Skip to content

water is beautiful

I leave San Cristobal refreshed by almost of week of cool mountain air and strengthened by lots of fresh produce from the local market. I am heading now for the Guatemalan border deep in the jungle. There is nothing much where I am going but tiny isolated villages, military outposts, overgrown Mayan ruins and wilderness but first I pass through an area popular with tourists – a national park called Lagunas de Montebello, an area full of gorgeous lakes, blue lagoons and crystal clear cenotes.

I strike out towards the Lagunas de Montebello on a stretch of gravel road leading from Comitan, a town about 90 kilometres from San Cristobal. The unpaved road provides a tranquil morning ride through beautiful pine forest and an unexpected wildfood gift, when I pull of the road for a break.

A perfect gravel road through pine forest...

... with berries ripe for the picking.

The day is warm and humid and so I am happy that it is not too long before I catch glimpses of the first of the promised lakes through the trees. Each lake, apparently, is a different colour and one of the first I see is crystal clear and a startling turquoise blue. Sadly, I am prohibited from swimming in it as it is reserved for drinking water.

Gorgeous colours.

A girl insists on collecting water for me.

Thwarted in my immediate desire to swim, I do in search of another opportunity. I continue until I spot some official buildings where I try to get some information about the area but there are no maps to be had.  A group of people are sitting outside the building and a man tells me there is a walking track to a lake and two cenotes nearby and so I lock my bike and go to investigate.

The branch of a pine laden with guest plants.

With nothing much to go on but the knowledge of the existence of these bodies of water, I set off into the pine forest to investigate. I soon pass the lake, sitting below the track, but it is muddy and there is no obvious access to the water and so I continue.

After twenty minutes or so I come to an observation tower on top of a hill. A boy is sitting at the base of the tower fiddling with his mobile phone. I ask him about the cenotes and he gestures vaguely to a track leading to the left. If I follow it I will come to a trail which will take me to them, he informs me, and then turns his attention back to his phone. I climb the tower in hope of a visual clue but the tree canopy is unbroken as far as I can see.

Walking track through the forest.

Looking down on the pine canopy from an observation tower.

When I descend I follow the path the boy pointed out and soon enough I come to a narrow trail leading to the left descending into the valley. Taking the path I wander through the forest until the path starts to climb again and I lose confidence. I retrace my steps and return to the main path and follow it until I find another path leading to the right. I investigate this path but it doesn’t look promising. I decide to give the other path another go and continue over the rise and then on the other side blue water peeps through the trees. The tantalising water beckons invitingly but the path circles the top and then turns away from the cenote.

I am dying for a swim.

I decide to bush bash and descend through thick scrub down a precipitous slope until I get to a more or less sheer 20 metre drop over rough rock. I turn back and try a few different approaches – unsuccessfully. Retreating to the top, I circle around looking for a better approach. An hour or so passes, fruitlessly, before I give up, frustrated and head back to my bike pondering on my, until now urealised need, for a machete.

A cenote hidden in the forest, discovered by luck and persistence. The tantalising waters, however, prove problematic to reach.

Back on the bike, I ride until I reach paved road on the main highway leading to the Lagunas and pass by a number of lakes. I check each one out for its swimming potential. Five Lakes looks the most promising from an aesthetic point of view but again access is difficult with the lakes sitting far below the level of the road.

Five lakes.

It is late in the day before I end up in the water at Tziscao in front of an admiring audience of small boys and then try to find a suitable place to camp.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *