lleno de Historia, compartiendo su origen minero. Hasta el logo que aparece en mi página web, es la foto de un prendedor en forma de una sirena que venía con sus aretes a juego, y en Taxco encontré exactamente la misma sirena en forma de dije! Ahora este dije vivirá en mi cuello. Le dejé a la dueña de la tienda donde la compré una de mis tarjetas y ella al verla fue muy feliz! Le pregunté si ella conocía al diseñador de esta imagen y me dijo que no, que no tenía autor, así que me ahora me siento muy aliviada de poder usar esta magnífica imagen sin problemas. Quien quiera que haya sido el autor… en donde te encuentres, quiero agradecerte por haber creado algo tan bello! Para mí no sólo es una imagen, es algo luminoso que me une con el espíritu del misterio de las sirenas.
El último Lunes me hicieron una entrevista para TV Azteca, y aunque sólo poseo una copia de muy baja calidad, se las comparto esperando que la disfruten.
Mañana en la mañana partiré hacia Costa Rica, donde espero que pueda cumplir mi séptima y última travesía a nado. Empezaré mi estadía en casa de mi querida amiga Lidia Lobo, donde pasé mis últimos días al final de mi sexta travesía a nado el año pasado. Hasta ahorita he completado 6,420 km incluyendo mi última travesía
en Baja California.
Cada momento de cada día, mi corazón abraza a mi amado Silvan, y todo lo que hago es en honor a él. La última imagen es mi foto favorita de él, muestra su dulce espíritu y su inocencia.
Jorge a mi izquierda y nuestra querida amiga Rocío, que conozco desde hace 20 años.
Mi querida amiga Cecy, subiendo al Cerro del Tepozteco en Tepoztlán, Morelos, México.
La pirámide del Tepozteco.
La vista desde arriba de la pirámide.
Entre las montañas!!!
En la entrada de las Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, Guerrero, México.
En la entrada de las Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, Guerrero, México.
In the hands of the Great Goddess.
Inside of Mother Earth.
Taking a picture of the picture taker! n_n
The river calls me to swim!
I just couldn´t refuse the invitation!
En las puertas de la Catedral de Santa Prisca en la Ciudad de Taxco, Guerrero, México.
Fachada frontal del Templo de Santa Prisca. Esta catedral se terminó de construir en 1758 y durante 50 años fue el edificio más alto en México.
Entrando a la Catedral de Santa Prisca.
El altar mayor es de estilo barroco-churrigueresco, realizado en madera cubierta de oro.
Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro.
The Goddess in all Her forms.
El Domo de la Catedral de Santa Prisca.
En las maravillosas calles de Taxco.
Una hermosa ciudad, un hermoso día!
Vista desde arriba del museo Casa Borda.
Como en Río de Janeiro, en Taxco también hay un Cristo Redentor arriba de las montañas!
Uno de los miles de hermosos balcones en Taxco!
Les calles empedradas me encantaron!
Mi foto favorita de mi amado hijo Silvan.
December 23, 2013
Dear friends and family of the sea,
I wish you all a festive season, especially today on the winter solstice.
May peace and the spirit of Christmas and Hanukkah and Divali and Kwanzaa surround you wherever you are?
Right now I have been waiting for over two and a half hours for a ride back to my base in La Paz, and so have some time to write to you all.
I just found out that the ride fell apart all together, and I have another hour to get on the bus back to La Paz.
I had the pleasure of having the company of my dear new friend Giacomo for a sum total of 39 days. It was wonderful having him by my side, during the 13 camping swimming days around the two Big Islands he took care of everything to do with base camp, and always had a good meal all ready as soon as I arrived back after my exhausting 8 hour swim days.
Shortly after he left, I followed up an invitation to stay in the little town of Los Barriles while looking for boat support there.
Monday, 23rd of December, 2013
Well, that ride never showed up, so I went back to home base in La Paz with public transit. My dear sponsor of the little apartment I can use whenever I am in La Paz, Joaquin Beltran Quibrera, gave me a ride from the bus station back to the apartment.
I had had three days of sponsored boat support offered in the Los Barriles area, but only one of those three actually worked out.
To my great surprise, the boat support offered by a well-known local hotel, Spa Buenavista, fell through simply because the boat captain never bothered to show up. I had cancelled a school visit to make this possible, and was incredibly disappointed to find so little accountability on the part of this boat captain. I was terribly disappointed, and the hotel unfortunately did not offer an alternative day to fulfill its promise to me.
The night before, I gave a talk at the hotel and I am glad I did not advertise the sponsorship before it had actually happened. I have learned, through numerous bitter experiences, never to promote a business for an offer of sponsor ship until after it s actually taken place.
I have been used before for “greenwashing” and thus have given free advertising for businesses or government through free press coverage and then found myself totally stranded, never receiving the offered sponsorship. Now I always do my ” thank you’s ” after the fact!
Later today I will be picked up by my very favorite boat captain in Mexico, Jorge.
His family has invited to me for Christmas, and I even get to swim another day or two.
Christmas is a very difficult time for me now. It is overshadowed by a great sadness and not having Silvan with me any longer. I miss my older son also, he lives in the Northeastern United States and is just recovering from a major motor vehicle accident. I could not even be by his side during his surgery to mend his lower left orbital bone which was fractured in the accident, because of thousands of cancelled flights due to major snowstorms in the northeastern United States.
Through the wonderful modern medium of viber, we have been able to talk for hours every single day at no charge to either him or me.
I am so glad to have access to these communications modalities that make it possible for people to connect who live thousands of miles apart without going bankrupt.
If you, the reader, want to talk with me, just download the app viber and we can talk also!
It does get very lonely on these tourneys!
I wish you all really beautiful connections and being with your family and loved ones in these days of Christmas and New Year. May you all be blessed with the gift of true love and heartfelt companionship and may the spirit of loved ones who have already passed away be with you especially strongly during these days.
Renate Herberger MA
Tel. En México: 01152 1 624 8558
“Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
December 9, 2013
December 8th 2014
Dear Friends and family of the Sea,
just a few hours ago Giacomo and I returned from the swim around Isla Espiritu Santo. If you want to read the latest article about my swim, just click on this link: http://peninsulardigital.com/deportes/vuelve-la-sirena-aguas-sudcalifornianas/135060
I was supposed to swim 8 hours today as usual, but right after we departed from our beautiful camp spot that you can admire in the photos when you click just above, the boat started taking on water. By that I mean, the water gushing in! This was a somewhat terrifying state of affairs since we had all our gear on board ready to return to La Paz tonight. I attempted to call a May-Day several times over the marine radio on the emergency channel 16 but nobody replied, most likely because the other boaters were all still asleep. It was 7.45 am by this time. It was clear that our boat was no longer navigable and another solution had to be found very quickly. Eduardo, our boat captain, attempted to get a local fisherman to help us, but he still was asleep also or at least not responding. I suggested approaching a beautiful big yacht and when we came alongside, two men greeted us. They were willing to tow the boat and allow us both to ride in their gorgeous yacht as well as our gear. Eduardo had to keep bailing out the boat to keep it from sinking. The whole trip took almost 4 hours and riding on the yacht was quite enjoyable.
Sadly, I missed this day of swimming which would have included another visit to the sea lion rookery on Los Islotes islands and I had really wanted Giacomo to have a chance to swim with these curious and loving creatures.
Lucky for me, I had chosen a very calm day to swim with the sea lions, especially their young, and you will enjoy many photos I took while I swam with them. They’re so curious and constantly want to interact with you. One moment, one juvenile is nibbling on your mask, the next moment another one is nibbling your arms or legs or even gently biting your hands just to find out who and what you are.
They will even look you right in the eye centimeters away and there’s something in that communication that can soothe a lonely human soul. I have often thought it would be wonderful to bring depressed people to swim with these bundles of joy and curiosity and good will.
Unfortunately some of them show signs of human interference, like pieces of nets attached to their jaw or scars from the packaging of six packs, but only if someone was kind enough to cut it off before they die from slow suffocation.
As you can see in the photos, the landscape around Isla Espiritu Santo is absolutely luminous and our camp site is simply spectacular. There is even an ancient well there that can be reached in a short 10 minute walk and reminded me of Antoine De Saint Exupery’s well in The Little Prince right at the end of that story. Since Antoine and the little prince are almost dying of thirst, finding the well has profound meaning for them.
Bathing in this well, every evening at the end of my swim day, was a truly magical experience, especially since I was usually there during sunset and could watch it while I poured sweet water over my head.
We had created an elaborate contract for the boat owner who provided the service for the swim, so called Cachano, and realized too late that he had not fulfilled many of the details.
I was wondering about the two jugs that were supposed to contain our drinking water. They looked like old gasoline containers and when we finally smelled them before actually drinking any of it, we realized that indeed they had been used for storing solvents! You will see photos of these containers in the attached pictures also.
I was totally shocked by this lack of caring and we had to ask for emergency water supplies by the Park’s Department “CONANP”. Thankfully they were able to help us out since they had a crew on the Island.
Our boat also did not have a tide schedule on board which was a serious problem because at low tide we could not approach our campsite.
Safely back on land now, I find I miss the magic Island so much and even though a real bed is more comfortable than sleeping in a little tent, I would much rather wake up to a sky filled with immeasurable stars and the milky way right above.
Tomorrow I will give a presentation to the staff of the parks department, CONANP, their building is literally across the street from where I’m staying!
The director of the Islands in protected status, Nancy Citlali, has offered me to accompany their crew to another island further North, Isla San Jose. If one of the fishermen whose phone number she gave me is able to give me boat support, they would pick me up again after a week when they return for their weekly visit to the island and vigilance there. I look forward to getting to know yet another of the luminous islands in the Sea of Cortez.
The spirit of my son Silvan is always with me when I swim and interact with the vast wildlife with which this sea is blessed.
December 2, 2013
Dear Friends and family of the Sea,
just yesterday Giacomo and I came back from the second segment of the swim which lasted for 8 days. The swim around Isla Cerralvo which is today called isla Jacques Cousteau lasted 6 days and was luminous with live corals. Somehow this magical island seems to have managed to escape the fate of most of the other corals in the world that are in dire straights with up to 20% dead world wide.
I only saw what appeared to be perhaps 5% decline, some of it due to an invasive algae.
It is astonishing that the waters around this isolated island are not protected, and I plan to go to the parks department tomorrow “CONANP” (Comision de Areas Naturales Protegidas) and to find out more, and what I can do to help move this process along, be it through the media and various teaching channels. Spending so many days swimming across corals also gave me the desire to find a way to volunteer to remove the invasive algae. These are a problem world wide that requires people caring enough to remove them, just like we get volunteers to remove Scotch Broom in Canada.
My boat support, Jorge from Bahia de Los Muertos, was incredibly dedicated and goodnatured and it was a joy to have him there. It was such a luxury to have all my meals prepared by Giacomo who even did all the dishes! I think I got quite spoiled. Most evenings Jorge was able to catch a fish or two so this complemented our spaghetti dinners very nicely, especially “la bomba”.
Jorge wrapped the fish filet with asparagus, green peppers and butter into aluminum foil which was then put on top of a grill over fire.
We were lucky that this was asparagus harvesting season and that his daughter happens to work in one of the farms. What a treat!
As always, I make everybody get up at 5 am sharp while it is still pitch black night.
Then breakfast is ready by 5.30 am, for me that means mostly left over dinner. By 6 am I’m usually on the boat with the boat captain to go to wherever I finished swimming the day before and by 6.30 I’m getting ready to jump in the water after taking a GPS reading of my location and annotating location, date and time.
Right now it is quite cold in the mornings and I get on the boat dressed in several layers of fleece and a water proof jacket on top of it. It takes a certain amount of self persuasion to take all these clothes off at 6.30 am right at sunrise to jump into a not exactly warm sea where I will spend the next 8 hours uninterrupted. So far I have not had to use neoprene everyday but that is likely to change in the next few days. The water temperature is dropping about half a degree every day. Thankfully I have a nice thermos cup with hot Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar that makes all the difference to give a sense of heat from the inside.
While we were camping at the same place on Isla Jacques Cousteau, which lasted for 5 nights, for security reasons Giacomo stayed there during the day while I swim, to guard our gear and enjoy this magnificent lonely island. It was so lovely coming back to dinner made!
The last 2 nights we stayed at Jorge’s home because he was afraid to spend any more nights on the island because he said word would get around that there were foreigners on the island and that the possibility of theft became higher every day. There had been, some years ago, a couple of armed robberies on the island, something I find impossible to imagine given its remote location, but I guess pirates can happen anywhere and anytime.
Jorge’s family took us in like we belonged and treated us with so much love and kindness. The two adult sons even surrendered their beds to us and slept in the home of other relatives in the village.
There was a rehearsal of a Mexican band the first night we were there and I was asked to sing. Of course I didn’t know any of the songs they knew but I just sang harmony since the melodies are not that complicated. The audience was appreciative and made me feel very welcome. I was not expecting to be taken in by a whole village since in my prior experience with boat captains I usually did not get to know their families.
So Jorge turned out to be much more than a boat support and I hope to work with him again in the future and to remain connected to his beautiful wife and two young adult sons and a daughter.
He also gave me some idea of the reality of fishing in that area and I became aware that when I employ a local fisherman to accompany me on my swims, I’m making a valuable contribution to the economy of that family. His daughter earned one twelfth per day of what I paid him! Even though boats are expensive to keep because engines break down, Jorge made more than a hundred dollars every day he worked for me, more than I’ve ever made in a day. He does not know how to write, and with my Master’s degree I’ve never been able to earn that kind of money. However I would not be able to find any boat support if I offered any less than 150 dollars a day.
So far I have had to self finance the swim and I’m in desperate need of financial sponsorship. If any of you readers can help me, please make contact!
I had a beautiful encounter with a nurse shark at the northern end of the island. Every time I see a shark I feel so blessed to be in the presence of a being that has a 400 million year history and has survived 5 mass extinctions pretty well unchanged. They are such majestic beautiful beings, truly awe inspiring! 12 species of sharks are on the Endangered List because of shark finning, and just yesterday I found shark cartilage products in a health food store…health for whom?
Because of the immense numbers of corals, I was also blessed with countless fish along my way, in the most brilliant colors. I really felt like I was swimming in a gigantic aquarium!
I would love to bring people who want to experience a truly alive coral queendom to swim here for a week – this might even become a fundraiser for future swims!
Having Giacomo as my assistant brings into acute awareness how much I had wanted my son Silvan to accompany me on my swims and how this will never be possible now. I miss him so much. He is on my mind every moment of the day.
I love to see Giacomo’s smile when he asks me if I’m hungry which of course I’m all the time! He loves food as much as I do and we have real feasts. I know I will be really sad when he leaves, and look forward to visiting him this summer with my son Taaniel in Italy and hope to welcome him into my home in the near future. This is certainly the first time Couchsurfing has worked out like this! As Giacomo’s writing this, he couldn’t resist opening a batch of cookies.
Jorge’s wife, Cielo, had prepared the most delicious carrot-zucchini-cake to take on the swim and I discovered that in my breaks every 30 minutes Giacomo could hand feed me slices of this cake with me still in the water!
Here’s the recipe:
mix 3 eggs with a cup of sugar and a cup of vegetable oil;
add 2 cups of flour and a tea spoon of vanilla extract and 3 shredded small zucchinis and 3 shredded small carrots;
mix well together, butter and flour a baking pan;
put in the oven at 300° F and bake for 1 hour.
Enjoy while swimming!
Giacomo tells me that Italian culture is very food focused and I have certainly enjoyed this aspect of being taken care of.
Tomorrow I’m back in the classroom in my favorite school, Rosendo Robles, where I’ve taught on many other days and can see that the seeds have sprouted. A recycling program is well under way, which doesn’t sound like much in Canada, but is a big deal in Mexico. The principal, Joel Abaroa, hosted me for 18 nights in 2010 at his home so I had become part of his family also, and he’s always really happy for me to return to his school. He still has last year’s poster on the wall which features me as a mermaid in an imaginative collage for the fundraiser for A.I.C.C.M.A.R. (Asociacion de Investigacion y Conservacion de Mamiferos Marinos y su Habitat).
It is getting late, which means after 8 pm here, given our early start! It is so wonderful to have this cozy apartment for the duration of the swim as a sponsorship by my dear friend Joaquin Beltran Quibrera who I first met in 1994 and re-met by miracle in a crowd of 10,000 people in 2010 in La Paz when René Mey came to speak.
Please enjoy the pictures that I’m adding of the corals and an amazing sea lion that swam right up into my face!
November 21, 2013
Dear Friends and Family of the Sea,
just an hour ago I finally found boat support for the most exciting part of the journey, the swim around the luminous island Jacques Cousteau and then following the coast all the way to Cabo Pulmo.
Part of that swim involves crossing over the most spectacular coral canyons I have ever seen. It does require really calm weather to see them as they are very close to a rocky shore and in big waves I cannot swim close enough to see them.
I just hope they have not been affected by the same losses as all the other places I have returned to and where corals have steadily died off.
I’m really looking forward to spending the next week in wilderness. Camping on the island is isolated and in storms can be quite scary because you cannot leave the island if the waves are too big. The crossing to the mainland takes an hour and cannot be managed in wild waves. My helper Giacomo will assist throughout this part of the swim since he has found out he does not get sea sick after all. I look forward to a different version of spaghetti every night! It would be lovely to catch one fish a day for some much needed protein since taking any kind of animal protein in heat all day would not be safe.
Today I went back to the first ever school I taught in La Paz. It is the primary school Rosendo Robles and I could not believe the welcome I received. It was so beautiful to have so many students come up to me and give me big hugs and smiles and remember so much about what I taught them. It is the first school on my journey so far that actually is recycling. The message has gotten through! Or at least that part of the message. I will be returning several more times to this school since it is such a fertile ground for my work.
The Principal Joel Abaroa, who was my host for 18 days in 2010, has always been really welcoming and supportive of my teaching. Whenever I’m in his classroom I know why I’m doing the work I’m doing. Today we did theater so the children learn how to be activists in their own backyard. In small teams, I had them take the roles of a restaurant owner who sells shark fin soup – believe it or not, this is sold in La Paz! – and the customers who decide not to stay in the restaurant once they find out. It was really interesting to watch them take turns explaining to the owner why they could not patronize his restaurant any longer until he had removed the shark fin soup from the menu. While the kids had a lot of fun and laughed a lot, they also learned how to use every moment as a teaching moment!
Yesterday I taught in a very upscale and expensive high school and was astonished to see that they had no recycling and sold the same junk food in the same huge amount of packaging as all the other schools here. However, I was able to spend an hour speaking with the Principal there and show him online some of the worst images of the great pacific garbage patches.
I can only hope that this was enough to inspire him to make some changes at that school. We really cannot think of this as a fashion that has passed – some of the schools have explained to me that they did that before, meaning recycling, but not any longer, as if it was just a passing fad.
I hope that you the reader always carry your beautiful permanent cup wherever you go and have your favorite beverage filled into it at your favorite cafe.
I’m always so shocked when even in Victoria I see so many people use disposable cups when they have a drink away from home. Our beautiful and illimitable Planet Earth Sea deserves our Love and Respect and Consideration. She is our Mother after all!
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
November 19, 2013
dear friends and family of the sea,
given my tendonitis in both my upper arms, I wish I could write these blogs more regularly, but unless I can find someone who’s willing to type them, it is just too painful.
my Samsung Android smartphone is no longer able to receive or send emails, so this is complicating things quite a bit also.
thankfully, this tendonitis has not affected my capacity to swim eight or more hours a day!
no doctor has been able to explain to me why it is so painful to type, but such a relief to swim which involves large muscle movements.
I’ve had the good fortune to find a wonderful boat support in the San Jose del Cabo area, which has made it possible for me to cover the entire route I was hoping to swim in this area.
through the wonderful couch surfing international website, I was approached by a young Italian man named Giacomo and who has no host it to me for over 2 weeks in a lovely round Palapa high on a hill where late in the night one can even hear the roaring of the ocean!
right now I am getting ready to leave for La Paz
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
November 18, 2013
November 17th 2014
Dear Friends and family of the sea,
given my tendonitis in both my upper arms, I wish I could write these blogs more regularly, but unless I can find someone who is willing to type them, it’s just too painful. My Samsung Android Smartphone is no longer able to receive or send emails, so this is complicating things quite a bit also. It is not even receiving or sending ordinary cell phone text messages!
Thankfully, this tendonitis has not effected my capacity to swim 8 or more hours a day!
No doctor has been able to explain to me why it is so painful to type, but it is such a relief to swim which involves large muscle movements.
