There were two options to renew our soon-to-expire Guatemalan visas.
- Apply for quick and easy visa extension in Guatemala city
- Make a border run to Belize or Mexico
Guatemala City is located an easy one-hour’s drive from where we were staying in Antigua. Option one. Clearly too simple.
A cross-country, multi-day road trip to Belize sounded like more fun. A lot more fun. Option two it is!
This was the second time that expiring tourist visas had led to a detour to this small Central American nation.
After our previous cross-Guatemala drive had us winding slowly through mountainous back roads. We decided to follow the recommended route across Guatemala.
This took us through quetzal country.
If you are anything like me, you probably don’t know what ‘quetzal country’ entails. Perhaps it conjures up ideas of travelling through the wild jungle. Vast green expanses filled with mysterious jabberwock-esque creatures.
As it happens, quetzals don’t look exactly like this.
Perhaps you are not as uninformed as I was about quetzals. Maybe you are a keen ornithologist. Just in case you aren’t one, here’s the lowdown:
Aside from being the name of Guatemala’s currency—it is also the national bird. Like what the kiwi is to New Zealand.
Except quetzals can fly. They are brightly coloured. The males even have long, elaborate tail plumage. Quetzals are a lot more glamorous than New Zealand’s stumpy, flightless, pointy-beaked chicken.
To give us the best chance of seeing one, we splashed out on a room at a fancy eco-lodge.
The sacrifices you have to make to be an intrepid explorer.
In typical Flightless Kiwis style, we celebrated our arrival at a fancy eco-lodge by immediately locking ourselves out of the room. With the hotel’s only copy of the key firmly sealed inside.
Luckily, Ben managed to remove a section of the loosely fitted window frame. This made enough space to post Emma through a narrow-spider-filled gap.
The concerned staff soon returned with assorted tools for breaking and entering. By this stage, Ben was deftly re-fitting the window frame and Emma was dusting the last of the spiders out of her hair. Possible new career option? I suspect ‘jewel thief’ would look questionable on the resumé, but could lead to future travel.
The quest for quetzals began the next day at a quarter to early o’clock. We explored the surrounding cloud forest in the morning mist. Peering hopefully into the dense foliage.
Despite being brightly coloured with elaborate tails, quetzals are surprisingly tricky to spot.
Nope. No quetzals here, but the forest is pretty in the morning mist.
In the dim morning light, quetzals are even harder to photograph than they are to spot.
We somewhat failed on the quetzal photographing front. But here are some wobbly, blurry images so that you can get an idea of what the critter looks like.
And here’s some shots from Getty Images. Taken by people who did a much better job of photographing quetzals than we did.
We had survived our foray into the wilds of Quetzal country. However, we also reached the realisation that bird-spotting is not our forte. Time to return to the 4Runner and continue our cross-country odyssey.