The Guatemala Cloud Forest

Wednesday, January 30, 2013, Rio Honda, Guatemala

We stayed put the last few days on a farm in the Guatemala cloud forest. Thanks to Faye and Janice, Dave’s wife, we spent a few days in the bunk house of Janeen Simon. Janeen has been in Guatemala for 30 years and owns 350 acres of prime cloud forest that she is working to protect.  In addition she is the executive director of Wings, a non-profit organization that educations indigenous women  about family planning and does cancer screenings. Click HERE to learn more. We visited the Wings office in Coban and observed a class. Janeen’s passion for her work and the local people she is trying is help was obvious. Dave, Janice and Faye, who have been involved in Mercy Corps and similar organizations for years spoke only with the highest regard for the Wings organization. If anyone is interested in supporting the indigenous population I would highly recommend supporting Wings.

But let me back up… from Antigua to Coban we decided to take the smaller secondary road through the mountains, CA-5, according to my GPS. The road started out nicely paved but suddenly turned to gravel.

Here was one of the better sections

At least the rivers had bridges

When we finally got close to Coban and found what we thought was the road to Janeen’s, it was muddy and slippery with some tough downhill sections. We weren’t sure it was the right road so they sent me to investigate. I rode 1k down the road looking for something that looked like a gringo house hoping I was going the right direction.

Finally I came to her house and saw Faye and Janice coming out to greet me. Evidently they arrived in half the time by car by sticking to the better roads. The other riders wisely decided to not attempt the muddy road and parked at a nearby hotel. I used Janeen’s truck and shuttled them to the house for dinner.

The end of the road:

It’s hard to get much traction with mud packed tires.

The next day Keith, Michael and Jim wanted to ride to see the ruins in Tikal Mayan Ruins. Deby and I decided to stay on the farm with Dave, Janice and Faye.

Also visiting was Andrea, a friend of Janeen’s from San Francisco, here she is with Faye. Nice slippers…

Janice had arranged a visit with a local Mercy Corps project that was focused on educating pregnant and mothers of young children about nutrition and child care.The program is called Procomida you can learn more about it HERE.

We visited a classroom in a small village down this path.

Waiting for class to begin

Class in session

Another part of the program is teaching nutrition, we observed a class where they taught women who were being trained to go to the villages and teach how to prepare nutritious meals.

Next we visited the USAid food distribution warehouse.

We learned about their messages and how they present the classes. Food is distributed in one month amounts.

Deby demonstrates how to carry the load in Guatemalan fashion using her head.

Overall I was pretty impressed, the whole operation seemed well organized and well run. We spoke with the operations manager and it was clear they have a clear passion for their work while being realistic about the long term impact. I give it a thumbs up!

That night we met Rob and Terra who are working on a cloud forest conservation project on Janeen’s land. Their organization is Community Cloud Forest Conservation. They happened to have a group of young adults, mostly from Canada, working on the property helping build a school, or learning center, as Rob prefers to call it. Here is a picture of the kids moving logs to be used as beams in the structure.

True teamwork and a learning experience for the kids.

Here are a couple of pictures of their work site.

Janeen and Rob.


Tuesday – A day on the farm.

Janeen took us on a tour of part of her 350 acres, including two caves.

Walking through the jungle

Into the bigger of the two caves, this thing was huge! We were told it went back 1 kilometer. The section we were in was a large cavern, almost the size of the USAid warehouse. All of this is privately owned by Janeen.

Beams of light poured through cracks in the top of the cave.

Deby is always looking for a little sunshine.

Looking out from the cave

This river goes into the cave and under the cave floor we were standing on.

Think there are any rocks in here?

Oh yea!

Next it was a short hike to cave two.

This cave was full of huge stalactites and stalagmites.

We ended the excursion with a picnic on the beach next to the river.

Today was back on the road to Rio Hondo where we reconnected with our riding partners.  The cool temperatures in the cloud forest has been replaced by 100 degree heat in the valleys. At dinner tonight we had a short meeting to plan our next few days. It looks like we will skip Honduras and ride right into El Salvador.

This was a tough post to put together because it’s just a brief, brief overview of an amazing few days. I can’t say enough about Janeen, Rob, Tara or the work of Mercy Corps. These are truly amazing people who are taking the time to care about an amazing place. Check out their links, consider supporting Wings and spend some time on Rob’s website.

Whew… thanks for following. D&D 🙂 🙂





12 thoughts on “The Guatemala Cloud Forest

  1. Great post Donn. Gaila and I were going to do CA-5 too, but the locals told us it would be “very bad” after the 4 days of rain there. Kind of bummed we missed the fun, but we got to Honduras sooner. BTW, lots of good stuff to see there too! We are heading to Leon Nicaragua tomorrow – Thursday 1/31

  2. I was out of breath just reading your blog…
    Fantastic adventures and enthusiasm for these peoples ventures.
    Will spend some time on their websites next.

  3. My oh my….what a trip. Keep the posts and pics coming. What a view of different living and situations in the world for sure.

  4. LOVED all your pictures of Guatemala!! What an amazing experience! Brought back memories of when Steph & I went there. Really enjoying following your adventures!!
    Love, Mick

  5. Wow! Coban brings back haunting memories for me. I was in the Alta Verapaz near Lanquin in February 1976 when a devastating earthquake struck. The distruction and casualties were overwhelming. It took me a week to make my way to Lago Izabal and then by boat down the Rio Hondo to Rio Dulce. When I got to the Puerto Barrios road the train tracks were offset ten feet from the shifting of the fault there. I trust that your trip is going more smoothly.

  6. Hiya Donn & Deby, et al. Thanks for letting us ride along, vicariously. “Deby is always looking for a little sunshine” is a Fabulous Portrait of our Favorite Gal. BTW reviewing your pictures and remembering Deby’s litte rock problem in Italy, it occured to me that there’s an Oregon beach named after her: Rockaway. If you venture down Costa Rica’s Nicoya Penninsula toward Tamarino, look for a great cajun restaurant around Playas Coco or Octal or Hermosa, Louisiana Bob’s. As I recall, they have amazing longostino gumbo. Happy Trials and Hasta la Pasta, T&M

  7. Hey Donn & Debbie! I have been following your blog and catching all the great photos you have uploaded. Looks like a road trip of a lifetime! You guys must be having fun 🙂

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