Mon, March 3rd: After breakfast and farewell to
the Canadians, we headed west out of town to ride the less popular, but nonetheless
fascinating route south. This route is mostly dirt and hard rock with potholes, which made
for slower going. About 50km north of Lanquin, the road became quite curvy and narrow, as
we began to ascend into the mountains. The route immediately reminded us of the steep and
narrow road in Bolivia between La Paz and Coroico, otherwise known as the Worlds
Most Dangerous Road. The main difference was that we had less traffic, and no fog, but the
telltale signs of where trucks had slipped off the edge were still evident. We arrived in
Lanquin about an hour before sunset, and made our way to El Retiro a hostal that
was highly recommended in the guidebook. We decided to camp on their property, right next
to the river. Surprisingly we were the only ones camping in this beautiful spot.
While unpacking the tent, some of the local kids who were swimming in the river came to
watch/help. They loved banging in the tent stakes I only wish we had more!!! Even
with the help, we were sweating by the time we were set up, and a quick dip in the frigid
river helped to cool things off. It wasnt long before I was completely numb.
Tuesday, Mar 4th: The hostal turned out to be such a tranquil spot after our
long and dusty ride the day before we decided to just hang out for the day, swim in the
river when we got hot, swayed in hammocks under shady trees and took a walk into town.
Every day, the 3 small cows would storm down the hill to drink from the river -- only
problem was our tent was in their path! It's pretty scarry to watch them charge down
the hill, and they miss the tent by only inches. Once, one of the cows stopped at
the doorway to look in, then he wanted me to pet him!
The staff is mostly made of travelling volunteers -- they get free room/board, plus
enough to buy a few beers. Along with the cool atmosphere, the food here is also
very delicious, mostly vegetarian and of a very high quality. The price was not outrageous
either (considering we were in a Gringo Bubble). In the evenings the dinner is family
style with a set menu, with soup and main, or main and dessert (Q35 ~ $4.60). All the
tables are pushed together and everyone eats together and chats about where theyve
been. After dessert and coffee one can either stay at the tables to read, play games, or
join the campfire nearby and enjoy the some impromptu music by other travelers with
guitars or bongos.
Wed, Mar 5th: Today we decided to go do what we came here to do, that is
jump into the famous clear pools of Semuc Champey, set in the beautiful Cahabon Gorge. The
pools are actually on top of a huge, natural limestone bridge where a raging river roars
out of the mountains and disappears under, spilling water into some of the pools on top.
Although we were there in the dry season, there was still a refreshing cascade of water
filling into the various terraces. While Erin basked in the pools on top of the bridge, I
decided to join one of the tour groups to explore the caves below at the rivers exit.
We climbed down along a waterfall, and entered the cavern. What was wild was
the thundering river below -- the sound reverberating off the cave walls. Add to
that the splattering sounds of waterfalls joining from above, and, WOW! A couple of
us took the adventure exit, diving into the (frigid) river from the cliffs above, then
quickly swimming out of the current to the sides. From there, it was a moss-covered
rocky climb up -- lots of fun with no shoes and wet feet!! I did this a second time,
and was truly exhausted by the time I got back up to the pools.
Thurs, Mar 6th: After a lengthy farewell with all our new friends at El
Retiro we finally left around 12:30pm. Although it was only 60km to Coban, the rough road
and construction took its toll with lots of deep fresh gravel, many big dump trucks
kicking up dirt at us, and crazy drivers. It took us nearly 3-hours to arrive in Coban. We
met up again with Nick, a daring bicyclist who we met at El Retiro Nick is on a
2-year trip from Alaska to Ushuaia. Check out his website at www.The-Road-South.com