30 August 2010

A Night to Remember

The first thing I noticed was the cold. After being in Orlando, it was almost stark. The crisp, cool mountain air flooded my senses as I stepped out of the door. Slowly, my eyes began to adjust to the lights outside. The sounds of engines surrounded us, and somewhere nearby I could hear shouting in Spanish. As I glanced down before me, I slowly began to move with the crowd. Security personnel with machine guns watched us exiting the plane, and ushered us onto the soon to be overcrowded bus nearby. I hustled aboard, following those that I had confidence knew what was going on. The bus soon began to accelerate, weaving beneath other planes, showing us tempting glances of the city lights beyond. After a few bumps and quick curves, we were ushered back out of the van, and a long and mostly barren corridor lay before me, crowded with people waiting for the magic stamp. I slowly jostled and maneuvered my way through the crowd, until finally, after what seemed (and possibly was ) hours, walked up to a lady in a DAS uniform. After some language difficulties, I answered her questions as best I could, and my brand new passport received its first stamp ever: one for the Republica de Colombia. I could not believe it. The day I had been waiting for longer than I could remember had finally come. I was in South America, and Colombia no less. I slowly walked out, retrieving my backpack and waiting for my friend Andrew Spencer to rejoin me. We checked out through security, took out some Colombian pesos, and briskly paced into the bustling horde of people and taxis, and soon got an unmarked one for our hotel. My first ever taxi ride sped by (quite literally, as anyone who has driven in Latin America can attest to) under the lights of Bogota. We soon arrived at our little hotel on the other side of the city, and I quickly began to fall asleep. It was the night of 17 June 2010, and ahead of me lay almost two months of South American birding. I had no idea what to expect, armed only with the drawings of birds I had never seen, memories of specimens I had carefully studied and what I imagined those birds to look like in my head. And as I fell asleep that night, I glanced out at the lowly lit rooftops and wondered and pondered about what my first ever South American bird would be...

Over the next several posts, I will talk about this amazing trip I had, my first South American trip ever. Over the months I did things I did not think were possible for me to do, saw birds the likes of which I had never imagined, and made friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I will try to post up at least once a week to cover the entire trip, along with additional posts from what is going on now. Until then, good birding!