Saturday, 4 February 2012

Semuc Champey! Go there ...

After Guatemala City, Me and Ally joined Cindy and her two friends, Gela and Maria, on their way up to a town called Lanquín where the beautiful national park of Semuc Champey resides just about 10 km away. With the recommendations from Manuel (see previous blog post) we had luckily booked into a place called Zephyr Lodge, this beautiful lodge, where apparently they had bought a hill and placed cabins on the top of it, so it literally does have a 360 degree view of its surroundings. The ride up to Lanquín was long and tiresome and had quite a few changes along the way, however, we soon arrived at about 5 ish and checked in, luckily we had Manuel call this place up for us yesterday and make us a reservation, as we got the last two beds available, which were two mattresses up in the attic above the staff room and the restaurant. Anyway, our first impressions of this place where amazing, literally beautiful, surrounded by luscious forest and run by some of the nicest people we had ever met. The night we got there, they informed us that there was to be a trivia night, so Ally and I eagerly signed up, along with the other 3 girls and later that night, after a beautiful dinner and quite a few drinks during their happy hour, we were divided up into teams along with everyone else there that night and enjoyed a great evening of drinking and getting to know everyone through some healthy competition. Eventually, it came down to a tie break between two teams, of course one of which was mine, and the winners were decided by who could chug down a beer the fastest, and one of the members in my team eagerly stepped up and managed to drink his beer quicker than the other guy ... YEAH!!
Anyway, waking up the next morning, Ally and I signed up to take part in the tour to the national park Semuc Champey and explore their famous pools and caves. After about a 45 minute journey along a very bumpy road, standing up in the back of a truck, we arrived at the park and parked up in front of this great view of a river with a path on the right. We were told to walk down the path and drop our stuff off at the office and walk down a little bit further until we reached a giant rope swing over the river. Our guide told us that we should all try it, but obviously we didn’t have to, however after standing on the edge for a few minutes and watching a few other swing before me, I managed to push myself off of the edge and swing out over the river and luckily let go in time to fall into the deepest part of the river ... few .... safe!
Shortly after the rope swing, we walked up a flight of stairs to this cave system where we were handed a candle and then our guide came around a lit them all, and told us to get into the cave system. He led us through this amazing cave system where stalactites and stalagmites where everywhere and bats were flying over our heads ( ... :O ... ), we had to clamber over different rock formations, climb up rock faces with water pounding down on our head, and even swim through deep ‘lagoon’ type pools all the while trying to keep our candle alight so that we can see. This experience was amazing, trying to clamber through this maze of rock, and all the while marveling at these amazing formations as well as having fun trying to keep the candle above the water so that we could see where we are going!
Soon after exiting the caves and letting our retinas adjust to the normal amount of light, we walked back to the office, picked up our stuff and walked back up to where the jeep dropped us off, turned to the right and walked across this huge bridge where we stopped half way across and our guide told us that we could jump off if we wanted to, this huge 12m drop was just a little too much for the rest of us, however, this one guy, called Matt (from London) managed to jump off and after coming back up, reassured us that it was fun, however we were still all a little bit too scared! Next up we had a 30 minute walk up a massive flight of stairs up to the top of this mountain to a look out point above the amazing Semuc Pools, this wonderful place where a river hit a bed of (i think) limestone and formed these pools, of varying depth, which descend at different levels (kind of like steps) until they reach the river which just appears again at the bottom after it disappeared at the top. The pools were relatively still, so therefore we knew the river didn’t flow over the top so it was even more fascinating to see the river appear again. These pools were just like paradise pools really, a beautiful blue, surrounded by luscious forest and the sun just dappling through the trees. One of the best experiences I have ever had, and utterly relaxing, it was a horror when our guide then said it was time to go home, and we had to board the truck again and prepare for another bumpy journey on our way back to zephyr lodge. That night was just a nice chilled out evening, chatting with Matt and his mate Gregg (both from london) who were flying home in about 4 days and just asking them about their time in central america and where they had travelled previously. We just sat there that night enjoying the view and the sunset as we had to get up relatively early the next morning to be in time for the shuttle bus to Antigua, where we planned an overnight stay before we headed on to our next stop, Lago do Atitlan ...

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