I’ve had the good fortune to find wonderful boat support in the San Jose del Cabo area, Pablo Pino Garcia, which has made it possible for me to cover the entire route I was hoping to swim in this area, from Cabo Pulmo to Los Arcos in Cabo San Lucas.
Through the wonderful couchsurfing international website, I was approached by a young Italian man named Giacomo who has hosted me now for over two weeks in a lovely round Palapa high on a hill where late in the night one can even hear the roaring of the ocean.
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
November 18th 2014
It is now one day later, and Giacomo and I have arrived in the lovely little apartment that Joaquin Beltran Quibrera has kindly made available to me once again for the second year. It is so wonderful to have a place to stay without a deadline!
Giacomo has kindly agreed to be my scribe for this blog and I’m so glad that he is able and willing not only to type for me, but also to volunteer to accompany me for the swim around Isla Espiritu Santo and do everything that needs to be done that is in his power to do so. Particularly this means making wonderful Italian meals! Ever since I had the good fortune of being his guest, he has without a word taken over cooking functions. I’m really pleased with this because I think he’s a better cook than me and we are both happier this way. Having him around has been a little bit like having a son with me since he’s the same age as my older son. I value his philosophical insights and have learned a great deal from him and hope he’s also benefited greatly from the relationship.
Yesterday we had a ride to come here from San Jose del Cabo with Carla Sanchez and her cousin Erika, both of who wanted to experience swimming with whale sharks.
Carla Sanchez is the director of Asupmatoma, an organization to protect sea turtles and to educate the public about the need to conserve their habitat. They have a beautiful property by the ocean, Rancho Cristobal, where they allow the eggs to incubate in a fenced in area to protect them from thieves and predators, and where they have staff living and working.
Last Sunday, November 10th , we were at the annual Festival de la Tortuga to which I was invited to give a presentation. It was a beautiful event with many different exhibitions and foods and at the end of the day the liberation of thousands of baby turtles.
The law in Mexico has changed recently, and for the first time since this festival began, the visitors can no longer hold the baby turtles in their hands to release them onto the sand. This was a great disappointment for the children especially since this is why most of the hundreds of people come to the festival. I imagine next year there will be a lot less people. The reason why it is now prohibited is because bacteria like escherichia coli can be transferred from human hands to baby turtles and lessen their chances of survival, which are already slim.
There is something magical when you hold a tiny baby turtle in your hand.
You’re holding in your hand the essence of hope, and the essence of your own dreams for the future. Only one out of a thousand baby turtles lives to adulthood, and perhaps even less come back to the beach where they were born to continue the cycle of life and give birth to their eggs in exactly the same location where they themselves rose from the ground.
It connects us humans with the ancient history and rhythms of our mother planet. Something happens when you set this tiny being onto the sand and watch it waddle towards the water. Everything inside you leans into this baby turtle, joining in its desire to go home which is also your desire to reenter a mystical home that is still in the ocean. Deep down we all know that we come from the ocean, it is something that our cells remember and that drives tears to our eyes when a baby turtle reaches the water’s edge and is taken in by the lip of the nearest wave. It is a moment so moving to all of us who watch this because we feel this maternal embrace in our very heart. We yearn for this embrace all our lives, sometimes trying to assuage this hunger through drugs or extreme activities and addictions. And yet there we are, watching tiny turtles single mindedly approach their true home, and part of us goes home with them.
This is always a very personal moment for me, because I have been able to live this dream. Part of the year the Ocean Mother becomes my home and this hunger is stilled. My swims are always oriented towards listening to the words and the music of the Ocean Mother, Yemaya, la Sirena, Jemanja, Mami Wata, and the many other names by which She is known.
On my second swim day a mother humpback whale and her newborn baby crossed my path and I had an opportunity to swim beside both of them for a while. Both the mother and the baby spent some time looking me in the eye. When a whale looks you in the eye you realize that this being can look right through you and know you in a way that no human can. Everything inside you becomes still as you are seen, perhaps for the very first time, for exactly who you are. A miraculous being sharing a miraculous planet and crossing each others’ path in a miraculous way. Those are the transformative moments we all dream of and I feel very grateful that on that wonderful day I had an opportunity to see and be seen by a majestic being of the ocean.
Yesterday’s swim with whale sharks had moments like this also. Towards the end of the day, I found myself alone with a large juvenile male whale shark, approximately five meters in length, that shared a precious and generous moment in time letting me accompany him. Everyone else had gone back to the boat, and I simply followed wherever this beautiful creature led.
It is so difficult to imagine how it is possible for people to eat the flesh of these magnificent oceanic wanderers, or slice off their fins for the international shark fin trade.
Once you have felt the depth of connection and love towards another being that is so unlike you and yet moves you like nothing else can, it is not possible to pretend that what happens to life in the ocean does not affect you.
In my classes in so many schools I try to engender compassion for the amazing variety of oceanic life that is suffering so hard because of us humans. I would like to take everybody into the water to give them a chance to open their heart to one of the ocean’s miraculous beings even if it is just a little sea slug named nudibranch.
Tomorrow morning I will accompany Chris, my La Paz host Joaquin Beltran Quibrera’s grandson, to school and hope to be able to give classes all day in all the different levels of that high school. It was so exiting to see Joaquin witness for the first time in his seventy five years a whale shark from within the sea. It is so different from watching wild life from the boat, there is such an intimacy when you are mere centimeters from the largest fish in all the oceans and know that you will not be hurt, that this is one of the gentlest creatures that has ever graced our magical Mother Ocean.
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
Novenber 4, 2013
Dear friends and family of the sea
For the first time in 7 years of a marine activist expeditions, I managed to have a press conference within less than 24 hrs of arriving in San Jose del Cabo. That very same evening, the interview was aired on national TV, Meganoticias http://cabovision.tv/-/, and the following day it appeared in the newspaper Peninsular Digital an on line newspaper http://peninsulardigital.com/deportes/una-sirena-en-los-cabos/132883. I’m really pleased how quickly I was able to reach the media and begin to spread the message of the Sea of Cortez as a marine protected area that only allows artisanal but no longer industrial fishing and shrimping especially bottom dragging. The day after my interview I began teaching in schools. My first school contact was a boy who happened to sit next to me when I had my first press conference in public park. This student walked me to his school where I immediately set up a schedule to begin to make presentations to this middle school. I will be going back to this school tomorrow and probably several other days this week, and on Friday I will go to La Paz. So far I have not been able to find boat support in this area despite of promises. However in the La Paz area I have excellent boat support for the first 6 days of the swim and another 6 day that will take me to the world heritage site Cabo Pulmo. Yesterday we had a nice little hurricane with many things blowing about and the roof leaking. Never been in a tropical hurricane before so it was quite an experience. Today it is beautiful and bright sunshine as if nothing had happened yesterday. Last night was an incredible sunset with the sky painted all colours of the spectrum including green and the black clouds receding in the background over the ocean. Pure magic.
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
September 10, 2013
Dear friends and family of the sea and land,
It has taken me a while to find the space to write to you all.
The swim on August 5th was the most difficult swim I have done so far, in large part due to weather that had 15 knot winds against me and made swimming extremely trying. I’ve never experienced this degree of storminess in the middle of summer and was totally unprepared for it. Unfortunately there was a communication gap as I did not receive an email until after the swim that warned me of these strong winds that would make the swim difficult in the direction I had chosen.
In our modern computer age, so many of us assume communications actually reach the other person, but this is not certain unless there is a reply. Especially in the world of texting, unless the other person is always within reach of their phone and reception, the assumption that a text is instantly read is often false. In the old fashioned phone calls at least people can talk back and forth to each other.
For the first time in my “mermaid” career, I had to change directions mid stream. After struggling several hours into strong counter currents and winds, I realized that the kayaks were getting swamped with white caps and therefore the safety of my support crew was at risk. The best solution I could figure out in the moment was to swim to Mill Bay ferry dock instead of the Brentwood Bay ferry dock. This made for a 6 hour swim instead of the 10 hours it took me last year to complete the swim, but the water was much colder this year and I didn’t mind a shortened swim!
It was a huge relief once this decision was made because all of a sudden we were going with the winds and with the waves and with the currents. The struggle ended and we were all happier! My support crew was Hebecca Montoril and her life partner in a double kayak, as well as Philip Thompson in a single kayak. Both kayaks were sponsored by Pacifica Paddle Sports owner Peter Harris. This was the third time that he offered several kayaks at no charge, and I am really grateful for his continued support.
The media coverage primarily consisted of an FM radio station that carried the story numerous times for several days. This year’s swim was dedicated to suicide awareness, in particular the plight of suicide survivor mothers who not only face the unbearable grief of losing a child in this way, but also have to deal with enormous stigma, prejudice and ostracism. It is sadly not all that rare for a mother to follow her child into suicide, and this is in part due to the absolute lack of support for grieving mothers. Just very recently a support group was started in Victoria that meets once a month ( http://need2.ca/our-services/support-for-suicide-loss-support-group/ ) there is also such a group in Nanaimo that meets once a month ( http://www.vicrisis.ca/suicide-bereavement-support-group/) and also very recently such a group was begun in Duncan ( http://cowichanvalleyhospice.org/index.html ). I have attended all three groups, and it is not enough. People in AA can have meetings every single day of the week and all hours of the day or evening, and I have had to drive almost three hours to Nanaimo when it was the only group available throughout my first year of grief! It certainly has been the loneliest year and a half of my life and if I did not have my deep relationship with the ocean I might not have made it either!
I had really hoped to engage the First Nations communities along the swim and was unable to connect with any of the bands. Unfortunately, in spite of countless messages I left no one returned my calls. However, Bernice Smith ( https://www.facebook.com/Miss.BRSmith ) who was one of the three runners involved in the Heliset Hale Island length marathon for suicide awareness, got in her canoe and tried to find me. Sadly, we never crossed paths even though she tried to find us even when we had changed directions, but it feels good to know that she was out there sending positive energy my way and paddling hard to cross paths with me and encourage me! Perhaps next year, with her help, we can coordinate the swim to include First Nations paddlers and swimmers since the date is already set now so there is an entire year to prepare for this!
In the middle of July, during an evening swim in North Saanich, a new born baby seal pursued me all the way to the shore, crying all the while. It would swim right into my arms where I attempted to hold it just to have it slip out again and moments later slip back into my arms. This happened many times and clearly the seal was trying to engage me. I noticed there was an umbilicus still attached, so I thought the baby could not be more than a couple of days old and had lost her mother. I realized this required professional help, and engaged the owners of the nearest property to activate a marine mammal rescue. Half an hour later, the tiny baby seal was taken away to Saltspring Island to the seal rescue. Even though they do not allow visitors, I decided to have a visit over there and just hoped they would allow me to see “my baby”. After waiting for an hour, I finally got to see her! You will enjoy the attached pictures! Her name is Bora and she apparently would not have survived the night if I had not been able to get help for her. She was less than half the weight she should have been, and even several weeks later was still only at half the weight expected for her age. I fell in love with her madly and hope to see her when she is returned to the sea. It felt so good to know that I was able to save her life and therefore all future generations that will spring from her!
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
May 16, 2013
Dear friends and family of the sea,
I am writing this from my home in Deep Cove on Vancouver Island, where I have the good fortune to have my helper Faith Thurrott type for me. I have been home now for 2 weeks and a half, and I apologize for not having sent regular blogs in the last while. This year I did not have offers of assistance in typing in the latter part of my swim and doing everything alone without assistance felt rather overwhelming this year. Having finished my 6th swim along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, I will return one last time next year to fulfill my obligation of 7 Pacific coast swims. This is an inner obligation coming from insights gained on the island of Cano during my second swim, where I had incredibly powerful revelations regarding my needed contributions to the ocean’s welfare in Costa Rica.
Unfortunately, this year I did not have the good fortune of meeting the pilot whales again, as I was hoping, of course. In fact, throughout the journey I kept imagining, especially on days when I felt near to despair about the lack of wildlife I would see them again when I would be swimming through the area I had seen them in last year. This is in the bay of Santa Elena, fairly close to the Nicaraguan Border in the northernmost part of the country. This bay had been such a delight to swim in because of the pilot whales, and also because until last year it was populated by the most beautiful coral fields in all of Costa Rica, miles of orange elegant corals. When I arrived this year to admire them, I found out that all of them, to my great shock, had died. It is very difficult to describe what this feels like to a lover of the ocean. Swimming across miles of brilliant alive corals gives a feeling of grace and joy. Having experienced this in several prior swims, and now finding that everything that has created this outrageous sense of inner beauty is gone, feels like a light inside also goes out.
This is happening all over the world, in all of the oceans. It is only when you have experienced the bright and extraordinary radiance of live corals, and then see all of this extinguished, that you can grasp the magnitude of the ecosystem collapses that are happening in all our seas. We really don’t have a whole lot of time to save what can be saved. I’m feeling such a sense of urgency, and we just cannot afford to be complacent any longer. I have now talked to almost 20,000 students in three countries, and can only hope that my message is getting through. Our hope really is in the youth, because they are the ones that have to live with the consequences of the last 50 years of unconscionable oceanic destruction.
Everything is connected, and every action on land also effects the oceans. This year, when I talked in the countless schools where I did my presentations to students of all ages, from kindergarten to grade 12 as well as to some parent groups, I emphasized the necessity of growing food organically in school yards and home backyards.
Costa Rica is the worlds largest per capita user of agricultural chemicals including artificial fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorus and potassium. This means per capita 51.2kg per year! The next highest user is Columbia with 18 kg per capita per year. Costa Rica has 4 million inhabitants, so 51.2kg multiplied by 4 million inhabitants comes to 204.8 million kg of agricultural chemicals that eventually make their way into water ways. That means eventually it ends up in the ocean like everything else.
Last year’s red tide that lasted in certain locations for up to 5 months and was seen all the way from Columbia to Mexico, with the worst damage in Costa Rica, was a sign of oceanic cancer. It is the main reason that my beloved coral fields in the bay of Santa Elena have died. Corals can manage up to 5 days of obscure waters where sunlight cannot reach them, but after that they go into a speedy decline. Corals really are two creatures, the coral polyp and the zooxanthellae, a tiny algae that lives in a symbiotic relationship with the polyp. This zooxanthellae feeds the polyp through photosynthesis which requires sunlight reaching it. When it is unable to do so because the waters are opaque, after a few days the polyp gets stressed out enough to kick out its house guest, the zooxanthellae. However it cannot live long without its house guest, and coral bleaching sets in soon after. Unless another zooxanthellae moves in, the polyp is doomed. It is fairly rare for another zooxanthellae to move in and so whole coral reefs die with such massive red tides. Especially agricultural fertilizers like nitrogen contribute nutrient to an already warming ocean, a perfect breeding ground for the red algae. So choosing to grow your food organically makes a very big contribution to the health of the oceans.
When we here in Canada buy pineapple from Costa Rica which is one of the main producers internationally of commercial pineapple, we indirectly contribute to the worsening of the health of the Costa Rican Oceans. I hope all the readers of this blog will only buy organically grown tropical fruits along with local produce. Its not just better for your own health and the health of the farmer, but the health of the oceans everywhere.
I have found on my 6th swim I have seen less wildlife than ever before. This also reflects a global ocean reality. 90% of the big fish are gone, and 12 shark species are on the endangered list. I wish I could say I had an exciting encounter with sharks in Costa Rica, but I’m afraid I didn’t even see one this year. The only sharks I saw this year were in the marine sanctuaries of Cabo Pulmo in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.
Unlike Cabo Pulmo which is very protected through regular checks by the authorities, Costa Rica does not really vigilate any of its marine sanctuaries properly. This takes prioritizing when making a budget, and unfortunately it has not ever been on the priority list of the Costa Rican government. I have far too often heard fishermen who customarily fish in the marine protected areas say that no one ever comes to check up on them. They do not receive sufficient education to understand what is at stake when they do not leave marine protected areas alone. They also don’t understand that they would benefit fishing outside of the marine protected areas, because fish don’t recognize boundaries and will also be found outside.
World wide, we really have to hurry up to designate a third of the oceans as protected areas where sea life can recuperate from our massive assault. All my swims are dedicated to this cause, and it is becoming more urgent than ever to educate people to the reasons behind needing them so desperately. We as a species absolutely depend on the oceans for our very survival.
I am wondering if the massive increase of adolescent depression has something to do with the suffering of our natural world. In the last decade, suicide has increased worldwide by 250%. Could it be that ultra sensitive young people on top of all the stresses modern life subjects them to, pick up with an inner radar the destruction of so many species and the pain of our mother earth? I can certainly say for myself that the last day of my swim, witnessing the end of a coral magic garden created a profound inner sadness in me. Throughout the journey, every moment of every day, I missed my beautiful son Silvan. Last year’s gift of the pilot whales helped me in my grieving journey, and missing the whales also created more longing to see them again somewhere, sometime. It is so important to keep hope alive!
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
Mar 4, 2013
Dear friends and family of the sea,
Queridos amigas y amigos del mar y de la tierra, en este momento estoy en la oficina Montezuma Travels y tengo la suerte de tener a Laura quien me está ayudando a escribir este blog, ella es Orientadora en el CTP Paquera. Estamos organizando una visita a este colegio para los y las jóvenes, con la temática “Autoestima y prevención de suicidio”.
Desde el 26 llegue a Montezuma, estoy patrocinada por Ninoska Gómez en su estudio de los Almendros, ambas compartimos la misma profesión de Danza Terapia. Es la primera vez que encuentro una danza terapeuta en Costa Rica, donde me hospedo tengo el privilegio de contar con un estudio para compartir la Danza.
Anoche fuimos cinco mujeres compartiendo unas horas el movimiento autentico ¡Algo que nunca me hubiera podido imaginar en Costa Rica!
Esta noche yo voy a dar una clase de Danza Terapia con la temática “Mar adentro” para las mujeres que residen en las cabinas.
Por falta de lancha de apoyo – problema que tengo en muchas zonas, porque mi presupuesto es humilde, quienes manejan este transporte lo hacen por dinero de por medio solamente, – Ayer nade de Cabuya a Montezuma sin compañía, observe el comienzo de una gran marea roja, es posible que pase lo mismo del año pasado.
Una marea roja así no es normal, como un resfrió humano debería durar solo 4 o 5 días, si dura 4 o 5 meses seria un cáncer, pasa lo mismo con la marea.
En mis clases en las escuelas rurales, intento enseñar a los y las jóvenes que en cada acción hay repercusión, esta repercusión siempre va llegar al mar. No hay ninguna acción que no tenga repercusión adentro del mar. La elección de salir de la casa con una botella o vaso permanente tiene como beneficio no utilizar vasos o botellas desechables, ya que de 100 botellas de plástico solamente 1 mundialmente es reciclada como el resto llega muy probablemente a los grandes giros pacíficos de los cuales 1 es el tamaño de África. Estas cosas son invisibles cuando se vota en un basura, pero cuando se da la consciencia, no es el fin cuando se hecha en el basurero, se dan miles de años de contaminación.
Este año estoy dando aun más clases del año pasado en más escuelas y con mucho más urgencia. No me gusta nadar en marea roja, pero la marea roja habla duramente con su olor horrible, su color oscuro, si no hacemos cambios rápidamente es posible que va a empeorar la salud del mar que ya de hecho está mal. Se ha formado una nueva palabra “ecocidio”, que significa la destrucción de lo que nos rodea, es decir nuestro ambiente.
Ayer me regresaron (RIDE) de las clases de la escuela de Montezuma la mamá de una estudiante apasionada que ya había enseñado a su madre algunos de los cambio que le había sugerido, cuando escucho algo así siento esperanza por los y las jóvenes que enseñan a sus padres como activistas.
Telefono en México: 01152 612 149 53 96
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
Jan 14, 2013
Dear friends and family of the sea,
it has been a long while since you have all heard from me.
I am writing from Costa Rica, where I arrived on January second and started the swim on January fourth. The Mexico swim was in cold water, and required a big wet suit. Since I swim up to 8 hours a day, swimming in a wetsuit is quite awkward and far more tiring than just swimming in lycra. There was a phenomenal amount of media coverage on the Mexico swim, which you can access on the Facebook page of the organization for who I fundraised. AICMMARH.ac
It was a sacrifice for me to consider a swim in cold water that went on for a full 13 days, but well worth it. It gave the organization a high profile through all the publicity, and will help to get the Marine Mammal rescue center started. I have spent the last 8 nights at the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, and this included the day on which I received the worst news of my life. We had a little prayer circle with the hotel owners on the same evening. It was a very simple Universal ceremony, and soothed me a little bit. As a way of saying thank you for 8 nights sponsored including all the meals, I have been offering WATSU water therapy sessions for any staff member that wanted one. It was beautiful to watch the cook and the waiter and the laundry workers relax as I moved and them gently across and around the pool. It is a pool filled with ocean water, so doing these water therapy sessions is even more meaningful in an environment like that, overlooking the ocean. This is the only hotel I have ever been sponsored by that allows staff into the pool, so it has been wonderful to be able to give these tips in the form of real healing.
