BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 35

The interview do it, and I love the exhilaration of it. But for me the crucial piece of the jigsaw is running wild – as lovers of wildlife and wilderness we knew we wanted to combine the two. You work for the RSPB and en route to South America you surveyed the Caribbean for the “Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles”, which supports BirdLife’s work. Is it the ecologist in you that wanted something more? Yes, the reason for committing to this challenge was giving a voice to the biodiversity and unspoilt ecosystems we love, connecting people around the world to wildlife. Showing how we depend on the natural world and reminding everyone how incredible and worthy of conserving South America’s wildernesses we are. That it’s not too late to protect them, but time is running out. I imagine you had sore feet… in what other ways did the journey affect your body? Prickly heat, piercing cold, 100% humidity, countless blisters, tropical ulcers, biting ants, swarms of insects, a chronic lack of toenails, screaming joints and muscles, malnutrition. You just get on with it though. And explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes says you have “extraordinary courage and determination”. What was your route? We thought it would be 5,000 miles, but later realised we’d made the calculations in nautical miles. From South to North, our route was defined by wanting to experience the temperate rainforests of the Carretera Austral (Southern highway of Chile), OF COURSE the Amazon (which I’ve been obsessed with since I was a David running on rough roads just north of Trinidad apr-jun 2018 • birdlife RUNNING SOUTH AMERICA IN NUMBERS T o t a l M i l e s R u n 6,504 miles / 10.467 KM 15 T o t a l Katharine spotting an armadillo in Patagonia t i m e MonTHS L o n g e s t D ay 36 miles/ 57 km A v e r a g e R u n n i n g D ay 20 miles/ 31 km child), and by visiting the charities that we were supporting. You were the first woman ever to run the entire length of South America – many congratulations. Sort of like a bird migration: a long, demanding route across a continent… Yes, seeing swallows everywhere reminded me of that. We felt connected to the landscape through this basic way of living: find a camp for the night, cook food, sleep (maybe!), survive. Simple times are the best. And when we felt down or stressed, wildlife really helped lift our spirits: an Andean Condor watching us, fireflies pulsing over our hammock under a galaxy of stars, a river dolphin. One moment I will never forget was when a Yellow-crowned Amazon landed on my shoulder as I bent down to fix my shoe in Brazil. Did you get a chance to see the Blue-throated Macaw in Bolivia on the way? Yes! We wanted to tell the story of Armonía’s conservation work first hand, so took a flight into Barba Azul [Nature Reserve where Armonía have been protecting key roosting and feeding grounds since 2008]. On the way we saw habitat obliterated by cattle-grazing – it looked like woodworm from above. But we also saw beautiful gallery forest and wetlands. In the Reserve, macaws flew over our heads, cackling. We were standing in their territory. Seeing the bird we were running to support was spine-tingling. I bet that was pretty invigorating… It was incredible. Their work is so inspiring. Such as meeting their wardens who are tirelessly guarding the macaws’ nest sites night and day, to stop poachers from taking their eggs and chicks. We were on national TV with Armonía and a traditional headdress made from artificial feathers, which Armonía are using to demonstrate that macaws don’t need to be 35