Semuc Champey

12 Jan 2008 4:14 pm

After some internal debate, I opted for the guided tour to Semuc Champey park. Some chicas de Alemania (girls from Germany) recommended this park with its natural limestone bridge as a must go. Sometimes we budget travelers think, ‘Why do I need a guide?’ and we just opt for the transport and skip the guide. This time I really made the right choice.

The group was a mix of gringos and Guatemalans on vacation. I like this mix. Our guide, Renee drove the minivan, which was not so crowded, and everyone had a seat. By this time I’ve learned the proper timing and skills to get the front seat in just about any minivan.

After a 2 hour drive, we we first stopped at the Languin caves. Nice big caves, but the once beautiful white limestone is now covered with black soot from 500 years of burning candles and torches in the caves. We piled back into the minivan and arrived at the very pretty Semuc Champey park. It’s a river set in a green jungle-y mountainous area. The river cascades down through a long set of clear calm pools. It’s a little sweet paradise. Mother Nature did a great job. Great for swimming, walking and picnicking.

After lunch and a swim Renee asked the group who wanted to go down under the waterfall. Not knowing any better, I said yes, and a Swiss couple came along as well. Renee led us as we swam and jumped down from one pool to the next. Perhaps I should have been suspicious about the long rope Renee was carrying over his shoulder, but it just didn’t occur to me at the time.

We jumped into the final pool and there was a 35 foot water fall between us and the river below. Renee said to wait here. We innocently swam around the pool while Renee disappeared and returned minutes later with a giant rope ladder. My practical mind, (apparently not present until this time) got suspicious. Renee asked if we wanted to go down the waterfall. The 2 swiss and and I look at each other with fear, but clearly none of us wanted to be the one to chicken out so we all said yes. In a flash, Renee wrapped the rope ladder around a rock and threw the rest over the water fall. Before I could change my mind, Renee was down and the 2 Swiss were telling me to go first. I peaked over the ledge. Renee was waiting 25 feet down there on a rock in the middle of the river below at the bottom of the waterfall, getting pummeled by water. No time to chicken out. I had to go. I just held my breath and went down the wobbly wet rope ladder and thought, ‘This would never be possible in the US. Far too unsafe.’ Then I made it. As soon as I got down, and before I got my bearings, Renee was yelling at me over the water fall to go inside the waterfall and wait. What? For the split second I had, I looked at him like he was crazy. How do I wait inside a waterfall??? Renee turned me around and showed me through the waterfall and into the big cave inside. What a surprise. How amazing. So beautiful. Mother Nature’s secret.

Under the gentle cascading pools we had just been swimming, and behind this scary waterfall was this big cave with a raging river running through it. We had one river running over us, and one river running under us. I’ve never seen anything like this. Only problem was it was cold, dark and I was standing on a narrow wet ledge 15 feet above a raging cave river. I crouched down in the raining darkness and waited for the swiss to climb down and in.

Once all down and in, Renee led us a little further inside the cave. He tied the rope around his should to a stalagmite and then we shimmied through this narrow hole (my butt hardly fit) to a bit deeper inside the cave to get a better view of the cave and where the raging river was coming from. It would not have taken much of a misstep to send any of us off the ledge and into the swift river and rocks below. We had a look around and then made our way through the hole and up and out again and then up the rope ladder. Whew!

Too wet for pictures, so you will have to take my word on this one. It was certainly the best scary adventure for me ever.

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2 Responses to “Semuc Champey”

  1. Mom (January 13th, 2008 at 12:56 pm)

    Congratulations for your bravery, but I am so glad I don’t know about excursions like this before you leave. I would have had trouble sleeping during your whole trip. But now that you are home safe I can enjoy the story. Love from Mom and Dad

  2. iris (April 22nd, 2009 at 11:56 am)

    Hello Laura,
    Will it be possible to get info on the semuc champey tour? Where did you leave from?
    Do they have a website?
    Thank you so much 🙂
    P.S. I’d love to do the whole waterfall thing

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