On the first day of the swim in this area, I had a truly life threatening experience, which has changed some of the ways in which I conduct my swims. The boat owner had sent out his boat and captain with insufficient gas. We were adrift for 6 hours before help miraculously arrived, both the boat captain and I were afraid for our lives, since we knew very well what would happen if no help arrived. The boat had no safety features like radio or a long anchor line or GPS or flashlight. The Canadian Coast Guard would be horrified. It s made this area difficult for me to find boat support in, since the story got around and caused a lot of upset in many people.
I have managed to access boats that take people on long hikes in the National Park Corcovado, and while the tourists are hiking for 5 or 6 hours I have been able to swim in both directions from the bases. these boats are much better equipped in general since they are associated with hotels who must take care of their international tourists. This way, I have more security, too! I also mean that my budget will last longer, since it is significantly less than last year. However, there are many zones along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica where this is not a possibility, and I am dealing with increased prices due to increased gas costs.
In my next base I will be staying with a school principal in whose school I talked last year.
She is organizing a workshop for teachers while I am staying with her the following week.
It is this late at night right now, and the sounds of the jungle are making me very sleepy. I am sad this will be my last night here; it is a place with such profound memories and grief.
May you all have a beautiful day or night wherever you are; I send you a warm tropical hug from this beautiful and mystical country Costa Rica.
Telefono en México: 01152 612 149 53 96
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
Dec 13, 2012
Dec 12, 2012
Join us tomorrow morning, Sunday the 16th of December, 2012, at 9am for our opening ceremony and star of the 250 Km swim at Muelle Fiscal, also called Muelle Turístico on the Malecon.Renate Herberger, MA. will begin her swim at 10 am. The endpoint of that day is playa Balandra. The purpose of the swim is a Fundraiser for the conservation and rescue or marine mammals, trhrough the work of the NGO AICMMARH,A.C. (Research and Conservation or Marine Mammals and their Habitat)
Dra. Rocío Marcín Medina
Asociación de Investigación y Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos y su Hábitat
Nov 28, 2012
dear friends and family of the sea,
last weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at a conference on environmental ducation in La Paz, Baja, Mexico. it was an amazing opportunity to meet some truly wonderful people who are all involved in environmental education. my presentation was very well received, especially, because it involved singing together and a number of other activities, and it was not only an intellectual presentation.
During the first morning lecture, an amazingly powerful activist was sitting next to me who is looking for funds to start the first ever marine mammal rescue center in LaPaz, Baja, Mexico. We are right now in the process of organizing a fundraising swim that will cover approximately 300 kilometers of the Baja coast. I am truly thrilled about this opportunity to be of service to this very worthwhile and noble organization, and the volunteer spirit of the director and her husband have touched my heart. the name of the organization is AICMMARH, and for me, this is a dream come true.
For 5 years now, I have been waiting for an opportunity just like this, so I can do a fundraiser that hopefully will really make a big difference to the organization that in exchange for my help works on my logistics with me and help with the actual cost of the swim itself.
We are all working really hard right now to make this happen, and the swim is scheduled to begin on December 15th. Even though I desperately want to start this swim right now, it is well worth the wait, because this cause is very, very important to me and to all the marine mammals that need our help and rescue and healing. After all, the reason that they are hurt is usually caused by humans, as in boating accidents, where propellers hit a marine mammal, or as in fishing accidents. so often, marine mammals are caught in fishing nets and terribly injured and often die this way. the rescue center will also work with turtles, marine birds, and any other small animals that are injured and need their help. the last 2 mornings, I have trained a young man in better swimming technique in very fast ocean water. Of course, I swim every single day, just not in the actual consecutive swims until we actually have our funding in place and the press conference and the myriad other details that will make this swim a great success.
On my last day in Cabo Pulmo, four beautiful big bull sharks approached me, and I took this as a blessing and wonderful opportunity to be greeted by my favorite creatures of the sea. of course, I have many favorite creatures of the sea, and since Rocio, the director of AICMMARH, is Mexico’s only dolphin behavior specialist and known throughout Mexico for her amazing work and activism in protecting marine mammals I am so very excited to be having an opportunity to learn more about dolphins during the swim. Hopefully, she will accompany me throughout the swim and will be taking many notes on the creatures we will encounter along the swim route.
Today is the 11th full moon since my son Silvan left us, and my heart is heavy with his loss.
I so wish I could have saved him. To have an opportunity to help to save creatures of the sea is a great honor for me, especially under these circumstances!
Telefono en México: 01152 612 149 53 96
www.costaricamermaid.net “Swimming for Marine Sanctuaries”
Nov 16, 2012
Dear friends and family of the sea,
I am now in Cabo Pulmo, exploring the world famous coral reef quoted by Jacques Cousteau to be “the aquarium of the world”. Here, I have so far swum, with the generous support of Cabo Pulmo Dive Center, one day and approximately 20km, after being sick the first few days after my arrival here.
In the reserve itself, marine life has increased by 463% since fishing was banned in 1999. This is the proof that we all need to listen to; when you designate true no take-zones, i.e. pure marine sanctuaries without any extractive activities, these are results that can be expected. This fight is worth it and it is what I have dedicated the rest of my life to. To see it here in action in the community of 250 residents, where everyone is involved in one way or another in conservation and eco tourism, is very inspiring.
This tiny community with considerable international help, including Greenpeace Mexico was able to defy the Goliath of Cabo Cortez, a massive development project that would have brought 4km north of the precious coral reef, a 30 000 unit condo development that would compete in size with tourist destinations like Cabo San Lucas. It would have also included several golf courses and a desalination plant that would most likely have spelled the end of the coral reef within a few years time, due to the change of salinity and temperature of the water that is returned to the sea.
I left Canada on November 11th, Remembrance Day, a day that for me carries very bitter memories.
Last year on that day, I took my son Silvan to the emergency room at Victoria General Hospital to gain more information on a biopsy he had had a few days before. We found out that this first biopsy showed suspicious cells, with the suspicion for a malignancy, i.e. the possibility of breast cancer. This day changed both our lives forever.
Both of us were scheduled to leave on November 14th on our respective tours, he on a Capoeira tour of Northern British Columbia for one month. I was scheduled to leave on a five month swim tour beginning here in the Baja Peninsula, then in January moving to Costa Rica. Obviously, both of us had to cancel everything in order to deal with this cancer scare.
Being here now is extremely poignant since Silvan is no longer with us, and a part of me still cannot quite believe this.
I am staying once again with Avery Hanes, and his mother Chris, who are now running Cabo Pulmo Water Sports. They have asked me to design an Open Water Swim Clinic that we are hoping to put on December 8-12th. I would love to share why I do these swims and how I manage to accomplish such outrageous milages, with the local community and anyone else who would care to participate.
On November 22nd I will begin the swim around Isla Espiritu Santo, with my wonderful volunteer from two years ago, Flavio Lau. He has since survived two bouts of testicular cancer and I am so glad he is still alive. We will be together for six days, and I hope to have good press coverage.
Today I initiated a new fundraiser for the filming of a documentary by Jennifer Pickford who produced and filmed Eco Warriors. This we hope to spread to major film festivals worldwide, however funding is still greatly needed since this years funding will barely cover my boat support for 33 days at the rate of 150USD/day.
Last night I had the opportunity to sleep under the stars on the flat roof of the home where I am so generously hosted. Ever so humble, I was astonished by the lack of light pollution, giving me the freedom to clear my mind and take in the miracle of the brilliant night sky, knowing that so many stars we see have long ago ceased to exist.
Every time I opened my eyes and looked up, I could see Silvan’s beautiful and dearly missed face in every brightly lit star.
Oct. 28, 2012
Dear friends and family of the sea and land,
Last night all of us on Vancouver Island were made very aware of the fragility of our coast as we received Tsunami warnings. As a marine activist, I’m acutely aware what would happen if indeed a major Tsunami had struck and we had oil supertankers plowing our coast – in that case, even today we might be looking at the largest oil spill in our history. It is imperative that we give our coast marine protection status to avoid just such a disaster.
The swims I have now done for 5 seasons have been effective tools to raise awareness about our interconnectedness with the sea. I have been able to speak to over 14000 young people in 3 countries and have covered over 5000 kilometers in the actual swims, which included 5 swims along the Costa Rican Pacific Coast, 2 swims along the Baja Peninsula and one swim around the island of Barbados.
It is now time to once again resume my life as a mermaid. On November 14th, I return to the Baja Peninsula for my third swim along that coast, to be followed by the 6th Costa Rican coastal swim. This will give me an opportunity to return to some of the schools I have visited in past years as well as go to schools I have never had an opportunity to work in. The marine awareness work is more urgent than ever, especially in the face of increasing environmental disasters. Costa Rica had a major earthquake on September 5th and there are still many homeless people as a result of that. I keep in touch with some of my students who are already preparing for my return.
As always, I am appealing for your support. All my work is volunteer and I have been very fortunate in having received so much private support over the years, both financial and in kind. In five years of swims and altogether 20 months abroad, I have only had to pay for four nights of accommodations, every other night was covered by direct sponsorship by the hotels that hosted me. I am incredibly grateful for all the support I have received so far. Without you all, I could not do this work!
Thank you in advance for your offers of support, know that it is immensely appreciated and will help to bring public awareness to the plight of our oceans, as well as to the many students in whose classrooms I will share my knowledge about the urgency of marine sanctuaries. My hope is that especially with the young peoples’ help, many more marine sanctuaries will be established worldwide.
Aug. 24, 2012
Dear friends of the sea,
On August 5, I repeated last year’s swim along the Saanich Inlet. It was again in conjunction with Dogwood Initiative, to help in their No Tankers campaign. I dedicated this year’s swim to the memory of my dearly beloved son Silvan who was my main kayak support last year. I found it much harder going this year without his loving support, even though I had five wonderful people supporting me on kayaks. Dogwood Initiative sent a couple who were absolutely marvelous, and a member of a local Deep Cove organization came along in his own kayak. A young couple I had just met the day before also chose to come along, and I was really thrilled to see so much support! Members of the Tsartlip First Nation came to drum me into the water.
I was barely in the water when I saw a beautiful dog shark below me. It was such a graceful creature, and I have only very rarely seen dog sharks while swimming. I was amazed at the number of jellyfish I saw – some of them truly huge, especially Lion’s Mane, but also some fried egg jellyfish. Over the last years I have seen an astounding increase in the jelly fish population in the Saanich Inlet. It is the same the world over, jellyfish have increased astronomically in all the world’s oceans while fish populations crash. Unless we change our fishing practices worldwide, we’re looking at a lot of jelly fish dishes in the future!
This year, the swim took 10 hours, 1 hour longer than last year, probably because I swam into Pat Bay trying to avoid counter currents. It was a perfect day, brilliantly sunny and when I arrived at Chalet Beach, there was Rose Henry again with her drum, waiting for me at the shore and playing her drum until I had fully arrived. It was a wonderful feeling to feel so welcome, and I did not feel exhausted at all.
I was so acutely aware of the absence of my beloved son, who last year had paddled ahead in order to run to the nearest store to buy me flowers! The nearest store is about 3 km away, so after 9 hours of kayaking that is quite an athletic feat. I will never forgets his glorious smile as he handed me those flowers, feeling so proud of his mom. I could not have imagined in my remotest nightmare that he would only have less than five months to live. Part of me still does not believe it. I see him in every baby seal that approaches me, in the glittering of the water with the sun shining on it, in the beating of the wings of every bird. As I am writing this, a tiny little bird has flown into my house, up into the sky light, a beautiful aerial messenger of my child’s soul.
May 9, 2012
Dear friends and family of the sea and earth,
A few days ago I arrived back home in Canada to a phenomenal burst of spring flowers and the final peak of my beloved Easter lilies, a rare and protected wildflower on Vancouver Island. I probably have more of these incredibly beautiful flowers on my land than I have ever seen anywhere else, probably due to the fact that my land has never had any chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides applied to it in the pursuit of agriculture.
The one place on earth that I do have control over is my beautiful 3.17 acre Deep Cove Forest Sanctuary. It is a true haven for wildlife and home to many eagles, owls, deer, and countless other creatures who find refuge here. While this is a mature forest and does not have much light for planting vegetables, my agricultural neighbors are glad that I provide them with wonderful air and the many other ecosystems benefits of a mature forest.
However, coming back here and not finding my son Silvan i very lonely, and I was afraid of coming back for that reason. His primary school friend Nadia comes to stay with me often and this has become a second home for her, a place where we both can heal.
On my last swim day in Costa Rica I had an extraordinary experience that I could not have even dreamed of in my remotest fantasy. It was a wild and stormy day and so my boat support captain decided that it would be safer to swim the inside of a couple of bays instead of the exposed Northern Coast. I myself actually really like to swim in wild weather but have to let the boat captains make the final decision since there is more risk to their boat than to me for swimming in high waves. All it would take is an engine failure and the boat would likely be smashed on the rocks! This actually happened last year to a boat captain I worked with for 3 days – a few weeks later, he lost his boat in a storm and barely survived swimming 5 hours to the nearest shore!
As I followed the inside of Playa Blanca, the Northern bay of Peninsula Santa Elena, I wondered about the amazing sounds that I heard while swimming very high pitched and melodious. I looked around for dolphins but could not see any at surface or in the water. This sounding went on for over three hours and I had no idea who was gracing me with this beautiful healing sound bath. For the first time since my son’s passing, I actually felt connected to the here and now in a full sense, even though I had no idea where all this music emerged from.
After finishing swimming the inside of Playa Blanca, the captain insisted on driving me to the next major bay since he didn’t trust the weather nor his engine that would occasionally cut out, something truly dangerous in this wild weather! As soon as I was back in the water at the mouth of Bahia Santa Elena, a large group of pilot whales swam straight for me, terrifying the boat captain but delighting me. Before I knew it, a dozen or more very large pilot whales surrounded me to take a good look and perhaps continue the healing work with which they had already graced me all morning. I was astonished since I had never had an encounter with so many whales at the same time.
All afternoon, the whales came and went diving under and over me and I’m told they absolutely never enter this bay. There was one young male pilot whale in particular that took a great interest in me and kept returning. He was easy to recognize since he had peculiar markings across his back, possibly from a bad encounter with a boat propeller. He would look me straight into my eyes and then move in a way that I interpreted as an invitation to mirror his movements. He seemed delighted whenever I dove a little bit and spun around and then he would mirror my movements. I felt I was living inside a fairy tale on that day and my body was able to feel true happiness for the first time since losing my son. These highly intelligent beings can pick up vibrations and energy fields from us and I have no doubt that they felt my grief and wanted to help me.
Out of all this I feel a strong obligation to pick up their cause since pilot whales are still hunted in the Faroe Islands in Northern Denmark and many of you will have seen images of their slaughtered bodies lined up on the beach by the hundreds. Maybe this was their call for me to get in the water with them in Denmark and thus attempt to save their lives? I certainly never for a second felt any fear while surrounded by these magnificent 4 or 5 meter long beings, and came very close to contact. At the last moment, when the young male approached clearly intending contact, I gently moved my hand towards him to create a little bit of space since I had no idea what contact might entail. It was terribly tempting to see what would happen, but I considered it wiser to learn more about pilot whales before engaging in full body contact. I had noticed that one of them always swam with his mouth open and his teeth did look rather big and sharp!
A day like that is what many of us who work on behalf of the oceans dream of all our lives, and I consider it miraculous to have had this experience at a time of such immense grief. The worst of it seems to have been lifted by my pilot whale healers and the night after them seeking me out I had my first real night’s sleep. The three months prior I had survived on 4 hours of sleep a night and had arrived at a point of absolute exhaustion. Being able to sleep better again is a great blessing that I thank my pilot whale family for!
On that day I actually reached the 5000 km marker. In my 5 expeditions I have therefore averaged approximately 1000 km per year, and I hope to maintain this kind of mileage in future years.
On this journey, I had the opportunity to talk to thousands of school children, bringing the sum total of young people I spoke with in schools over the five expeditions to approximately 14,000. In one particular village, Matapalo in Guanacaste, I had the marvelous experience of knowing that the seeds cast will bear fruit. Spontaneously I had asked the students to create a mini play about pirate fishing, poor vigilance, and proper vigilance to protect marine sanctuaries. I noticed that a young girl – this was grade 6 – had moved from the back row to the front row and was listening raptly to everything I said.
She took over and organized the little play, and at the end approached me with a plan to do a proper screenplay and asked when she could perform it with her group for me and others. I did not think I would be in the area long enough for her to create something cohesive in the way of Guerilla theatre, and wondered if she really had the capacity to even pull this off.
Three days later she called me on my cell phone and told me she had everything organized and where could she meet me to show me her work. I told her it just so happened that a documentary was being filmed about me and if they came that afternoon there might be a small chance that they could be featured within the documentary. She organized a bus for the 14 of them to come to my hotel where the film crew was filming me and showed up punctually with their teacher and props. The hotel guests were delighted to be witness to this impromptu performance and it turned out that the documentary does feature them for a few moments!
Maria Jose, the young student with such initiative, even brought her entire family to the airport for my departure on April 26th, bringing gifts from everyone in her family. She’s a brilliant student and I hope to bring her here to Canada for a couple of weeks in the summer. Since she does not have a passport or a Visa, this may be more difficult to engineer than I imagine!
It gives me great hope to realize there are people like her in the world who are truly committed to saving the oceans. It makes all my work worthwhile knowing that this work will be continued even when I can no longer do it.
My organizer Silvia Obando and I are already scheduling next year’s swim in Costa Rica. I feel that I have a mandate to do this swim and attendant teaching work for 7 consecutive years, so there are 2 left. I only hope that I won’t have to battle my way through Red Tide next year since it was truly heart breaking to see the extent of damage it had done over thousands of miles of Pacific coast in the last five months. People told me they saw it in Mexico with many dead fish along the beaches, I even heard reports that it extended all the way to California. I wonder if the mass deaths of beached dolphins and pelicans in Peru is in any way connected to this? Or is the primary culprit military sonar? It seems the oceans are displaying ever greater signs of distress and it is up to us to clean up our act. There really isn’t a whole lot of time left to do this and so the time is right now for everyone of us to modify our lifestyle to give our oceanic brothers and sisters a break so that they may live, too!
April 5, 2012
Dear friends and family of the Sea, and lands near and far,
Over the last few days, since I have arrived in Potrero, near Flamingo, Guanacaste, I have seen and felt the despair that is an extensive red tide. The red tide here has already lasted almost four months, and has caused tremendous damage to wild life, as well as tourism. I’m experiencing first-hand the illness of the ocean that should have everybody shaking in their boots.
Just like it is normal for human beings to have a cold three or four days a year, it is normal for the oceans to have red tides for a few days a year. If a human being was suffering from an extensive flu for four months, this person would end up in a hospital, because most likely it would have extended into pneumonia over that stretch of time. The ocean needs some serious medical care, and is not getting it. Costa Rica uses more agrochemicals – pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers – than any other nation in the world per hectare. This is one of the principal causes of red tides, or dinoflagellates, or the technical name, Cocholodinium SP. Global warming is a major player in this also since increased ocean temperature favors the growth of the dinoflagellates. Storms also contribute and there have been unusual and unseasonal storms in the north of the country.
To swim in this black bean soup is a very alienating experience, since you can’t see the hand in front of your face, and when you look down, there isn’t that beautiful mystical blue that accompanies an open ocean swim but you are staring at an absorbing blackness. It is very hard on the spirit, and after several days of this, I’m starting to consider swimming the Caribbean coast instead for the remainder of my time here.
For me, this would be easy to do, but what about all the fish that are dying, and cannot swim across the Panama canal to make it to the Caribbean sea where apparently there is no red tide? Paralytic shellfish poisoning, gymnodinum catenatum, kills fish by reducing oxygen in the water and clogging fishes gills, causing them to suffocate. The fish who are able to, disappear and move elsewhere when the red tide moves in.
Please read those articles for more information on the red tide phenomenon along the Pacific coast of Central America, especially Costa Rica.
I could not have ever imagined when I started these swims in 2008 that I would one day have to spend days swimming through marine mucus the color of fecal matter and smelling like that. It is depressing and heartbreaking to feel the agony of the sea that has been so wronged by us humans. We are starting to pay a very bitter price for centuries of abuse.
The question is: is there still time for the oceans to heal? I sense that unless we collectively and immediately make changes, especially in regards to agricultural techniques, i.e. more organic agriculture and less chemical agriculture, and a drastic reduction in the use of fossil fuels, our time may very well run out. The time to act is right now.
