Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Semuc Champey, Guatemala

From Las Marias to...Las Marias

Having escaped near-death in Honduras, I high-tailed it back to Guatemala. I now had less than a full week before my flight home--and I wanted to hit Semuc Champey; the famous market at Chichicastenengo; and a night back in Antigua to see my host family.

Several people had told me that Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful sites in all of Latin America--which is strange because I never heard about it when I was in Guatemala the first time. So, I traveled for a ridiculously long time to get from the indigenous community of Las Marias on the Mosquito Coast to a hostel called Las Marias right outside of the waterfalls and caves of Semuc Champey. Here's the hostel:

Semuc Champey, which means "sacred water" in the local indigenous language, was worth the travels. On the first day I went exploring a set of caves. We started out by swinging Tarzan-style into the river.

Then we headed down into these cool caves. They were dark and filled with water, and at times we had to swim with one hand while holding our candle with the other. Here we are entering the caves:

Here's our guide posing under a mushroom-looking stalagtite (or stalagmite, whatever):

And here's our group under the same protrusion:

After we came out of the caves, we went tubing down the river back to our hostel:

That night, I met some cool women from Barcelona at the hostel. Here I am with Gemma, Yolanda, and Laura:

Someone was playing with a pet tarantula (that's definitely NOT my hand):

The next morning my new Spanish friends and I headed down to the main attraction: a set of beautiful, crystal clear limestone pools formed by the submersion of the Cahabon River.

The water was georgeous and the perfect temperature--and I wish I could have spent all day hanging at the pools. But, I was in a hell of a rush; so after one night and one full day in Semuc Champey, I caught a free ride back into the closest major town (Coban) in the back of a pickup truck.

From Coban, I was off to Guatemala City for the night so I could hit the market at Chichicastenengo the next morning.

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