The day started at 9 am with about a dozen of us standing up in the back of a small truck. We wound through the busy, cobbled streets of Lanquin, then bounced and crawled along the rough dirt road to the valley of Semuc Champey with its dense forests, waterfalls, caves, streams and large river.
Here is where the benefit of a guided tour began. We were given lit candles and led into a limestone cave. We cautiously waded into the ever deepening stream, looking very stylish in our swimmers and shoes. The cold water quickly became too deep to wade and we swam sidestroke holding our candles aloft. A rope gave some assistance to pull ourselves along. The cave revealed beautiful formations, stalagtites, small waterfalls and polished walls, all lit by our flickering candles.
At various points our guide gave options for the brave, or slightly deranged, to climb a waterfall by rope or leap into a pool eight metres down, in the pitch black, or get sucked down a sink hole to pop out in a pool below or shoot down a water slide. As we eventually made our way past the bats and back into the sunlight we all agreed that it was certainly an exciting tour and only possible with a guide.
Jose then took us for a quick dip under a waterfall before setting us all off in our inner tubes to float down the river, with an occasional bump over rapids.
Just when we may have been feeling that this was relaxing, a troop of small boys leapt into the river with their own inner tubes andcooler boxes. They paddled out to us and called, “Beers, beers, you can pay later!” Who could resist? So we continued floating down the river, sipping our chilled beers, chatting with the enthusiastic and entertaining vendors.
Chocolate sellers, young Mayan girls, met us as we exited the river, so all the most important food groups were now covered.
After lunch, we hiked up the forested hills for great views down to the river and the multi coloured pools.
The walk ended in the beautiful pools formed like scooped steps by the water and the limestone. Perfect for a relaxing dip.
A short walk along the river’s edge, through the forest and back to the truck, and we bounced and lurched our way back to El Retiro Lodge, arriving back at 6pm. A great day out, and the perfect mixture of excitement, fun and relaxation.
Note. This tour was organised through El Retiro Lodge in Lanquin. Cost Q185/$US25. As we were staying at the Lodge and stayed three nights (Q200 private room per night) we got the third night free by booking the tour.