My time in Quepos was spent mostly teaching in the schools and even though I was not able to get sufficient boat support in the area, I was able to reach out to thousands of children with an urgent message towards healing the oceans.
Tonight there will be a TV program at 9pm, Repretel, Channel 11, called “Historias”, with a long interview with me in and out of the water. I hope some of you may watch it, and I will try to publish it on this website shortly.
Yesterday, I was accompanied by the Coastguard (Guardacostas) and got to see them doing good work while beach patrolling. They took a person to shore where an ambulance could take him to the hospital. He had a severe injury from sea urchins’ spines.
Last night was the first major thunder and lightning storm of the rainy season, and it was splendid to watch.
I wish you all a Happy Easter and Passover season!
Mermaid greetings, Renate
March 19, 2012
Dear Friends of the Sea,
Once again I have the good fortune to have someone type for me. Kim Ampie who works at the Call Center at the Hotel Parador not only is typing this email but has also transfered my entire phone list one by one into an electronic format so I can never lose all my contacts should I ever lose the phone. There were over 700 contacts she typed out one by one and it took her many hours!! I am amazed by the generosity this Hotel has extended towards me and especially this lovely young woman who is volunteering her time for me. She has a blog www.kimyuworld.blogspot.com if you would like to find out more about her!
Today is once again a teaching day, and It will be my third day teaching in this area. I have come up with a new schedule for myself and now teach alternating days to my swim days. This way I can cover a lot more ground in marine education and conservation and I am very very passionate about teaching young children. Our hope lies with them if we are to have any chance at all at healing our oceans.
One month later my hand is still terribly scarred from the jellyfish that wrapped itself around my left hand and it has taken a lot of medication to get it even to were it is now . I am very grateful for the invention of antihistamines! On my last swim day, last Thursday, I managed to swim around all the islands of Manuel Antonio Park in big heaving waters that had me dizzy for many hours after. The rocky islands that define the edge of the park are a marvel of wildlife since it is a marine protected area. I am surprised that in spite of that I saw numerous sport fishing boats clearly having hooks in the water, sometimes worrying me because I swam close enough to consider their hooks as a menace to me also. So this marine protected area is clearly not a total “no take” zone!
Personally I am much in favor of no take zones, and large ones at that. To give fish stocks a chance to recover you have to actually leave them alone, for a very very long time. If we did on land what we do in the oceans we would never be able to harvest anything after a couple of years. The oceans experience massive clear cuts up to seven time a year in the same area, through dragging, mostly used for shrimp. I invite everybody who reads this to consider not eating shrimp that comes from draggers or Asian shrimp farms. If you are Jewish then this is not a problem because it is not kosher to eat shrimp anyway!
It is time to get ready for school and have breakfast!!
March 14, 2012
Queridos Amigos del mar y de la tierra,
El día de hoy llegue a Manuel Antonio, donde me recibió el personal del Hotel Parador. En el momento de mi llegada me recibieron: Don Diego Gonzalez (Vicepresidente del Hotel), Don Jorge Rodriguez (Gerente General) , Silvia Hernández (Gerente de Servicio al cliente) Jake Molina (Gerente de Operaciones), María Araya (Gerente de Recursos Humanos), Shirley Guevara (Asistente de servicio al cliente), y Erick Quesada (Gerente de Alimentos y Bebidas). Estoy recibiendo la ayuda de la señorita Shirley, para digitar este blog. Nunca en mi vida he sido recibida de una manera tan formal y al mismo tiempo tan calurosa! Me sentí como una reina y este lugar es increíblemente bello y especial. Me siento con mucha suerte que el hotel me invitó por 7 noches con todas las amenidades incluidas. Mi habitación es muy espaciosa, confortable y relajante que casi no tuve ganas de levantarme para ir a cenar.
Antier tuve otra vez la oportunidad de nadar con una ballena jorobada y su bebé. Estos momentos son tan preciosos y raros que personalmente me sorprende muchísimo que es mi tercer encuentro en pocos días, dentro del mar con esta especie de animales. Estos momentos cuando las aguas malas me queman la piel, siento mucho dolor….. pero al final vale la pena porque la recompensa es el encuentro con las ballenas!
Ayer tuve la invitación de enseñar en una escuela muy pequeñita con solamente 11 estudiantes, en un pueblo llamado San Josecito. Debe ser la Escuela más bella del mundo porque esta ubicada en una cima del monte donde se aprecia la impresionante vista de la cola de la ballena de Punta Uvita. La Directora y la única educadora, Esther lleva 9 años enseñando en la escuela ha formado los estudiantes más aplicados y curiosos del país, hasta donde sé. El día de ayer me sentí como en el cielo dando lecciones y compartiendo experiencias muy variadas, los niños participaron plenamente, con mucho entusiasmo. Esta escuela es un ejemplo de como crear una verdadera comunidad de aprendizaje. Esther me solicitó un taller para todos los maestros de la zona, debido a que ella valoró mucho mi estilo de enseñanza interactivo.
El día de mañana espero compartir nuevas experiencias con varias escuelas de Quepos y empleados del Hotel Parador Resort & Spa.
Saludos desde este impresionante paraíso, Renate
March 10, 2012
Queridos amigos y amigas del mar y de la tierra,
Tengo la suerte de que Pamela Ugalde, estudiante y practicante en el Hotel Cuna del Ángel, me esta escribiendo este blog. En estos momentos estoy patrocinada por el Hotel Cuna del Angel por 7 noches, incluso los mas maravillosos desayunos imaginables, y llamadas locales en el cuarto, en donde no tengo senal en el celular. Hoy es el primer dia en toda la travesía, en que tengo tiempo para escribir y atender a las cosas que normalmente no se pueden hacer por falta de tiempo, debido al horario.
Ayer nade desde Punta Uvita hasta Punto Dominical, un trayecto entre 25 y 30 kilometros, tuve que evitar todo el dia las masas de aguas malas y medusas, que estan aumentando por todo el pais como en todo el mundo. No solo esto, las picaduras de las aguas malas son mas venenosas que anteriormente. Ya son 11 dias que estoy sufriendo de unas quemaduras de una medusa, y tuve que tomar antihistaminicos cada noche para prevenir que se empeore. Ya habia sido picada varias veces, pero nunca habia durado dos semanas en curarme. Creo que voy a tener cicatrices muy obvias y todavia duele.
Los cambios climaticos se hacen mas y mas obvios en el mar. En el Golfo de Nicoya hay una marea roja desde hace 2 meses, por razones de alta temperatura del agua, tormentas del Pacifico y mas y mas fertilizantes agricolas como nitratos y fosfatos, que favorece el crecimiento de la marea roja. Esto no solamente es terrible para la vida marina que se muere en masa, pero tambien para el turismo, porque nadie quiere nadar en aguas sucias, mal olientes y llena de algas peligrosas para la salud. Mucha gente reacciona con alergias en la piel, o problemas de los pulmones.
Hoy voy a encontrar a mi gran amiga y colega Nidia Lobo que en una travesia anterior me preste su celular durante 3 meses, un gesto de enorme generosidad y comienzo de una gran amistad. Ella tambien comparte conmigo la gran tristeza de perder mi hijo tan recientemente. Espero poder llorar en sus brazos esta tarde y aliviarme un poquito de un luto demasiado opresivo. El mar me esta apoyando con su agua salada mezclando mis lagrimas con las suyas. El mar tambien esta sufriendo mucho, perdiendo sus hijos uno por uno, con la extincion de especie tras especie. Espero que mis clases en las escuelas puedan animar a los jovenes a entender con compacion que el mar ocupa el apoyo de cada uno, y que cada accion de cada uno de ellos puede acelerar la curacion del mar, o detenerla.
Ayer contaba 6 camaroneros arrastre en la bahia de Dominicalito. Estos barcos siempre son mal mantenidos, increiblemente feos y mal olientes y causan la muerte de tantos animales hasta un 98% que no son camarones. Esto dice que si usted pide un plato de camarones, que para cada 2 camarones invisiblemente estan en su plato otros 98 animales muertos. Yo intento convencer a la gente de no comer camarones hasta que ya no hayan camaroneros arrastres. La pesca industrial esta acabando nuestros mares, pero el consumidor tiene el poder de la plata. Si no hay compra no hay venta. Cada cosa que compramos es un voto en pro o en contra de la vida marina!
Tuve el chance de bucear en la isla del cano 2 veces, por invitacion de Jinetes de Osa y Cano Divers. Nos encontramos con muchos tiburones de aleta blanca y otros peces de enorme tamano. Tambien, lamentablemente esta creciendo un alga que esta matando los corales por todo el mundo. Todavia la vida marina alrededor de la isla del Cano es maravillosa y nos ensena que los santuarios marinos si funcionan. Ahora son 3 kilometros de proteccion alrededor de la isla y eso no es suficiente pero es mucho mas que nada.
Muchas gracias a toda la gente que esta leyendo estos blogs, espero saber de ustedes.
Saludos desde la sirena, Renate
March 2 2012
March 2 2012
Dear friends and family of the sea,
for the last few days I have been staying at Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, the same location I received the terrible news that had me fly back to Canada. It is an exquisitely beautiful place, surrounded by ocean and the wide open Drake Bay. The owners have treated me so beautifully and compassionately, sharing their own stories of grief with love and warmth.
Today I had the extraordinary good fortune to be accompanied for a while by a mother Humpback whale and her baby, something that has only happened to me once before in five years of swims. To witness the tenderness that the Humpback mother extends to her young is such a privilege!
Just a couple of days ago two dolphins joined me for a while with their joyful energy and boosted my own energy enormously. This swim has moved rather quickly due to wonderful currents, and tomorrow I will spend the entire day teaching at the local school. I love my teaching days since it gives me an opportunity to connect with the children and share my passion for the sea with them.
All the weight I had lost during the most intense mourning period has been gained back due to the wonderful cuisine at Drake Bay Wilderness Resort. I feel so lucky to be sponsored by this magical hotel!
Just before I came to Drake Bay, I was hosted by El Remanso Lodge on a huge wilderness refuge and got to teach several workshops in the area, including at Lapa Rios lodge, an incredibly beautiful location with views all the way to Panama. I have wanted to visit this place for years and am so pleased that I have now received an invitation to stay at some future time!
It looks like I will be staying at Drake Bay Resort until Tuesday, an incredibly generous offer since my next base, Bahia Ballena, is jam packed with 5,000 Americans for a big music festival and obviously there is no room for me until it´s over!
February 20, 2012
Dear friends and family everywhere,
Tomorrow I leave Canada for Costa Rica, exchanging cold and dreary weather for warm and balmy, soul restoring climate.
Adriana Domenech, the owner of El Remanso, has invited me for a four day stay at El Remanso, a rainforest retreat that I have wanted to visit ever since 2007. I am so pleased that Maureen Hackett, who I had my last dinner at Drake Bay Wilderness Resort with, introduced me to Adriana!
On the 27th of February I will return to Drake Bay Wilderness Resort to resume my swim and return to my life as a mermaid.
The weeks since my sons’ death have been the most excruciating of my life, with severe insomnia and many other physical symptoms to accompany the extreme grief I am going through. I know that the ocean will help me restore my deeply broken heart, though it might take a lifetime. My commitment to the ocean and the creation and expansion of marine sanctuaries is stronger than ever, since the tragedy I experienced reinforces for me the need to work on behalf of the oceans’ health.
Please contact me in Costa Rica at 011 506 8554 8266, ideally at 7pm in the evenings. Thank you to everyone in advance who is supporting this swim, especially Maureen Hackett who has sent me a very generous donation of $1000!
February 9, 2012
Dear friends and family far and near, in the sea and above ground and in the earth and in the heavens,
For the first time ever, I’ve had to interrupt a swim and come home early. On January 10 late at night while sleeping in my lovely room at the enormously beautiful Drake Bay Wilderness Resort, I received a phone call that ended life as I know it. My former husband informed me of the sudden and tragic death of our dearly beloved 23 year old son Silvan Herberger, something I could not have imagined in my remotest fantasy. I screamed until I had no voice left, and my dear neighbours in the room next to me came running, and remained with me throughout that terrible night. They booked my return flight, packed with me and held me while I howled at the full moon in disbelief that this could have happened. Sylvia Obando, who has helped and will continue to help with the organization of the swim, received me at the airport in San Jose and comforted me while I waited for my return flight.
I have not recovered from this shock and am not sure I ever will. To lose a child is the worst loss a human being can endure and the harshest test for a mother.
On January 5 I had begun the swim on an extremely auspicious sign: just after leaving Golfito Bay I noticed a family of pilot whales crossing in front of the boat that was taking me to Punta Burica at the Panama border where I planned to start the swim on that day. I asked the boat driver to stop in the hope that the pilot whales would stick around for a while and I could photograph them. Even though they moved away rather quickly, there was a lot of whale sounds coming from below the boat. It was loud and insistent, alternating between high clicks and deep sonorous cries. After listening to this for a while I had the distinct sense that I was being called, and put on my mask and snorkel and let myself fall into the water.
Underneath the boat, ramrod straight, a very big young male pilot whale was waiting for me and stared me straight in the eyes. I had never seen a whale in this position and it remained very still, looking at me all the while. Eventually, we started swimming together and after a while he slowly descended into the deep where I could no longer follow. It was one of the most unusual experiences I have ever had as a swimmer since this is not a position whales assume while under water. I was utterly enchanted and read it as a welcome home for the mermaid. Seeing this beautiful young whale made me so happy and the next few days of swimming were absolutely heavenly.
Just a few days later I realized that this was my son’s good-bye to me.
The night before my son’s passing was one of the most beautiful in my life – perhaps life wanted me to have this experience so I would be able to remember happiness in my darkest moments. My boat support driver had miscalculated the return time and so we ended up speeding through a glorious sunset and full moon rise in huge waves. I felt utterly safe with him racing through wave valleys, barely avoiding breaking waves and felt incredibly fortunate to be so close to the cauldron of life and the wild energy of Yemaya, the Mother of the seas. Little did I know what I would have to experience hours later…
It is now a full moon later and I have had to give last rites to my son. I still can’t believe it has all happened. The seas are calling me with all their might and the wonderful Costa Rican Pacific is tugging at my heart-strings. Most of my friends are urging me to go back and continue the swim as a legacy to my son, and as a way to start the healing journey. The sea has no limits to how many tears she can accept.
I plan to return to the swim within the next couple of weeks, as soon as I have received confirmation of good dates at Drake Bay Wilderness Resort.
Some very beautiful souls have helped me through the worst days of wild grief: my beloved oldest son Taaniel Herberger-Brown, my daughter in heart Jasmine Rose McKean, and Silvan’s childhood friend Nadia St Amand who never left my side for 7 days and nights. Good friends came and brought food, flowers and loving words throughout the first days and continue coming even now. Every day is a struggle, but I know that life must go on and that I owe it to Silvan to continue my life as a mermaid. I know his spirit will accompany me wherever I go. Some of his ashes will remain in my beloved Costa Rica.
For any of you who did not know this please feel free to call me anytime at 001 250 656 1312 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at 11120 Rosborough Rd.; North Saanich, BC; V8L 5M3; Canada. At a time like this, all contacts are welcome and needed, especially by anyone who has experienced the loss of a child. Thank you in advance for your compassion and sharing my grief with me.
In an ocean of tears, Renate.
January 2, 2012
Queridos Amigos y Amigas del Mar y de la Tierra.
Estoy escribiendo desde el Hotel Índigo de San Jose Costa Rica, donde estoy patrocinada por tres noches, un lugar lindisimo y tranquilo. Hoy en la tarde tuve la conferencia de prensa, aqui mismo, y ya deberia de verse las entrevistas de los canales a partir de mañana. La noche del año nuevo fui invitada a pasarlo con la familia de la camarera Magdalena del hotel las Orquídeas. Ella se dio cuenta que yo iba a pasar el año nuevo sola y ella se recordaba de mi instancia en el hotel las Orquídeas como mi ultima estadía en la travesía anterior. Ella se había encantado porque yo le regale una candela y ella se acuerda de mi cuando enciende la vela. Salio que hubo chance de rescatar una vida en esta noche del año nuevo como la prima de ella fue en pleno proceso de una trombosis. Yo la inyecte con mi anti-coagulante y yo espero que ya este en tratamiento para su enfermedad peligrosa.
Parece que voy a salir hacia Golfito el Miércoles después de una entrevista con Repretel y todavía no es cierto donde me voy a quedar a dormir por mi llegada tarde a Golfito. Soy feliz que me va acompañando en la lancha Don Francisco quien ya me había ayudado en tres travesías anteriores y le tengo mucha confianza. Ya no quiero esperar mucho para meterme en el mar como lo extraño muchísimo. El mar Costarricense tiene una magia enorme y nunca me hubiera podido imaginar hacer esta travesía de 1000 kilómetros hacer 5 veces año tras año!
December 29, 2011
Dear friends and family,
This is the first time in my life as a mermaid that I have had to postpone the beginning of my annual marine migration. This has been an extremely difficult choice to make but in the end our children must be more important than anything else.
Three days before I was scheduled to leave, my son had a bad biopsy result. There were suspicious cells, abnormal cells in his right breast. We all lived through some very scary times, and I saw that our Medical Health Care System can actually do the right thing. Just two weeks later, he had the growth in his chest removed, and thankfully it turned out to be benign!
I am beginning to use voice recognition and find it deletes almost everything I speak. This is my fourth attempt at writing this, and since typing is so painful due to tendinitis in my upper arms, I have to rely on other means of writing.
My Mexico swim had to be postponed until next fall. As it turns out, that young man who was going to accompany me with his boat along the Baja Coast, Flavio Lau, had a serious bout with cancer and could not have accompanied me anyway due to complications with his second chemotherapy. We are now planning for early next fall, and hope that everyone will be well recovered!
Just two days from now, I am leaving at the crack of dawn to go to Costa Rica. Thanks to a young volunteer, I will have some logistical support through her E mails and phone calls. We have been working on this for the last couple of months and I look forward to this fifth swim/ teaching tour along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica!
Today I spoke to the former first Lady Karen Olsen and received a very encouraging e-mail from Lynne Cox, the famous swimmer who wrote “Swimming to Antartica”. She has been supportive of my swims for the last four years, and I feel very honored to be her friend.
My volunteer helper for the Costa Rica swim, Silvia Obando, has just been offered a very good job, and this means that she can only help me in a limited way while she begins her new work. Alas, something like this has happened to me in every one of my swim journeys! It surely is an exercise in resourcefulness and never giving up!
So I wish you all a very happy New Year full of surprises and New Year’s resolutions that you will actually keep! My New Year’s resolution is to hang in there no matter what, because the oceans need me and I need them! One stroke at a time, one classroom at a time, engendering compassion and a new attitude towards our wonderful seas that need each one of us! May you be blessed with many miracles in this magical year 2012!
August 25, 2011
Dear Friends of the Sea,
On August 1, 2011, I decided to finally do a swim in our colder Nordic waters.
Through an acquaintance in Mexico I had been indirectly introduced to Indigo and her partner Geo Melville who now planned to come for a three day visit to my home. I wanted to spend the full day they had here with them and inquired what kind of an activity they might like to engage in. We settled on kayaking for the day and I found myself thinking that I would actually much rather be in the water than on top of the water. Thus the idea of a published swim was born late Monday evening. My visitors knew nothing of what was coming their way and I assumed they would be happy with an environmental action given that Geo was one of the first members of Greenpeace 30 years ago.
On Tuesday morning I called my friend and colleague Eric Swanson, the Corporate Campaigner for Dogwood Initiative, who I had volunteered for on and off for several years. Eric was immediately enthusiastic about partnering this swim with Dogwood Initiative’s “no tankers” campaign. I was extremely pleased to have Dogwood Initiative partner me on this swim since this is what I have been looking for during the last 4 years: a true partnership with a major environmental organization.
Amazingly enough the actual budget for this swim came in at zero dollars. Peter Harris, owner of Pacifica Paddle Sports, www.pacificapaddle.com, offered to supply the support kayaks and any money generated from renting kayaks to accompany the swim who were not official support kayaks. Peter had supported me on my prior big 6 month swim expedition with the gift of a wet suit and a dry bag and I was so pleased to engage him and his company in supporting this local swim.
There were really only three days to prepare for this swim and I immediately made contact with Judith Lavoie from Times Colonist and other media outlets. It was wonderful that Eric from Dogwood Initiative agreed to write a media advisory using their extensive media list. Also, the swim was published on their website and therefore made available to 11,000 readers. Guy Dauncey published the information on the swim on his extensive mailing list and so many people were informed of the details of the swim so they could be there for the send off and the arrival.
