Friday, June 18, 2010

Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey (a Maya word)is a nature park renowned for the turquoise-green, gently cascading pools which are located atop of a huge natural limestone bridge. Under the bridge, the Cohabon river rages, until the two connect at the base of the pools (see photos).
We took a guided trip into the park for information, safety, and to push ourselves to do things we perhaps wouldn't feel comfortable doing on our own, such as cliff jumping and using rocks as a slide...which I declined doing after seeing two scraped, raw tooshies standing uncomfortably before me.
The hike up took about a half hour and had perks like skin detoxing (a.k.a so much sweat that you couldn't see at times), plant identification, and community knowledge. Half of the park entrance fee goes into maintaining the park, whereas the other half goes to the communities that upkeep the cocoa farms on the land.
The Cohabon river roars before (below) and after the pools begin, and story goes that before safety rails where put up, people would get too close to the edge, fall in, and would come out at the bottom of the gorgeous pools missing heads and limbs.
We spent the afternoon swimming lazily in the cool pools, jumping from safe and unsafe places, having to use our own judgement to keep us safe, sliding, falling, laughing, finding waterfalls to massage our backs with power and force, while others created little hiding areas under small cave overhands. The camera didn't come. Take a moment and imagine the bliss.

Truth is that not all was fun. On a sliding, out-of-control miss-hap Sarah either jammed or broke her finger. She also got a raw left butt cheek and a sketchy cliff area that required a running jump off an intensely slippery surface had an accident the day after we visited the park...with our same guide. We both declined the jump and did a smaller, safer jump instead. Story goes the American girl jumping didn't clear the rocks enough and cut, bruised, and scraped the entire side of her body and face. Overall, she was fine, but after a trip to the hospital our guide was put on a six month suspension.
Where the river and pools merge at the end of the limestone bridge.

After a pre-lunch lazy tube down the river (which ran in front of our hostel), we headed to the Kan'Ba caves. In retrospect I could have brought my camera, but everyone told me I couldn't...although I could bring a headlamp??? Anyhow, no photos of this adventure. First, I will say that this would never be allowed in the US of A. We entered the caves with water to our knees that just got deeper. As candles in our hands were our guiding light, we made our way up rickety ladders, climbed straight up a waterfall using a rope, and swam in deep tunnels as one hand lit the way with the candle above water. I would have been freaked out if I were not a strong swimmer. There were times I was freaked out despite my experience in the "outdoor world" and swimming. But, that's what makes candle-lit, waterfall-cave adventures in foreign lands so enticing. Besides Sarah hitting a rock and scratching her foot (blood dripping into water), we came out with smiles on our faces, ready to do it again!

But, it was time to move on, and in the morning we got to have a different kind of adventure.

After a 4:30am wake up to catch a 6am bus, which we were told by the guys in our hostel wasn't going to come to the hostel after all, but would meet us in Lanquin (a half hour away), we didn't get picked up. We got to play the "being lied to/shady dealings game." Tired, itchy, grumpy, and ready, we waited. Waited, and waited...getting so see the stillness of the morning turn into a quick, beautiful sunrise.
After four hours of waiting, we finally hopped on a large shuttle bus to Antigua.

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