After leaving Antigua in the morning, we were off on yet another bumpy ride. This time we were headed to the much admired and recommended Semuc Champey near Lanquin, which is slap bang in the middle of Guatemala. Unfortunately we were still plagued with some kind of sickness so we thought it best not to eat anything until we arrived. Unfortunately for us, travel distances in Guatemala are anything but short, and the roads are not in the best condition, so we were pretty starving once we arrived in Lanquin. We stayed at El Retiro Lodge, which is located in the village (just a few bumpy kilometres to Semuc Champey). I can definitely recommend this place, it was incredibly cheap and their all you can eat dinners were always delicious and exactly what we needed. Its location is fabulous too, right on the river where big horned cows come to drink every morning, and you can also swim in the river.
The next day we went on an organised tour with the lodge to check out Semuc Champey and see a few other sights. Semuc Champey was incredibly beautiful. It is basically a long flat waterfall, where the water collects in different pools. It kind of looks like giant steps. The water was clear and blue and was great to swim in. We tried to do some rock sliding down some parts and ended up with bruised tail bones. But hey it was fun!
After a short lunch break we headed off to check out some caves. The tour through the caves is something that would make health and safety officials cringe back home. We stripped down to our swimmers and were given a long candle each. Then it was time to head into the caves. They were full of water and we had to swim some of the parts, often our candles would go out and it would be a mission to re-light them. We got to climb up and down waterfalls within the caves on some very suspect and rickety ladders, but nobody ever fell. Near the end of the journey there was a part where you could jump off a really high rock into a pitch black pool. Trusting only the guide’s knowledge of the ledge, Andrew and Mark were determined to do this. Don’t worry mums, all went well! It was such a great trip through the caves and I highly recommend anyone who visits Lanquin to check them out.
Before we headed back to the lodge we had a play on a rope swing that went into the water and then went on a short tubing trip down the river. The tubing trip was pretty funny, young kids launched themselves off rocks to intercept us at different points in the river, holding chilly bins and yelling “beer, beer!” So obviously we drank some. And they remembered exactly who we were at the end when they came to collect their money. As you can imagine, we were pretty exhausted by the end of the day.
Our last day in Lanquin was spent relaxing. We went on a short chocolate making tour in the village. Local families make chocolate in their homes in a pretty rudimentary way, and a local family invited us into their home to show us how it was done. It was fun but it was very hot in their small corrugated iron home, especially with a fire going on inside. So we were dripping with sweat by the end of it. It was really interesting to see how families live in these rural communities in Guatemala, and it really brought home how privileged we are.
We really loved our time in Semuc Champey and it was a real highlight of Guatemala so far. We were really lucky that we got to see it when we did. The day of our departure, the government troops arrived and took Semuc Champey over from the local people. It was hard to get a straight answer about it from anyone, but we think it was some kind of contractual dispute. Anyway, the military forcibly shut down any entry into Semuc Champey. We were very relieved with our timing!
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 3 days:
Budget = US$215 (NZ$300)
Accommodation – US$32
Activities – US$63
Food/Drink – US$83
Travel (incl. Taxis) – US$37
Total spent – US$215 (NZ$300)
So we were exactly on budget. Once again, we were sick so we didn’t eat or drink that much. If we did we would definitely have been a bit over budget.