At the last minute my son Silvan Herberger came on board as a support kayaker. As a mother this pleased me immensely and having him by my side throughout the day made the swim so much easier. All the good parenting work paid off and it was lovely to hear from his mouth the kind of encouragements I had given him throughout his life!
The swim was supposed to begin at 9.00am at the Brentwood Bay ferry dock, but because of the many media present I spent a full hour doing interviews before I plunged into the ocean.
Dogwood Initiative sent representatives dressed as Mermaids and Jellyfish and I was glad to see that they were also interviewed extensively. The main issue we were addressing was the lack of protection of Saanich Inlet which should have received status as a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) years ago but progress on this has been painfully slow. There is risk of a massive development from Bamberton to Mill Bay. If this development were to go ahead there would be serious consequences to Saanich Inlet which has very little flushing capacity and is a store house of history, so much of which is still unexplored. Obviously, a nearby oil spill from a major tanker disaster would have terrible consequences for all life in and around Saanich Inlet.
The swim itself was a serene experience and I didn’t even see my support team for the first hour and 15 minutes. It had taken longer for them to get into the water than I anticipated and I probably should have waited for them to be right by my side from the get go. I was aware that I had limited hours to complete the swim and thus began before my team was ready. Thankfully, Ben from the Tsartlip First Nation happened to show up in his canoe just when I was really beginning to wonder if I would ever see a support boat! He accompanied me for about an hour and then informed Geo and Indigo who were paddling in the middle of the inlet nowhere near me, how to find me. I always follow shore lines because this gives me an opportunity to see what is below me and to pick up garbage along the way.
My friend Susan Clark, who lives at the halfway point of the swim journey kindly provided a rest stop for my support crew. First one kayak, then the other, took about an hour to stretch, go to the bathroom and have a few snacks that Susan had lovingly prepared. I looked longingly at her home but realized I had no time at all for a break if I wished to arrive at Chalet Beach at a reasonable hour. I don’t think my crew would have managed such a long day on the water without this rest stop. Thank you, Susan!
I was delighted to have a chance to swim with my other family that lives near her home on the rocks just outside Ardmore Bay. These seals have gotten to know me throughout the summer and now approach me very closely and on occasion make physical contact. To see them swimming below me is one of the greatest pleasures the Saanich Inlet offers to me and I am so grateful to have found this loving and lovely family in the water!
Crossing Pat Bay took real effort since by this time I was swimming against the current, tide, wind and wave. I think my son Silvan was feeling colder than I was since he did not have the benefit of neoprene padding! I am glad I had used as many layers as I did since 9 hours in the water would have been impossible without adequate neoprene protection.
Every half hour of the swim I was handed a glass of hot tea from the thermos, and the combination of my favorite tea, Earl Grey with lots of honey and milk, as well as the ingestion of a Lindor chocolate at every rest stop kept me swimming very happily. I do wish I could get Lindt to sponsor chocolates for me! All my long haul swims include at least one chocolate bar a day!
Rounding the corner into Chalet Beach was a truly magical experience since people all along Chalet/Deep Cove Bay were cheering me on and waving. I could see that there was quite a crowd at the beach awaiting my arrival and I relished the last moments in the sea, my true home.
The swim took a full 9 hours of uninterrupted swimming including my tea pauses in the water. It covered 19km according to Geo’s GPS and therefore is exactly the average I swim per day on the long haul swims. I could have easily done the same on the following day since there was very little fatigue resulting from the swim. My dear friend Laura Phoenix brought all kinds of delectable snacks to the beach where we had our supper and celebrated the successful swim.
Over the next few days, the swim was featured on A Channel TV, CHEK TV, CBC Radio Canada with Amanda King, two editions of the Times Colonist, two articles in the Peninsula News Review, and a full page feature article in Monday Magazine. Not bad for 3 days planning!
Now my energy is directed towards organizing my winter swims that likewise often come together at the last minute. I am hoping to inspire the kind of partnership I enjoyed with Dogwood Initiative on my long haul swims, and look forward to a major project with Dogwood Initiative next summer, possibly swimming the tanker route along Juan de Fuca Strait. That swim would probably require a dry suit since I am told that the temperature can fluctuate between 2 and 12 degrees Celsius!
Thank you to each and everyone who chose to give of themselves in this effort. The seas are worth it and need all of us to collaborate in the healing of not only the Saanich Inlet, but the global ocean.
Dear friends and family of the sea and land,
It has been one week today since my return to the northern Hemisphere – where I am enduring rain and unseasonable cold, clearly a result of global climate change, which is also the principal culprit of the loss of almost all of the corals along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica…
My dear friend Antelope is typing this blog for me and in spite of the poor chilly weather I am enjoying the first bulbs of spring outside her home, looking through her large glass door. The maple buds are of an extraordinary green, the type of brilliant color leaning towards yellow, which I have not seen in the tropics during the last six-months.
I am still astonished by the ease with which the swim around Barbados Island became manifest.
After struggles in Mexico and Costa Rica for five long months and experiencing many setbacks on both swims, the Barbados swim seems miraculous in the effortless way in which it all flowed.
On the morning after my arrival there, my friend and hostess Fran Woodcock introduced me to her neighbor Richard Farmer who fed us the most delicious Barbados fish soup for lunch and promised to make a phone call or two to see if he could help organize a swim around the island. The following day I received a phone call from a fisherman friend of his named named Richard Thomas who expressed interest in supporting my attempt. Apparently no one had ever been successful in a swim around the island!
When I asked Richard how much he would charge for his time supporting the swim, he said he would only charge for fuel expenses. This surprised me greatly since in my prior experiences, fishermen are not well known for volunteer work. As it turns out, the swim took a full five days, since it was 98 km in length. It required me to change my airplane ticket to accomplish the swim.
Fran accommodated me as her house guest for the full 2 weeks, which also gave me a chance to spend many hours, day and night, to teach her 9 year old daughter Mackenzie how to be a mermaid!
Richard Thomas taught me what it is like to have truly committed boat support, and he displayed profound kindness towards me as an athlete, activist and dreamer. Never have I felt so well taken care of by a boat captain. I trusted him implicitly with all the decisions; with the swim route, the best times, days and swim directions.
Not only did he take charge of seeing the swim through to completion, he also found the fuel sponsorship for four of the five days of swim time, the Marine Trust. He also arranged my media interviews, took me to two schools and was an integral part of the classes I taught at both of these schools to hundreds of students. This level of participation in the totality of the swims which serve as a vehicle to educate young people and the general public about our current crisis in the global ocean and ways to help in the healing of the seas through the establishment of large marine sanctuaries, was a first to me, and a tremendous gift.
Richard was involved in every detail of the swim action right down to calling me at 4 am on the morning of my departure from the island, to be sure I was awake!
A very special touch of kindness and generosity of joy was when he surprised me with some sweet little chocolates on my last swim day just because I mentioned I had not had time to get a chocolate supply for the swim – chocolate is the secret to my success in covering so many miles in any given swim day! – and to crown off that, he threw a party to mark the success of the swim. THANK YOU Richard!
I would like to also thank Phil Perry, who coordinates search and rescue on Barbados, for driving me to the airport at 5am when other arrangements fell through. We will work together at another swim around Barbados in the near future, with more lead time and many more educational workshops along the way.
I already miss listening to humpback whales sing their songs, one of the privileges of spending so much time in the ocean and keeping my ears under water. To be a part of their world and knowing they are close by even though I cannot see them is a phenomenal privilege.
If it were not for the incredible generosity of my sponsors I would never have the opportunity to swim in water where I can hear them and feel like I belong with them. I feel so passionate about my commitment to protect waters for all of the splendid beings of the Sea and us.
A very special thanks goes out to Dawne Deeley, my neighbour who has had faith in me and the mission from the beginning, and has supported the swims over these last four years with very significant financial donations and kind friendship.
Dear friends and family,
I am writing to you from Barbados where I have been these last 7 days. It was a last minute decision to make this detour on the way home to visit with my friend Fran Woodcock and her family.
Every single key I type on a computer causes me shooting pains up my arms due to chronic calcific tendinitis and it means that all my blogs get written only when a kind person offers to type it for me. Today’s kind person is Kaiya O’cheek, Fran’s daughter of fourteen years.
Yesterday I finished the first ever swim around the Island of Barbados. It took me five days to swim 120 km and I had the great fortune of having the boat support of Richard Thomas, a Bajan fishermen who volunteered five days of his life to see this first ever swim through. Fuel expenses will be covered by the Marine Trust as well as a private restaurant owner, Paul Johnson.
It seems near miraculous to have barely stepped off the plane and four days later begin such a historic swim.
Today I taught the first of numerous classes in the Bajan school system on Marine Conservation and found the children to be very receptive to my message.
This swim itself went over miles of coral reef which was not as badly damaged as I feared. It has to do with the fact that the primary coral here is brain coral which is hardier then the massive, or elegant coral which is mostly found in Costa Rica where most of it has died by now.
It was a great relief to finally swim over live coral again!
Strangely enough, the worst coral here is in the tiny marine reserve that measures 600 meters into the ocean and 2.1 km wide. Tiny Marine parks like this really don’t stand a chance when surrounded by new developments and therefore massive sedimentation, endure countless speed boats right at its perimeter and fishing for bait within its boundaries.
I really emphasize the need for better protection of all the fringing reefs in Barbados as well as the other Caribbean Islands, when I did my media interviews today.
I suggest a one mile wide no take zone around all the islands to give failing fish stocks time to recover.
Even though the Costa Rican corals are in such a bad state I got to see many more fish then I got to see here in Barbados.
Every body worried that I would be attacked by sharks but I prayed to see one. However, I did not see a single one. This is usually a sign of an ecosystem in distress. A good marine ecosystem has sharks in it, a sign of its overall health.
Dear friends, night is beginning to fall so I must sign off!
May you all have a beautiful Easter week!
Dear friends and family.
— Once again I have found a kind person to type this for me. Her name is Isabella and she is the daughter of the manager of the Rip Jack Inn in Playa Grande,my current hotel sponsor. I arrived here yesterday in Playa Grande after a very long drive over a very nasty, bumpy road. My dear friend Johnny Mendez offered to come all the way from Liberia, a three hour drive to Nosara to take me from there to Playa Grande. At Rip Jack Inn I just had my dessert served and my 10 year old writer is laughing her head off, and is peeing her pants laughing at my expressions as I eat my divine banana foster, a concoction made of: sliced bananas, Dos Pinos vanilla ice cream and an anonymous syrup. The expressions on my face were cause obviously of great delight! The manager Tabitha is bending the rules quite a bit and letting me eat my heart out with the most amazing delicacies . I thought I would only eat employee food but this is definitely beyond my wildest hopes!
I spent all day making endless phone calls trying to find boat support, all without success, today. I am exhausted beyond description and getting close to the end of my tether.That eleven months of preparation for a three months joint project with Pretoma would result in nothing more than a single week of boat support is beyond disappointing,and obviously spells the end of any future cooperation. So much preparation led to so little result.
While in Nosara, I had the opportunity to swim accompanied by a kayak. As always,these are my favorite swim days since I do not have to smell gasoline fumes or listen to an engine. We dodged big waves and surfed the Kayak ashore at the end. If only I could do the whole swim accompanied by kayaks! Tomorrow is the turtle festival at nine a.m in Playa Grande. I have not seen a single poster announcing it and can only hope that lots of people turn up anyway. I am so tired that I must close now.
Queridos Amigos del Mar y de la tierra; estoy en uno de los lugares mas bonitos de Costa Rica y la Tierra; su nombre es hotel Punta Islita. al norte de Guanacaste.
Es mi segunda vez en este lugar y me siento muy alegre de haber recibido la invitacion; otra vez.
Esta vez estoy reservando todo un dia para dar charlas y clases en las escuelas regionales alrededor del hotel y a los huespedes asi como a los empleados del hotel.
Los ultimos 4 dias estube trabajando con el Capitan Amado y su ayudante Eduardo; de hecho empesamos a trabajar en Montezuma; la bomba de gas de Cobano ofrecio patrocinar mis gastos de gasolina, que fueron 97.000 colones; algo que fue un gran gesto de generosidad de parte del dueño.
Esta fue la primera vez que un dueño de una bomba me ofrecio ayudar. Cobano es el lugar o pueblo mas cercano a Montezuma.
Antes de llegar a Punta Islita, estube hospedada durante 4 noches en Esterrillos Oeste; en el Rancho Corral; un hotel pequeño al frente de la playa. Cerca del lugar habian muchos pescadores por lo que no pude contratar a nadie que me ayudara. Un pescador me prometio ayudar durante los siguientes 5 dias pero no llego a ayudarme y me dejo plantada a las 6:00 a.m.
Desafortunadamente mi impresion acerca de los pescadores es peor dia a dia; por lo que ha pasado; para mi es dificil ya confiar en los pescadores ya que casi nunca cumplen su palabra.
Tube suerte cuando llame a mi amigo Nielkahn de Kayak Jaco y me ofrecio apoyo de un dia con Kayak; la persona guia me dio la oportunidad de experimentar; nadar de esterrillos oeste que es una playa de marea fuerte hacia punta mala; que es uno de los lugares con marea fuerte y muy alta de toda costa pacifica del pais; hasta playa hermosa que es una playa donde realizan surf y tambien de muy fuerte oleaje.
Adrian el guia, me prometio que iba a dejar el kayak en la playa y me acompañaria a la orilla; como el tiene una historia de 6 años como salvavidas confie en el; y supere mi miedo de salir a la orilla de la playa ya que es muy fuerte el oleaje.
Salimos a una estacion biologica del MINAE, de tortugas; y ahi conoci a Jonhy un voluntario del MINAE que desde los 14 años; trabaja es voluntario del MINAE; me alegro conocer a otro voluntario quien dedica su vida a preservar la vida marina sin pedir nada a cambio; sin pedir dinero.
Me alegro tanto encontrar a alguien que tiene la misma actitud en su forma de vivir. Nos dimos un bonito abrazo reconociendo uno al otro su esfuerzo. Para mi fue un gran alivio de saber que existe al menos otra persona que entiende la pasion que siento yo por el mar y tampoco tiene interes de obtener ganancias del mar.
Se despide Renate…
Queridos Amigos del Mar y de la Tierra,
Estoy escribiendo desde el Hotel Arenas Del Mar, donde yo di 3 charlas hoy, dos para empleados y una para huespedes.Anoche sali de cenar con Silvia Obando, la encargada de sostenibilidad, que me organizo mis charlas. Estoy muy feliz que tuve este chance de compartir sobre el estado del mar y maneras de ayudarlo un poquito.
En mi cuarto es uno de los lugares mas lujosos que yo tuve el placer de poder estar adentro y cada noche paso mis ultimos momentos antes de dormir en el jacuzzi viendo las estrellas, agradeciendo el universo para todos estos regalos enormes. A mi me alegra muchisimo cuando puedo compartir lo que me preocupa mas que todo: el estado del mar y maneras de rescatarlo.
Mi cuarto tiene una vista del mar con una gran piedra que esta a unos kilometros de distancia. Hoy voy a nadar sin apoyo de lancha alrededor de esta isla. Ha sido extremadamente dificil conseguir lanchas de apoyo en mi camino y eso es la parte mas frustante de mis travesias a nado. A veces los capitanes rompen el contrato, no llegan al tiempo acordado, inventan razones para regresar mas temprano de lo acordado, reciben una oferta que les pagan mejor de lo que yo puedo ofrecer y entonces mi situacion es muy insegura la mayoria del tiempo.
Por eso he decidido en esta mi cuarta travesia a nado de la costa Pacifica de Costa Rica, de concentrar me mas en dar los talleres al publico que cumplir cada milimetro del nado de la costa como ya di la prueba en tres travesias anteriores que si puedo cumplir la meta de nadar toda las costa. Hasta la fecha en mis travesias he nadado en total 3543 kilometros- no es exactamente poco ! Mi preferencia siempre seria nadar lo mas posible por que de verdad me encanta y me da paz. Mi familia es la del mar mas que todo y les extrano terriblemente cuando no estoy con ellos. Tambien extrano mi familia humana y este hotel permite el privelegio de hacer llamadas sin cobro internacionalmente. Este me dio el chance a hablar con mis seres queridos y me alivio de la soledad un poquito.
Todavia no se donde me voy a quedar a partir de manana, como Arenas Del Mar esta completamente lleno. Silvia esta ayudando a buscar otro patrocinador en el area de Quepos. Siempre me siento un poco nerviosa cuando las cosas no son resolvidas hasta el ultimo momento. Mi telefono contiene mas que 600 contactos adentro a cada quien conozco personalmente y con quienes hable mas que una vez para darles una idea de la magnitud de mi trabajo. Cuando no tengo apoyo de lancha, hay dias en que hago llamadas logisticas para ocho horas y tengo que recargar mi telefono hasta dos veces en un dia por que la bateria no aguanta tantas horas de llamadas seguidas.
Hoy es uno de estos dias pero espero tambien nadar unas tres o cuatro horas despues de un masaje que ahora voy a disfrutar en pocos minutos.
Un abrazo a todos.
Dear Friends and Family,
Once again I have found a wonderful person who is typing this for me! Unfortunately after writing my very first e-mail today my tendinitis acted up again and I am so fortunate that my host’s neighbor, Kitty Sabo, is willing to kindly type this for me as well as take me to Quepos, my next base.
As soon as you will receive this, I will give Kitty a WATSU treatment in her wondrous pool which I enjoy so much giving and I know the receiver is in a blissful state.
My arrival in Bahia Ballena as greeted by a large crowd at the beach, something I truly enjoy and which does not happen at every base. I was filmed for a TV interview swimming in front of Isla Ballena and featured on several TV channels on that and the following days. It also appeared in three major newspapers.
One of the reporters handed me his phone with the mayor on the line who wished to congratulate me on my achievements. He offered full support for my boat safety in the area as well as invited me to teach a staff workshop at the municipality two days later. He promised to send me a car and chauffeur to pick me up at 10 am, but no one ever showed up. Apparently the press was waiting there but no one bothered to inform me that, obviously, things had changed. I eventually managed to reach his secretary who had never heard of me or my workshop that day. Some time later, I reached the mayor by phone who did not seem embarrassed by this lapse of professionalism. He still maintained his offer of $500 in boat support.
Since I had never been treated like this before by a government representative in a high official function, I expressed my feeling of disappointment towards him. Later that day, my boat captain informed me that the mayor was no longer willing to offer any support at all after having promised this also directly to the boat captain. Unfortunately, the mayor never bothered to inform me of this change.
All of this stands in such stark contrast to my experience with the Ocean Herself. Sometimes this contrast becomes nearly unbearable.
When I am in my mermaid mode, I am surrounded by the vast energy field of the Sea where I feel utterly accepted and embraced and cradled by Her warmth and infinite movement. Then back on dry land once again in logistical organizer mode, I am surrounded by uncertainty, broken promises, constant changes in plans due to factors over which I have no control and I often scramble just to stay on top of that day. It is a juggling act of large proportions and sometimes, I myself wonder how on earth I got to (as of yesterday) 3,543 kilometers swum under such trying circumstances, as a single individual without any government or NGO support. I myself am astounded that I have not given up yet, but I am driven by a larger vision that will not allow me to “throw in the towel.”
The Oceans can’t wait.
Perhaps these swims will never be smoothly or perfectly organized, but they do reach millions of people – most likely every Costa Rican has heard of me and my educational swims and I can only hope that attitudes are changing in part due to what I am trying to teach. This is what keeps me going even on the most difficult of days when I am landlocked because, once again, my boat support has fallen apart.
The last three nights I spent at lyrically beautiful retreat named Liquid Magic – definitely not a bad place to be stuck without boat support!! The owner, Eugene Mitchell, even gave me a healing Shen treatment last night which greatly reduced pain in my shoulders.
I am grateful to Diane Sobel Globerman for arranging this sponsorship for me. It has been such a treat!
It is time to go now.
Ocean hugs from the mermaid
Dear Friends and family of the sea and of the land,
It has been more than two weeks since you have heard from me. I have had extremely little access to Internet and right now Kathy is kindly typing this for me to avoid tendonitis flare-ups in my arms. In the end, New Year’s Eve was not entirely as bad as I’d imagined it would be in the last blog, since I spent a few hours with a family in Escazu. Soon after I took a bus from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez and arrived there after and 8-hour exhausting and uncomfortable journey. My friend Alberto Villalobos and his wife Yvonne picked me up at the bus stop and it was so moving to see him again and meet his family. It was almost like a journey back into my own childhood. His family and in-laws seemed truly excited to meet the mermaid, and I offered to return the following day to give a healing treatment to his mother-in-law Rommelia.
