Swimming Activist Nears End of Her Journey
by Ellen Zoe Golden, reprinted from Tico Times (Costa Rica) April 18, 2008.
Christi Bettinsoli, owner of Lola’s Restaurant in Avellanas, handed me a mask, snorkel and fins, while Blue Dolphin Sailing’s Jeff Herman told me tomeet him at the rubber dinghy that would take me out 300 yards to meet Renate Herberger.That day, the 52-year-old from the Canadian city of Victoria, British Columbia, planned to take a short, casual swim instead of the usual 20 kilometers shehas been doing in segments up the Pacific coast for more than two months. By the time she reached Avellanas, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, Herbergerhad swum 700 kilometers.
Bettinsoli read about Herberger’s goal to swim the Costa Rican Pacific coast to promote marine sanctuaries and raise awareness of threatened marine life in The Tico Times(TT, Jan. 25) and offered to sponsor the Guanacaste leg of her swim. She said, laughing, that the only way to getthe story of this extraordinary woman who has been swimming eight hours a day since entering the water Feb. 1 near the southern border with Panama is to get in the ocean and paddle alongside her. And so it was last Saturday, four days before the anticipated completion of Herberger’s journey in Playas del Coco, farther north.
Though she had yet to find a boat to accompany her in Coco, the upbeat athlete didn’tseem too bothered, focusing instead on the day’s event: two exhibition swims, a talk about her experience so far, and a storytellingsession for children. All proceeds from Lola’s Restaurant, which came to about $1,000,went to Herberger for her journey and her cause.
Herberger took to swimming in the ocean for therapy two years ago, after suffering a massive thrombosis while waiting for surgeryfor a torn ligament in her knee. Swimming in the ocean helped alleviate her pain. The idea of combining a coastal CostaRican swim and raising ocean awareness was natural, Herberger explained, saying, “I was always an activist, and to be in theocean is my calling in life.” Since she began her journey, a typical swim day has found the athlete rising between 4 and 4:30 a.m. to head to the boatto the swim entry point. The accompanying boat might be a fishing boat, a simple panga or a fabulous yacht, depending on who volunteers to help.
Between 5:30 and 7 a.m. she is in the water and swimming, fully clothed because of the jellyfish. Her uniform includes multiple turtleneck sweaters and dancing tights, snorkeling gear and, depending on knee pain, fins.very half-hour, she replenishes with water and drinking yogurt. At noon, she breaks in the boat for lunch, usually a sandwich,before heading immediately back into the water for more swimming, until she completes her daily eight hours in the water. While swimming,Herberger often collects trash and debris that cross her path, depositing them into the attendant boat. As Herman said in Avellanas, “This takes beach cleanup to a new level.”
Not every day has been a water day. Herberger has spent many days administrating since her original sponsor and organizer, Dominical Social Programs Association, backed out March 9 because of economic factors, she said. “There were days I was chewing my fingernailsoff metaphorically, wondering where I was going to stay next,” she said. “And then it would just happen.”
In Dominicalito, on the southern coast, she chatted with a woman on the bus and ended up with the woman’s nephew, David Allen Montoya, as her boat driver for five days. Though she brought camping gear, Herberger said she used it only one night. The rest of the time she “had the phenomenal good fortune to stay in private homes and hotels through sponsors’ accommodations that came about 70% from those reading the Tico Times article.”Life in the Pacific has been great."
“In Punto Banco (near Pavones on the southern coast) a pilot whale came right up to me and swam under me. It felt like a great blessing... quite often I hear the humpback whales, and they sing for around hours and hours.” As to her worst experiences in the water: “I have had a lot of hot kisses on the lips,” she lamented, referring to the jellyfish stings that managed to find the only unprotected area on her body besides her hands. Two times she had to get into her chaperone boat and move to a position farther offshore, because“there were just millions, a broth or thick stew of jellyfish. It was pretty terrifying. They are the only things in the ocean that scare me. I had a bad reaction to a man o’ war sting once, and I won’t ever forget that.”
On the whole, however, the expedition up the coast has been positive. Herberger said her favorite experience was near Quepos on the central coast, between the mainland and Isla Damas. “In between, the ocean compresses in this channel with very confused currents and huge waves of about five meters,” she explained. “I told the boat driver to stick really close to me. Then, I let myself breathe and let go of the fear, and I entered this place of absolute bliss, a sensation of free falling and flying at the same time. I felt like a child in the bosom of the big mama.”
She feels she’s accomplished her goal of “swimming the world’s warm oceans to raise awareness for the urgent necessity to protect our seas, because we are not separate from them.” “It’s about the journey,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”
¡Mujer discapacitada de 51 años atravesó el Golfo Dulce nadando!
Roberto Fernandéz, corresponsal, PUERTO JIMÉNEZ.
El recibimiento fue emotivo, la alemana cumplió su objetivo. Este martes vecinos de Puerto Jiménez y Golfito fueron testigos de lo que en un principio llamaron una locura: una mujer de 51 años de edad atravesó el Golfo Dulce nadando. La alemana Renata Herberger, residente en Canadá, vino a Costa Rica para apreciar la belleza de nuestros mares, en especial del Golfo Dulce, en la Zona Sur.
En menos de dos días se programó una aventura que para Herberger no es más que un volver a casa. Atravesar a nado el Golfo Dulce es para esta mujer estar en su hogar. El martes a las 6 a.m. se decidió a cruzar el Golfo, un trayecto de 15 kilómetros desde Puerto Jiménez hasta el Refugio de Vida Silvestre de Caña Blanca. Fueron 9 horas y 5 minutos de nado, a un ritmo constante y haciendo ligeras paradas para hidratarse y comer algo. La extranjera salió del muelle de Puerto Jiménez acompañada por unos amigos de Osa Discoveries, quienes le proporcionaron el bote custodio y la alimentación.
A pocos kilómetros para llegar a su meta, sus amigos debieron protegerla de un tiburón que al parecer no tenía buenas intenciones. Además los refuerzos llegaron cuando varios delfines comenzaron a seguirla y rodearla, como queriendo protegerla.
Para Herberger, el objetivo de esta travesía es dar a conocer a la comunidad y a la población del planeta las bellezas del mundo, que poco a poco hemos ido destruyendo. Esta mujer tras un accidente sufre una discapacidad en las piernas que le produce coágulos en las venas y las arterias, por eso caminar se le hace muy difícil. En Canadá se encuentra en una larga lista de espera para una cirugía que le corrija el daño, sin embargo debe esperar.
A su llegada al Refugio de Vida Silvestre de Caña Blanca, Herberger se mostró muy feliz y dijo que de no ser por la hora se habría devuelto nadando.
See also / ver tambien