Tag Archives: semuc champey

In Search of: Photos of Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Sometimes I’m the laziest blogger ever.  It’s true.  I’ve thrown myself into work, travel and all kinds of fun things that have pulled me away from blogging.  This isn’t to say I don’t have awesome things to share with you.  I’ve got a ton — seven more cities from Central America, hiking up Mt. Whitney, a long weekend at Havasu Falls and, after this weekend, another long weekend in Zion National Park.  Mountains and oceans and waterfalls, oh my!  In the mean time, enjoy these pictures from one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala — Semuc Champey.

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In Search of: Lazy Days by the River at Semuc Champey

Remember this post?  In which I prayed I wouldn’t die in a car crash on my way to Semuc Champey?  Or this post — in which I tell the tale of rocks slides and candlelit caves?  Well.  After all that, I pretty much felt I should sit and appreciate the fact of living.  If there’s one thing taking a road trip in a developing country will do for you, it’s that.  You simply appreciate waking up in the morning.

As my journal will account, after spending time at Semuc, I did just that:

July 17, 2012

I don’t have much to report today.  I made no plans other than to wake up.  I’ve been sitting on the balcony overlooking the river the past few hours staring at the water moving by.  I’ve also watched a group of half naked women wash their clothes in the river.  Apparently this is an all day endeavor.  I heard them hitting the clothes against the rocks when I got up at 6am, and they were still out there doing laundry at 1pm.  With the intensity of their smacking clothes against river rocks, I’d say these ladies were either bitter that they had to be out there doing the wash at all or, at the least, they were getting one hell of an upper body workout.  I also got to be a spectator as a few people bathed in the water.  And here I was complaining about cold water showers — they don’t even have showers!  Which, by the way, I think I’d kill for a hot shower right about now.  I head out of Semuc Champey tomorrow, and I will be happy to get some warm water running over me.  Granted, it probably won’t be hot, as that doesn’t exactly seem possible in Guatemala.  I’ve nearly run out of hope for a steamy shower.  Though I figure it’s always good when you leave your own home to visit some place entirely new, only to realize how fortunate you are.  I mean, I have hot water in my shower every day, all day, and I have a washing machine!  Thank goodness.

In my long bouts of sitting this morning, I managed to finish one of the books I’ve been reading (a book about a woman doctor that moved to Saudi Arabia to practice medicine).  Her writing made me want to scream a little (how many adjectives could one have in a single sentence?), but the story itself was actually very interesting.  Now I’ve moved on to Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a book about her somewhat impromptu, solo hike up the Pacific Crest Trail.  Thus far, Wild is an amazing read.  I highly recommend it!

Other than that, I’m calling this one a lazy day.  Travel has a way of sucking the energy right out of you, and this is one of those days in which I have none.  Sometimes you have to sit and soak it all in.  Today, I soak.

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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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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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