I stayed a few nights with Tao Watts, who made the most amazing home-cooked meals I’ve had in a long time. When I suggested she write a cookbook, she showed me the one she already published! I bought a copy (and it now weighs down my luggage) in hopes that I will be able to also make these fantastic concoctions.
I was invited by Lana, the owner of Luna Lodge, to come and spend three nights at her amazing and lyrical yoga retreat high up on a mountain above Karate. I had been wanting to realize this invitation for the last three years, and even though this meant giving up the southernmost portion of the swim, with 3 days’ swim from Punta Burica to Punta Banco, it gave me an opportunity to teach several workshops for Lana.
As a result of my work there, Lana will no longer sell bottled water by Aquafina (subsidiary of Coca-Cola), in and of itself a success because hotel owners’ decisions influence guests. It was worth giving up that part of the swim just to know that thousands of bottles per year will not pollute the ocean as a result of one owner’s decision to make a change in how she runs her business.
I also got to co-teach one of her yoga classes, using dance therapy to give people an appreciation of the mobility of our global ocean.
I want to recommend Luna Lodge to anyone who reads this and is contemplating a trip to the Osa Peninsula. Her guides are superbly informative, and I was able to go on all the offered tours while I was not teaching. On top of everything else, Lana had me flown from Puerto Jimenez to Karate bearing a New Year’s cake, which promptly ended up on my shirt. The flight itself was the most luminous ten minutes in my life, and I fly with CASARA, air search and rescue, and have been on many beautiful flights. To be gliding over the canopy of the rainforest, almost touching the tips of the trees, was a dreamlike experience.
Three days later I accompanied Alberto with the MINAE boat to Isla del Caño, on a rickety and unreliable boat that broke down several times in the hour-long journey, leaving us without engine power until repairs were made. The boat was also dangerously overloaded with five passengers, food for 16 days, and all my luggage, soaking everyone throughout the journey.
The park ranger’s station is a moldy and primitive structure with vinyl-covered mattresses that are permanently soaking wet from the humidity. I realized I would not be able to sleep indoors and just used my assigned space for storage. Of course everything was constantly damp. I placed my camera over my bedpost after inquiring about the safety status of the ranger’s cabin. I was told in no uncertain terms that nothing had ever been stolen there and it was safe to leave things open. So I saw no reason to mistrust and to my great chagrin I discovered on the third day that while my camera case was still where I’d placed it, the camera itself was no longer in the case.
Unfortunately I had not downloaded any of the pictures since the beginning of my journey in October—and possibly not even last year’s images. So possibly more than 1000 pictures have been stolen, besides the camera itself. These pictures would have served as part of my book that I am in the beginning stages of writing.
Of course there are very few potential suspects in this theft. I had rejected the advances of Alberto, and he had treated me with great disdain as a result of this rejection. If he simply thought of me as a commodity to be consumed, one could easily imagine that my camera was also something to be consumed, since it contained very personal information about me. Of course I have no proof for this, just a bad feeling.
When I left the island three days prematurely my heart was broken. The coral reef is in great distress around the island, and the park rangers have never even seen it since they do not swim. They spend their time mostly in the ranger hut, completely unaware of the magical and enchanted island they work on. They are surrounded by artifacts they do not understand and that are not properly protected.
Probably most archeological artifacts have been stolen off the island by now. No one spoke to me about my experiences while I was on the island, even though I repeatedly offered workshops to the park staff there. The level of apathy and disinterest I experienced there by the park staff is unlike anything I have ever seen anywhere on the planet. Also, the conversations I overheard had juvenile subject matter.
The reason I went to the island was to swim around it, to survey the coral reef, as well as listen to the enormous secrets that the island contains. The swim around the island was a complete solo and most likely the highest-risk swim I have ever done. I did not ask permission of the park staff because I knew they would not give it. I definitely left far too late in the day at 2 pm, because I couldn’t stand the loneliness another minute that I experienced with the staff’s exclusionary behavior. I have always found the ocean to be my best therapist and did in fact not plan to swim around it at that time. It’s like the island itself commanded it. I knew I was swimming against time and prayed that the currents would be with me throughout the swim. I knew I was pushing the envelope with this swim, since in the past it had taken me 8 hours to do, and now I had 4 hours.
It was the fastest swim of my life and totally exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I had miscalculated the shape of the island and had rounded yet another corner, which was not the side where the parks building was on when the sun was setting. The redness of the sun was so exquisite that it felt like an apple I could bite into. So close, so very close. Now the race was on since I had less than a half-hour before black night would fall. The island is surrounded by numerous rock formations, which create large suction fields and surf around the rocks. Of course, at dark these are very hard to make out until you are almost in them.
I was quite happy to finally see a tiny bit of light coming from the ranger’s cabin. Of course no one had thought to put flashlights up on a rock to guide me in. Even though this swim was definitely not approved of by the rangers because of the risk I had incurred to myself, it was the most magnificent four hours of marathon swimming I had ever undertaken, and therefore I do not regret it—even though I would never recommend anyone else do the same swim without proper boat safety.
Once again it is time to move, and I bid you all farewell.
Dear Ones everywhere,
It is New Year’s Eve, and will perhaps be the first one in my life I spend entirely alone.
The original plan was to spend it with my park warden friends on the island Isla del Cano, but unfortunately their schedule was changed and I will not get to arrive there until January 7.
Yes, this feels terribly lonely since I am on land – I have never had a lonely second in the sea! – and I realize how little I belong anymore on land, how the sea has altered my very being.
I long for Her when I am far from Her arms, and my trust in people wanes every day, – and grows every day in the beings I have encountered so far in the ocean.
When I swam with all those supposedly dangerous sharks, I felt totally embraced by their magnificence, and not for a moment felt any fear.The sense of being slowly circled by these 400 million year old first inhabitants of Mother Earth and Sea was one of being recognized as being one in their world, no threat, just another being at home in the sea.
Please send me signs of life, every email means the world to me!
The logistics of doing these swims are fiendishly difficult at times, and often disheartening as so many promises are broken, sometimes more often than kept.
Especially today, I reach out to all of you readers with many warm wishes and much love in the New Year! May you never be alone when you most need friends!
Dear friends and family,
hopefully you have all had a peaceful Christmas season, and I wish you all a very magical New Year!
On December 26, after midnight, I arrived in Costa Rica, to very cold weather – 11 degrees Celsius! – and light drizzle.
After 2 months of continuous sunshine, this was quite a change, and I am sleeping in many layers while I am in the capital city of San Jose.
As soon as I get to the coast, this will be different, and I can not wait to get into the ocean there…..
Yesterday, I had many media interviews here, with Repretel Canal 6 TV, Radio Columbia, Diario Exxtra, the most popular newspaper, and la Nacion, the most serious newspaper.
Tomorrow morning, I will be interviewed by the most widely seen TV channel, Teletica.
Hopefully, this will garner the necessary support along the coast, as well as inspire people to invite me to give workshops to adults and children alike.
It was so wonderful to be able to spread the message to more than 1000 children in La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, as well as at least 3000 adults, and I really hope to be able to do the same here!
Unfortunately, the workshop scheduled for this afternnon did not come to fruition – sometimes, this happens, and I have learned to take as little as possible personally; I can only offer, with all my heart.
I have a little apartment all to myself right now,for these first few city days, in Escazu, thanks to Diane Sobel Globerman, a friend from January 2008, and I am using her computer right now.
I now have a cell phone thanks to my dear friend Jhonny Mendez, from Diario Exxtra, a media reporter who has helped me a lot last year and has lent me one of his phone lines! The number is: 011 506 8925 7262
Today I thought a lot about my lovely friend Satya in Victoria who painstakingly wrote all my 537 Costa Rican phone numbers in a book so I do not lose them while I get a new phone – what loving act this was….Today was the day to transfer all these numbers into my new phone, and it has been an exhausting and long day, totally an office day.
On my last days in Cabo Pulmo, I am with sharks every single day, an incredible treat and well worth giving up the last 80 km of the swim for these extraordinary experiences. Cabo Pulmo is indeed worth fighting for, tooth and nail, since it not only is a coral reef in still good health, but also obviously a shark sanctuary!
Please all go to www.CABOPULMOVIVO.ORG and sign the online petition there!
Even with 2 weeks there, I was not able to activate the community to really work the petition drive, so you all must pick up the slack there and tell all your friends to sign!
My very last night in Mexico I stayed with Alfonso Reynoso Beltran Quibrera in la Paz, my friend with who I kayaked around Isla Espiritu Santo in January 1994, my very first time in Baja California Sur. It was so wonderful to see his uncle Joaquim Beltran Quibrera again and have a nontraditional Christmas dinner of seafood with Alfonso and his partner Angela. This means that I got to spend all the major holidays with Alfonso – Thanksgiving and Christmas!
I hope that all of you got to spend the holidays with loved ones from far and close, and I look forward to hearing from any and all you!
Mtra. Renate Herberger
Dear friends and family,
I am writing to you all from Cabo Pulmo where I have spent my last days in Mexico before my departure to Costa Rica on Sunday December 26th. I will have been here altogether two weeks. This is the longest I have ever stayed in one place during an active swim. It is also the first time that I have actually had to give up on completing a route even though I would have had sufficient time. If this had been my very first swim ever I would probably never do another one. It has been very demoralizing to see so many boats at the beach every day and not be able to hire one for a price I can afford. Actually it has been quite depressing. I do not like giving up and have been very hard on myself for this choice. I have simply seen no way out of this situation and have made the best out of it.
After all I have had an opportunity to spend two weeks next to a marine reserve or marine sanctuary. This gave me a chance to get to know this famous coral reef because I spent time on it every day. I would have liked to introduce more people to it. At least Meghan had a chance to accompany me two times out there. It was her first time snorkeling amongst corals and it felt so good being able to bring this world to her. Today I had the opportunity to introduce two women to the world of corals and sea lions. Last night I gave a presentation including three movies – Shark Water, Desert Oasis, Seasonal Seas – at a little restaurant, and the owner’s wife and daughter wanted to experience their own marine world today for the first time. It was quite wild out and I was surprised that they did not ask me to turn back before we reached the sea lion rocks. The thirteen year old daughter, Yasmine actually hardly knew how to swim. She was in a life jacket and I wondered about my choice in taking her out in such a storm. However my sense now is that this probably will have been a very significant day in her life since she is dreaming of becoming a marine biologist, I hope I could make a difference in her life.
The last few days I have seen sharks on a daily basis. I will really miss them because the chance of seeing so many sharks is less likely in Costa Rica. Yesterday I saw a very large bull shark, and the day before a beautiful tiger shark. It really was as striped as a tiger. The beauty of sharks really is astounding. They are perfectly designed and swim with an indescribably grace. It is so hard to imagine how some men spend their lives cutting off the fins of sharks to make lots of money. I wonder if they have any feeling inside at all for these magnificent animals. To see Shark Water again yesterday reminded me of one of the central missions of my swims, to establish shark sanctuaries. We have the great bear rainforest where bears are absolutely protected yet sharks enjoy no protection anywhere with the exception of inside marine reserves that enforce no take zones. I am told that Cabo Pulmo Marine Park is a no take zone. However I have picked up fishing line right in the reserve, so obviously there is some illegal fishing going on. Actually someone in Los Barilles whose name I cannot mention told me personally he knew several fishermen who come on a nightly basis to steal fish from the marine reserve, apparently without impunity. I myself have not seen the CONANP boat out in the water, however I imagine it must go out sometimes, but it is not enough. Perhaps there simply isn’t enough budget assigned by the government to have proper vigilance. Obviously any marine reserve that is not properly protected through vigilant activity is one only in name.
Well, it is Christmas evening, and it appears that my hostess Sola and I might go out caroling. I would love that no matter how incongruous it might seem here. Meghan made perogies so this will be a new tradition, home made perogies for Christmas Eve.
I wish you all wonderful old and new traditions, heartwarming food, lots of love and family reunions.
From the sea,
Subject: Living with Avery, Sola, Meghan and Micki
Date: Sunday Dec 19, 2010
Dear friends and family,
I am still in Cabo Pulmo and have stayed with Avery and his fiance Sola as well as his two house guests Meghan and Micki since last Tuesday. In fact, Meghan is writing this blog entry for me. In fact, she managed to insert the mermaid into the signature below, something I have tried to do for a long time, since my original web master eliminated it along with the original website.
Cabo Pulmo has the only living coral reef in North America. It extends out for about a mile and has seven fingers. This coral reef is unique and if the development that is proposed to go up, only a few miles north, it will most likely die within a year. It took twenty five thousand years to grow to its present state. It would be a crime against nature for the Mexican government to allow this huge proposed development to go through, that would equal Cancun in size, entail three golf courses, thirty three thousand employees, several thousand homes, and a huge desalinization plant. This is the desert, after all, and there would not be water from any other source except for the ocean. However, a desalinization plant would return water to the ocean that is much higher in saline content than the ocean itself. It would also be higher in temperature than the ocean into which it would be returned. Coral is exquisitely sensitive to temperature and chemical changes and this would surely spell a major disaster to the reef. Given that only fifty percent of the world’s corals are still alive at this point and that corals worldwide are dying at an unprecedented rate, it seems unbelievable that the Mexican government is even reconsidering reopening negotiations that have been temporarily put on hold. Sadly all levels of the Mexican government are corrupt and money is really the only determinant of most decisions taken.
I have been trying really hard to convince the community that the threat they are facing is very real and would entail not only the loss of the coral reef but also their employment. Most of the community lives from tourism, including three dive shops, five restaurants, and a few rental bungalows. If there is nothing to see because the coral reef has been destroyed by Cabo Cortez, the name of the proposed mega development, the local community likely would have to work for extremely low wages at Cabo Cortez to survive. Currently the community is self supporting and making good living wages. This would all change for the worse.
Supposedly there are petitions in every business to stop the proposed development, however I have not seen this petition in any public place and have talked about it endlessly. This level of apathy is very disturbing to me. It is if as people were not aware how imminent and dire the threat to their lives actually is and that only direct action might prevent the development plans to go through.
As so often, HANSA, the Spanish Multinational Corporation financing this project Cabo Cortez, confuses the community with different types of information regarding the project. Some people think it’s going ahead now, others are sure it will never happen. Between these two poles are various other opinions making it difficult for people to unite and make a plan of action. For instance, something as simple as a petition that every business could prominently display is not available in the local businesses here. You can sign it online, dear reader, right now.
If every business that received visitors solicited signatures, a minimum of a hundred signatures could be collected everyday in Cabo Pulmo. This would be seven hundred in a week, twenty eight hundred in a month and ten thousand in less than four months. Real hand written signatures are far more valuable and effective than emailed petitions and there are less than eight thousand of those right now. I am greatly saddened by this passivity of the community. It would be so little effort for so many numbers, and petitions are only effective when they are massive. Sometimes I feel like tearing my hair out – tomorrow I am planning to take petition sheets to every single business in town, assuming that I can find copies. Of course I can’t control if the businesses will prominently display them. I know most tourists will gladly sign them, because it is so very little effort on their part and a little thank you to the coral reef they have had the pleasure to explore.
I have decided to spend the remainder of my Mexican days in Cabo Pulmo since I have received such a sweet invitation from Avery and Sola. Avery is very interested in preparing a swim/kayak/bicycle project using no fossil fuels beginning in May 2011. It would be such a relief to have somebody else take care of the logistics. Of course, I will swim anywhere I am called to and where the swim will make a difference to our ocean’s survival.
It has been very difficult to find boat support here since the dive and snorkel businesses would rather wait for walk-in tourists even if it means loss of business for the day. So I am swimming, exploring the coral reef, and looking on up to ten boats on the beach, every one of which I would have liked to hire on that day. Of course I cannot compete with the kind of money a full load of divers would bring in. On the other hand when the boat is just sitting there it is not producing any income and at least I could support them in some way.
If this was my very first big swim, I would never do another one. It would simply be too painful and depressing to struggle so much and find so little on-water support. It is really nice to stay with family rather than in a hotel. I realize I get really lonely on these swims and it is so good to be able to converse with people with similar interests.
In case I am not able to write again before the solstice, I wish you all a deeply satisfying full moon and winter solstice. May it bring you peace and inspiration to contribute positively to the health of our oceans.
Dear friends and family,
today was one of the most amazing days of my entire oceangoing career.
Since it has been impossible finding adequate boat support here in Cabo Pulmo, and since I have wonderful accommodation here with a lovely family, I decided to take advantage of the amazing coral reef and just swim out there by myself and explore the many kilometers of this world heritage site and the five fingers of the reef.
Way offshore, several km to the beach, I noticed first a small nurse shark and was delighted to finally on this migration get to see one close up. Shortly after, much larger ones joined and began circling me. Within a short while, I noticed several bull sharks closing in in me, and then a tiger shark almost went nose to nose with me – my first ever encounter with a 4 m tiger shark! This amazing encounter lasted a full half hour, when Avery, my host, showed up in a kayak. I was rather pleased to see him, even though it was a truly stunning experience to be so close to so many large predators, and feel so little fear. Actually, it was an exhilarating experience, and enormously liberating. I felt so honored to finally be so close to these magnificent beings that are so terribly hunted, almost to extinction.
Alas, this computer is being shut down, so I must close for today. Much love to all of you who read this!
CABO PULMO MARINE PARK, 10/DECEMBER/2010
DEAR FRIENDS AND FAMILY,
TODAY I GOT A RIDE TO CABO PULMO, A REMOTE FORMER FISHING VILLAGE WITH NORTH AMERICA’S LARGEST LIVING CORAL REEF. I WILL BE USING THIS BASE FOR 4 OR 5 DAYS, HOPING FOR BOAT SUPPORT IN THIS REMOTE AREA AND A CHANCE TO SPEAK TO THE COMMUNITY AND HEAR THEIR CONCERNS. THIS IS A HEAVILY ENFORCED PROTECTED PARK, BUT THE COMMUNITY HAS NOT RECEIVED THE NECESSARY EDUCATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEED FOR EXTREME PROTECTION OF THIS FRAGILE AREA. SO ILLEGAL FISHING CONTINUES, EVEN AT NIGHT WHEN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ARE COZY IN THEIR BEDS, AND THE FISHING IS BEST. UNFORTUNATELY, I CAN NOT HOPE FOR CONANP SUPPORT THIS TIME, AND DEPEND ENTIRELY ON THE COMMUNITY TO SUPPLY ME WITH A SUPPORT BOAT DURING MY SWIM DAYS HERE.
PALMAS DE CORTEZ, MY LAST HOTEL AND BOAT SPONSOR, HAS BEEN INCREDIBLY GENEROUS WITH ME, IN GIVING ME 5 DAYS OF FULL BOAT SUPPORT AND 6 NIGHTS OF A LOVELY ROOM AND ALL THE MEALS DURING MY TIME THERE. THE STAFF WAS SO SWEET TO ME, LIZET WROTE ALL MY BLG ENTRIES WHILE I WAS THERE, SAVING ME FROM PAINFUL WRITING. I AM BACK TO HAVING TO DO IT MYSELF FOR NOW.
YESTERDAY WAS ONE OF THE TOUGHER SWIM DAYS DUE TO THE FALLING TEMPERATURES – 21 CELSIUS – AND THE LACK OF THINGS TO SEE ALONG THE 7 HOURS OF SWIM YESTERDAY, AND THE STRONG CURRENTS NOT IN MY FAVOR. BUT IT BROUGHT ME TO 300 KM SWUM SO FAR, IN SPITE OF ALL THE PROBLEMS I HAD WITH GOVERNMENT AND OTHER FAILURES…
TOMORROW I WILL DIVE WITH CABO PULMO WATERSPORTS, AND SWIM IN THE AFTERNOON.
CABO PULMO DIVERS IS SPONSORING THE BUNGALOW WHERE I WILL STAY FOR A FEW DAYS. SEEING OLD FRIENDS FROM LAST YEAR IS SO WONDERFUL, ESPECIALLY THE STAFF AT WATERSPORTS WHERE I AM WRITING THIS NOW!
Queridos amigos y amigas del mar y de la tierra,
Durante mi nado de hoy encontre una grande red abandonada ya desde mucho tiempo. No se la razon porque el pescador la abandono pero se que esto causa dolor y muerte a los peces que no pueden salirse de una red ya abandonada. Nos tomo una media hora quitandola del mar y yo misma experimente el sentido de panico cuando me enrede yo misma en esta red con mis aletas. No fue facil cortar la red por su material duro y mi capitan Jesus tambien tuvo que bajarse para ayudar a cortar la red. Fue la primera vez que en mis travesias encontre una red abandonada y me entristece el aparente egoismo del pescador que ni penso en el sufrimiento que esta causando.
