In Search of: How to Reach Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Today I arrived in Semuc Champey.  Semuc Champey is a bit of a natural wonder.  Turqoise water pooled over limestone which somehow formed over the  Cahabòn River.  I’ve seen pictures of this locale all over the internet, and over a year ago I decided I must visit one day.  It would seem one day is now.  I haven’t seen the actual Semuc Champey yet; that’s for tomorrow.  I’m staying at a hostel/ecolodge called El Portal.  It’s very rustic (no electricity), but it’s the perfect location — right on the river and directly next door to Semuc.  As I write this, I’m sitting on the balcony of the El Portal restaurant, watching the turquoise waters flow by.

But enough of that.  This post isn’t about the beauty that is Semuc.  This one is about the trip that brought me here (I’ll tell you all about Semuc Champey a bit later).

The trip to this particular spot was rather eventful, in which I found myself praying to the universe that this wouldn’t be my last trip.  I took a shuttle out of Antigua, which in countries outside the U.S. seems to mean an old minivan packed to the brim with unsuspecting tourists.  We were scrunched like sardines.  The driver then proceeded to make an attempt on his death wish.  He was absolutely the most reckless driver I’ve ever set foot in a car with (and I’ve been with some sketchy drivers in many different countries).  Each time he scurried up to the rear of another car, he’d get inches away and do a brake check.  Look at that, I think I can get one inch closer.  Wait, no I can’t.  Brake check.  Brake check.  We would all lurch forward, our hands gripped to the oh-shit bars on the seats in front of us.  It was all very lovely.  But nothing was quite as good as the many illegal (is that even a thing here?) passes he made of the more reasonable cars when oncoming traffic was approaching.  We had several close calls with semi trucks.  Then there were the hours of windy road along the edges of cliffs (we all know how much I enjoy that under normal circumstances with a capable driver and a maintained car).  And did I mention that the tires were constantly squealing?  He kept attempting to take turns entirely too fast for a beat up old minivan, and the tires simply couldn’t stick to the road.  Good stuff.  I sometimes wonder how I get myself in these situations time and again.  When we arrived in Lanquin (almost to our stop), we dropped off the first of the passengers, and the hostel manager came out and said, “Wow.  This is a really early shuttle.”  No shit.  Obviously, the driver had places to be.  Like heaven.

After the drive to Lanquin, a few of us changed cars to go to our final stop at Semuc Champey/El Portal.  The final drive was in the back of a pick-up truck, holding onto the metal bars affixed to it.  Oddly enough, the sketchy hour-long ride in the pick-up was much nicer than the previous ride.  The road was windy and rocky and also along the edges of cliffs, but this driver seemed to actually care that he made it to the lodge in one piece.

Yet, after all that, I’d say it was worth it.  This place is so beautiful.  The river water is turquoise blue in color, there are beautiful yellow birds flying through the trees, and I’m staring at jungle and lush mountainsides.

Do you ever wonder how the fuck you got so lucky to end up some place?  ‘Cause that’s how I’m feeling right about now.

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