Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Semuc Champey

One of the first things that I've learned about Guatemala is the how much it rains here in May/June. It seems to rain almost every afternoon. Sometimes the rain only lasts a few minutes and other times all day. A few weekends ago when we went to Lake Atitlán, Antigua was inundated with runoff from an intense rainstorm--it made Guatemala's national news. If we didn't know it before we sure know about the rainy season now. Nothing changed this weekend on our trip to Semuc Champey, an area of Cobán with naturally created pools and a cave system with hidden waterfalls.

Our trip began Saturday morning as we left Antigua. It took us approximately eight hours to reach our destination, a hostal known as El Portal. The journey in itself to Semuc Champey was an adventure. About 2 hours before arriving at the hostal we were still on the winding roads of the Guatemalan country side dodging rogue bus drivers and ambitious Guatemalans who have a knack for passing at the most inopportune moments. Our relatively smooth car ride ended abruptly when we turned onto this narrow, gravel road that led to the village of Lanquín. It was the longest 11 km I've ever spent in a car. Our driver was constantly weaving from one side of the road to the other to carve out the best path in the loose gravel while adroitly dodging potholes. It was especially entertaining when cargo trucks and vans full of tourists popped out of no where around curves. Many times the distance between our two vehicles was less than four inches as we navigated past each other. Our arrival in Lanquín did not mark the end of our roller coaster ride to Semuc Champey. We simply changed cars from a bus to a pickup truck. All of us had to stand in the back of the pickup truck and hold on to the scaffolding for support. It was one of the best ways to observe the beautiful countryside as our driver careened around corners at high speeds and tried to dodge all of the Guatemalans that happened to also be using the road.

Finally we arrived at El Portal to find that it was packed with tourists. It seems that Semuc Champey is quite a popular place, even during the rainy season. Our group of eight was split into two different hostals. The boy's room was an A frame building that was completely exposed on the side viewing the river. The first thing that all of us noticed was the pristine blue color of the river water.

My friends and I just returned from Cobán, a part of Guatemala with a lot of outdoor adventures to be had. Cobán is roughly eight hours away from our home base of Antigua. We departed on Saturday morning at about eight in the morning and arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon. Cobán was a much anticipated weekend trip for many of us because we had heard so much about the natural pools of water, the breathtaking views, and the caves that we could swim through. The Mayan ruins of Tikal, the shores of Lake Atitlán, and the breathtaking views of Semuc Champey are a few of the things that we saw at the expense of long, arduous journeys. Don't get me wrong, I would happily put up with all the traveling to see the sights and experience the Mayan culture once again. Someone once told me that "It's all about the journey Man!"

However, getting to wherever you are going is often a lengthy and not always comfortable process.


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