Semuc Champey, the best day ever: The best of Guatemala
Semuc Champey is one of my favourite days from my travels. Tucked away, deep within the Guatemalan jungle lies a little slice of paradise that you must visit when in Guatemala. Just 11 kilometres from the town of Lanquin, you will find natural pools, caves, and waterfalls. Semuc Champey is a string of limestone bridges and caves along the Cabahón River and in my opinion, an incredible experience.
When I got to Antigua in Guatemala, I made friends with two Canadian guys from my hostel, Jesse and Rylan. On the first day that we met, on a walk around the city, we bumped into an American guy called Ryan who I had met previously in Nicaragua. The four of us ended up moving through Guatemala together and I was their annoying little tag along that they couldn’t shake off. Shout out to those guys, they looked after me and I will forever hold a lot of love and respect for them.
Jesse and Rylan would book me into their hostel with them and arrange the trips and buses and basically I just followed them around, loving life. On this particular day, they had signed me up for Semuc Champey with them, but I had no idea where I was going or what was going to happen. In all honesty, I am glad that I didn’t because I probably would have been too afraid to go if I had known what we’d be doing, but on the other hand, I wish I had known so that I could have taken my divers shoes!
The day started early from Lanquin, as we all bundled into a pickup truck that took us deep into the jungle. The ride was bumpy and uncomfortable but a lot of fun! When we arrived, we all put our valuables in lockers and our guide handed us a candle each. My immediate thought was, what the hell have these guys brought me to!
First up was The Cuevas de K'an Ba (K’an Ba Caves), once inside our cheeky guide painted our faces with war-paint (basically cave dirt, or bat poop, who knows) and each of us had a different pattern, one of the girls was made to be a cat, whilst Ryan was given glasses!
We spent the next hour walking through the caves, swimming, sliding down natural rock slides into more caves and climbing ropes up the cave walls. Some of the guys climbed up the sides and jumped off into the deep dark pools, which pretty much gave me a heart attack. At certain points, we would be up to our necks in water, holding our candles above our heads and because I am quite childish, I took much joy in splashing other peoples candles so they went out. Had the day ended there, I’d have been so happy, except, this was only the beginning.
When we left the caves, we walked down along the river to the waterfalls. Again some of the boys climbed up the walls to jump off, whilst I sat in the water at the bottom holding my breath and shouting up to be careful! Such a mum. We had the entire waterfall to ourselves (the seven of us in our group), and we just enjoyed the natural beauty.
Our guide then handed us each a rubber ring, by this point I was no longer questioning what would happen, I was happy to go with the flow and allow myself to be amazed! We all sat in our tubes and began floating down the river. It was so funny! I had no idea how to navigate my rubber ring on the river, so the guide had to hook his foot onto my tube and I just sat back like a princess and enjoyed the float! All the sudden out of nowhere a group of local children jumped into the river in their rings with a coolbox and were handing out beers to us!
Obviously we paid for them at the end, but it was just unlike anything I have ever experienced before. During our meandering down the river, they jumped in two or three times to hand out beers and honestly, sitting in a rubber ring, with a beer, floating down a river in the middle of a jungle was just incredible.
Without a doubt, this was my favourite day of my travels to date!
We all got out a further way down the river and everyone was able to then jump off the bridge into the river. I did not partake in that at all, I am no thrill seeker and the bridge just reminded me of the Tallahatchie bridge. Does anyone know what they chucked off the bridge in the Ode to Billie Joe? That still perplexes me not knowing.
Next was lunch break. It was almost like a food stall of some sort. The tables were laid out under a big gazebo type thing. The food was quite nice, nothing to shout about but not horrendous either and we had definitely worked up an appetite by that time.
After lunch, we took a hike up to the lookout. I was last up to the top as always and when I finally reached the top, the others had already been there a while.
From the top, we had an incredible view of the pools and although I was sweating and puffing away, trying to catch my breath, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what I was seeing.
We then made our way back down to explore the pools. It was so much fun, we were swimming and climbing (hence the need for my divers shoes) and swimming and then going under the water into a ‘lovers’ cave then we had to go back underwater to get out, it was so much fun! I just know my words can never do the day the justice it deserves. If you find yourself in Guatemala then you must experience this for yourself.
It’s no secret that Semic Champey is not the easiest of places to get to, I mean, it's deep in a jungle in the middle of Guatemala, but it is accessible and well worth the effort getting there.