Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jag Walk 26-1-12

Jaguar tracks on the beach

Jag walk... the most talked about survey in camp. A 15 mile hike along the beach, starting by the river mouth at mile 18, near base, and finishing in the town of Tortuguero at mile 3.5. The best opportunity to actually see a jaguar in the flesh? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I’m lucky enough to be selected for the first jag walk of 2012 – led by Benji the jag guru, the team consists of James, Elizabeth, Colleen & myself.

The morning of the big walk arrives and the weather looks promising – a good amount of cloud cover, so not too sunny. We set off early from camp and arrive at the river mouth at 5.15am. And the walk commences...

The Jag Walk team in action

Mile 18: We set out full of energy and anticipation as to what the coming 8 or so hours will bring. And we are rewarded pretty quickly – the first jag tracks are spotted before we reach mile 17, really close to base camp! We start to follow the tracks of “our jag” along the beach.

Mile 15: Loads more tracks are spotted as “our jag” is joined by a couple of others. In my mind they were walking together towards Tort, just a few hours before us. We continue to follow the tracks, eager to see where they lead.

Mile 13: JAG SIGHTING!!! Benji scans the beach and spots a jag in the distance, about a mile away, close to the trees. We quickly get out our binoculars and sure enough, I see something small and black moving on the beach. We’re convinced that this is “our jag” that we’ve been following since mile 17, and now the chase is on... We quickly move to the vegetation line before it can spot us, and then the next mile involves a high speed chase, clambering over plants, tree roots and debris to stay as invisible as possible. As we reach the cover of a tree we stop and scan the beach, but the curve of the beach means that there’s always at least another tree between us and the jag. But adrenaline keeps us going, along with the belief that if we can just make it to the next tree then we’ll get a perfect close-up sighting of our jag.

Mile 12: We admit defeat – we’ve lost him. The sun has now come out and the going is getting tougher. The horseflies are also now out in force, and I am starting to really regret not bringing any long trousers (I’m the only one stupid enough to attempt the jag walk in shorts). I am spending as much energy slapping my legs as I am walking. The “horsefly dance” has started...

Mile 10: Can we stop for lunch yet? Please??? The heat is getting worse and the horseflies are becoming unbearable.

Mile 9: We finally take a much needed break under a coconut tree. And thankfully the horseflies stay on the beach. I never thought that Welsh cakes with peanut butter and jelly would taste so good!

Mile 7: The post-lunch fatigue has taken hold, the horseflies continue to bite, and the last few miles have been the most difficult so far. Combined with the fact that we no longer have any jag tracks, our thoughts turn to Tort and a cold beer in Buddha cafe. It couldn’t come soon enough!

Mile 6: our spirits pick up as we spot some more jag tracks – these ones from a mother and cub. It starts to rain, which is a relief after the earlier heat. The rain also thankfully drives the horseflies away. However the light rain quickly turns torrential. It’s going to be a tough last few miles...

Mile 3.5: we finally finish at 1pm. Wet and soggy, but exhilarated at the same time. Everyone will be so jealous that we actually saw a jag! Bring on the beer...

-Nicky, volunteer