Of the 20+ years since I have been actively birding, there was only one time when I birded by cab. For three days in a row we were chauffeured across the Mexican countryside in a little yellow cab.
It was one of those situations that all travelers encounter: it isn’t at all what you were imagining, but you can either go with it or abort. We went with it. It turned out that our guide, Armando, didn’t drive. So his friend did the driving instead.
In the dark of each morning, Lupe and Armando picked my partner and me up at our hotel in the small town of San Blas in Nayarit, Mexico. It was an intimate experience, for the car was small and the four us and our equipment were tightly packed in.
Sometimes, as planned, Lupe would take us to other destinations. Twice it was to the river, where we had boat rides, left the cab behind. One day Lupe dropped the three of us off in a banana plantation on the outskirts of a village. Always at the appointed time, Lupe would promptly arrive to pick us up, with the cab cleaned and ready to go. We’d clamber back into “our” little yellow cab.
Armando would point out plants, flowers, trees, and nuts, tell us stories about what he did with these treasures as a kid. We huddled under branches waiting for a special bird, craning our necks, straining our ears, admiring the many species that we found throughout each day.
Armando had a fondness for fried pork rinds. Every day we stopped in a different village and picked up a greasy little bag, which he shared with all of us. Once we had lunch at a countryside family restaurant, where they made fresh tortillas to order. A very pregnant woman expertly worked the dough into perfect circles, the freshest tortillas ever. The place was busy and lively; we were the only two gringos there, and the food was fabulous.
Lupe was the slowest cab driver I had ever seen…but we were in no hurry. Crosses, pagan amulets, and trinkets with shimmering gold streamers hung from the rearview mirror. Occasionally when the car came to speed, the decorations would dance wildly in the wind.
We saw over one hundred different bird species in those three days; traversed many Mexican miles, up and down dirt roads, driving through orchards, even passed through a village funeral procession. And that little cab never let us down.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander