Thursday, March 27, 2008
You may recall from reading Bill of the Birds' blog that I had to leave for Guatemala without my mate, thanks to his being felled by illness and challenged by a missing passport. I left frigid Columbus in the dark (having driven up alone in a blizzard the night before), and landed in Houston at about 9 AM. Chewing sadly on my Chinese food breakfast (hey, I'd been up since 4 AM),I saw this little red heart-shaped balloon, a Valentine's waif, floating sadly out on the Texas tarmac. It rose and fell just like my heart, knowing I was going to Guatemala, but that my love couldn't come along.
I made the flight, alone. Arrived in Guatemala City in early afternoon.
On the ride from the Guatemala City airport, where I met up with our beloved Houghton Mifflin editor Lisa White, we spotted a sign we knew Bill would have dugg. I wonder if the same teacher gives all three courses?Note: Lotus position, belly dance, breakdance--dude supporting himself in a spin on one hand. Loooove it.
Lisa, Jeff Gordon and Liz Gordon and I all went to Los Tarrales for three days before reconvening in Guatemala City to meet up with the rest of the Birdwatching Encounter group. You've just had the last of the Los Tarrales posts. In retrospect, my favorite part of the trip: wandering about Los Tarrales, lost, but found in its beauty and vitality.
Tarrales interlude concluded, we three made our way back to Guatemala City with a police escort, but not before stopping at an ice cream stand Jeff knew about. Our escorts didn't want to be photographed with ice cream cones (very unpolicemanlike), but Liz wheedled them into showing us their treats.Having spent six months in Amazonian Brazil as a college student, I became quite used to seeing policemen going around with dangerous-looking guns. It goes with the territory in Central America.
It was a neat ride, with lots of unusual landscapes. This was a patchwork quilt, thrown over once-forested hills.
A tree marriage. Everything I saw reminded me of Bill, and how much I missed being with him. It just wasn't fair. He'd made the excursion possible for many of the trip participants, not the least being me, and he couldn't come along.
Around sunset, we arrived in Guatemala City. We arrived at Vista Real Hotel, very snazzy, very cosmopolitan, perched on a hilltop outside the city. Jim McCormac, our blogging biologist friend from Ohio, took me by the arm. "Julie! There's a ferruginous pygmy-owl in the hotel courtyard!" he exclaimed. "You've got to see it!" Addled by the trip, I believed him, and he steered me right through a small planted courtyard, up some stairs to the hotel bar. Why would a pygmy owl be in a hotel bar? Duhhh... Rounding a corner, Jim steered me right into Bill, sitting in a chair looking very, very excited. He had made it after all! I fell into his arms and cried for a long time. He wouldn't miss the whole trip, after all. You don't want to know what it took (and continues to take) to cancel and then reinstate an international flight with three domestic connections. Suffice it to say that he is paying dearly in rushed passport fees and wrangling with airlines about double-charged tickets for his desire to surprise me at a hotel in Guatemala City, when he wasn't supposed to be there at all.
The next morning, after the first in a series of very short nights, we got up in the wee hours to fly to Peten, the lowland humid forest part of Guatemala. We enjoyed breakfast on Lake PetenItza, with crippling views of purple gallinules. Here's an immature gallinule:Lookit them toes!! Oh, there's water lettuce--I grow that back home in my water garden. The super long toes help the gallinule balance on floating vegetation, acting as snowshoes.
A glorious adult purple gallinule.
Water gardeners will recognize the noxious African pest, water hyacinth, growing behind the gallinule. Blaa! Those things are everywhere. Here's my favorite gallinule shot, that moment when he peered into my camera lens as I hung over the balcony above him, and decided to beat it. It's not every day you get to shoot a purple gallinule from directly overhead. Can you feel the palpable intelligence in his eyes? I don't like you, woman with camera.
There were some indescribably gorgeous 4" long fish breeding in the shallow water beneath us. I wondered if they might be sailfin mollies, while Jeff Gordon opined that they might be some kind of killifish. This is a male in full display. WOW! Help! Anyone recognize it?The fish were busy as all get out, each looking for a mate, but I was so happy. Mine had flown down to be with me. More adventures to follow.