Foresta dell'Alta Verapaz in Guatemala

The Alta Verapaz Forest is located in Guatemala and its territory is very varied and suggestive. Here is a travel story that will lead you to discover one of the wildest and most unspoiled places on earth.

Alta Verapaz: where it is, what to do and impressions

Alta verapaz is one of the 22 departments of Guatemala whose capital is the incredible City of Cobàn and has the peculiar characteristic of having a territory of great variability unique of its kind.

I want to tell you about my experience of journey in one of the most extraordinary, wild and uncontaminated places on earth.

When we arrived in Coban in November 2019, Vera and I had been spending our vacation in Guatemala for about a month. The photographic reportage we were doing on this small town in Central America had just begun but we were already satisfied by the welcome of the Guatemalans, by the wonderful scenery offered by the highlands and by the excellent quality of the shots obtained up to that moment.

The desire to visit truly unknown places and get off the beaten track by most tourists was always great and the opportunity materialized when two young men introduced themselves as Julio Calindo and Sergio Godoy, two priests who had spent ten years in Spain and hearing two "backpackers" speak that language familiar to them, it attracted their attention.

Guatemala travelogue

Just half an hour after meeting them, Father Sergio invited us to have lunch at his mother's house. The whole family was there waiting for us on the doorstep, Sergi's father was a historian and in a few hours he provided us with information on the history of Guatemala and gave us an even more detailed view of theAlta verapaz, the region we were visiting at that time.

Besides being an excellent cook, Mrs. Godoy also turned out to be a talkative and cultured diner, in addition to Father Sergio's parents there were also his brother, sister, niece and an uncle. That unexpected day was a very pleasant surprise and having spent a few hours with such a hospitable family made us feel the human warmth of someone who has no ulterior motives.

The days that followed the meeting with Father Sergio were full of significant events, I mention one above all: we helped Father Sergio with the children of the Coban landfill, whom he had been taking care of for some years and who lived rummaging through the garbage , this fact alone was an invaluable experience that moved us.

After a few days Father Julio told us that he would return to the small village of Fray San Bartolomeo de Las Casas where his parish was located and with great amazement he invited us to go with him also to understand what he was doing.

At 3,30 am the following day (10-11-2019) we were already awake and finished packing the last things in our backpacks, after about an hour we were already on our way to Fray, accompanied by a continuous drizzle which in Coban has a precise name, “piri-piri”. In addition to Father Julio, our travel companions were Pedro who with his knowledge of Mayan dialects acted as a translator as well as a driver and Robin a young Maya of the Kaqchikel ethnic group who, thanks to the help of Father Julio, had managed to graduate in economics and trade and now assisted Julio's work. After a few hours of walking the first light of dawn began to illuminate the road and so we decided to stop in a comedor along the way where we ate a refreshing breakfast. Father Julio explained to us that he took care of 70 villages located within the forest and that with great effort he was trying to help these people to emancipate themselves through the literacy of young people but that his work was becoming more difficult every day given the scarcity. of funds and the total indifference of local authorities.

Around 10 am we arrived in Fray, which was nothing more than a village that wound along a provincial road and where there were only wooden shacks that, pretentiously, were called beer houses and where there were "big women" ready to tap a some money to some drunkard, among other things the rain that had fallen a few hours before, left an aura of sadness and squalor even more often in that "village".

The big jeep we were traveling on took a dirt and muddy road that the rain had made even more slippery, after no more than half a km the vegetation began to become denser on both sides and I had the feeling that as we entered the forest all that intense green erased the squalor that had oppressed me just ten minutes ago.

Further on the road was reduced to a little more than a path no wider than a meter and a half but the good Pedro drove with great skill and both Vera and I felt safe. Along the way we met some women who came out of the forest with large bundles of wood balanced on their heads.

They looked at us with curiosity and amusement and immediately took the opportunity to ask us for a ride and so in a short time the caisson was full of peasant women.

Our half was called I'm happy, we arrived after two hours of slow walking. The village was made up of no more than ten huts built with straw and wood, the pets wandered around the huts with a lazy way (especially the turkeys ... ..) and the rest of the inhabitants did not seem to be in a great hurry, apart from the two representatives of the village who met us to welcome us.

Electricity as well as running water were two unknown conveniences apart from a small generator that was turned on only for special occasions and was used to power the few light bulbs in the hut used as a church; today was a great day for them as Father Julio was there.

The green color of the vegetation that surrounded the village made the inhabitants' clothes stand out even more, woven with brightly colored fabrics and attracted by the verses of the monkeys I looked up, a light mist rose from the forest and made the atmosphere even more primordial and magical. To bring me back to the present was the voice of Father Julio who called us for the beginning of the mass which he celebrated thanks to the help of Pedro (the driver and translator) who translated the priest's words from "castegliano" to "keqki", immediately after the ceremony we were served a warm de gallina (chicken broth) made red by the aciote (vegetable that colors the food) present in the dish.

As soon as we finished eating Vera began to take pictures of some little girls who for the occasion had put on the best dress but their bare feet sank into the mud, other photographs of that magnificent landscape that surrounded the village were taken by Vera.

During the following days and our acquaintance with the inhabitants of I'm happy grew, as did our appreciation for the lifestyle and deep respect for the nature that surrounded them.

Vera and I both learned a lesson from the inhabitants of Mukblim who never asked us anything but rather shared with us what little they had and took care of us making sure we were satisfied; in short, they showed us the full meaning of the word dignity.

Back in Spain Vera and I have set up an ONLUS and the money we got from the photo exhibition (November / December 2020) from the sale of the photographs and from the donations was sent to Father Sergio for the children of the landfill of Shepherd and to Padre Julio for the inhabitants of I'm happy.

This is a travel diary that mostly tells the impressions of ordinary people who have seen with their own eyes what it means to be poor.

On the other hand we can tell you that the nature that surrounded it with its smells, noises and perfumes, is truly incredible, regardless, of course, from the landfill of Shepherd.

Alta Verapaz Guatemala: images and photos

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