It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I decided to take a daytrip tour to the Semuc Champey waterfalls and Lanquín Caves. Originally I'd been planning to stay there overnight at a cool hostel I'd heard about, but the fact that I had a nice hotel in Coban, which also offered a shuttle straight to my next destination of Flores, won out in the end. Plus the tour came with breakfast and lunch, so it sounded perfect.
The drive out to Semuc Champey was long, hot, and very bumpy, especially towards the end. Fortunately we had a really funny tourguide named Rene, who kept us all amused. Not that it was a particularly friendly crowd... the group consisted of eight Israelis (two families of four), a German family of four, a Spanish couple, and me. So everyone else had a pre-defined group to chat with in their own language, leaving me to sit and stare out the window. This was one of those times when it would've been nice to have a travel companion, or even my own posse!
At any rate, we arrived at the Semuc Champey park grounds after about two and a half hours of bumping and jostling in the van. It's become quite a popular spot to visit in recent years, as it's a pretty unusual natural wonder. The Río Cahabón flows down through a huge cavern into a series of shallow limestone pools that cascade down in a tranquil flow. The bulk of the river goes underground and cuts back out from a hole in the canyon a few miles downstream. It's pretty spectacular.
The walk out to the pools was mellow enough. And then Rene asked us if we'd like to go to the mirador, or viewpoint. Silly me, forgetting that everything in Guatemala involves some grueling uphill race to the death that usually results in me feeling like the Weakest Link, Goodbye! Yes, I forgot all that in the excitement of seeing the pools from up above, and I agreed to go. Not only was it the steepest, slipperiest climb yet, but for some reason everyone else seemed hellbent on getting to the top as fast as possible, with no stopping at all. Am I really the only one who thinks it's reasonable to stop and smell the jungle from time to time? Guess I am. Anyway, the view from the top was, of course, splendid. Almost worth the humiliating climb up there. It was interesting to see the pools from above... the turquoise colors were magnificent and the rushing river downstream was amazing. Not sure why we had to climb vertically to the absolute top of the stupid gorge to see it, but, hey, it made for some nice pics. Which you'll see eventually, I promise.
Fortunately we went down the other side (ah, see, there *is* an easy way!) and for some reason everyone else wanted to take it nice and slow, so I got totally ahead of the group. But, y'know, why be like everyone else? When we got back to the main area there was plenty of time to float in the water and explore the small series of waterfalls. It was reeeeeeeally relaxing.
On the way back, we stopped at the Lanquín Caves, which were OK but not as cool as the spelunking caves we went through in La Fortuna. It was just a series of slippery walkways and a few steps, with lights strung inside and a sign here or there calling out interesting formations. Not that many bats, either. But not a bad way to end the day's excursion.
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