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Semuq Champey and Antigua

Lazy rivers, adventures in not swimming, clear blue pools and a memorable visit from Montezuma

View Central American Adventure - Summer 2010 on oangel99's travel map.

Well it would seem that poco a poco is proving to be a very fitting title for my blog, as it now also refers to the fact that I am only able to write updates "little by little." A lot has been happening in my little neck of the world, but I've been moving along too quickly to make time to sit and write it all down, although I have been taking plenty of pictures.

This past weekend I visited beautiful Semuq Champey with some of my escuela (school) buddies, where a couple of my Seattle friends were also waiting for me. The drive was LONG... 10 hours in a private shuttle from Xela to Lanquin where we caught a pickup to our hotel another 11km/1 hour away, along an unlit dirt road. By the time we arrived we were a bit too tired to appreciate the rustic accommodations and 10 pm curfew (i.e. when the generators were turned off). The next morning, however, we woke up at 5:30 am to sunshine, close humidity and chirping birds, ready to start our day.

We started off with a tour of the Kan'ba caves, a 2 hour adventure necessitating wading and, at times, swimming through pitch black caves, past bats and over waterfalls with nothing but a candle and a guide. After the first, small pool I realized that if one is a bad swimmer during daylight hours, in swimming pools with advertised depths and with two free hands, one should probably not attempt to swim with one hand holding a candle in pitch black caves through pools of unknown depth... while trying not to hyperventilate from the freakiness of all of the above. Luckily, the guide noticed my bad impression of a drowning rat and offered to help me through the rest of the tour. So, every time we got to an area that required swimming, I would put my hands on his (muscular) shoulders and paddle my legs to the other side. (I must admit that I had developed a bit of a crush oh my salvavida (life guard), Sebastian, by the end of the tour.) In the end, I was very glad that he offered to help me through the pools rather than leaving me behind to shiver in the dark with my candle which, I hoped, would not go out, as I had suggested. It was an amazing adventure gliding past stalactites/mites, walking through an underground waterfall and climbing a ladder over it and vicariously jumping into a deep pool from a small cliff while watching my friends actually make the plunge. After the caves, we all floated on inner tubes back to our hotel. After a quick lunch, we headed out to visit Semuq Champey National Park.


I had heard from my friends about how beautiful this place was, and I had even looked a photos online, but when I arrived, I really could not believe such an amazingly beautiful place existed. This rushing river
dives underground to form this...
I spent the rest of my day lounging in clear blue pools, trying to get my leg tan to catch up with my shoulders. Needless to say, swimming was still out of the question, despite the fact that it was daylight and I could see the bottom.

The next day, we woke up early to catch the 7:00 am shuttle to Antigua, where I decided to spend the night with my friends from Seattle and one other girl from my school in Xela. Antigua is a quaint, clean, colonial-inspired town, surprisingly/mysteriously absent of stray dogs (or not so mysteriously if rumors about the local business association's efforts to keep Antigua tourist friendly are to be believed). Antigua is well known for it's wide variety of gastronomic opportunities from around the world, including the Middle East and Asia. My friends told me about a place very close to our hotel that offered buffalo steak and suckling pig. Feeling a little protein deprived, I jumped at the chance for some carne, but sadly, neither of those options was still on the menu, which instead offered various types of brats including a curry sausage dish that was described as...
It's a German sausage cocked or fried from the grill. Most of the times cut in mouth size pieces...

I opted for the schnitzel, which, I fear, I will never eat again. During the meal, I remember thinking how I was eating so much more than I usually do at my host family's home, but it was so tasty that I had to finish every bite. So, naturally, as I was uncomfortably waddling down the street with my friends, back to our respective hotels, I assumed that my discomfort was caused by filling my stomach to a point it had not experienced in about a month and not anything more sinister. When we returned to our hotel, we learned that the water in the whole city was out for a indeterminate length of time. No matter. I figured I would take my fit to burst tummy to bed and take a shower in the morning. However, I was less ambivalent about the water situation about an hour later when I woke up with an urgent need to visit the shared toilets in the hotel - it would appear that Señor Moctezuma had finally decided to pay me a visit in a very violent and persistent way. Suffice it to say it was THE worst night of my Guatemalan vacation. In between "visits" to the bathroom, I would lie curled in the fetal position on my bed, trying to sleep, but really waiting for Señor's next call. At about 6 am, I decided I needed to get back to Xela as soon as possible so I called a local tour/shuttle operator, which thankfully has a 24 hour number, and arranged transport on a shuttle leaving for Xela at 8 am. My friend Cate graciously walked me to their office, good thing too, since Señor decided I should leave an offering on the streets of Antigua before quitting the city, and even picked up some much needed antibiotics and anti-nausea pills for me (of all the weekends to forget the Pepto, not that it would have done all that much good during the worst of it when nothing would stay down, including water and gatorade). I was very thankful for the time conscious (and super cute, unfortunately) shuttle driver who got me back to Xela by 11:30 am. I was in bed by noon and didn't wake up until my host mom called me to dinner at 7:30 pm.

I was happy to be able to cross Antigua off my list of places to see, and although I feel much better now, and and am excited to be able to cinch my belt a couple notches tighter (only one notch left!), I don't think I will be returning to the scene of the crime (i.e. the severe violation of my person) any time soon.

Posted by oangel99 13:30 Archived in Guatemala Tagged tourist_sites

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