La primera parte de hoy nade otra vez en bellisimos cañones llenos de coral de los cuales unos 90% estaban en buen estado de salud . Puede ser porque en esta region no hay ninguna casa ni desarrollo en la costa porque hay mucha piedra, son cerros altos. Esperamos que nunca se desarrolle esta zona porque seria el fin de este bellisimo campo y cañones de coral. Lizet que me esta escribiendo esto otra vez nunca en su vida ha visto corales porque nunca en su vida ha ido a snorquelear. Esperamos que cuando ella tiene chance de ir todavia esten los corales…
Parece que el rito de pasaje maritimo este fin de semana no es cierto que va a ocurrir. La mama de las jovenes parece que no tiene las cosas bien organizadas y ni me llamo ayer para indicarme su situacion real. Es muy dificil cuando la gente no te comunica cuando se cambian cosas. Yo necesito depender en la palabra de la gente que quiere aprender de mi y siento que hay una falta de respeto cuando no hay comunicacion y la persona es dejada sin la libertad de poder arreglar otra cosa. En mis travesias esto es lo mas frustrante.
El puro nado es cansado por cierto. Hoy especialmente fue mas que cansado porque nuestra hielera llego sin agua o bebidas y tuvimos que cuidar lo poco que tuvimos en la lancha de ayer. La deshidratacion es el peligro mas alto de la travesia a nado. De mas que 3300 km nadados se que el tomar agua cada 30 minutos es que te cuida de prevenir deshidratacion. Cuando ya llega la deshidratacion llega tambien un cansancio enorme y un dolor de cabeza. Mi capitan realmente me dejo casi toda el agua, me dio pena porque yo se que el tambien necesita hidratarse. Jesus ha sido un sueño para trabajar con el, siempre alegre, siempre servicial, y le voy a extrañar mucho y me dijo el que el tambien va a extrañarme. Siempre me gusta estar con el mismo capitan los mas dias posibles, especialmente si se trata de alguien tan amigable como el. Este hotel me ha tratado realmente como reina y estoy extremadamente agradecida por estos dias y noches.
Dear friends and family,
Once again I have the great fortune to have Lizet, the lovely receptionist at Palmas de Cortez typing this for me. I noticed that when I so much as type five or six letters on a computer the tendinitis acts up and it feels like having little arrows shot into my upper arms. So it’s really wonderful when I find help for typing these blog blog entries.
Today the owner Mr. Robert Vanwormer of this beautiful hotel passed away and people have been coming all evening to pay their last respects. More flowers wreaths are delivered as the hours go by and there is an open casket to view the deceased owner of this marvelous hotel. It is so different from Canadian funerals that are brief and rarely have the body present. I wonder how I will sleep tonight with people coming and going and perhaps a spirit not quite sure yet where to go!
This morning I decided to retake the most beautiful part of the swim to finally do some filming. Today it was clear even though there was quite a bit of wind. The few kilometers north of Bahia de los Sueños are truly dreamlike. There are countless canyons, many of them filled with corals, crisscrossing the ocean floor. To swim above this is like gliding slowly over the Grand Canyon. It’s a wonderful and strange combination of swiming and flying in slow motion and reminds me of a short story of Franz Kafka, ¨der Kuebelreiter¨.
This goes on for miles and miles and is one of the most extraordinary places on earth. Strangely, this area is not protected, nor part of a park. I find it far more beautiful than Cabo Pulmo Park which in part looks like a coral cemetery to me. So much of the coral there is dying or has died. If the two Marinas, Cabo Cortez and Cabo Riviera will be built, it will spell the end of Cabo Pulmo, a world heritage site. It will be remembered then as having been too small, too late and too little comprehensive in order to be able to sustain itself. Small marine sanctuaries all run the same risk: Coastal development nearby can destroy what has taken often thousands of years to build like coral reefs. I have even heard from my boat captain that the Island Cerralvo that I have assumed to be a park has just been sold to a gold mine development. They want to lay a pipe underground to the Island to search for gold.This would most likely destroy my favorite part of the swim, today’s marvelous coral canyons. The only other place I have ever been to that compares to the coral canyons is the Red Sea in Egypt, where the corals are still so beautiful as to make you weep into your mask and choke with emotion.
Unfortunately today was only a half day of swimming because of strong winds, and they need to pull the boat out of the water at the end of the day, a procedure that can not be done in turbulent water. I almost cried when Jesus my boat driver announced this to me. To leave such a beautiful place is physically painful to me since it feels like being yanked away from home.
On Thursday evening, after 5 wonderful days here, I’m going to give a presentation in San Jose to two schools, and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will give my first marine rite of passage in Mexico to four fifteen year old girls, camping on Isla Cerralvo.
I’m hugely looking forward to this and envision eventually creating a foundation : Mermaids United for Marine Sanctuaries. MUMS!
Queridos amigos y amigas del mar y de la tierra,
tengo la suerte que la recepcionista Lizet de Hotel Palmas de Cortez donde estoy patrocinada por 4 noches de hotel y 3 dias de lancha de apoyo me esta escribiendo este blog.
Hoy fue uno de mis dias mas raros de esta travesia que he tenido mayores problemas de todos modos.
Una semana antes una mujer me llamo para invitarme a un evento de la lucha en contra del cancer de mama.Supuestamente 3000 personas asistirian a hacer el mas grande liston rosa hasta ahora, un record guiness.Paula Carrera me invito a dar una charla como invitada especial.Como ayer en la noche ya fui invitada, quede mi primera noche en Palmas de Cortez.El jefe de pesca German Cosio, ofrecio a darme un ride a este evento y salimos a las 5:30 del hotel. Esto fue un regalo increible porque el fin de semana el deberia dormir a esta hora una señal de mucho cariño.ya en el lugar del evento la playa de Finisterra yo espere casi por 5 horas.Me habia invitado a dar la charla alrededor de las 8 de la mañana. Cuando yo escuche el anuncio de agradecimiento para los participantes del liston,me di cuenta que ella me habia olvidado.Reconociendo esto senti tanta furia dentro de mi, hoy hubiera sido un buen dia para nadar, como no hubo viento. Yo sacrifico este dia de nado para poder distribuir un mensaje sobre la necesidad de cuidar mas el mar a 3000 personas.Al ultimo momento ya con menos de 50 que quedaron todavia, hable unos pocos minutos.Esto fue algo que fue tan afuera de mi experiencia anterior que ni me hubiera podido imaginar que eso podria pasar.Ni importaba realmente que ella me ofrecio 4000 pesos como contribuir hacia los gastos de mi travesia.Obviamente esto apoya pero adentro de mi yo solamente quise gritar y llorar, por el insulto de lo que me habia pasado , la groseria de haber sido invitado y ni se acordaron de mi.
Ayer fue mi primer dia apoyada por Palmas de Cortez y sali acompañada de una lancha magnifica llamada Rude Boy.Lizet ahora me cuenta que cuando yo llame ayer ninguna persona habia llamado para preparar este apoyo de lancha, pero dos personas me habian dicho que ya todo estaba arreglado con este hotel, incluso un delegado de esta region.
Me siento rodeada de un nivel de incompetencia y falta de compromiso que fue hasta ahora totalmente afuera de mi imaginacion. Lo increible es que este hotel sin saber nada cumpli que nadie otro hasta ahora pudo cumplir:ofrecer patrocinador de apoyo de lancha incluso acomodacion en el mismo lugar, incluso la magnifica comida que estoy disfrutando.Me da esperanza que talvez hay otros en el camino que van a quere apoyarme de esta bella manera.
El nado ayer empezo en la parte extrema norte de la isla Cerralvo.El año pasado nade tambien la parte atras de la isla Ceralvo pero en un viento muy fuerte. Esta vez por falta de viento por haber una belleza indescriptible de corales y peces y piedras de mil colores. Casi me senti viviendo un sueño porque esto duraba horas y adentro de mi senti una tranquilidad enorme de estar en mi casa. Me senti rodeada de los espiritus de mis antepasados inlcuso mis marinos antepasados.
Abruptamente sali de mi sueño marino, cuando me pico una fregata portuguesa, una aguamala extremadamente venenosa. Hubo miles de aguamalas alrededor de mi y la tripulacion de la la lancha tuvo que sacarme del agua para quitarme los hilos y darme la medicina para prevenir un choque alergico. Como hubo millas y millas de aguamalas tuvimos que abandonar el nado de la isla Cerralvo y continuar el nado al sur de bahia de los sueños.Este nombre es correcto. Tambien es un lugar lleno de sueños con corales inumerables y cañones de piedra y coral, peces de todos colores.La tripulacion me dejo nadar hasta las 5 de la tarde, como ya empezamos muy tarde en la mañana por la falta de coordinacion de mi hotel anterior. Al regreso vimos un atardecer espectacular con cada tono de rosa y rojo. Espero meter las fotos pronto!
QUERIDOS AMIGAS Y AMIGOS DEL MAR Y DE LA TIERRA,
HOY ES EL DIA QUE MAS ESPERE PARA PODER NADAR OTRA VEZ, DESPUES DE UNA SEMANA DESESPERADA, INTENTANDO TODO LO QUE ESTUVO A MI ALCANCE, PARA LOGRAR MI OBJETIVO.
EN ESTE MOMENTO, ESTOY ESPERANDO EN UN BELLO HOTEL LLAMADO EL ENCANTO INN.
EL PLAN REALMENTE FUE IR ANOCHE A LA RIBERA PARA PODER METERME CON MI FAMILIA EN EL MAR ESTA MANANA MUY TEMPRANO.
CASI DUELE EN MIS HUESOS ESTAR TAN LEJOS DE MI FAMILIA MAS CERCANA QUE TENGO EN ESTE MUNDO.
ES UN ANHELO TAN PROFUNDO Y TAN INEXPLICABLE A LOS SERES HUMANOS TERRESTRES QUE ME SIENTO MAS QUE DESESPERADA EL NO PODER COMUNICARME DE QUE SE TRATA REALMENTE MIS TRAVESIAS AL NADO, EN LAS QUE ME UNO CON MI FAMILIA MIGRATORIA QUE SON LAS BALLENAS GRISES, LAS BALLENAS COROVADAS, LAS TORTUGAS, Y LOS SALMONES.
YO CREO QUE ESE SENTIDO INTERIOR DE NECESIDAD ABSOLUTA DE JUNTARME A ESAS GRANDES MIGRACIONES ES ALGO QUE REALMENTE ME SEPARA DEL RESTO DE LA HUMANIDAD. POR ESTA RAZON ME SIENTO UNA PERSONA SOLA.
ESTE TEXTO ME LO ESTA ESCRIBIENDO MA. DEL CARMEN GOMEZ LICONA, QUIEN SIN CONOCERME NI SABER NADA DE MI ME TENDIO SU MANO.
ELLA DICE: ” SOLO QUIERO COMPARTIR LO AGRADECIDA QUE ESTOY EN ESTE MOMENTO CON RENATE PORQUE ME ESTA DANDO ESTA GRAN OPORTUNIDAD DE PODER ESTAR AL LADO DE ELLA COMPARTIENDO ESTOS SENTIMIENTOS, QUE PARA ELLA NO ESTAN SIENDO LOS MAS GRATOS EN ESTE MOMENTO, PERO YO ESTOY SEGURA QUE ESTO PASARA Y TODO LE LLEGARA EN SU MOMENTO”.
LA SEMANA DEL MARTES 16 DE NOV. HASTA EL DOMINGO 21 DE NOV. NADE DE PLAYA BALANDRA HASTA LA ISLA ESPIRITU SANTO, Y TODO AL REDEDOR DE LA ISLA ESPIRITU SANTO HASTA PUNTA MEJIA, UNOS 125 KM.
ESTAS 5 NOCHES Y 6 DIAS VIVI EN MI MUNDO NATURAL.
TODOS LOS DIAS, DESPERTE A MIS COMPANEROS FLAVIO Y FELIPE A LAS 5 A.M. DE LA MANANA .YO MISMA ME DESPERTE A LAS 3.30 A.M. DE LA MANANA, MI TIEMPO REGULAR DE DESPERTARME. SALIENDO DE MI CASA DE ACAMPAR TAN TEMPRANO ME DIO CHANCE DE MIRAR UN CIELO SATURADO DE ESTRELLAS, BRILLANTE CON TODO SU EXPLENDOR.
ESTA SEMANA FUE EXACTAMENTE COMO YO HE QUERIDO HACER MI TRAVESIA ASI. EN VERDAD, ESTAR EN MI CASITA DE ACAMPAR ME LLENA EL CORAZON MAS QUE ESTAR EN HOTELES DE 5 ESTRELLAS. ACA ESTOY UNIDA CON LA MADRE TIERRA, EL CIELO Y EL MAR, Y TODOS LOS RUIDOS VIENEN DEL VIENTO Y DE LOS ANIMALES QUE ME RODEAN.
ESTA MANERA DE MOVERME DURANTE LA TRAVESIA ES MUY HARMONIOSA Y ORGANICA. NO HAY NADA PARA MI QUE NO SEA AGRADABLE, EN ESTE TRABAJO DESDE ESTABLECER EL CAMPAMIENTO DONDE VOY A PASAR LA NOCHE Y HASTA METIENDO TODAS LAS COSAS EN LA LANCHA PARA CONTINUAR EN LA MADRUGADA.
EN ESTE MOMENTO VAMOS A SALIR LA SRA. ALICIA MANRIQUEZ DE COTA Y MA. DEL CARMEN GOMEZ LICONA Y YO RUMBO A LA RIBERA .
LA SRA. ALICIA Y YO NOS CONOCIMOS EN UNA CONFERENCIA DE RENE MEY, EN LA PAZ B.C. EL DIA 25 DE NOV. EN EL CUMPLEANOS DE MI HIJO SILVAN. DURANTE ESA CONFERENCIA ELLA ME PLATICO QUE VIVIA EN SAN JOSE DEL CABO Y COMO RENE ME INVITO A FORMAR PARTE DE SU CONFERENCIA EN CABO SAN LUCAS ELLA LINDAMENTE SE OFRECIO DE TRAERME EN SU COCHE PARA QUE YO ME TRASLADARA A CABO SAN LUCAS. LLEGE A LA CASA DE SUS HIJOS EDUARDO CORTEZ MENDEZ Y MAYRA IDALID COTA MANRIQUEZ, QUIENES NOS RECIBIERON CON UNA MUY RICA COMIDA. QUEDAMOS A PASAR LA NOCHE EN CABO SAN LUCAS CON ELLOS PARA PODER HABLAR NUEVAMENTE EN LA CONFERENCIA DE RENE MEY EN SAN JOSE DEL CABO. HA SIDO UN GRAN HONOR HABER SIDO INVITADA POR PARTE DE RENE MEY PARA COMPARTIR EN EL ESCENARIO Y PODER HABLAR SOBRE LA META DE MI TRAVESIA.
YO ESTOY MUY AGRADECIDA POR HABER CONOCIDO A ALICIA PORQUE ELLA ME INTRODUJO A MUCHA GENTE IMPORTANTE COMO LA SRA. OLIVIA PEDRIL, BLANCA PEDRIL QUE ES DUENA DE ESTE HERMOSO HOTEL LLAMADO EL ENCANTO DONDE ME PATROCINO LA NOCHE DEL 27 DE NOV. INCLUSO TODAS MIS LLAMADAS .
YO INVITO A TODAS LAS PERSONAS QUE VIAJEN A SAN JOSE DEL CABO, QUE CONOZCAN ESTE PRECIOSO HOTEL.
The last 6 days were heavenly, away from society, lies and false promises, and I got to swim all around the ethereal and beautiful Isla Espiritu Santo and part of the coast towards Cabo San Lucas.
The fisherman Mario Winkler refused to honor the contract we had laboriously worked out, and demanded more money at the last minute. I had waited for 4 days for him to be available, and once again, I found myself lied to and having wasted my time when every day means falling temperatures on land and in the sea.
In the end, I used the same company I used last year, Punta Baja, at 50$ more per day than last year when I was charged 100$ per day, an excellent price. However, I really had no choice but to go ahead with this, and I at least knew the company to be reliable. In fact, the owner Martin Flores has invited me to be their house guest, something I really appreciate.
I had the good fortune to be accompanied by a wonderful volunteer, Flavio Lau, who cooked for me, loaded the boat and unloaded the boat, and took care of all the other myriad details while on route. Thank you, Flavio – it was really heartening to have you along, always with a smile, willing to get up at 5 am every single day for 6 days, and all of this with such generosity of spirit. It was a pleasure working with you.
Unfortunately, I am back to the drawing board once again – tomorrow I will go to the governor of the state, accompanied by a museum employee who has worked there in the past. Lets hope this will help…
As always, the greatest danger to me while swimming are the countless jellyfish – they just love every inch of exposed flesh. Flavio lent me his neoprene, the water is getting quite cold and I was actually slightly hypothermic before I started using his wetsuit. This was an enormously generous gesture – it is such personal gear.
The ephemeral beauty of the sea around the island touched my heart – but even there, half of the coral I saw last year is dead, due to invasive algae and, I assume, global warming of the ocean, and chemical contamination. This island is protected, but what is really needed is protection of the entire Golf of California, the whole sea of Cortes.
While camping, I saw the most fantastic comet streaking the sky, speeding along the horizon and leaving a huge tail of light in its wake. it was an incredible sight – who knows what it really was?
I took it as a personal gift of the sky, a miraculous sign of hope and brilliant light.
My new friend John Wright is writing this entry for me as we are watching another beautiful sunset over the bay of La Paz.
Things have changed dramatically since I last wrote. In fact, they have changed dramatically enough for me to not be able to breathe.
After a beautiful press conference last Wednesday, at which all of the local press and some national press was present, I was invited to a meeting with the mayor of La Paz, Rosa Delia Cota Montano. Again, we were interviewed by the press, and you can see this interview now on Youtube.
She offered full support on behalf of the Municipality, and immediately began making phone calls to set this in motion. She arranged for FONMAR to give me boat support and we had already arranged for boat support for the navy on the remaining days. I was very pleased with how the meeting went, and the warmth I felt coming from her. I trusted her word. I think because I am a woman, she was particularly interested in supporting me.
Later that day, there was a meeting with all the very important government functionaries who were helping to coordinate this: The director for the Secretary of Tourism, Ricardo Garcia, a FONMAR representative, a high level representative for the Navy, both of the directors for the Municipal Department of Sports, and a fisherman who was hoping to gain paid work. I was the only woman present. Throughout most of the meeting, I could hardly get a word in edgewise. This was to be a logistics meeting. A lot of egos were flying through the air, and the actual logistics never got discussed, since no one ever bothered to ask me. The fisherman spooked the other men with his tales of horrific giant squid which would eat me along the way. Even when I interjected that my chances of being run over by a car in the road were probably at least a billion times higher than having an inopportune encounter with a squid, no one appeared to want to listen to me. After all, I was just a woman, and they were all men! Ricardo Garcia let me know in no uncertain terms that this was no longer just a private swim, it was official government business, and I had to follow their rules- which included coming back to town every night from my daily swim around the Espiritu Santo island, since I couldn’t possibly be left alone to camp. Until then I had been left in the belief that I would actually be sleeping aboard the navy boat.
No one had bothered to inform me that this was not the case, even though I had made many calls to find out the real logistics behind my navy-supported swim. At the end of the meeting I was left to trust that everything would be taken care of. The secretary of tourism would look after accommodations along the way, the Navy and FONMAR would share the boat support, and there would be sponsorship for the meals. Some of this organization would happen while I was actually swimming, since it would involve 3 whole weeks, and therefore give everyone plenty of time to see the event through.
At the end of the meeting, I felt shaken and invisible. This didn’t seem to be about the needs of the swimmer at all. It seemed to be about a lot of men deciding things, barely aware that the daily marathon would be executed by the lone woman in the room. I was shaken enough to ask the female secretary of the sports department to give me a long hug, and let me have a cry on her shoulder.
The next morning I went to the take-off site at 6:00am to find out that the two young mariners on the navy support boat were inefficiently equipped. I always run my crew through a checklist before I start. I visually inspect the amount of gas on the boat, I visually inspect the first-aid kit, I visually inspect the ladder for me to get on board, and I check for ores in the case of a boat break-down. I also make sure there is sufficient drinking water for everyone on board. The only item which was satisfactory was the gas on board. After so many negotiations with the Navy commander about safety, I was sorely disappointed that the lovely young crew (Efrain & Juan Carlos) were not properly looked after. The commander had even stated that I could not access their first aid kit, water supply, or anything they brought on board, which kind of makes the whole idea of boat safety irrelevant. The 2 young men treated me like gold all day. They surely shared whatever was needed, including jokes, smiles and laughter, sometimes the most important ingredients on a long, long day of swimming hour after hour.
