Hidden Paradise at Semuc Champey: The Journey Part 6
My journey from Flores, Guatemala to the Guatemalan National Park of Semuc Champey was exciting, to say the least. Curvey mountain roads at top speed in a shuttle bus that obviously hasn't had an inspection in a while. We cruised along at max speed through the twists, turns, and switchbacks of the Guatemalan highway system. While our tires squealed at every turn our driver proceeded to dodge every pothole in the road while also passing every single vehicle in front of us. I felt like I was in a trailer behind a Formula 1 car during the championship race.
If you have issues with motion sickness I would highly recommend medication for this bus ride. Just ask the girl who threw up for an hour while the driver relentlessly attacked the mountain with no mercy for the girl or anyone else. Our stop at Coban was a welcome break as we switched drivers to a much more relaxed driver. (The girl throwing up in the back got off the bus for good in Coban).
After leaving Coban we drove for about an hour before turning off the highway onto a dirt road which was now completely muddy from the weeks of rain in the area. The road was extremely muddy. It was a one lane road with no shoulder and large drop-offs on one side. It is basically the nightmare bus scenario where the bus rolls down the side of the mountain; a bus traveling down a one-lane, muddy road, with vehicles going in both directions, while the clouds are low enough they hit the road impairing visibility along with the current rainfall. Yes, there are photos below of that road (make sure to check them out). I did not take a photo of my underwear, however, since I and everyone else on the bus were shitting our pants.
Once we arrived in Lanquin, Guatemala we were herded out of the shuttle bus and into small pickups with cages over the beds. Just when we thought the ride was over, it was just beginning!
The driver of our pickup drove as fast as he could go. The muddy potholed road threw us around in the back of the pickup like ragdolls. The only thing I can compare it too is Off-Road Tattoo from Jackass (the link to that video is here) ***If you are offended by language just skip the video. The only difference was this was at night and we were sitting on a board in the back of the pickup.
We arrived well after dark and I was happy to be out of the pickup and on solid ground. I stayed at Portal de Champey which is located as close to the park as you can possibly get without being in it. When I went to be I couldn't see any of the scenery but I could hear the sound of a river flowing. That night I slept very well.
The next morning I woke up and found that it was raining again. I also discovered the beautiful landscape of Portal del Champey! It was so amazing. I was blown away by what I saw. The rain was disappointing but the view made up for it.
The rain made me debate whether I wanted to trek to El Mirador which is a 45 minute hike straight up, as most hikes in central America. I checked the weather and found that the following day was supposed to be much nicer and full of sunshine but I went ahead and did the hike. I couldn't wait to see the pools.
The hike up was brutal. It was super slick and muddy. It took almost an hour to get to the top in the rain. I was soaked, my backpack was soaked, and everything else. I was covered in mud from the waist down.
Once arriving at El Mirador, I was speechless. It was worth every step of the hike. This was something I wanted to see for more than a year and I was finally standing at the overlook viewing it with my own eyes! The color was unbelievable.
It only took a few minutes to descend down to the pools. I and the rest of the group were in a hurry to actually see the pools up close. Once we arrived at the pools I couldn't believe my eyes. It was so surreal. It was like something from another world.
There was a big waterfall that went underneath the pools. There is a large cavern system underneath the pools where the river flows. The water from the pools comes from a natural spring. Apparently the water from the river mixes back with the water from the pools at the bottom waterfall below the pools.
The water in the pools was so clear it was easy to see the bottom. The water was a bright turquoise color. I had a hard time getting my brain to comprehend what I was seeing and that it was real. I am still having a hard time describing it all.
Semuc Champey is beautiful beyond words. I can, however, say that swimming in the pools was so much fun! The pools are in tiers and between the tiers there are small waterfalls that run to the lower pools. These small waterfalls have also produced some areas where swimmers can slide down to the next tier of pools. It is basically a natural water park, complete with slides!
During the time I swam in the pools it continued to rain. It rained all day. After about an hour of swimming it was time to head back to Portal del Champey to have lunch.
Following lunch was supposed to be the cave, waterfalls, and tubing down the river. After a full morning and afternoon of rain, I had enough of being wet and decided to skip the cave and tubing.
I followed the group to the cave and got a few pictures as they were going inside. I walked to the waterfalls and took pictures instead. I also got some photos of the tubing in the river.
The following day the sun came out and it made a HUGE difference. It is beautiful when it is raining but the color of the pools when they are hit by sunlight...priceless. You can see the difference in the photos.
I highly recommend that if you ever visit Guatemala, you take at least one day to visit Semuc Champey. Even if it is in the rain!
In my next blog post, I head to my favorite place in all of Guatemala! This post will be coming very soon. Until then, get out and travel friends!
*The last few photos are of the cacao. These fruits have seeds inside and if you break it open you can eat the slimy coating around the seeds. It looks a bit gross but it is very good!
The locals and other places in central America use the seeds to make chocolate. The locals around Semuc Champey grind the seeds into a paste and add some other ingredients to make chocolate. They sell the fruit and also the chocolate at the entereance the park. If you are around, make sure to boost their economy and buy some chocolate or taste a new fruit!