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i hadn't laid eyes on a golden-winged warbler in years and at first i couldn't believe what i was seeing until someone else called it - 2016-11-14
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msy to ver used to be a three hour flight when oil was still worth something in the eighties

2016-11-02 - 7:14 a.m.

Travel Day-- I don't know how much time and internet I'll have in the field, but along the way I'll try to share a few scribbles from an another amazing Peachfront birding adventure. Modest and unassuming too...

The airline said they couldn't check me in online because I couldn't scan my passport, although I don't know why not... maybe because the place to scan it in online did not pop up? So even though I *knew* it was ridiculous, I showed up two hours early like they said. In fact we stayed in the hotel the night before where I tossed and turned and had uneasy dreams about missing my flight. Ugh. Bored shuttle driver standing around chatting up desk clerk took me across the street where, OF COURSE NOT, the desk was not open and all the other myriad tourists told the same shite about getting there two hours early were also milling. I went directly to the head of the line on the basis of my first class ticket, although no one challenged me about it. A few people came up and asked if they needed to wait if they already had boarding pass & carry-on only, and I said nah... but they still had to wait, only in a different line, because security doesn't open until 4 AM. So now you know...

I went to the head of that line too. Besides having PreChek, by that point the other tourists probably thought I worked for the freakin' airline. MSY-IAH, there was Baileys and coffee before the flight, no inflight service. Dropped me off in the same terminal as IAH-MEX, which was good, since they didn't allow much time. IAH-MEX tried to get away with no preflight cocktails but eh... there was an issue. We started to take off, and they made the captain turn around and go about and he was all very sorry, and eventually the FAs had to go around first and do some more Bailey and coffees (or Bloody Marys for the post-Halloween peeps who were truly suffering) and eventually we got off the ground. Breakfast was... not good... but it was edible so I ate it.

Nice views of Mexico City flying in. Don't get me wrong. There's plenty of smog but it's a transparent yellow smog. It didn't do my throat any good, and I still sound like a frog croaking, and the photos taken with my cell phone didn't really come out, but the view looked great! I should say I was in one of those little planes where there's only one first class seat on my side of the plane, so nobody sitting beside me, so I had a window as well as the aisle. So that was nice...

MEX was as confusing as I remembered. Nobody really spoke English. That's OK, because I don't really speak Spanish. In MSY the clerk told me the bags were checked through to VER. No. You have to pick up your bags. A customs agent stopped me from wandering off and made me go back and get my back so... no biggie. One thing about being first off the plane is you have no one to follow to copy what they're doing. She sort of gestured to tell me to put my bags on this hidden conveyer belt behind the barn and over the hill, and there was NOBODY there and NO bags on it, and it was all very spooky, and I wasn't sure if I should. After a time a baggage handler came out and said it was OK and she pointed toward a wall of glass and said go there and catch the train (sounds this same in Spanish so I caught) so I walked up to the featureless glass and whaddyouknow but it's a glass door that retracts open when you walk up. So cool. I followed some signs to the train and after a time more guys squinted and finally allowed as I was supposed to get on the train. More steps. The train. A distant terminal. More steps around and down. I honestly don't know how I found this place. I followed the screams of a gringo couple yelling they missed their plane because they went to the wrong place. I *thought* I was in the wrong place because there were only about 10 other people waiting and *NONE* of them were birders so... after a time the desk clerk sent us down more steps to a bus and the bus drove us several miles (OK, I might be exaggerating a little here) into the countryside at the other end of the airport where we finally got onto a puddle jumper. There was no first class but they gave me the whole back row of the last seats capable of recline which (since the plane loaded from the back) meant I was able to stretch out and also be the first on / off the plane. So fine.

I didn't know what my guide looked like so I walked right past him. I guess I expected a sign. After a time I found him again, and it was mostly just waiting for the other puddle jumpers to land. It seems there is no one big plane any more, just the little guys that dribble people in. Then we drove to Cordoba. Beautiful, spectacular clouds with the sun setting in the west... with the slightly annoying side effect that the beautiful, spectacular clouds evidently concealed the famous volcano. Maybe today...

We ate a lot of good, cheap food. Can prices really be as cheap as they were in 1998? I ate more than I meant too, frankly. And I drank a Margarita which was heavy on the salt. Oh, well. Salt's good for hiking, right? Today we are going to ascend said mountain, or some mountain, in search of the elusive Sumichrast's Wren. Stay tuned.

Oh, and I woke up early to figure out how to make my camera not beep when I take a picture. Takes about five seconds to figure it out when you're well rested, leaving me time to post this perhaps not-very-thrilling report.

Much more amazing adventures to come...

P.S. There are four tourists on this tour but NO couples. Which means no spoiled mistresses, bored boyfriends, or otherwise draggy-arsed hangers-on. Expect amazing things. Knock on wood. I have been very lazy with my lifelist because I can't stand the bookkeeping so my goal is to get 115 lifers to hit 2,000 recorded species seen... and then I might stop keeping a life list. We'll see. That was my goal when I stepped on the plane. I'm already wavering and thinking maybe 2,500?

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