“So is the sun going to come out tomorrow?”, I asked the elderly gentleman standing by his porch along the muddy path I was hiking to catch the 6:00 AM birding boat tour. His thick-accented, guttural, grunting response was probably the only two words he knew in the language I had addressed him in: “Yes-No”. You can be CERTAIN you’re off the beaten path when a man who has lived his entire life in a country that used to be a British colony, where the Queen adorns the currency, and where English is an official language…doesn’t speak a lick of it. Now that’s cool!
My second day in Crooked Tree found me running into all kinds of adventures. The early morning boat trip up into the lagoon where we saw all kinds of rare and elusive birds was absolutely AMAZING. Some 275 species of birds live or migrate through this lush marshy region of Central America. Ruby, a Mayan descendant, our captain and guide, was absolutely astonishing…pointing out critters I wouldn’t have noticed if my life depended on it. His knowledge was even more impressive, as he called out names and peppered us with fascinating facts about each species. The other three with me, an Idahoan and two Bostonians, were “real” birders who frantically checked targets off their life-lists. Meanwhile, I’d quietly whisper to Ruby requests such as “Can we drift left to get that dead tree out of the background?”. His gentle smile and a knowing nod assured me it was OK to make requests, so I continued, while trying not to overstep my bounds. To me, knowing what a Bare Necked Tiger Egret is, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if I can’t get a clean shot!
Other highlights of the day included walking “home” to Tillett’s Village Lodge, just as a bubbly group of school girls rounded the corner. After shy smiles and inquisitive questions about who I was and what I was doing in their village, they came back out of their shells. Next came introductions, including dramatic statements as only tweens can deliver: “I’m Alisha and I want to be a singer like Rihana!”. Well…it doesn’t take much to incite me into an impromptu fashion shoot for superstars like that! We had a ball capturing the cover photos for their debut albums.
That evening a traveler from Canada, a lady from Augusta (my part of the world), and a pair of Kiwis arrived looking for a place for the night. They joined me for dinner, which turned into story-time…each sharing tales of adventures past and present, punctuated with gales of laughter. I gleaned several recommendations from Agata, the Canadian who turned out to originally be from Poland, and who had just come from the direction I was headed!
Tomorrow brings a new day, new friends to find, and new stories to tell…