Watch out! | Tracking Diaries #12

Watch out! | Tracking Diaries #12


The sea breeze is a welcome relief as we crest the final switchback and come out on top of the cliff. I take off my hat and let the wind run through my hair. It’s too hot to dry us out much, but the view from up here is my favorite in all of Puerto Viejo: the seething white and blue waves beneath us, the mist-shrouded distant horizon, and the sunlit local Cocles Island.

We’re looking for our sloth Luiza, who-if I’m reading the radio receiver correctly-has either swam off to the island or is rappelling along the cliff face adjacent to us. This is unlikely, but we have to be thorough, and, oh darn, take the view while we’re at it.

It’s a view worth taking in, but I turn my back on the Caribbean and check out the rise behind us. It’s a twisted gnarl of rock and tree roots, impossible to see where the organic wood ends and dead stone begins.

Luisa’s signal is pointing right at it.

I hand the tracking backpack off and take only the antenna and receiver, and begin to climb.

“Watch out!” calls Amelia from behind me. “You’re not in climbing gear!”

I’m not; I’m in thick jeans, big rubber boots, and as many socks as I can put between me and any potential snakes that I might surprise while out traipsing through swamps. If I go tumbling off it’s a 15-meter drop to the crashing waves beneath us.

I’m not heading out to the vertical cliff face though, just along the gentler slope that leads higher up, with maybe a better shot at our signal. Amelia reminds me, several times, not to die. I manage to get another five or seven meters up, but the signal is pointing at some trees that I’m very sure our sloth is not in.

I brace one leg against a massive piece of wood that might be a truck and might be a root and might just be a tree deciding that it owns this cliff face, come-literally-hell or high water, and take a look through the binoculars. The view from up here is even more stunning: birds dart amongst leaning branches that overhang the waves, a few species of beetles I’ve never seen before trundle along happily unmolested by humans, and ariel plants cling tightly to niches in the rock, steadfast against the wind.

“If you haven’t found Luiza yet, the signal’s probably a bounce,” Amelia calls. “Come down!”

I agree, our sloth isn’t here. But I don’t come down quite yet, because I’m following her earlier advice: to watch out. Out to the horizon, which we rarely see in the jungle. Out where the canopy meets the air, where the arboreal creatures go. And out to the future, which, rather like our canopy, needs more sloths in it. I don’t know where my own future goes, but for now, I’m in a pretty good spot.

Now, if only I could get down…




-Ames Reeder

Urban Sloth Project