A visit to Guatemala

Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala

Ah the joys of early morning flights. I got up at three thirty AM to get the taxi to the airport. Upon arriving at the airport I discover to my surprise that I have a Business Class ticket. This explains why my one way was more expensive than my canceled round trip. So this morning I am at last qualified for admission to the Merida Airport VIP lounge. I get to sit in a comfy seat and have a morning cerveza. All set for my new adventures.

Generally there is not much to see outside the window, but on this trip, there are some interesting clouds this morning and a view of a volcano sending out smoke in Guatemala. Whenever I see an active volcano, it is always a reminder to me as to how volatile is this seemingly stable planet we call Earth.

Volcano in the clouds

When landing at Guatemala one can not help but notice that the local Maya dress differently and have different facial features than the Maya of the Yucatán. Welcome to a new country. (I believe Guatemala is my country #41 for those of you who are keeping score.)I meet up with the rest of the eight members of our tour group from the Institute of Maya Studies.  On our first day in Guatemala City we visit the archaeology museum. There are some excellent pieces here and there is a scale model of Tikal that gives a wonderful overview. Our hotel is in the swanky part of town with green marble sidewalks and American chain restaurants. I go for local food and have some turkey soup.

Rio Lagartos

Location: Rio Lagartos, Yucatán, Mexico

Bird Spotting in the River of the Crocodiles

These is a place in the Yucatán called the River of Crocodiles, or Rio Lagartos in Spanish. We decided to visit some of the local wildlife. We start by introducing ourselves to the local reptiles at the neighborhood crocodile farm. Here we are shown an enclosed pond with five male and thirty breeding female crocodiles. The caretaker reassures us that they are well fed and unlikely to attack us. He then opens the gate and invites us to get up close and personal. My first reaction is, “Are you fricking kidding me?” But my curiosity wins out.  I must get a closer view of those wonderful scraggly teeth.

Scraggly Teeth

The youngsters are in a different pen and are a quite a bit smaller, but they make up for this with their enthusiasm. The mere tossing of a few chicken parts brings a dozen or more snapping little jaws into play.

Little Snappers

We then approach the harbor of Rio Lagartos where the boats seem to be manned by pelican crews.

Brown Pelican

They look as if they have just staged a mutiny and are getting ready to sail off on their own.

We hop into a pelican-free boat and are off to see the birds and animals.  As we travel among the mangrove trees, every little bend in the estuary seems to offer a different species. It almost looks as if they were posing for us.  I can imagine the bird director saying, “Okay, Great Blue,

Great Blue Heron

here comes the boat. Now I want you to pose for a minute then take off in flight to show them what your wings can do.

You there, Snowy Egret, get ready to pose in the next bend.

Snowy Egret

Black Hawk, profile please, show us your best side. 

Common Black Hawk

Hey, Parakeet, can you hold still for a few seconds.”

Aztec Parakeet

And yes, there were free range crocodiles, but climax of the trip was the viewing of the flamingos. 

American Flamingo

Just seeing them was amazing, but watching them take off in flight was a magnificent spectacle, well worth the journey.