A Travellerspoint blog

The reason we chose Guatemala

the best adventure day ever

sunny 30 °C

We arrived at our hostel; El Retiro in Lanquin in the dark. The hostel itself is lovely and completely run and owned by Guatemalan people. We had managed to score ourselves a little bungalow in the trees with twin beds for the same price we would pay for a dorm – winning! Except… we quickly nicknamed it the cockroach party after we discovered it was infested with giant cockroaches. Thankfully we had mosquito nets around each of our beds, but that didn’t stop one getting into mine and causing me to scream and wake up Erie who smashed the little sucker with my book!

The day after the murder village was also the day we had booked ourselves onto the Semuc Champey and caving tour. I am usually very sceptical to do a tour, but for just $30 kiwi dollars and the promise of underwater caving, hiking and swimming at Semuc Champey, tubing, rope swing, and a bridge jump – it felt too good of an opportunity to miss, especially as it included all of the transportation straight from the hostel.

As usual, we were up bright, early, and rearing to go. We piled onto the back of a truck and headed through the mountains and around corners towards the river.

At the river we had to strip ourselves of our clothes, but keep our shoes on which we thought looked hilarious!
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We then hiked up a mountain a short way until we came to the entrance of the caves. We were each given two wax candles with sturdy and strong wicks. 90_DSC02186.jpgDSC02188.jpg

We made our way into the caves where our tour guide (named Hector, nicknamed Koala) covered us all in warpaint.90_DSC02231.jpg
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Then the real adventure began… For the entire time underground, there was never any more lighting than the candles we each held onto – and the stubs of candles Koala would put into little spots on the walls.
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We had to climb up and down ladders holding onto our candles.
90_DSC02209.jpgDSC02225.jpgDSC02223.jpg90_DSC02230.jpgWe even had to swim through water that was way over our heads, all while holding the flames in our hands!
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At one point we got to use a rope to help us climb up a waterfall
And at another point we scaled a rock wall to then jump off into the dark pool below
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There were parts where the rocks were really slippery and I fell and got caught many times (hence the 27 bruises on one leg and 18 on the other the next day).At one point we had to go through the smallest opening in the rock, I was so nervous because it really felt as if one wrong move would send us plummeting to our death – and as we found out, it actually has caused a few in the past.
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The caving was possibly my favourite part of the entire day, but there was no way it was finished as soon as we left our candles in a heart shape in the sand before making our way out into the daylight again.
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Next up on the day’s activities was going on the river swing. 90_DSC02244.jpgAt first I was really scared, especially when I watched the others go flying off the end and smack down into the quickly moving river. But when it was just Erie and I left to take our turn, and then Erie went first – DSC02249.jpg
I had no choice….
And it was so much fun!
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I ended up deciding to do it again, but sadly this jump didn’t work out quite so well for me and I came off badly and smacked down hard against the water with my face. It took me a few seconds to come up out of the water and by the time I had, the current had swept me quite a way downstream.

We walked up to see a beautiful waterfall but it was far too strong for us to be able to climb in and swim.
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At the base of the waterfall we climbed into tubes, linked ourselves together, and then floated our way down the river.
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What can only be described as a gang of child salesmen came swimming towards us on their own tubes and sold us beer from mini coolers.
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The boys floated with us and continued to try their luck (they would have had more if they had have stocked rum – I told them that too).
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At the end we piled back into the truck and headed up and over to where everyone was jumping off the bridge.
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My face was still stinging from where I had hit the water, and Erie was having a bit of trouble with her ear. We looked around at everyone who was jumping off, looked at the water racing below, and decided to give the bridge jump a miss. The one thing missing from the day (as is missing from 100% of my year on this continent) was safety control.
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After a quick lunch, we piled back into the truck and made our way to the base of Semuc Champey – finally we were going to see the beauty of the crystal green waters that had sold Erie and I on coming to Guatemala. The hike up to the mirador (view point) was absolutely exhausting. We must have stopped one hundred times to catch our breath. Erie was walking in shoes that were still wet from the cave, and I was wearing my flip flops as I was really against getting blisters – my feet have worn shoes a mere 4 times in a year, the cave being one of the 4! We finally made it to the top, and to be brutally honest (even though I never would have admitted it at the time), it was breathtakingly beautiful.
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And we took in the surroundings with the forest opening where the crystal pools sprawled out between them. All of a sudden we had a great rush of feeling that we had been looking at the pools for far too long – it was time to be swimming in them! We raced down the hill as fast as we could. We got to look out where the river flows underneath the pools. Apparently two USA boys fell off a couple of years ago and got sucked into a whirlpool that didn’t spit them out for 45 days… It was not a place that I felt comfortable at all to stand in.
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After what felt like an eternity, we were able to dive into the first, deep, delicious pool or clear water.
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We swam across each pool and laughed as the little fish nibbled on our feet. We got to jump off boulders and slide down natural rock slides.
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And at one point we actually got to swim under a huge boulder and swim through a natural little rock cavern that only gave us about 10 cm of head room to be able to breathe.
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Swimming in the water felt amazing. I really can’t explain it, if it was the water soaking off the heat of the day, the fact it was so clean and clear, or if there was something spiritual going on, but I felt so free and light as I swam through each pool.
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I felt so calm and happy, and each time I looked over at Erie I could see she felt exactly the same way.
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Posted by chasingsummer 09:50 Archived in Guatemala

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This was definitely my favourite part of the whole trip! I just loved it and everything was amazing. So so happy we got to experience it together

by erinstewart

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