Semuc Champey … raging.
It sure was difficult to leave El Remate/Tikal, but after 3 days of hiking and meeting new people it was time to move on. Next stop; Lanquin/Semuc Champey. Lanquin is located near the city of Coban in Central Guatemala at 1320 meters elevation. We passed through quickly, only stopping for lunch. Lanquin is a small village nestled between dramatic mountains. Most travelers use Lanquin as a base camp to visit Semuc Champey and The Grutas (caves) of Lanquin. The mountains here are very steep and the valleys narrow. In all our travels this ranks as one of the most beautiful spots we’ve visited.
The journey to Lanquin begins. Comparing travel plans during dinner with a group, all staying at Sak Luk, we found that 7 of us were all heading for Lanquin. Since there is power in numbers, we asked our host at Sak Luk if he knew of someone with a minivan that we could charter for a reasonable fee. He said he did, so the next morning we all piled into his friend’s minivan for the 8 hour ride to Lanquin. At left you see our driver wondering what the heck he got himself into: “Oh no! Not one more pack!”
So, packs loaded, 7 passengers plus 3 crew and we’re off. It takes a lot of crew to operate a minivan.
We are loaded up onto a ferry to cross a river. Finally getting an opportunity to stretch our legs. Things were very busy around the ferry. There were lunch vendors, snack vendors, jewelry vendors, well, you could buy almost anything.
The ferry was operated by 2 small outboard engines attached to the starboard side (right) of the ferry. Although it appeared a bit crude it worked well and we safely made it to the other side.
The gang and crew waiting for the ride across the river. The group consisted of an Israeli, 2 Germans, 2 Swedes, 3 Guatemalans, and of course 2 Americans.
From the ferry the next mode of public transportation is the always popular pickup truck. For a small fee, usually 1 Quetzal (~12.5 cents), you can get a ride to almost anywhere. As you can see it can get a little cramped, but there’s always room for one more!
It was market day the day we drove through this village. There were people everywhere buying anything and everything imaginable. It appeared that everyone was having fun, enjoying a ‘day on the town’.
We finally reached Lanquin, during a torrential rainstorm, at about 7PM (dark of course). The last ~5km of the ride was a steep descent down a dirt road, well actually at this point a mud road. We were met at the entrance to El Retiro by one of the staff and were informed that there was no room at the inn tonight, but that tomorrow looked promising. WHAT TO DO? WHAT TO DO? Well, he said if we were willing to double up a bit he could accommodate 3 at El Retiro and 4 of us next door at a small hotel. We said sure no problem just get us out of the rain! Long story short we doubled up with Annika and Leila (from Germany).
The next day we moved into our new home. Pretty nice, huh?
The view from our porch at El Retiro. As you can see the hotel consists of many small thatched roofed huts. Most had ‘attic’ sleeping quarters. Some had private baths, others shared baths located in a common area.
This is the gathering spot/bar/restaurant/ tv room. Dinner was served at one sitting only (7PM). Which meant this place got pretty crowded with a party atmosphere. The tv was located on the second floor. We were there during the soccer world cup games, so the second floor was very popular.
The group enjoying an after dinner dessert; a hookah. A mild tobacco is placed in the bowl at the top and the bottom is filled with a flavored liquid or liquor. These were popular throughout Guatemala. Felix (from Sweden) sure seems to like it!
And now the “money” trip! A visit to Semuc Champey. To get there we climbed aboard the ever useful pickup truck for the 30 minute drive over bumpy dirt roads. During the trip we found out that a couple from Flagstaff, AZ. (our old hometown) were on the truck. What a small world! More on them later.
Photo taken during the pickup ride to Semuc Champey. The photo really doesn’t do it justice. Jungle and mountains!
Usually you can hop into the clear azul pools of Semuc Champey, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semuc_Champey#/media/File:Semuc_Champey,_Guatemala.jpg, but after the rains things got a little frisky. You may be able to tell by the look on Carrie’s face that even this spot was a little too close. This is the spot where the river actually goes underground, directly beneath us and re-emerges about 300 meters later.
We had been hiking all morning with our new friends from Flagstaff when they decide to hang back a little. Well, Semuc Champey is a very beautiful and romantic kind of place so why not propose! This shot is just after an affirmative answer was received! Ahhhhh… L’Amour!!
Back at El Retiro. After all that hiking in hot, humid weather, what better way to cool off and relax than tubing down the river!
A pickup truck takes you up river and dumps you in. The ride usually takes about an hour, but because of the heavy rains it only took 20 minutes! Wild Ride!
This area just had a nice vibe to it and we were again lucky enough to meet many kind and interesting people. From here we had to say goodbye to our traveling companions from El Ramate and move on to the next stop: Antigua and Volcan Picaya!