I arrived in Guatemala City in the early afternoon on Saturday, March 1. My friends from INGUAT, the Guatemalan Tourism Bureau, were there to meet me and whisked me off to the hotel where all the Encounter participants would be gathering.
Julie, Jeff, Liz, & Lisa were scheduled to arrive by 4 pm so I had time to check in, clean up, and prepare to spring the surprise. Terry Moore from Leica and by Ohio birding pal Jim McCormac were in the hotel courtyard so we sat down for a cold drink and some conversation.
The gang finally arrived after 6 pm. Jim devised a clever ploy to lure Julie up to where I was sitting, obscured by potted palm trees. He told her he had a ferruginous pygmy-owl in a tree in the courtyard. She followed him to the "bird" and peered around the corner to where he was pointing. When she saw it was me, she lost it.
Friends gathered around for hugs, high-fives, and much back-slapping. I was really glad to be there, at last. I have a few photos of the surprise being sprung and even a short video, but they are on my small Canon camera which is missing currently. If I find it, I will share the pix.
For the next couple of hours I enjoyed hearing about the week's experiences, adventures, and birds. We had a late dinner and then hit the hay. The next day's trip to The Peten would be starting at 3:30 am.
Sunday morning we headed to the Guatemala City airport for a flight to Santa Elena, near Flores in The Peten Department of northeastern Guatemala. It's a 30 minute flight, which is much better than an 8-hour drive in a car or an all-night bus ride.
Our group gathered onto shuttle buses and we went for breakfast in Flores, at a hotel overlooking Lago Peten Itza. And it was here that the birding and the Encounter began in earnest. I'll let the images take over from here...
Welcoming us to our first breakfast was a croc made of bread.
After brekky we got back on the buses and drove to our hotel for the next three days, Villa Maya. More birding ensued, including our first jungle species: collared aracaris, though in horrible light.