Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Mar 8th, 2003.-- Guatemala, Day 1,388

Credit to'n out in Lanquin

-- Story by Chris --

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 World’s 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 one’s 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 wasn’t 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 they’ve 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

Fri, Mar 7th: Another departure after lunch, followed by a 60km ride on a good paved road, had us at the hostal just outside the Quetzal Sanctuary well before sunset. Erin has turned into a bit of a (amateur) bird watcher in recent months – with all the magnificent birds we’ve seen lately, it would be hard not to!!! After settling into our room, we went outside and there they were! A male and a female quetzal, up in the tree not 30 meters from our room!!! We have been looking for these beautiful birds for months, all through Central America!


A fairly long snake in the road!

Using child-labor to get the tent set up

Fighting over who gets to use the hammer -- we felt bad that we only had 8 tent pegs!

Our campsite by the river

The common room at El Retiro

A comfy place to hang-out

Raven, one of the volunteers, hanging with his friends


The roaring river, about to drop below the limestone bridge/pools at Semuc Champey


The tranquil pools, 15 meters above the river

Wonderful for swimming in

The road to Coban

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