All due apologies for the lack of updates! Our last few days have been filled with mountain treks, vegetable-rich meals, and reconnections between Gryphon and Phoenix groups. The Los Quetzales cabins are stationed at approximately 7,000 feet above sea level in a tropical montane rainforest–also known as cloud forest. This kind of forest is typified by cooler temperatures; a density of mosses, bromeliads, and other epiphytes; and frequent mists and rains. This new lushness, as well as the opportunity to enjoy collective cabin living, seem to have been popular with students.
Earlier today, one group set out for a hike on the Millennium Trail, named for the thousand-year old oaks on the ridge that we followed for most of the hike. We decided to rechristen it the millennial trail. Abel, an incredibly energetic and theatrical guide and local Cerro Punta resident, took us up to show us the way. We were treated to incredible views of nearby towns and agricultural fields as well as some of the group (Phoenix members) getting their first views of primary tropical rainforest.
The hikes have been beautiful and scenic, but some of the best wildlife sightings have happened right outside our cabins. Last night, Mu’izza, Abel and Will noticed a raccoon-sized mammal climbing around outside cabin #4 during a group meeting and pointed it out to the rest of the group. It turned out to be a cacomistle, or ringtail, a close relative of the raccoons and occasional visitor to the
areas around the cabins. Some students set out bananas outside the cabins in hopes that they could see it up-close, and maybe even catch sight of a kinkajou, a small prehensile-tailed relative of raccoons that can best be described as looking like a teddy bear. We struck out with the kinkajou, but got point-black looks at another beautiful cacomistle eating unhurriedly on a cabin deck. Much to Will and a few ornithologically-inclined students’ excitement, the birding has been fantastic, with visits from cloud forest birds like golden-browed cholorphonias, spangle-cheeked tanagers, and even several sightings of
resplendent quetzals. These birds, which played an important role in Maya and Aztec mythology and whose numbers were once decimated by the feather trade, have made a great comeback in this area (enough to be a namesake for our hotel!)
We returned to another rich, local-vegetable filled meal prepared by the vivacious Señora Ramira, with help from her granddaughter Laura and several students. Both Ramira and Abel are longstanding friends of the course, and a large part our positive experience at Los Quetzales.
Tomorrow, we’ll be splitting up again into two groups, with some students going to language classes and homestays in the nearby town of Volcan and others going to an even more remote cabin owned by Los Quetzales Ecolodge in Cotito. The Cotito group will have no access to wifi and little cell service, so expect fewer or no updates from them in the coming five days, and blog posts mostly about Spanish- and culture-related topics for the next ten. The group is largely in good spirits, enjoying the mix of group hikes and activities and free time, and unwinding in the misty montane forest.
All the best,
Will and Chesapeake