Since I was not sure what time we were leaving the next day, I stopped in the Navy office to verify departure time. It became clear that something was seriously amiss. While I waited for my appointment with the commander- this after a 9 hour and 25 km swim, and totally exhausted, cold, wet and hungry- I fell asleep. When the commander ordered me to his office, he seemed totally unaware of my physical state, and the fact that I was still in a towel and shaking. He did not offer so much as a glass of water, or turn down the air conditioning. His only concern was about who he could talk to, since I clearly wasn’t the right person. All the other people had said somebody else was the right person. So apparently, nobody was the right person. Therefore I could no longer expect boat support from the Navy. After all, I did not have a man behind me, who would speak for me and take complete responsibility and control of me. The fact that I said I was quite happy to be responsible for myself, and had managed to swim altogether 3065 km without any man behind me whatsoever, did not pull any weight with him. I felt like I was in Saudi Arabia.
One of the 2 young crew, Efrain, drove me home. He promised to pick me up the next morning, and even though I had the impression my swim for the time was over, I decided to go with him just in case I could continue. He did a no-show. I was too disheartened to transport myself there alone. After several phone calls, it appeared that every one of these very powerful men had pulled out after the media had been informed of their generous support.
I felt like I had been used for political purposes that I could not understand. One thing is certain- I now know in the flesh and blood what green-washing is. It had been very convenient for everyone to be seen supporting an environmental activist. It looks good, especially in the international media. When I accused Salvador Gutierrez, one of the directors of the Sports Department of betraying me, he was quite upset, and said he had fulfilled his mandate. He had arranged for the press conference. The fact that his name appears in the official bulletin as the General Coordinator of the event, i.e. the swim, did not phase him at all. He seemed to think the press conference was the event. Everyone pointed fingers at everyone else, accusing them of not fulfilling the mandate. In all of this, I was left high and dry and quite out of the water. What affected me the most was that Salvador Gutierrez insisted on being filmed on TV while making his ceremonial commitment to no longer eat prawns from shrimpers while I attached a string to his wrist. Not even one day later, he had cut it off. I use very strong string for the ceremony- I do it in all the schools I visit along my swim routes with the children who volunteer for this activity- and this is the heart of my mission. I take these commitments very seriously, and I assume they do, too. This is not something to toy with, and I feel I was played with in this instance. This swim carries the title “The Sea is Sacred”. Promises are sacred, too. What happened to me shows me that on an official, governmental level, the promises made to me had absolutely no meaning at all. I would like to give a copy of the book The Four Agreements, by Mexican author Miguel Ruiz, to everyone who broke their own agreements. The first agreement is: “Be impeccable with your word”.
In my future workshops, the commitment aspect will be even more stressed, after this devastating experience. I actually expect more from kindergarten children than what has just happened to me. Obviously the state of our oceans is connected with this kind of attitude.
The situation of the world ocean is really critical right now, and unless everyone reduces their use of natural resources, we might be facing a situation fairly soon that will risk all life on earth. As it is, every half hour another species goes extinct. This 6th mass extinction on planet earth is the only one ever caused by humans, and it has been millions of years since the 5th.
Because of this, I feel that I cannot wait. My mission will go on with or without government support. In fact, it even surprised me that this government was even willing to take this on, and of course, I was immensely pleased. Alas, it’s back to the drawing board now.
On Tuesday morning, if all goes well, and no other promises are broken, I plan to start the swim again, accompanied by a local fisherman. I still hope for some support in the Los Cabos region, but I won’t hold my breath.
Thanks to my very generous Canadian sponsor, Dawne Deeley, I have $1500 dollars per month to spend on boat support. Once this is gone, I have to dig into my own back pocket.
Today I changed houses. Joel Abaroa, my host of the last 18 days, and his family have been very kind and generous to me. It is time for them to have their own space back. Now I’m staying at a very humble place, and because food is no longer provided, I had to go out to eat, and this is how I met Sol, a beautiful coffee shop owner, who carries a majestic and loving presence.
It always amazes me how many good things can happen if you just step out of the house and show up where life leads you.
It has once again led me to beautiful people who are trying to help me.
Blessing on all of you who are reading this. Please make sure to read the Peninsular Digital News where an amazing photograph is published alongside an excellent article, written by Perla Garcia, about my first day’s swim. In this photograph, the sun is shining a golden heart on my chest.
On my first swim day, I met a beautiful whale shark that swam right into my arms, perhaps attracted by that glorious sun heart, and I got to dance with numerous sea lions and a large manta ray along the way.
Queridos amigos y amigas,
Después de algunos días sin escribir finalmente me encuentro con una señorita que me está apoyando escribiendo esto. Me está doliendo mucho más la tendinitis que tengo en mis dos brazos y no puedo arriesgar la travesía por escribir en el teclado que me causa todo este dolor.
Ella se llama Gabriela Rochin Ojeda y ella es una estudiante de turismo alternativo y fue alumna de mi clase de natación el pasado lunes 8 de noviembre. En las palabras de ella:
“La clase fue muy interesante ya que la señora Renate nos enseño nuevas técnicas y tipos de nado que yo en lo personal no sabia y me sirvieron mucho. Aprendí nuevas formas de nadar y también una canción que venía de África, la canción se llama Yemaya Asesu. La clase fue completamente diferente a la que estoy acostumbrada a tomar diariamente, se me hizo diferente por el hecho de que aprendí mas y nos dio mucha atención personal a cada uno de los alumnos. Note que Renate es una maestra que disfruta de lo que hace y tiene la facilidad de enseñar a la perfección, ella es muy apasionada con lo que hace, se nota que vive para nadar”
Hubo muchos cambios en estos últimos días y la noche pasada casi no pude dormir. Aparentemente hubo un cambio en que la marina ya no quiso acompañarme más que uno o dos días, hoy gracias a la Diosa hubo otro cambio por la ayuda de Salvador Gutiérrez, el subdirector del Departamento de Deportes. Después de una cita con el comandante de la marina las cosas cambiaron otra vez y de nuevo tengo el apoyo para dos semanas de las tres que va a tomar la travesía al mínimo. Estoy extremadamente agradecida con el Señor Gutiérrez y estoy empezando una bonita amistad con él.
Durante este encuentro tan importante, yo estaba dando una clase en Coromuel, una playa muy linda cerca de La Paz. Lamentablemente solamente una alumna fue, pero para mí cada estudiante vale todo mi esfuerzo. Como ella llego a tiempo decidí empezar la clase con ella para respetar su puntualidad. Entonces tuve la chance de tener una clase particular y pude enseñarle la matemática de las corrientes, mareas y olas. También pude enseñarle un poco sobre rescate acuático en mar abierto. Al salir di la instrucción de sacar toda la basura del mar para dejarlo más limpio que antes. A mí me toco la suerte de encontrarme 100 pesos, un bonito pago del mar para cuidarlo. Esta fue ya mi tercera clase con los alumnos de la Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur “UABCS”. Cada día que estoy en tierra tuve chance de dar clases mínimo una vez al día pero en muchos días doy más clases en diferentes escuelas. Esta meta es tan importante que el nado mismo durante mis travesías!
Hoy en la mañana di una clase en la escuela Montessori del Mar. Encontré a la directora María Eugenia en la playa Caimancito, buscando a una persona para que me cuidara mi bolsa durante mi nado. Salió que ella también es maestra y yo le ofrecí un taller en su escuela. Ella me ofreció un raite para llegar a mi casa después del atardecer que vimos junto con mi amiga Monica, mi vecina anterior el año pasado cuando estuve aquí en La Paz organizando mi primera travesía a nado.
Cuando pregunte a la clase que si habían aprendido, me dijo una muchacha con mucha emoción: “aprendí que nosotros los niños vamos a cambiar el mundo”
El sábado en la noche, me invito la familia Abaroa Valle a una boda de un familiar de ellos y me encanto la ceremonia en la iglesia. Nunca había visto como les ponían el lazo a los novios, fue nuevo para mí y muy emocionante. La cena y la fiesta después me encantaron y la música fue un sueño. La banda toco cumbia y banda. Note que la gente solamente bailaba con su pareja, entonces casi no tuve chance de bailar. Solamente el anfitrión me invito a bailar con él. Toda la gente fue muy alegre y nos quedamos hasta las dos de la mañana! Estoy muy contenta por haber podido vivir esta parte de la cultura Mexicana.
Mañana ya son dos semanas desde mi llegada y estoy extremadamente agradecida a la generosidad de la familia Abaroa Valle. Todos pensábamos que voy a poder salir a mi travesía en pocos días, pero duraba dos semanas la preparación y en buscar apoyo. Me soportaron ya dos semanas con todo su cariño y perdonarme mis errores culturales que obviamente pasaron. Nunca voy a olvidar mis múltiples conversaciones con la maestra Lourdes y el maestro Joel hasta tarde en la noche, siempre sobre educación y como ser los mejores maestros posible. Me encanta ver tanta pasión para la educación en la casa!
El viernes pasado fui invitada por parte de una estudiante de Biología Marina, Deni Ramirez. Su especialidad es el tiburón ballena y fuimos a medir a Hidalgo, un macho joven de 6.3 metros. Siempre es una experiencia inolvidable compartir el mar con un animal tan apacible que te deja nadar a su lado lentamente. También en la lancha iba la bailarina que había dado un show extraordinario el Día de Muertos en el Teatro de la Ciudad, un baile muy expresivo y simbólico. Lamentablemente yo solo vi una parte porque no había programa y llegue a la mitad de su show. Tanto quise acercarme a ella para aprender más sobre este baile y fue un milagro encontrarla en la misma lancha que yo buscando poder nadar con tiburón ballena!
Ahora entiendo mucho más sobre el simbolismo de este baile que mostraba un encuentro con el dios de la muerte náhuatl y una mujer que al final entrega su corazón (fue un corazón real de una vaca) .
El próximo día, el sábado, fui con un grupo de estudiantes al Mogote, un archipiélago con manglares y mucha arena. Por las corrientes fuertes tuve chance de enseñar a los jóvenes sobre autorescate en corrientes marinas, estos estudiantes fueron muy curiosos y aprendieron rápidamente. Les enseñe un símbolo náhuatl para escribir en la arena antes de nadar, una forma de pedir permiso al mar antes de meterse. Les gusto muchísimo y pusieron ese símbolo en toda la arena de la playa, un circulo con una cruz adentro representando las cuatro direcciones. Me preguntaron si a ellos les pasaría algo malo si el mar se llevara el símbolo. Yo les dije que el mar tiene que llevarse el símbolo como respuesta para que se metieran al agua. Esto también es parte de la enseñanza de autorescate.
El domingo fui invitada por Monica a ver una película que me impresiono mucho. Se llama “Mas Allá de La Luz” y se trata de un curandero, Rene Mey que puso centros de prevención de salud en todo México. El amor de este hombre fue palpable mismo en la película personificado por un actor extremadamente talentoso.
Nov/03/2010 Apoyo de parte de la marina
Hoy tengo la suerte que escriba el texto Joel Abaroa Valle, el hijo de mi anfitrion.
Parece que la travesía va empezando con apoyo directo de la marina de La Paz.
Es mi primera vez en tener apoyo de la parte militar y es algo que nunca me hubiera podido imaginar ni en mis mas grandes sueños.
Primeramente fui con el profesor Salvador Vargas a visitar al direcctor de deporte y recreaciòn el Señor Guillermo Antonio Godoy Cota para buscar apoyo, despues fuimos a ver al comandante de la marina que me prometio apoyo de la marina con embarcaciones para acompañarme en gran parte de la travecia de La Paz a Cabo San Lucas.
En la tarde fui otra vez a dar clases en la escuela Rosendo Robles donde mi anfitrion es el director. Siempre me da mucho placer ver la curiosidad de los jovenes.
Ya casi saliendo de la escuela hable con un estudiante queriendo saber que aprendio durante mi clase. Me emociono mucho la respuesta : dijo que es importante seguir sus sueños y es importante tener un sueño.
Mañana voy a dar algunas clases en la universidad en educacion física de como serian clases de natacion. Todas mis clases son diferentes y busco mis materiales desde la necesidad de los estudiantes. Yo misma nunca se de que voy a hablar y siempre es nuevo para mi tambien. Cada dia aprendo nuevas cosas sobre el mar y es importante comunicar el placer del aprendisaje y la curiosidad constante de conocer mas del mar.
Ayer tuve chance de nadar un rato pero lamentablemente no me acompañaba en el agua Carolina. Quise tanto enseñarle un poco de ese mundo que para mi es magico pero uno no puede forzarlo. Me gustaria meter a todo el mundo al mar par que experimentaran lo que yo siento cuando estoy en el mar. Es dificil para mi entender que el mar no encanta a todas las personas porque al momento que yo me meto yo soy libre de los dolores que me acompañan en la tierra. Como hoy me fue imposible ir a nadar por el trabajo me duele todo. Los posefectos de la trombosis nunca me dejan sola ni un solo dia. Si nado minimo una hora diario me siento bien pero sin esto no hay escape del dolor y de la hinchazón lo mismo con medias compresivas.
La Paz hoy se metio en una orgia de comida con un Guinness world record del burro mas largo del mundo. Lamentablemente fue llenado de tiburón cazón que era el ingrediente principal de la machaca (machaca es pescado seco revuelto con verduras y condimentos). Me imagino que la gente que se lo comió no sabia que estaba comiendo tiburones. 90% de los tiburones del mundo desaparecieron por la avaricia del hombre y hoy me imagino que murieron una grande cantidad de tiburones en la toneladas de comida para el burrito que fue de mas de 2 km de longitud. Falta mucho en la educación del publico de su efecto sobre el mundo marino que ya no aguanta tanta explotación.
Nov/01/2010 Encuentro con Jhosue Uri
Queridos amigos y amigas,
Hoy es el día de los muertos. Aqui en México es un día muy importante y en la pura mañana fui invitada a acompañar a mi anfitriona Lourdes Valle al panteón para limpiar la tumba de sus familiares. Como las tumbas en Canada y Alemania son echas de pasto ni me pude imaginar como íbamos a limpiarlas. Pero aqui las tumbas son echas de cemento u otros materiales de piedra es fácil lavarlos con agua.
Después de esto tuve un desayuno organizado por Jhosue Uri, un profesor de la Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS). Estamos organizando una conferencia de prensa y la logística en todo el camino. Jhosue me regalo 5 horas de su día incluso en su oficina para avanzar la travesía, un regalo de timepo altamente apreciado.
Anoche fui con Carolina Abaroa, que amablemente esta escribiendo estos blogs durante mi tiempo como huésped en su casa, y también quien me esta prestando su cuarto para noches muy cómodas, al teatro municipal para algunos shows sobre el día de los muertos. Las fotos que acompañan este blog son de este evento maravilloso, especialmente las Catrinas, muchachas en vestidos magníficos pintadas como calaveras.
Ahora en la mañana me conecte con el nuevo director de Yemaya Oceánica, una organización ambientalista del mar, la sola que se dedica a la protección del tiburón en México. Me sentí muy bien recibida y espero una fuerte colaboración con esta organización que trae el nombre de la poderosa Diosa Africana del mar. En cada taller que enseño los niños aprenden una canción de invocación hacia Yemaya quien es también Nuestra Señora del Mar.
Hace dos noches mi anfitrión Joel Abaroa escuchaba la radio cuando promocionaron un evento en la Universidad con la famosa bióloga marina Sylvia Earle. Ya había considerado seguir la invitación a un reto con una maestra de la escuela Rosendo Robles pero la chance de finalmente encontrar una gran heroína para mi me hizo cambiar de planes. Me sorprendí mucho que en la sala en donde ella dio su platica estaba casi vacía con tal vez 30 personas presentes. Yo traduje para Joel porque lamentablemente no hubo traducción oficial para los estudiantes que probablemente no entendieron toda la platica. Me alegro mucho que el contenido de la platica fue muy similar a la que yo doy en las escuelas durante mis travesías y pedí a Sylvia Earle que me dejara usar sus imágenes en mis platicas. Ella me regalo un disco con las imágenes y espero usarlas en cada una de mis platicas. También, ella me invito a acompañarla en una excursión hacia la isla Espíritu Santo y ese fue un día que nunca olvidare. Ibamos en un yate magnifico y tuvimos chance de ver unas esculturas enfrente del candelero a unos 10 metros bajo la superficie con un escrito de un monje jesuita sobre Atlantis. Fue un enorme placer bucear junto con Sylvia Earle, algo que nunca hubiera podido soñar.
También tuve chance de encontrar a Gerardo Lozano, un abogado de Mexico D.F quien me prometio apoyo de lancha durante la travesía desde el Tecolote hasta Cabo San Lucas. Esto es un regalo enorme. El plan de salir en esta parte de la travesía es el 18 de Noviembre. El apoyo de lanchas siempre es la parte mas complicada de organizar y estoy muy feliz de poder contar con este apoyo.
El lunes en la mañana voy a tener mi primera conferencia de prensa organizada por un profesor del Tecnológico, Jhosue Uri.
En este momento nos estamos preparando para ir a liberar tortugas a Todos Santos con los estudiantes de la escuela Rosendo Robles y probablemente voy a poder dar una pequeña charla en esta ocasión .
Hoy tuve el chance de enseñar todo el día en la escuela Rosendo Robles donde mi anfitrión, Joel Abaroa esta de director. Me emocione mucho al ser abrazada de tantos jóvenes que se acordaron de mi del año pasado. Hasta recordaron la canción que enseñe el año pasado! Es la primera vez que regreso en la misma escuela en dos años seguidos durante mis travesías y asi se puede seguir acompañando un poco a los jóvenes. Ellos quisieron repetir mucho el ritual de los brazaletes de compromiso y entonces ahora ya andan muchos jóvenes con los brazaletes en sus muñecas. Espero que estos compromisos sean reales y que los vayan cumpliendo incluso los dos maestros! Me pidieron que yo también me comprometiera con un brazalete y mi compromiso es dar el máximo de talleres que pueda en donde toca mi travesía y que puedan causar cambios reales para el bienestar de nuestros mares.
En la tarde tuve chance de nadar un rato por primera vez desde mi llegada, buscando patrocinadores en Pichilingue.
Para la primera parte de la travesía, ya tengo un patrocinador, la compañía Mar y Aventura. Me iran acompañando con kayaks para la circumnatacion de la isla Espiritu Santo en las fechas del 11 de Noviembre hasta el 16 de Noviembre. Todavía estoy buscando apoyo para el nado de Tecolote hasta Cabo San Lucas. En los días que no nado voy a dar talleres en todas las universidades y colegios aquí en La Paz y también durante la travesía misma en las bases durante la travesía.
Hoy y en los días siguientes se encontraran políticos de 193 países en Japón para decidir sobre un plan de meter 20% de la tierra y de los mares en protección permanente antes de 2020. Es un plan ambicioso y extremadamente urgente. Yo espero que se atrevan esos gobiernos para rescatar al mar sufriendo y a la tierra ahogando de nuestros abusos. El tiempo es ahora!
Después de un largo día de viaje fui recibida en el aeropuerto de La Paz por Joel Abaroa, el maestro y ahora director de la escuela Rosendo Robles. En mi ultima travesía a nado en México el me había invitado a dar conferencias en sus clases y tuve chance de compartir 5 veces con esos jóvenes sobre protección marítima.
Me siento tan bienvenida en la casa de Joel con su amable esposa Lourdes y su hija Carolina (Que me esta escribiendo este blog) y su hijo Joel! Ayer en la noche fuimos a ver un concierto del pianista David Gomez. Nunca había escuchado la música clasica presentada de esta manera con la luz apagada en la escena!
Como ayer hice un error con la administración de la inyección de heparina-es decir no entro la medicina en mi panza hoy tengo que tomar un día muy relajado para tratar de no empeorar la trombosis anterior. El riesgo de viaje en avión es alto con esta condición especialmente si uno no se inyecta con heparina y tuve que llamar a mi doctor en Canada para ver como aliviar esta condición peligrosa.
Ahora en la noche voy a encontrarme con Sergio de Mar y Aventura para planificar ya el inicio de la travesia. Va a ser la primera ves para mi estar acompañada de 2 kayaks en mi nado y es un poco mas arriesgado porque no va a tener una lancha motorizada para urgencias. Pero me alegra mucho tener chance de hacer una travesia sin usar gasolina que es parte del problema del calentamiento global.
Como Lourdes y Joel trabajan en escuelas espero que tenga chance de dar múltiples talleres y conferencias en las escuelas publicas y particulares de La Paz y así poder tocar las vidas de muchos niños con el mensaje que el mar es nuestra madre, nuestro origen y que necesitamos protegerla.