Tuesday December 9th ~ Semuc Champey
Arriving after dark on the 8th, we enjoyed a cocktail and our delicious buffet style dinner, but were soon off to our room to get some much-needed sleep. One learns that in the jungle you need a flashlight at night and I travel with a small one in my backpack.
You don’t want to get up in the middle of the night without looking to see what you could potentially be stepping on. In the bathroom I found a centipede and a spider that with legs extended was about 3 inches across. I shivered, avoided them both and went back to bed.
Just as I was crawling back into my bed, a flash of movement caught my eye. My first thought was A RAT! Shining a light in that direction, I found to my delight a small, young tiger stripped cat. I figured it must have sneaked in sometime when the door was open and been hidden under the bed when we returned from dinner. After giving it some loving, I gently put her outside.
Less than two minutes later she was back in the room and jumped up on my bed. Turning all the lights on now, we discovered that the window was open a few inches and she was able to push the screen in. I gave up, welcomed her and she slept against my legs the rest of the night. I found out the next morning that the kitty cats name is Nicole.
The first and main reason we were in Guatemala this time (6th visit for me, and 5th for Tim) was to attend our friends wedding, but followed close behind was my dream to have Tim experience the beauty at Semuc Champey.
Three and a half years ago I took a “girls trip” with my travel buddies Jan and Karen to stay in Antigua for three weeks and take daily Spanish lessons each weekday morning. That left our weekends and afternoons free to explore. On our final weekend, we booked a trip to Semuc Champey and it was pure magic. You can click here to read about my first visit and why I was so excited to return.
We have already had a lot of rain this week, so I was not surprised to find more drizzles. Yesterday Hugo had educated us that light showers here are called “Chipi chipi”.
Driving through Lanquin we made a quick stop to pick something up, and while we waited, a bright-eyed 12-year-old boy asked us if he could be our tour guide for the day. Even though we were sitting in the SUV which had http://www.ExpeditionsGuatemala.com in large letters on the side, and Hugo was at the wheel, he was trying to hustle up some business.
We politely let him know we already had a guide, but continued talking with him. His next idea was to ask us for a ride to the park where he could continue to try to find a “client”. That was fine with us, so in he jumped and off we went.
A couple of miles down the road, it dawned on me that perhaps we should have asked before leaving if it was OK with his parents. I voiced my concern to Hugo who reassured me that this practice was very common and it would be fine with his family.
I’m irritated that I can’t remember his name as I would love to look him up some day. I think he has all the makings to be a successful entrepreneur – winning smile, confidence, great attitude, and an ambitious work ethic. My hat is off to this young go-getter!
UPDATE: Tim thinks the young boys name was Abel.
Arriving at the park entrance we unloaded the car. One of the kitchen staff from El Retiro Hotel where we were staying had joined us and brought along a large cooler of food for our lunch. While he carried the cooler on his shoulder, I clung to Tim’s arm as we walked along a tricky path interrupted by tree roots, slippery rocks, and periodic steep wooden stair.
It really was not difficult, I am just a wimp when it comes to not wanting to trip and fall, and my balance is still not 100%. (It does continue to improve though!)
Finally our first glimpse at the turquoise water of the river.
There are several things that make this place so special:
- The main force of the river goes underground and completely disappears for a distance, while above ground brilliant turquoise limestone pools cascade, broken up with small, frequent waterfalls.
- There is an almost straight up hike that will take you to the top of the cliff where you can see a stunning view of the river, falls and pools.
- Swimming in the pools is a thrill, as is sliding down some smaller waterfall chutes, and having tiny fish nibble on your toes giving you a quaint but effective pedicure.
- It is not overly crowded with tourists since it is not an easy destination to get to. Most of the people there are the young adventurous backpacker type.
- It is unlike anywhere else we have visited
- Unofficially it is considered the 8th wonder of the world
Since I had already taken the hike to the top of the cliff when I visited the first time, I decided to let Tim and Hugo make the climb without me. The path was wet, steep and not an easy climb. I knew that they would make much better time if they were not having to look out for/and help me along the way.
While they climbed, I walked along the shoreline, sat and visited with a guy from Belgium, took a few more photos and then returned to a shelter where a hammock had been hung up for me.
After an arduous 1/2 hour+ climb, the guys looked down on this amazing sight:
When the two guys returned we had a hearty lunch that had been prepared for us from the hotel. With large warm tortillas, lettuce, tomato, cheese, falafel balls, chicken, salsa, sautéed eggplant and a delicious fresh apple salad, we got stuffed.
There was so much food left over that several others were invited to join us including a park ranger and two young girls traveling from Argentina.
Here are a few more pictures taken while we were there:
We offered Carla and her daughter a ride back to the hotel. They were originally from Venezuela and we found out later were staying in the room right next door to us. With the inside of the car now full, this traveler needing a lift was quite content riding on the roof.
I had shared with Hugo that I wanted to capture a few more people shots on our way back to the hotel, so was excited to add these to my collection.
Back at the hotel, we cleaned up (we could not get the widow maker style shower to give us any hot water, so for the second day in a row I had a very quick luke warm washing), and ate our fill at a traditional Guatemalan themed buffet dinner. This hotel may be rustic, but they certainly know how to put out a great meal. I was sorry we were not staying longer as the meal theme for the following night was Thai food.
Tired to the bone we returned to our room for our final night. I should not have been surprised, but guess what I found waiting for me in the middle of my bed…
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for the spirit of Guatemala. People look out for each other, offer a helping hand, extra food, a ride in or on top of a car, or in the back of a pick-up, recommend places to stay, where to eat, or where a job might be found. It is easy to talk to perfect strangers from Belgium, Argentina, Venezuela, Finland, or wherever they might be from. They are not strangers for long.