Come Hell or High Water

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
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Where I stayed
Zephyr Lodge

Flag of Guatemala  , Alta Verapaz,
Friday, September 23, 2011

You can book a day trip to Semuc Champey national park or your shuttle to your next destination through the hostel but for the convenience of not leaving the premises, you will pay extra. Being longterm travellers, we're always looking for, and finding, a better deal. In the greater scheme of things that could mean adding a few days to our adventure. 

That's why we booked our Semuc Champey trip with Super Carlos. His legend had spread all the way down to Nicaragua where it reached Manuela's ears. Plus he was willing to drop his price to Q130, as opposed to Q180 if booked with the hostel. But when the day came, Super Carlos was nowhere to be found. So we boarded the truck with everyone else and handed over our Q130 to Carlos Carlos instead. That's when Super Carlos appeared on the scene! An argument ensued in Spanish and later we discovered that the two Carloses take turns to run the trip. That day it was Carlos Carlos's turn so it seems that Super Carlos was being sneaky by transacting with us. What a way to tarnish his reputation, with tardiness and sneakiness!

So yes, we ventured beyond the realms of Zephyr to do the "must-do" trip to Semuc Champey. We'd heard others' accounts of the day, but it wasn't until we did it ourselves that we fully understood. What a fun-filled day it turned out to be! Possibly our best day in Guatemala!
 
About 14 of us left the hostel standing on the back of a pick-up truck that winded its way through the jungle and past a couple of villages, and villagers. First our faces were marked with orange stripes using an indigenous fruit like proper Mayans. Next we ventured into the caves, exploring them by candle light! It was fun wading through the underground river. It was also scary though when it got so deep that we had to start swimming with one arm up to keep the candle lit. Health and sMafety! Everyone scurried to be upfront near our guide, Carlos, so they could actually hear what he was saying. Wearing trainers was essential. Note to self: get some trail sandals!

There were more than a few hair-raising moments inside the caves - sidestepping jagged rocks on the riverbed; accidentally submerging your candle leaving you in utter darkness; climbing up wet rope ladders into the darkness; sliding down metres of rocks into a dark pit without knowing what lurks beneath; but the most exhilirating part has to be holding onto a rope while pushing our way through an underground waterfall! We've heard that some chicas in previous groups cried and/or wanted to turn around at this point.

Somehow we all made it safely out of the other side...

Next the adventurous among us got to jump from a bridge into the fast-moving river below (Mario and Manuela bravely did so), stopped to eat our packed lunches, hiked up to the Mirador (lookout point) to take in the jungle and cascading emerald pools below, then finally we got to cool off in those same pools while howler monkeys made their presence known by screaming at us, the intruders. Carlos Carlos may not be Super Carlos, but he did a great job showing us how the locals have fun in the pools...

The huge, scary whirlpool was awe-inspiring to see but not to venture into. Sliding down more waterfalls with a good old shove from Carlos Carlos was fun despite many of us landing very awkwardly. Relaxing on the half-submerged rocks in the lowest pool in the cascade was aided by tiny fish feeding on the dead skin from our feet and legs. *munch*munch* The grand finale was guiding us into a very narrow tunnel at the edge of one pool where you literally had to keep your face up to stay above the water for about 5 metres, then swim underwater for 2 metres to get back into the pool. 

Dee's comfort levels in the water were pushed over and over again! We managed to stay bruise-free (unlike everyone else) until near the end when we had to climb back up the waterfalls we had been shoved down earlier. They were deceptively slip-free except for the mossy spots that were very slippery indeed! Dee ended up with a huge scrape on her left knee that took a while to heal. Ah, to be a kid again!
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