The final weekend in Guatemala (August 6th to 8th) my sister and I headed to Lanquin and Semuc Champey. The 8 hour shuttle ride with a lady from South Africa, newlyweds from the U.S., and people from Denmark and Holland was very interesting. The driver stopped about 4 times to see different women- one of which was his wife and another of which hopped in the car and drove the rest of the way with us to Coban. When we stopped in Coban for a bathroom break, he did not return for an hour. We were very excited to finally arrive in Lanquin that night at around 6pm. We instantly went in a truck to the bat caves of Lanquin. There were millions of bats flying every direction. It was pretty sweet and a little creepy.
The staff at El Retiro (the “hippest” hostel in Lanquin) was infuriating. They were not nice and “lost” everyone’s reservations. Luckily, they still had a loft available for my sister and me (meaning a loft above someone’s room with a curtain as a door). Despite the staff and the fear I had as I slept in an open room, the hostel was really cool. The buildings all had thatched roofs and the environment was just beautiful. It was located on lush, green land next to a flowing river. Dinner was buffet/cafeteria style. There were people from all over the world (people from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Sweden, and England). People were just there to travel. People were typically traveling for a few months, until their money ran out, or indefinitely by just stopping and working along the way.
Europeans and Australians have such a different mentality from (U.S.) Americans. They are so carefree, adventurous, and healthy. They have little to know plans and just follow where life takes them. It’s such a refreshing way to think. (Granted, I know the people I met are not representative of all Europeans and Australians, but of the people I met, this is how they all seemed to think.)
Anyways, the next morning a group of about 20 of us headed to Semuc Champey via truck. We began our adventure by jumping off of a swing into a fast flowing river. We then toured dark caves with candles. It was a crazy experience. We would not have been allowed to do this tour in the U.S. or any other country without signing release forms and wearing helmets and proper foot gear. We all wore flip flops and swimsuits only. We all followed each other into dark caves, each holding a candle. You never knew if you were going to fall and have to swim, or if while swimming you were going to hit a huge rock. It was a little scary but very exciting. Some people chose to climb up a rope through a waterfall. I used the ladder to the side of the waterfall (which was pretty dangerous itself). At another point in time we had the option of climbing a little higher and jumping into darkness. The first guy that went hit his butt on the ground, so I opted out of that jump. On the way out of the cave we took a “shortcut” and at one point in time had to sit hunched over as small as possible on a rock, surrounded by rock walls, with water rushing through, only able to see a small hole where the water went. The guide said, “Put your foot here, the other there, now hold on here and don’t let go. Now…. JUMP!” You could not see where you were going, how long you were going to be submerged in water, how far the drop was, but you JUMPED! It only lasted a few seconds and we were all fine, but it was scary! We all made it out alive. My sister actually left 15 minutes into it, when she heard we would be in here for 2 hours. Claustrophobia got the best of her. We ate our delicious lunches packed in banana leaves by the hostel, and then went tubing down the river. We then had the option of jumping off of a bridge into the river, which I opted out of having had enough adventure that day and since the first guy the jumped off said he hit the bottom.
We then made it to the real Semuc Champey- beautiful natural pools of water. We hiked about an hour to get to the lookout point above all of the pools. It was miraculous. We were then very excited to actually get in the pools. The clear, aqua colored water was magnificent. The fish did not come up and eat our dead skin like we were told, but it was still an amazing experience. It was basically paradise. One guy in our group said we basically have a place like this near us (Havesu Pi), but I highly doubt it is anything like Semuc Champey. The greenery and vegetation cannot be beat outside of a rainforest climate.
Semuc Champey is definitely a must see. It definitely makes the top ten places to visit in the world.