Deep in the Lacondon forest
April 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.

An elderly couple from Guadalajara, probably at least ten years older than me (!), empathized with the disruption the group caused to birding opportunity, and we began chatting about lots of things. When others heard us hablando español, including the guide, the conversation widened. The younger Mexicans and I already had become friendly, and pretty soon we all became part of a spontaneous community. Funny how that happens when disparate people are grouped together having an experience out of their norms.

Lacondon Oasis

So while continuing to keep ears and eyes scanning for birds, I reveled in being in deep tropical forest with its myriad of greens and perfumes. The hike was a long one through trails without any signs. Many times the trail branched or crossed other trails, and I could imagine getting completely lost wandering them by myself. Chambo led confidently, imparting folkloric knowledge as we went. We crossed streams on logs and rocks, and I was slightly concerned about the rigor for the older people. Yet they all continued without complaint and with interest. Eventually we came to a small waterfall in the forest, where a couple dozen people were lounging in the cool water. Some of our party had come prepared with bathing suits, and they pertook of the refreshment. I refreshed myself with an avocado/cheese/tomato sandwich I made alongside the natural pools, and some juice.

We spent an hour at the pools. Chombo hung with the young women, and later with his cousin, who apparently was the “administrator” of the oasis. He told us we would have to pay 35 pesos for the privilege of visiting the swimming hole, and that irritated many of us because we were told that our tour fee payed for everything. It seemed like a clever tax hidden deep in the jungle, one that generates considerable income. Everybody felt that it was a scam, but what could we do? It reflected an entrepreneurship seen among some of the Lacondon that seems incongruous with the philosophy Chombo had been talking about for hours.

I tired of hanging out and began walking out of the small ravine, but before I reached the top a young boy came to me from the pools with a slaty-tailed trogon in his hands. It had flown into the rock walls surrounding the pools and dropped into the water. The quick-thinking boy rescued the bird, and people told him to bring it to me, the pajero. It looked stunned, with nothing broken, so I advised setting it on a branch in the shade. It was pretty pathetic, wet and cross-eyed.

Soggy Slaty-tailed Trogon

Yet after fifteen minutes, when someone came to look closely at it, it flew away. Meanwhile, a bird in the hand can still be a lifer!


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