There’s a place somewhere in central Guatemala in the middle of a mountainous jungle with crystal clear water and nibbling little fish. If you’ve ever been or wanted to go to Guatemala, chances are you’ve heard of this place. It’s called Semuc Champey. It’s a bit touristy. But it’s also a bit of a completely gorgeously stunning place to go for a swim and just hang out for a little while. And for my one week of Spring Break this year, this is one of the places in Guatemala I decided to go.
To get there, we stayed in Lanquin for a few nights. On our second day there, we loaded into the back of a pickup truck and headed off on about an hour drive. We held on tight as we bumped our way along dirt roads and pot holes through the jungle. It was quite bumpy.
Because I didn’t bring my camera along for the trip and because my boyfriend’s GoPro got lost in a cave while we were there (…..), I didn’t take a single picture while we were at Semuc. I actually didn’t even bring my wallet either. Or a water bottle.. But luckily Katie and Tess took pictures so I’m stealing their pictures to put in this post! (Thanks!) And a few of Scott’s too which are really great.
I didn’t take the stunningly beautiful pictures I had planned on taking when I imagined myself in this mini-paradise, but I think it ended up better that way. By not bringing my camera, I was able to just hike, swim, and plunge to my death in peace and pleasure without the extra effort that photography takes.
The first thing we did when we got there was the cave tour. We stripped down to our bathing suits while Carlos, our guide, painted our faces with war paint from a little seed thing. Then we hiked up a set of stairs and then down into the cave. The water started out shallow, but as we continued our descent in darkness, there were parts where my feet couldn’t touch the bottom. Our candles guided us as we climbed waterfalls, slipped through little holes, and plunged off little cliffs. It was a blast. And interestingly enough, it was pretty crowded inside the cave; there must have been two or three other groups in there at the same time as us.
Next, we meandered on over to a swing where the slightly more adventurous members of our group took turns swinging into the mystical blue-green waters of the Cahabón River. While some people gracefully slipped in feet first and others skillfully front flipped of the swing, my body decided it was best for me to free fall through through air, arms and legs sprawled out, until ultimately belly-flopping with a smack onto that gorgeous water.
From there, we hiked a five to ten minute walk on a flat trail along the river that led to a beautiful waterfall. This was by far my favorite part of the day. After climbing up the steep, rocky side of the falls, we got to jump probably about 20 meters down! I climbed up that rocky edge like a mountain goat, the anticipation building. I couldn’t wait! Standing up there on top of that rock made me feel so free and strong. I stared down and found the place where I was supposed to land. If I jumped in the wrong location, I could hit rocks which would be kind of terrible. So the moment I leaped off the ledge, it felt like a scary type of magic as I plunged into the water below.
I scrambled back up for another round and found my friend from the bus ride and the hostel at the top. Ringo was standing on a rock higher than where everyone else jumped from, looking straight ahead, and yelling a quote from Peter Pan (I think) at the top of his lungs. It wasn’t the one from Anchorman this time. I was kind of amazed and extremely scared when he jumped because it looked pretty easy to hit something.
And then I jumped a second time (from the safe lower ledge) and all at once felt insanely happy once again. I even wrote a poem about my moments before taking that exhilarating plunge:
After our dangerous escapades at the top of the waterfall, it was time for some peaceful river tubing. We hopped in our inner tubes and drifted down the river. There were some spots where the current sped up and carried me pretty quickly, but other than that, it was very peaceful. I probably got really sunburnt at that point, though, because I wasn’t wearing any sunscreen. It was worth it.
Now it was time for lunch and the hike. At that point of the trip, for whatever reason, my appetite was diminished. I hadn’t been eating too much that day or the day before. But from what everyone else was eating, it looked pretty good. We then got back in the truck and headed to the trailhead.
The hike was long, sweaty, and exhausting. Apparently, Ian, Finn, and I were among the most athletic, because everyone else was trailing behind. Must have been those one to two packs of cigarettes a day those foreigners smoke. No, but actually, that was an extremely tiring hike. I had already been feeling pretty out of it, so I felt like shit by the end. After a long rest at the peak where we could take pictures of the limestone pools below, we started the descent toward the cool waters for which we so dearly longed (I didn’t have my camera for this, which sucks, but here’s a picture I’ve stolen from Katie):
Once we finally got to the limestone pools, swimming in that turquoise water was incredible. Carlos led us from pool to pool and eventually we had plunged our bodies into each and every pool. We hurt our asses sliding down a waterfall/”slide”. He even showed us a part of one of the pools where it became a little cave and you could go under with little pockets of air. I wish I had a picture of that because it was a pretty cool point of view.
Next thing we knew, it was time to go, so we took a shorter walk back to the truck and started to make our way back to Lanquin. Not before some of us decided to take the plunge off a bridge into the water below as a nice way to end the day. Not me, though, I was falling asleep in the truck. We then bumped our way back to the town, where we lounged around exhausted for the rest of the night.
In fact, the best word to describe the day seems to be plunge. Or maybe tired. But lots of plunging went on so maybe that.
Next up (and unfortunately last) on our Guatemalan adventure was Antigua!