In Search of: Semuc Champey, a Candlelit Cave and a River

After a hair-raising ride into the jungles of Semuc Champey, one might think I would settle in for some relaxation before hitting the trails and doing anything too heart pounding.  But then, that would be reasonable.  And when I start a trip, I often find myself being anything but reasonable.  I wanted to start the adventure!  And so I did.

(Oh, there will be some beautiful pictures from this part of the trip — as soon as I finish going through them and editing.  For now, I hope you enjoy the stories!)

July 16, 2012

I spent today swimming in Semuc Champey, crawling through an underwater cave and tubing down a river.  It was a CRAZY day.  I jammed two of my fingers, one on each hand, sliding down a rock slide.  I took a tour so that I could see all the sites around here today, and I must say — if they did this in the states, there would be so many lawsuits.  But that’s probably part of the fun (personal injury laws be damned!).

We hiked about two miles up to see the Semuc Champey overlook, which is absolutely stunning.  Semuc Champey is full of calm turquoise rock pools that somehow formed over a crazy big river.  We swam in the pools, and the guide took us down the different pool tiers.  For a few of them, we had to slide down the rocks to get to the next pool, and some of the slides were insane — not smooth at all.  I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.  Other tiers, we just jumped right off the waterfall into the pool below.  I tried out some actual swimming strokes thinking this would probably be a good time to see if I remember any of them.  Holy crap.  I forgot how hard it is to actually swim laps!

In one area of the pools, the guide had us swim under the rocks into an underwater cave.  I was like, okay — I’ll try it.  I thought it would really be a CAVE.  I didn’t realize that the “cave” had only enough room to hold my head up for air.  I swam under the rocks, and the guide covered my head with his hand so I wouldn’t come up fast and hit my head on the rocks, but I didn’t realize he was going to do that, and I sort of freaked out.  Haha.  I was flailing like a water-logged cat.  Then we got to this section in the underwater cave and he’s all — can you see the light?  Go under and keep swimming until you get to the light.  All I could think was that going toward the light is not usually a good thing!

When we finished the pools, after lunch, we did a tour of a water cave.  It was insane.  We went into the cave armed with only a candle each.  It was pitch black and full of freezing cold water.  Several times, we had to swim, one handed, holding the candle in the air so as not to get it wet and lose our light.  Do you know how hard it is to doggy paddle with one hand?  Haha!  I also walked through a crazy waterfall in the cave that nearly froze me to death.  Then we got to a point where we had to slip through a small hole in the cave.  The only problem was the hole had water rushing into it, and I couldn’t see at all what I was falling into.  The guide put my hands and feet where they were supposed to be, and in broken English said — let go, but when you get there, go to the left — go to the left!  I had no idea what I was “letting go” into and couldn’t ask because he barely spoke English (and my Spanish is a bit appalling).  So I let go.  Before I knew it I was dropping under water into pitch black darkness, again flailing like a drowning cat.  I was afraid to come up because I didn’t want to hit my head on the ceiling of the cave, so I went to the left and reached above the water and there was rock — no place to come up.  I freaked out a bit, then swam to the right and realized I could come up on the right.  Obviously he got his directions crossed.  I told myself that if I made it out of there alive, I would stop putting myself in these ridiculous situations!  Somehow or another I did make it out.  Now I’m wondering if I should have made that deal.

The last part of the day was relaxing (if not a bit freezing).  Each of us grabbed an inner tube and traipsed down to the river.  We put the tube in the water and were off for some breathtaking views.  It was stunning.  Really and truly.  So stunning I nearly forgot that my butt was frozen from cold river water.  But as soon as I had to hop fully into the water at the exit, I clearly remembered the cold.  Well, that and the rain drops falling on my head were a good reminder.

Even though it was crazy, it was still a fantastic day, doing things I never quite imagined I would be doing.  Life is unpredictable sometimes — and really, really amazing.

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