Utopia, Deep in the Guatemala Jungle

While touring Guatemala, I found myself in the village of Coban. This busy little town is not a tourist attraction and surprisingly nether is the spectacular Semuc Champey, deep in the rain forest. So far off the beaten path, even many Guatemalans have never visited or heard of this beautiful reserve. This is not an easy trip. From Coban you will experience an hour drive crossing the lush green mountains including major hairpin blind curves and broken asphalt with craters so large they can’t be avoided. The next 11 kilometers will bring you onto Lanquin, known for bat caves used for religious ceremonies, coffee plantations and condone farming and processing. The usual scent of burning plastic floats throughout this kercahel speaking village while you experience a spiritual closeness to the native Mayans. Upon arriving in the dusty center of town, 4-wheel drive trucks and motorcycles are needed to cross from mountain top to mountain top, another 10 kilometers, riding in the back of one of these trucks, equipped with aluminum rails. This one Lane dirt road winds through the jungle, occasionally crossing the river and usually heading straight down or straight up. Along the way, many women can be seen walking through the jungle for miles, accompanied with a child in tow and one bundled on their back. The men walking with hundreds of pounds of cut wood strapped to their backs with the ropes across their forehead to keep it balanced. Native farms, adorned in only corrugated tin roofs dot the mountainside, deep in jungle, between banana trees and farm land. Chickens scratch in the rich, mineral packed soil, dogs wander sniffing for anything to eat and pigs laying asleep on the side of the road. Situated in the deep jungle is one of nature best kept secrets, Semuc Champey Reserve. The upper waterfalls come together in a crashing flow of crystal clear water to the pools below. Trails of rock paths and deck like walkways are there to take you from the wood bridge all the way to the head of the falls where lookout areas are available. Care is needed when crossing over the slime covered rocks, they’re quite slippery. A beautiful Hostel and Restaurant is situated directly on the river, a scattering of coffee trees, banana trees and cocoa trees complete with hanging pods surround the area.

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