Adventure racer Alex Pilkington faced snakes and swamps in his sport’s recent world championships in Costa Rica.
Alex, who lives near Horton-in-Ribblesdale, raced as part of Team Mountain Hardwear in the event, which involved eight days of non-stop trekking, kayaking, rafting and mountain biking through remote and challenging Central American terrain.
Along with Ant Emmet and Sally Ozanne, from Kendal, and Kim Collison, from Penrith, Alex travelled to Costa Rica for the 815km race. They lined up with 60 teams from all over the globe and were one of just four from the UK to enter. Fellow Brits, Team Adidas Terrex, finished third overall and the winners were Sweden’s Thule Adventure.
“It was an amazing experience. Costa Rica is a fantastic country. This was absolutely massive over there – a bit like the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire – and we had the most incredible support and interest,” said Alex.
The course took the teams from Costa Rica’s border with Panama, across the country to the Nicaraguan border, from the Pacific to the Atlantic and included Costa Rica’s highest point – 3,900m Mount Chirropo – mangrove swamps and remote trails in between.
“We were kayaking through mangroves and we went under some low branches when a snake appeared. It was on my head and shoulders. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Another time Sally spotted a pretty frog – but we gave it a wide berth as it was poisonous and if we had touched it we would have been in trouble.”
The race started with a 100km bike ride, then it was on to kayaking and trekking.
They had to navigate between checkpoints and grab snippets of sleep wherever they could, all the time being self-sufficient for food and drink.
“We got water from the locals, who were very welcoming and eager to help us. The maps were interesting because they were about 50 years out of date, there having been no more recent mapping of the country, so navigation was challenging,” said Alex.
The course went through parts of Costa Rica so remote that the indigenous tribal people living there had little experience of the outside world.
“They had hardly ever seen white faces so we were quite a novelty. They were fantastic, very friendly and really wanted to help us, providing us with fresh fruit – bananas and oranges – so welcome after days of living off cereal bars,” said Alex.
After eight and a half days, a brush with altitude sickness and only 11 hours’ sleep, the team finished in 10th position.
Alex said: “We were very tired, but delighted to finish in one piece. It was a truly amazing experience. We would like to thank all our families and friends for the support, and all our sponsors for making it possible.”