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Semuc Champey Jan/2/2013

4 Jan

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Now officially top 5 destination is Guatemala. In my world anyway. Semuc Champey is 10km of a very rough ride of steep ups and downs. The only way for a tourist to get there is on the back of a pickup truck that occasionally run back and forth or renting a 4×4 in Antigua or Guatemala City.

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The pools of Champey are nothing like I have ever seen before. It consists of a wild river that turns off into a cave system just a few feet before the pools. The crystal white pools with beautiful clear water are the main attraction.
Millions of years ago, sea shells got crushed and pulverized and later hardened to form these pools with water flowing into them from way up in the jungle. I have tasted the water from the streams and it is so heavy on minerals it’s almost salty. Of course I don’t settle just for watching these from eye level so while Alex stays for a dip I go for the exhausting, 30 minute steep path way up on top of one of the mountains.

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Well worth it. I ran into our Croatian friends there that we met the night before in Languín. Way down was less exhausting but dangerous as very little light gets through the canopy and the path is very slippery. A dive into the crystal pools was so welcoming. Making way from one pool to another either over the natural dam or under, through a small cavern. The ponds are full of fish that just nibble on your skin. An exfoliation of kinds. Of course this wasn’t enough. From the Croatians I found out that there caves a few hundred meters from here. You don’t need to convince me. So this was probably one of the coolest things I have done in my life. One this about Guatemala is that the level of security in places like these is zero. One of the Croatian girls Maria, a couple from Cali, me and the guide are handed a candle each and set out for well over an hours exploration of the cave. My first thought is, will these candles last an hour? Endless number of stalagmites and stalactites in an endless cave. 11km to be exact. We only went in just under a mile but it was a mile of swimming crawling through tight spaces and up waterfalls to get into the other levels of the cave system. Most of the hike was done half submerged. All of this was done with the hopes to keep at least one candle going. Half way through we knew the candles were not gonna last so we started putting some out to save them for later. Because of a still swollen ankle from my bike spill back in August, I passed on a dive into a pond inside the cave but I was the first to slide my body down a sort of tunnel opening into the unknown.
We are now 3:1 as Alex gets dumped off his bike again. Well, not sure if #2 should count as he just forgot to kick out his side stand and thus leaned the bike into emptiness right in front of our hotel back a few days ago in Isla de Flores.

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My bike is short to follow. For whatever reason I did not wear ear plugs coming back from Champey. 99% of the riding I do. As we hit the pavement in Languín I hear a cling as if a piece of metal hit the ground. I try to stop but no front brake. Using the rear and gearing down I pull over. One of the screws holding the front caliper flew off and the other is hanging by a few threads. I walked back a few dozen feet and surely enough there is the bolt on the cobble stone pavement. What luck, I’m thinking. Not only that I heard it drop but especially that it didn’t happen anywhere else on the 120km stretch of steep hills and 500ft drops on either side. Remember when I was getting my front brakes fixed in Cancún? The bikes have really been getting a beating the past two days. I’m really surprised that more hasn’t happened but a drop of thread lock would have prevented this. All I had was crazy glue, so a few drops on the treads and back in they go. Easy fix at the side of the street.
We spent the night with the Croatians in this awesome hotel that consisted of a number if straw huts alongside the river. Consuming Gallos and Brahvas long into the night before a good bye to them as they were heading up to Tical and Cancún.

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Did I mention that we barely ever paid more than $20 for a hotel in Guatemala? Food is insanely cheap too. About $5 for two big breakfast and pure Guatemalan coffee.
We have a few more nights in Guatemala before taking on Honduras. We are both insanely pleased with it and I will definitely return to discover more of this beautiful country. Too bad about the well deserved bad rep. Guatemala a fairly small place with little population averages 500 murders a month. Yes, that’s almost 17 murders every night, not mentioning traffic and other accidents. December had a whopping 544 murders and 29 deaths over the New Year’s Eve we spent here. Overall we never felt threatened even in the remote places. On the contrary, people were very friendly everywhere we have tackled. I even got down a few more Mayan phrases from the lovely Mayan ladies back in Languín where we stayed for the past 2 nights. They don’t have words for “to buy” or “purchase”, but I got down phrases such as “mas natatin qua” for “I love you”, “mantita kek” for “ride me cowboy style” and “masli sam” for “thank you”.

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  1. Looks like an amazing stopover in terms of activities as well as sightseeing. It is also clear from the verbiage you picked up that the ladies there are very welcoming indeed :)

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