Semuc Champey, Guatemala

We got to Semuc Champey after 8 hours in a van filled to max capacity, driving through a rainstorm. To be fair, the drive was beautiful as the local landscape is remarkably luscious—countless shades of rich green stretch up and out as far as the eye can see with fog dripping down the tops of mountains like fresh icing on hot cinnamon rolls.

rainSporadic farm animals— horses, cows, pigs, goats— were tethered to the side of the road and every now and then we’d roll through a strip of civilization with shops and eateries about the length of a city block before barreling back into the mystical mountains.

My only clues to the inhabitance of the dilapidated huts amidst the overgrown fields of tall grass and haphazard young palm trees were the laundry lines strung up outside, perpetually full of clothing in all shapes and sizes, and clearly worse for the wear. Still, the level of poverty didn’t pull at my heartstrings since all the locals look healthy and happy. Young boys ran alongside our van waving fanatically and women in traditional Guatemalan dresses smiled timidly as they washed their clothes in the fresh rain puddles outside.

We ascended up the mountain until we were floating above the fog like an airplane flying over clouds. After several hours, we made a sharp turn and the road sloped downward, morphing into a savage terrain of uneven rock and rubble for us to cautiously bobble down in the minibus.

image_3In true Guatemalan etiquette, our driver honked and flashed his headlights at every single car, scooter, and pedestrian on or near the road.

It was dark when we pulled up to our hostel, El Portal, in Semuc Champey, so we really couldn’t get a feel for our surroundings. After dinner and a couple rounds of gigantic Jenga, we went to bed… When we woke up we couldn’t believe our eyes! El Portal is a treehouse-style hostel, nestled up in the remote mountains. They only turn on the generator for electricity from 6-10PM. Outside of those four hours there are no lights, Internet, chargers, etc.

image_6Unfortunately for us, the bad weather followed us all the way from Flores and the higher we climbed in elevation, the colder it got. We were FREEZING! Multiple layers of pants/sweatshirts/socks were barely enough to stop our teeth from chattering. This was especially unlucky because part of Semuc Champey’s allure is its cave spelunking—water underground that you can trek through with nothing but one small candle per person. We really wanted to participate but couldn’t commit to standing waist-deep in ice cold water for that long; however, there was plenty more to keep us entertained!

image_5We entered the park and hiked up the El Mirador— which was pretty challenging—but gave us a beautiful birds-eye view of the turquoise pools below. After we descended we ran back to our room to change into bathing suits so we could return and jump into the water, regardless of the outside chill. We splashed around, jumped off rocks, went down natural slides and swam through secret underground spots where there was barely enough space for your head between the water and the land above. Once we got back to camp, Meghan and Kyle were still feeling frisky and decided to jump off the bridge that leads up to the area! I was too scared and too cold, but if you haven’t had a chance yet, check out our video so you can see all the action!.

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Guatemala

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