Different Rhythms: Birding and Travel
Apr 22nd, 2010 by robert

For the last day I have been hanging in Tuxtla, the big, hot capital city of Chiapas, waiting for another piece of the travel puzzle to fall into place.  There are only eight days until I fly home. I arrived in Tuxtla after two days of intensive birding with the friendly guides I met in El Triunfo, an incredible place I have not written about. Yet.

Sitting in limbo, I’ve been thinking how birding and international travel are essentially diametrically opposed activities. Two days ago we traveled by car to Puerto Arista, on the Pacific coast of Chiapas, to look for giant wrens and a couple of other southern Mexico specialty birds. We drove down a road with scattered houses and fields, and occasionally we would stop, get out with our binoculars, and scan the bushes. One time we stopped to identify some parrots that landed in a tree. I looked down and noticed people at the house were grouping around a window to observe us observing the birds. I said buenas tardes, but thought how strange to pass through a community without really seeing it. Greeting our onlookers opened a door, and a woman and her son came up to us. I explained what we were doing, and showed her pictures of the birds we sought. She recognized all of them and told us their local names, what time of day they sing, and where to look for them.

I haven’t completely digested this conundrum yet, but it seems like there might be a better way to bird while traveling, such that the richness of travel itself is not missed. The species  list may not grow as rapidly, but so what? Birders, what do you think?

Of course you can avoid the issue completely by going to places where there are no people or culture. That’s what I am doing this afternoon. I leave for another five days in a biosphere reserve called El Ocote. Nos vemos pronto.

Deep in the Lacondon forest
Apr 20th, 2010 by robert

Chambo stopped every fifty meters to talk about specific trees or customs of his people. He carried himself with dignity and a sophisticated charm that encouraged his audience to ask many questions. I listened while lagging behind to keep an eye out for birds. It quickly became apparent that birding was going to be no more successful than on any other portion of the tour, and that led to further disappointment. But gradually it dissipated as I began to realize that when I relaxed my expectations, I could appreciate other dimensions of the experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 15th, 2010 by robert

After a long, hot day amongst the ruins of Bonampak and Laxchilán, we were dropped in the Lacondon village called Lacanjá. A Lacondon man dressed in nice clothes welcomed the five of us staying the night: the Dane, the three young Mexicans, y yo. He led me and Jacob, the Dane, across a yard, through a hedge apparently onto someone else’s property, and let us into a shed with two beds and a ceiling fan. And left. Light was fading, and when we tried to turn the light bulb or the fan on, nothing happened. Read the rest of this entry »

Bonampak, Laxchilán and Rio Usumacinta
Apr 8th, 2010 by robert

At 6 AM I waited along with a few other people, for the van that was supposed to pick us up for a trip deeper into the rainforest. There were three Mexicans and a Dane, and we chatted now and then until the van arrived, fifty minutes late. Before we boarded I reserved a room at Jungle Palace for the following evening, when we would return after dark from the tour, and I locked my pack in a locker so I wouldn’t have to lug it with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 8th, 2010 by robert

I awoke when the bus stopped. It was pouring rain and first light was having trouble breaking through the thick clouds. It was 6 AM and the overnight bus had arrived in Palenque, and I was slightly disoriented from a cold, poor night’s sleep during the trip. Looking out at the sheets of warm rain, I was happy when a Swiss woman called Tuli asked if I wanted to split a taxi to El Panchán, an enclave in the rainforest that contains a few hostels and a couple of restaurants, just outside of the Palenque park.

The taxi dropped us amidst the hostels, all tucked into the forest, but nobody was stirring yet. Read the rest of this entry »

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