Thursday, 15 December 2011

160 Countries & Counting

Best laid plans of mice and men etc........ we won't, as advertised yesterday, be publishing the 2 post series of the Rare Birds of Dorset photographs due to an unexpected addition to the readership early last evening. The country concerned was part of one of the most exciting, if not 'the' most exciting and interesting adventures I have ever embarked upon. While a further 7 other nations were part of that trip, with 5 already being on the reader list, it was the wrongly preconceived idea about this place in particular that jogged all the memories that are to follow over the next 2 days. Admittedly, this is also a bit of an indulgence to myself so it is hoped forgiveness will follow?

In company with Billy (Rhubarb and Custard Crumble) Burke our jaunt started with a sprint through the airport as we were about to miss our connecting flight to Mexico City. From there we 'back-packed' overland to Mérida, Yucatán but found it just a little too far from our first destination.

A short bus ride brought us to the small town of Piste where, having travelled for some hours, we decided to book into the Best Hotel - this is it! However, it was only for a couple of nights and not all bad as on closer inspection you can see displaying Great-tailed Grackle at the top of the ladder, and it was just 2Km from

Chichen Itza seen here from the Bamboo Watchtower, giving great views of the whole complex pocking out above the tree tops.

Temple of the Warriors.

Pyramid of Kukulkan

In time honoured fashion Jim the Medic could not make up his mind about this trip, and at the last moment decided to rendezvous with us at Chetamul (in the nearest beer bar) on the Belize border. Within 15 minutes of his arrival we found him on this balcony sipping a beer - that's our Jim!

I had read about the bird life at Crooked Tree, Belize before leaving, so it was agreed to get the bus there. It wasn't funny to find the bus doesn't stop there, but it was certainly to the amusement of our fellow passengers when the driver dropped us off there.

You would have to wait for my memoirs to get all of the stories, so for the sake of brevity suffice to say we stayed in insect infested wooden huts as guests of 80 years old Randy Crawford (seen here right with the then Belize Deputy Prime Minister John Briceo) and his lovely 82 years old wife Grace. They, along with a family consisting of a cast of thousands, ran everything around there and between them could lay their hands on anything you wanted.

Among our many adventures here, we were invited as 'guests of honour' to the Annual Fish Festival. Jim, Randy, Billy, George Guest (an ex-pat who served in one of the Guards Regiments alongside Kenny Taylor one of our rig mates - what a coincidence?) his wife Shirley & Moi.

Jim the Medic.

Billy Crumble.

Yours Truly. As special guests we were given the best on offer which included plenty of 'home brew' and not just any old BBQ'ed Green Iguana (Bamboo Chicken as it's known locally) but pregnant females complete with unlaid eggs. I can honestly report that every mouthful was a delight.

All too soon the first week was over and on the bus to Belmopan the capital, where we hire a taxi to take us over the border to Tikal, Guatemala.

Not 20 yards into the new country and this appeared in the headlights, an Ocellated Turkey.

The Tikal Complex on an early, misty morning with Howler Monkeys and Montezuma Oropendola (the pendulous nests of which can be seen hanging from the right tree in the top picture) screeching from the trees made for a most eerie feeling.

All of this in a Jungle of Mighty Trees.

Remaining in Guatemala we next headed for Antigua

where we found much evidence of repeated earthquake activity including the Old Cathedral.

This ornate Carpet of Sand was found in the new cathedral, but we were here for something far more adventurous, we had decided to climb the active

Volcan Pacya

It was something of a route march to get there before even starting the climb, this being the subsidiary hill, and additionally

we had to be escorted by 'armed guards' as we were about to enter Bandit Country.

I'm proud to say it was only me that made it to the top (with guard of course)

but what a state we were in when finally reaching the beer bar at the bottom. All of this came about as a misunderstanding, as I thought the organiser had said "you'll be up to your knees in LAGER" not lava!

Ever onward, this time to Lake Atitlan, where once existed a bird the Atitlan Grebe,

we did keep our eyes open but then settled for some fresh fish for lunch.

Next came an experience to remember, a visit to the town of Chichicastenango or Chichi to you and me. It is a large indigenous town, lying on the crests of mountaintops at an altitude of 1,965 m (6,447 ft) and located about 140 km (87 mi) northwest of the capital Guatemala City.

It is said that this is the point on the continent where Christianity meets Paganism. The smoke issuing across the previous picture is from Pine Kernals burnt in tins and swung above the heads of what I could only describe as Shamen.

This is the spot I had 2 handcrafted necklaces made from Guatemalan green jade.

and if you want a Mask, you need look no further!

Eventually, we get to the country in question (about time too I hear you say)

El Salvador

Now, if your impression of this beautiful country is something like this, then BEST FORGET IT as much has changed since 1982. A beautiful land full of warm welcoming people, I am so please that someone has visited the Blog from such a memorable place. Waldo's Cafe was one of our highlights, and while all the very visable security is 'tooled up' (carrying guns) there is much room for high jinx, partying and having a good time.

The Capital San Salvador

Panoramica

Maya Temple

Typical Sidestreet.

Cascada Los Trecios Suchitoto.

The countries highest peak Volcano Santa Ana (borrowed photo).

This is my personnal welcome to the reader(s) in El Salvador, with a hope that the Blog Link will be passed on to others in your fine country. Bagsy

I am unable to resist the temptation to complete this story, albeit in presis form, so will get about uploading more photos this evening. Just wait 'til the book comes out!

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