5.3.1 Semuc Champey

The main event near Lanquin is Semuc Champey, a natural wonder that I’d not really heard of before I planned my trip. I’m not sure how best to explain it, so will let the pictures do most of the talking. To me, it was a phenomenon whereby the river that flows through the rainforest and settles to create a number of little pools. The geologists amongst you can probably comment as to where the greeny-turquoise colouring of the rocks comes from. It is best if I just describe the day as it happened…

Waited for the bus to take us there, however what turned up was a pick up truck with a metal frame on the back. “Hold on tight!”. Within a couple of minutes out of the town, we were in rural bliss, however along with this came certain logistical issues, such as the 20 minute wait for a truck in front to get up the hill.

We arrived at the site, and straight away began an ascent up through the forestry. After an hour or so of walking, our group (1 English, 2 French, 1 German, 1 Czech-Bulgarian) reached the best view of the river. Naturally, we took it in turns to try and get Profile Pictures. I’ve had to learn the Spanish for “just take it, I won’t look at the camera”, such is my aversion to ruining what would be a nice photo with a dodgy smile.

After this, we descended down upon the area we had just been snapping, and got changed into swimwear. For the following hour/ hour and a half, we worked our way through the many layers of pools along the river. Such is the way that the rocks formed, our guide showed us the best way to slide, dive and bomb into each section of water.

It was like nature’s most amazing water park. There was towering forestry on each side, rapids gushing from the rear, a big waterfall down to the rest of the river, and us; exploring the incredibly coloured rockpools in the glorious sunshine.

And that was lunch.

After refuelling we went down to the caves where the water flows into the river. “You undertake this activity at your own risk, and we can’t accept responsibility for any injury caused” was the broad Health & Safety philosophy, however the guys running it knew what they we’re doing.

Upon entry to the cave we were given candles and told to follow the leader. 10 or 15 steps in, the water was neck high, so required a bit of careful manoeuvring. The route took us deep into the rockface, and along the way we encountered scaling the sides, jumping into pools, and intense bursts of water gushing out of various crevices.

I can’t stress enough how the whole thing seemed so custom-built. Most of the holes we climbed through and alleys we went down were the perfect size for humans, and even the plateaus we’re just the right size for us all to settle on before heading up the next level.

On the walk back to base, jumped off the bridge into the river. The final activity was tubing, a nice relaxing end to the schedule, however the barefooted walk backwards was less amiable. Once complete, it was back aboard the truck for the bumpy road back to ‘civilisation’.

An excellent day in a great, natural wonder. The next event on the Guatemalan leg was an equally impressive manmade wonder: the Mayan ruins of Tikal. Semuc also gave more material for the Outtakes folder, as you can see, the rocks in the pools were particularly slippy…

Semuc from above

Semuc from the ground

Looking down the river

Truck getting stuck

Semuc from viewing platform #1

Semuc from viewing platform #2

Pools from the side

Rural bliss on way home

Losing balance..