Semuc Champey

Isn’t it wonderful when you stumble across something that triggers a sweet memory…(especially wonderful when it enables you to procrastinate from writing that assignment for just a few more minutes!)…well this morning, Semuc Champey found it’s way through a newsletter into my inbox. Care to wander down memory lane with me for a minute?

Semuc Champey. 14 beautiful natural pools where somehow the wild rushing river has decided to take a break and run underground, leaving above these natural limestone pieces of heaven providing a true gem hidden in the tropical mountains of Guatemala.

Semuc Champey. August 2009. The day beforehand was a crazy day where tour buses hadn’t arrived where and when they were supposed to, and then broke down several times along the journey, oh and also left me stranded in a town in a middle of a protest…so I took my life into my hands and hitchhiked. (yes. I know. never again. it was exceptional circumstances.)

But on this day…things ran smoothly. Rudy, our guide, was absolutely beautiful….just one of those people who radiates happiness and kindness, I’ve never forgotten him. Maybe that’s cos he was constantly complimenting my shocking spanish. Hm. Anyway.

The bus rocked up on time. We piled in. We drove and drove and drove but at last after several hours we arrived.

Arrived at this beautiful little hut secluded in the jungle, where we made ourselves comfortable while our guides prepared our vehicle for the next part of the journey….we would need to 4WD this part!

Aah…but how will 12 people fit in a 5 seater 4WD? That’s ok…stick the Brits and the Aussie in the boot…and the guide on spare tyre out the back! Yes, there was much laughter.

But our cramped journey didn’t last long. The 4WD decided it didn’t like carrying 11 people and died about 500m up the road. Rather than stand around and wait while they tinkered and toyed with it, we decided to get a head start on foot. And wow…totally worth it. Fields of maize blended in with the jungle as we hiked up and down these beautiful hills; for some reason, we decided that the Sound of Music would provide a perfect soundtrack for our journey so…sing it we did (not sure the spaniards with us appreciated this as much!).

We came around another bend and down a steep hill and there was the beautiful, spectacular river. We’d finally arrived at the entrance of the park. We took a break at another hut, snacking on those bags of rich fresh fruit that Guatemalan vendors make so wonderfully (yes I know, massive parasite risk! but they are so good..), being stared at by a creepy one eyed dog.

Time to hike some more! Rudy complimented me on my spanish again. Yay. We swapped words…”how do you say celoso in English?” and “Como se dice steep en español?” as we made our way into the jungle.

Semuc Champey. There it was. Beautiful, bright turquoise, deep in the forest; aside from the path and one change room, relatively unmarked by humankind. We took our turns getting changed in the pitch black change room (drop toilet anyone? never mind we’ll just hold it.) and then marched out onto the limestone ledges, ready to plunge into the pools below. Rudy made me jump first. Must be because my spanish was so good. Ha.

So we jumped. And we swam to the edge, then jumped down to the next one. And swam again. And I remember floating there, looking up at the forest canopy above and around at the turquoise water around me and just feeling overwhelmed with the serenity and immense beauty of this place. It felt so safe.

Safe, that is, until Rudy told us it was time to climb down a waterfall. He took a room and looped it around a rock, then threw it over the fall. You just climb down, then back up, he said. I had a good look, for about a second, before politely declining. I didn’t feel like dying that day (maybe when I actually have upper body strength I will go back and climb the water fall).

And that was Semuc Champey. More hiking (Rudy offered to carry me when I got tired. But pretty sure I was taller than him so kept at it), a tropical downfall that left us drenched (just after we dried off from the swimming), some mystical caves (thousands of bats. no kidding. pretty amazing), and a long drive later, we were safely and exhaustedly settled back into our hammocks in Coban.

If you’re in Guatemala, definitely worth the trip to Semuc Champey. And be sure to ask for Rudy and compliment his english.

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