Welcome back to Part 2 of my people-watching tour…this time in the western hemisphere.
As I explained in Part 1, my wife and I have had a couple decades of observing wildlife in different parts of the world. We go to faraway places, usually in tropical locations where there tend to be more birds and mammals. After our plane lands in the big city, we make our way into the small towns, villages and rural areas to observe and photograph wildlife…and enjoy the people too.
These are some of the people we have literally encountered along the way–many photos are snapped through a van window as we’re driving through town. Small local villages, schools, homes and markets.
Featured here are Peru, Mexico and Belize.
We spent about a week in motorized canoes cruising an Amazon tributary and camping in the rainforest.
We often saw small villages on the river’s edge. In the second photo below, the villagers had harvested bananas and we’re preparing them for market.
In contrast to the humidity and heat of the Amazon River Basin, farmers in the Andes mountains grow potatoes and grains at high altitudes.
This woman, below, is heading back to the farm, potatoes on her back. The potato originated in Peru over 8,000 years ago and remains a staple here. There are also grain crops visible here, the purplish-red patch (center left) is quinoa.
These potato farmers, below, are selling their crop at a village market.
One morning we were driving through this town below where the local market was bustling with residents. You can see how the Andes Mountains in the background tower over the town.
Nearby, the children were gathering for a day of school. Across the street the little children were jumping around a parked truck filled with citrus fruit, looked like tangerines; and the bigger kids, below, were engaging with their teacher outside the school.
In larger towns we would often see stone steps and houses built into the mountainsides. The blue “flags” (center right) in this residential alley indicate where corn alcohol can be purchased.
One year we journeyed to a small Mexican town, San Blas, for birding. A coastal state, Nayarit. We had arranged online with a recommended local birding guide for several days of birding together. The guide, Armando, did not drive so his friend Lupe, who was a taxi driver, drove.
We drove all over the town and countryside in a yellow taxi…had so much fun.
Armando had a penchant for fried pork rinds so every day we stopped along the way for those. He knew where to find good food. One day he took us to a local eatery, a canvas-covered plot in a banana plantation where we ate exceptionally delicious food and hand-made tortillas made to order.
In many of the small towns there were large barbecue grills selling savory hot food on the street.
We did a lot of birding in the plantations. While we were focused on a large flock of little green parrotlets, this man walked by, below, on his way to pick coffee berries very early one morning.
We also spent a lot of time on and around the San Blas River spotting pelicans, herons and other waders.
Several local families, like this one below, were frequently enjoying a day on the water.
Belize is a Central American country bordering the Caribbean Sea, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras and has a wide array of ethnic groups and cultures. Per Wikipedia: “Belize has a diverse society that is composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history.”
One of our destinations was Lamanai, an archaeological site, to spot birds and howler monkeys. Out in the country we came across a village of Mennonite farmers. There are about 12,000 Mennonite residents in Belize, originating from various places but primarily of Russian heritage.
More info: Mennonites in Belize, Wikipedia.
It happened to be Sunday and we came across much of the village on the road. Each family was in a buggy pulled by a horse, their horses in a gentle trot toward church. Below is the parking area of the rural church we passed.
Hours later, as we entered the rainforest trail, spotting birds, bats and howlers, this group of Mennonites walked by us. The men walked in one group (in front), and the women and children followed. They were taking the day off from work.
Days later in a different area, we drove through Belize’s capital, Belmopan, as school was letting out.
We also spent several days at a large lagoon spotting snail kites, raptors and waders, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.
Our guide, Glen, grew up around here and seemed to know everyone. Here he is (below, in front) with his cousin who was out in his yard cleaning the fish he had caught that day. There’s an opportunistic cat, too.
That wraps up the series People in the World. It’s a big world, a very big world, with many different types of people, cultures, and lifestyles.
And yet, as it goes, we are all very much the same.
Happy Holidays to you, my friends. Thanks for joining me this year, see you next year!
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.