Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Happy Friday the 13th. How fitting that I’m on an 8 hour bus ride through the Guatemalan mountains. We left Lanquin an hour and a half late and no one is excited for this ride. Let’s just say the trip down into Lanquin was insane and we have to go back up.

We spent over an hour driving 11 km (less than 7 miles) down about 5,000 feet on a gravel, rocky, narrow, and steep “road.” There were multiple trucks that passed and multiple times of near death. For some reason, the driver hugged the cliff, giving us a straight down view of what could soon be us.

Spoiler alert: we survived. We got to our hostel, the Zephyr Lodge, around 6 pm. We had some well deserved drinks, and went to bed around 10 pm.

Thursday morning we woke up at 8 and set out for the Kam’ba Caves and Semuc Champey. We stood for an hour on the back of a pickup truck, again, on the rocky, mountainous dirt roads of the Guatemalan jungle.

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As we arrived we were greeted by a handful of local children, trying to sell us chocolate and beer. Their speech went as follows “You want a beer? My name is Ronaldo. And only Ronaldo. No one else.” We politely declined.

The Kam’ba caves were incredible. Once we entered, our tour guide gave us candles and painted our faces with a black residue created by heating the rock walls. We began our trip into the caves, slowly descending into water until we were forced to swim. With candles in hand. There were ladders we climbed, holes to drop into, a waterfall to ascend via rope, and at the very end, a 4 meter (12 foot… Everything is in metric here) high rock wall that we jumped from into a pool of water. It was a really cool cave, with stalagmites, stalactites, and candles lighting the way. And only Q60 ($7.80).

After, we made our way to a massive rope swing, which only Paige and I did. It was pretty scary, but so much fun. And then came the bridge jump, from 8 meters up (24 feet) into the same river. It took a couple of minutes, but with the help of Ronaldo (and only Ronaldo) jumping with me, I took the plunge first. Really scary, but worth it. It all reminded me that if it’s scary, it’s worth doing. I challenge myself to overcome any and all fears. It’s no fun being safe. That goes for this moment on the bridge, and for life. You can’t gain anything from being comfortable. You have to break down walls, face things front on, and do it. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. These are the moments that prove to myself I’m actually a lot braver and stronger than I give myself credit. Jumping off a bridge and swimming into a dark cave puts things into perspective.

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And then there’s Semuc Champey, a series of limestone pools that sit on top of a raging river. The pool water is not from the river, but from mountain runoff water.
We started with a difficult hike to a viewpoint of the pools, “El Mirador.” It was a steep hike up, but well worth it – the views from above were amazing. The nine blue pools of Semuc Champey were surrounded by huge mountains covered in lush, tropical plants and trees. And the pools themselves were amazing, too. We got to swim in each pool, jumping down to the next, taking pictures, and taking it all in. Semuc Champey is in the middle of nowhere, taking 8 hours to get to, but absolutely worth the trip. It’s a highlight of Guatemala and my entire trip. I had never heard of it before, but I’m so glad I stumbled upon it during my research. Thanks Pinterest! 🙂

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The day ended with a bit of a party at Zephyr Lodge. We hung out with a bunch of people at the hostel, playing life-size Jengaa, card games, and “tequila dice” where each player rolls a dice and whoever gets the lowest number, pays for the round of tequila shots. A dangerous game in many ways… I managed to get 5 tequila shots for free.

This morning and this bus ride have been a bit rough. We had to get up at 7 for our 8 am bus to Antigua. Everyone’s a bit hungover but at least we’re all on the same bus. Now for our ascent out of Lanquin. Funny enough, we just started and have already seen a deserted bus on its side at the bottom of a cliff. Happy Friday the 13th!

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