Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano
Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

14 May 2012

Semuc Champey

Yesterday we journeyed from Lanquin to Flores, a 7-hour bus ride in sweltering heat and humidity. Before we start telling you about Flores, let’s take a step back and explain the awesome couple of days that we experienced between Antigua and Flores.

After spending a relaxing long weekend in Antigua, David and I “chickenbus-ed” to Guatemala City to drop our two bigger pieces of luggage off at a hotel for two weeks of storage. We then took a bus from the capital city to Coban, in hopes of journeying onward to Lanquin with the goal of reaching Semuc Champey the following day. Our bus ride to Coban took longer than expected and once we arrived in Coban (4-5 hours by bus), there were no more buses to take us the additional 2-3 hours to Lanquin.  Though at first we were a little bummed by the slight change in plans, we quickly decided to make the most of our time in Coban. We found a simple guesthouse on the same street as a gym! Gyms are few and far between in Guatemala. We paid less than $5 USD to get a great workout for both of us (and boy, were we sweaty in the intense heat with no air conditioning!) and then enjoyed a wonderful dinner by candlelight!

The next morning we woke up at 6am to head over to Lanquin. Good thing we did – because as soon as we arrived at our hotel at about 9am – there was a guided tour to Semuc Champey getting ready to depart! We dropped our bags in our room, threw on our bathing suits, and joined the departing group. We didn’t even know all the fun that we had in store for us… we jumped in the back of a pickup and rode 11km down a dirt, pothole-ridden road weaving through the gorgeous green hills. After arriving at our riverside destination, the day started with a giant rope swing into the river. Imagine a giant swing under a grand old oak tree… now transplant the swing to riverside, climb up to a platform to reach the swing high on one side of the pendulum motion, and fly down and out and up over the river below…. Splash – you’re in! Everybody in the group was pretty chicken to go, including Krista, but David jumped up and was the first to go.

After the swing, the guide handed out candles and we headed to the caves formed by an underground river. Though we don’t have any pictures to show for this unique experience, it was unlike anything we’ve ever done before. The caves go for 11km one way; pitch black if it weren’t for headlamps or candles. We only ventured in about ½ a kilometer one way, but we were in the caves for about 90 minutes… sloshing through ankle deep water, then swimming while holding our candles or headlamps above the water. David jumped off a 14-foot rock formation within the caves and we both jumped down a small waterfall carving out a narrow crevice just large enough for one person to fit through at a time.

We were happy to emerge from the dark, and enjoyed the rest of the day tubing own the river, climbing up to a lookout point hundreds of feet above the river ("El Mirador"), and swimming in the naturally formed cascading turquoise pools of water known as Semuc Champey. 
View of Semuc Champey from "El Mirador"
Our guide hopped into a tree to take this picture
Swimming in the pools
Our Cabana at El Retiro Hotel

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