Friday, October 4, 2013

Casa Del Mundo

A retreat into Never Neverland.  A place that is both majestic and in constant weather flux, Lake Atitlan made for a cool getaway into the steep mountain sides.   We didn't need a stair master at our place since it was already naturally built into our hostel.  We climbed hundreds of stairs everyday.

The lake waters continue to rise submerging older structures beneath her depths.  It was very bizarre to witness.  Along the shores, it had the appearance of guarding lost ancient civilizations.

Grayish Saltator

We visited several areas around Lake Atitlan and searched for wildlife.  Every morning a boat would come to pick us up from our pier and take us to the various spots around the lake.

Taken at the Lake Atitlan Wildlife Refuge

Storms would roll in and there were times it was dangerous to be out on that lake.  Atitlan would appear calm and smooth until monsoon storms came crashing down all around us at various times of the day.  The mists covered the lakes and everything changed quickly. One evening I was trapped out in the storm without a life vest.  I clung to the rope as rain poured down on me.  We watched as lightning struck the lake.  There is nothing like this type of experience to make you realize how small and  unimportant you are in the whole scheme of things.

And yet, life can be quite thrilling at times.  This over packed boat of passengers was the last launch for the evening.  Had we missed it, we would have waited until morning to head back to our hostel.

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush

There are always unexpected twists while traveling around Mexico and Central America.  Patience is the key word and remember that nothing is ever on time.  They may say seven, but what they really mean to say is nine:)  As a birder, I had to be okay giving up that control a bit while we explored on our own.

Lake Atitlan at sunset

Our searches were fun and we did find new birds almost everyday.  Several birds had become common for me and I was able to label them on the spot.

Gray Silky-flycatcher
For many of us, our lives run on a routine.  I eventually missed those things we take for granted everyday.  For example, I have my sugar out at home for my coffee and hummingbird nectar, but in Guatemala if you left the sugar packets out, the ants would attack from out of nowhere.  Some of you may not know this but in Guatemala, you are not supposed to flush your toilet paper in the toilet.  It goes into the garbage next to the toilet.  It's those little things.......

Yet with these views, who cares!

Tropical Pewee
Some days were cloudy.  Some days were sunny.  So we took advantage when we could.

I don't often enjoy drinking, but we had such amazing drinks in Guatemala!  I hate the taste of beer and yet if you put a dark ale with spicy tomato juice, I'm happy!  Micheladas.  I missed them so much that when I got home, I made a few while writing several of these posts!  So good....

There is a waterfall behind me and I was playing around with my cell phone.  We were the only ones walking around the canopy of the rain forest.  It was actually a fun walk around Reserva Atitlan.

And of course by our hostel, we had narrow paths that went around the lake.  Some cities were safe to visit while others were out of the question.  If you visit, ask your hotel, etc where it's safe to go.  There are still people who are robbed on parts of these paths.

Brown-backed Solitaire
Here are two lifebirds that I had to look at closely.  I noticed that they were just slightly different from several other birds that looked appearance-wise very similar.

Boat-billed Flycatcher
The Mayans rule this part of the world.  We were subject to their rules.  Never call a Mayan a Guatemalan.  They fought brutal years against the Guatemalan regime and won their cause. Today they still speak their own Mayan dialects around the lake and cling fiercely to their ways. They barely tolerate the tourists.

Deforestation continues around this area. It was my final trip here as I will never be returning back in this lifetime again.  I hope the Mayans and others understand the need for conservation.  It's what has brought millions of people here over the years.  But the forests are diminishing by farmers cutting further and further into the mountain sides.  I remember what I saw in 2006.  So much has changed in 7 years.

Humanity is slowly creeping into more and more habitat and affecting our wild friends.  Below are images that I found interesting.  A House wren(below) finds a home within human structures.

House Wren
Humans will paint their colorful birds on sides of building.  But if they aren't careful, those images will be a faded memory of what was. 

And I am reminded that I am getting older.  All those straps around my body never used to be there.  They are life support to help me exist in this type of climate.  They contain water, anti-bug weaponry, money packs, a camera.......and yes, it did take its toll on me.

My final thoughts are below.  As your host and Spanish instructor, here is a lesson I learned while on this trip;)

All my best.  Until next time.......


  1. that sunset is gorgeous! i like the 'upside-down' looking flowers, too.

  2. Thanks for the tour- I enjoyed reliving it with you. A place I will certainly never see! I did live in Panama for a brief period as a youngster, but don't remember much.

  3. Chris, what a lovely review of your trip! The scenery is gorgeous and I love the birds of course. The sunset shot is one of my favorites. And I had a laugh over the cute sign! Great post and wonderful photos. Happy Birding!

  4. Don't give up that you won't return to this stunning location but it may not look the same. Gorgeous!

  5. You do see some wonderful places on your travels.
    This is somewhere I'd love to visit.

  6. The end is pretty funny. But the in between super interesting as always with a lot of details to remember...

  7. Another thought-provoking post from you - Thank you. A place of such beauty, and the worry that it may soon be lost. I hope you DO make it back here, Chris, and find it (and yourself!) to be in good condition.

  8. Just brilliant commentary, photographs and advice re travelling in central America Chris. That shot Lake Atitlan at sunset is a world beater. The sign is a world beater (or is that a world equaliser) too.

  9. Being in such magnificent surrounds would make climbing a mountain of stairs almost a pleasure! ALMOST!!! But the jury's out on the beer/tomato juice thing ... at least it is downunder!!!

  10. I love seeing the amazing places you have visited Chris - the sunset over the lake photo is just beautiful. I do hope you do go back one day and it remains the same. So sad to hear of more habitat destruction - will we never learn? :(

  11. Great tour!I love that new header scene. Yes, the trees are gone next door, but I have to say after a month I'm finally getting over it. I've hauled the 15 wheelbarrow loads of bark and wood mulch from their ground up stumps to my garden so that it wasn't a total waste. The extra sunlight will have a positive effect and move on. Have fun with those wonderful trips to remote jungles. Maybe someday I'll get out of Houston and see you there! :0) David/

  12. An exciting journey Chris, and wonderful pictures.:)I had to smile about your experience with unpunctuality.Here,things are always done amanha, but that usually means several weeks!:)One gets used to it, but on holiday it must be frustrating.The amusing sign made me smile, but what I enjoy the most about your posts is your creative writing skill, and attention to detail.Thanks!:)

  13. Chris, such beautiful sunsets and birds! What a time you had! You are braver than me! that boat-billed flycatcher looks like the Great kiskadee! Is it the same bird with a different name?

  14. Hi Kathie,

    I know! Here we have the Pac-bell and Cordilleran. And in Central America, there is another group of flycatchers that can be tricky....Lesser Kiskadee, Great Kiskadee, Boat-bill Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher:) They all look the same but for some minor differences. The Boat-billed is much larger with a Thick-bill. It's similar to the differences between a Thick-billed Kingbird and other Kingbirds:)


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