Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Somewhere in Latin America
38. Semuc Fuckn' Champey
Time to roll out of this hostel, just in case anyone is interested itís a cool place, relatively cheap per night, food looked good, bar drinks looked good (I always ate in town and only drank the beer though) and it was definitely a social place. Smooth running and the owners are super involved. No parking indoors for a bike but seemed pretty safe on the street. Place is called Los Amigos on the island of Flores.
Now, off to Semuc Champey. Itís supposed to be a 8 hour bus ride there, Iím hoping 5 hours by bike. First, breaky at the local market.
Find this guy and asked what was his favorite thing that he makes. He said mixed tacos. I said cool Iíll take 3 of those. 10Q (~$1.10)
They were real good, full of flavor, add the typical tomato based sauce and the flavors are rounded out into a nice savory-slightly-sweet blend.
As I finished eating it started to piss rain pretty good so I decided to chill. Hit me with another plate of tacos please amigo.
The weather chilled a bit by the time I finished so I headed out. I turned off the main road that heads East-West and onto a smaller dirt road heading South towards Semuc Champey.
Finally, glad to find some more dirt roads here compared to Mexico.
There was some light traffic but not much.
The dirt road spit me back out onto a paved road where the scenery opened up a bit. So did the sky though and rain began to fall again.
In the heavy rain at pace down the paved road my bike stopped running again. Water in the carb. I pulled over and drained it. Seems like it only sucks in water when Iím clicking down the road at 65 - 70mph. Need to check the airbox hoses out, maybe Iím flinging water into the airbox through a cracked hose or something at higher speedsÖ
Bike fired right back up though, 20second fix. These guys came out of there house right quick though to see if I needed a hand. Nice dudes and we shot the shit for a minute.
The rain cleared again and the road dried enough for some fun rolling curves.
Fucking schizophrenic weather, started to absolutely dump again. I pulled off to wait out the heaviest of it, usually doesnít last more than 10 mins.
Got back on the road and then another 30 minutes later the someone flicked the weather switch again and I found sun again.
The road I was on took me all the way down to the southwestern corner of Belize before cutting back due west towards Semuc Champey. I found a nice little restaurant at this rural junction and stopped for some food. Iím in the habit now of asking whoever is working what their favorite dish is, then just ordering that for a try. This time they brought out soup, some veggies, and some sort of beef. All was savory and tasty. Total price, 20Q (~$2.20).
I find more and more people packing heat in Guatemala. Canít see it here but 5 guys rolled into the restaurant with handguns on their hips and several extra clips. Seemed like perfectly casual blokes, no hard asses here. Wonder if itís just a cultural thing to have a gun around these areas.
Once I turned onto this new road I found the queen bee of pristine tarmac. Not sure why they chose to do this road so nicely but there wasnít a single pothole on the whole thing.
With dry roads and lots of traction I opened her up. Man this is nice. I feel like an absolute rocketship clicking past people in overloaded cars as if they are standing still. Iím just a blur to everything else and only at a mere 70mph.
With all the recent rain everything is super green. These wild horses seemed happy with the excessive food it brought.
Every now and then I hit a patch of construction, usually there was also a bridge under construction at these points. The original was still in use though.
With about 30miles to go I found the turn-off to Semuc Champey. It was getting close to sunset and here I realized the road was going to be all dirt from here on. The road was steep with loose rocks so it was mostly 1st gear grinding with the occasional flip into second. Looks like Iíll be riding in to Semuc in the dark, as I only have about 30 minutes of sunlight.
Iíll enjoy the views then while I have them then.
The road wound up and up as if we Semuc Champey was hidden within the clouds.
The road got less and less groomed as the miles ground away. Constantly jumping from 1st to 2nd, 2nd back down to 1st, suspension jackhammering at a smooth consistent pounding, motor droning on smoothly at around 3500 revs.
It got too dark for pictures after this but my Hella Rally lights did a great job lighting up the road ahead. Good thing since it seemed like there wasnít much of an lip on these roads and there was usually quite the drop-off on the other side. I rolled into the Zephyr lodge in the town of Lanquin (6k south of Semuc Champey) where I would base my stay while visiting Semuc Champey. Itís a party hostel through and through, more like a total party compound. Like a mini drunken oasis in the middle of nowhere packed full of foreigners. If you are looking for other young people to get altered with and party this is the place. If you are looking for a relaxing place to sleep or chill out, this is not your spot. With a tab system for all purchases made during your stay, a full food menu for breaky/lunch/and dinner, and tours going to and from the hostel/compound to Semuc Champey itís an all inclusive resort for young party goers. Bizarre seeing it exist in a place that seems so remote and full of nature but here it is never the less.
Hereís their managers rig.
The compound is up on a ridgeline overlooking valleyís to the front and back. Beautiful views.
Thereís lots of space here and lots of housing, dorms, private, etc itís all here.
With all the young party goers flocking here and looking to pay for a good time business is definitely good. With a tab system too the sweet ring of the cash register bringing in money is only heard by the staff, itís only when you check out that you are reminded that your fun did in fact cost something.
I like to consider myself responsible though and didnít let the tab system lull me into a false sense of the reality about the cost of things. I opted to camp and by more beer with the savings :-)
In the morning I jumped a truck with a bunch of guys from ďOzĒ (australia) and one Israeli and we headed up the 6k climb to see what everyone was flocking here for (besides the good partying ;-))
We wound through town and I got my first look at the area.
