Monday, August 10, 2015

Chasing the elusive Quetzal

This past weekend we headed back up into the Sierra de las Minas to scope out logistics to re-open our "Trail of the Quetzal" trip.  Our trek  into the sierra is a unique opportunity to get out in to very remote and pristine Guatemalan backcountry. The Sierra encompasses more than %60 of Guatemala's remaining cloud forest.  It is home to the highest concentration  of the elusive Quetzal, the national bird, icon and currency, tapirs, monkeys and other large mammals.   The park is the key attraction of the conservation organization Defensores de la Naturaleza who are largely responsible for its creation as well as management.  

Working with the Defensores, we have create two different trips into the park.  Both trips start in a local community high up in the mountains at the base of the park.  One itinerary is a three day trip will focus of those who want to get into the core area of the park called the "zona nucleo" where we will have great chances to see Quetzales.  The "zona nucleo" stays high up on the ridge in prime cloud forest.  We will take two separate day hikes out to beautiful rock formations and high points to get an amazing view out over the park dominated by what seems to be a million shades of green.

Our second itinerary is a 4 day trip that will not only focus on the "zona nucleo" but will push further through the park.  We will have the opportunity to trek through areas that almost no visitors see. We'll stay in small rustic "park ranger cabins" nestled around the park.  This is a much more intense trip, not for the faint at heart, but the payoff is amazing!  Hiking deeper into the woods you will have more opportunity to see the abundant wildlife that make the Sierra las Minas so unique.  Troops of monkeys swing through the trees above, birds seem to be everywhere, and follow fresh tapir y puma tracks.  

While in the park we walk each day with locals from nearby communities who are employed by the Defensores to act as resource officers.  These guys really know the park!  They point out everything of interest along the trail as well as help us to identify the songs of the birds overhead.  They know where to look to find the Quetzal, how to follow tracks on the forest floor and everything else about the forest.  We stay each night in the cabins that they use while out on patrol.  There are cabins places strategically around the park.  The nicest of which are located on the ridge in the "zona nucleo".  The rest of the cabins are more modest and rustic but still serve their purpose: to give us shelter for the night, a nice cozy warm place to dry out and tell stories around the campfire.  

The Sierra las Minas is currently not a major well-known attraction like Tikal, Antigua or Lake Atitlan and is thus often time passed over when planning a trip to Guatemala, which is a huge shame.  The Sierra is a world class destination, ground zero for Guatemalan wilderness.  It should be part of your next visit to Guatemala.  Get in touch with us at Old Town Outfitters if you are interested!

See ya on the trail.

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