As pretty as basecamp is, after two weeks there I was very keen to get out and experience the satellite camps. In week 3 I moved to the Cantiles satellite camp for two weeks.
It’s a long, steep hike up a mountain to get there (the camp is ~2400m above sea level), made a lot longer by the fact that someone in our group dislocated his hip on the way! It also chucked it down in rain almost the whole way there, so that by the time we arrived just before dark, we were all soaked through, the camp was wet and muddy, and lots of the tents had flooded. Off to a roaring start!
Living in Cantiles was the full jungle experience. There were tents and hammocks, a cooking area (we still had cooks out here in the middle of nowhere!), and a covered eating/fire area. It was in Cantiles that I first came across something I never wish to again – the female urinal. I’ll leave you to wonder about that. There was also the dreaded trench, which although was much nicer than the urinal, was a pretty decent walk away. We showered in a river, where a bit of PVC pipe diverted the water over a rock edge. I really loved the shower, but it was absolutely freezing. The hummingbirds that often came and joined me made up for that though!
The transects in Cantiles were a great deal harder than in basecamp, particularly because most of them started outside of camp, so as well as walking the actual transect, you had to walk to the transect. Things were very steep, very cold, and very wet. But luckily, also very beautiful.
When you’re up this high you can start to get a real appreciation of why Cusuco is classified as a cloud forest. It’s like living in the clouds. Often when we were hiking the guides would point out where ‘viewpoints’ were, but all you could see was a sheet of white. It really made me realise how completely isolated and wild this environment is.
Something very special about Cantiles is that is has what is known as Bosque Enano, or dwarf forest. This is a really special type of stunted vegetation that grows in areas with specific environmental conditions – high altitude, humidity, winds, plus lots of cloud and lightening. It’s associated with species endemism which made it a pretty cool place to hang out for a few weeks.
Unfortunately for the invert team, Cantiles did not have much in the way of dung beetles or moths. In basecamp we were collecting up to 60 beetles in a single pitfall trap, whereas here a whole day of hiking would be lucky to yield 10 beetles … a little bit soul destroying at times. Rather than a light trap sheet full of insects, we would only get a few moths of interest come in each night.
It’s lucky that the area is so stunningly beautiful, as that made it all worth it. Cantiles was by far the hardest part of the trip, but definitely the most exciting. I was very sad to leave!