Itís a small town with a very local feel to it. Iím kind of glad that Zephyr lodge is a tucked away compound as it sort of buffers this natural place from all of our drunken shenanigans.
On the hour long grind up to Semuc our truck lost 1st gear and it started to piss rain.
We just so happened to break down by a small wooden tienda so we bought some morning beers to smooth out the previous nights hangovers and waited for a different truck to come by.
New truck and road beers acquired.
We made it near to our destination and walked the rest of the way in.
At Semuc there is also a cave system called Kan Ba Cave. It was originally only used for Mayan ceremonies but has been opened up to the public recently for tourism. Itís a very deep cave system and is unique in that it has a flowing river going through it as well as waterfalls on the interior. This was what I really came to Semuc for. I fucking love caves but havenít had very many opportunities to get into them. Iím scared of the vulnerability of it all, itís like crawling into the belly of the earth, and mother nature doesnít give a shit about you or your safety, you are completely responsible for your own outcome. Your adventure in a cave, weather it goes well or terribly wrong isnít going to change the caves existence on bit, it doesnít care about you or why you are there and wonít cut you any slack if you fuck up. I like this. This fear of them is what draws my interest as well, you get a feeling of really being alive when you are confronted with the reminder that you are so miniscule and vulnerable in environments like this.
This cave is normally a pretty safe cave but you are required to have a certified guide take you through as it does have a flowing current and several water falls. With all the rain that had fallen recently things were pretty different at the cave today. Looking at the river below the entrance of we could see that the cave might be flowing a bit faster and higher today.
The walkway to the entrance was still mostly there but the water level was definitely higher than normal.
This is what the waterfall that comes from the entrance of the cave usually looks like (pulled from the web).
This is what that spot looked like today.
After this photo I donít have anything from the inside of the cave. Our guide told us we may not be able to go in but since we were a rowdy group of active dudes he said if we wanted to give it a try we could. We all agreed and went for it. Here is a picture of the entrance on a normal day (pulled off the internet).
Once inside we have candles and move through the network slowly. The current is strong but we are able to push through holding onto the rock formations and pulling ourselves through. At points it is very enclosed. Sometimes you can touch bottom and push with your feet and other times you are swimming with one hand holding the candle above water. There are parts where the water is very deep and the current is strong so they have fixed rope lines to use to pull yourself through. We can tell the water level is much higher than normal as these fixed lines are all submerged several feet below the top of the water and you have to kick around as you swim with your legs to find them. Two guides came in with us and they seemed to be pretty excited about willing and adventurous our group was to push forward.
Hereís a picture I pulled from the web from a normal day in the cave. With the water flowing pretty hard and the spaces much more enclosed than normal at times it did feel a little hectic but still within that perfect line of having fun.
The cave goes several kilometers in and at about half way we came to the first waterfall. Here we all realized that it would be impossible for us to go any further. There was a fixed line that we needed to climb to get up the waterfall but the water was absolutely ferocious. I asked the guides if we could try and one of them and I worked our way climbing along the wall of the cave towards the waterfall. It became impossible to hear anything as the water was just way too loud. We worked our way under the waterfall and to the rope that we would have to climb but it was impossible to even stand up in the flow of water. I could barely make out the headlamp of the guide even though he was right next to me as we both got pummeled under the heavy water. We turned back satisfied that there was no way we could keep going and Iím really glad that they were willing to let us try to get this far. As we slowly worked our way back it was much easier as we were going in the direction of the current. On the way there were several spots where we could jump off a higher point in the cave that was nice and open and fall down into the darkness where a deep pool of water awaited. Itís super scary handing your only source of light, a fucking candle, to the person next to you and jumping off an edge into a pit of darkness hoping to find water. Then having to swim to the edge of the dark pool and hold onto the wall of the cave as your buddy chucks you your candle down snuffing it out as it lands in the water.
When we all made it back out to the front of the cave and back down to the river we could see how much the river had risen while we were inside. The walkway that we had come in on was now gone.
Ever confident though we cracked beers, linked arms, and shuffled our way back to the road.
The usual main attraction here, and what Semuc Champey is actually named after is further up the road and across the river.
The bridge is a nice jumping height and on a normal day our guide said sometimes people jump from here and then swim to the bank on the right. Current was strong but not strong enough to make it impossible to swim towards the bank so we opted to jump as well.
The river was higher so we climbed up on the wire to get that extra height.
The first few of us had to be reminded after landing in the water ďSWIM!!!Ē as we forgot about the current and needing to really swim hard back towards the bank. I decided to front-flip from the wire and slightly over rotated landing, bit a good chunk of my cheek out but was still great fun.
We then got some food and simmered down from the fun of the cave and getting to do some jumping. We hiked in to where the main attraction of Semuc Champey is.
Semuc Champey is a natural limestone bridge spanning 300m. The Cahabon river actually plunges into the earth right under this natural bridge, passes under it the 300m and then reemerges on the other side. There are natural spring water pools that form on the bridge and are usually a crystalline blue color from the sulfur in the rocks that they spring from. The raging river rocketing down into a dark pitted and massive hole is remarkable against the calm natural springs that sit atop it. Here in these springs you can go swimming, slide from one pool to the other on the smoothed out rocks, and go jumping out of trees 35ft up into the little pools that are narrow but super deep. Again I had to leave my camera on the shore so this is all I snapped of the area.
We all agreed the pools were great fun.
But the activities were spent and it was time we caught a ride back to town.
Hey that place sell beer ya think? Yeah letís get roadies.
Mmmm that sweet sweet nectar.
Back to the Zephyr compound gents.