Mobetah in St. Pete Beach Florida just prior to leaving for the Northwestern Caribbean

Mobetah in St. Pete Beach Florida just prior to leaving for the Northwestern Caribbean

About Us

Until his retirement, Bill Was a Landscape Architect for the National Park Service and Pat was a Physical Therapist.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tour of Semuc Champey

The morning after our arrival in Lanquin, we signed up for a “complete” tour of the Semuc Champey area. The four of us were joined by four young back packers, from Israel, Germany and Washington, DC. Our tour guide, Carlos, was a young Mayan man, who was very personable and spoke four languages–his native Q’eqchi, Spanish, English, and some Hebrew. (There are a lot of backpackers from Israel in Central America.).
Carlos ready to lead us into cave
We boarded another pick-up truck, with Pat and Katrina again inside, and Bill and Rodney in back with the younger folks. After another bumpy, hilly ride of about 10 miles, we arrived at the Cahabon River. Our first activity was to be a tour of the K’Anba cave. (Which we soon learned was not the Lanquin caves that are part of the park system.) Carlos had picked some achiote pods, which make a bright orange dye and spice, which he used to paint our faces. The only question he asked was if we could swim. He gave each hiker a thin, long candle taper. As we descended into the cave, the candles were the only light available. The cave tour consists of wading through water or, in several places, swimming in water over your heads while trying to hold a candle aloft. Then there were several rope ladders with thin metal rungs used to climb up rock walls. About 100 yards into the pitch black cave, Bill slipped on the rung of a ladder and cut his leg below the knee. The next ladder required going through a very narrow opening, which Bill did not feel comfortable doing. So we opted to turn around and go back to the cave entrance. It is good that there were two of us, as one of our candles went out, and had to be re-lit by the other. When the rest of the group came out of the cave, they said it had become more difficult as they went on. At one time, they had to jump through a hole in the rocks into a waterfall and down into a pool, where the guide was there to pull them up and re-light their candles.  We were all just glad to have survived the "adventure."  (This trip certainly showed us that there may be a difference between an adventure and an ordeal!")

Enter the cave AT YOUR OWN RISK

Ready to enter the cave

On the way down into the cave
 Bill’s wound was bleeding quite a bit, but there were no first-aid supplies available, so he tried to keep it covered with frequent changes of toilet paper! When we finally returned to our hotel later in the afternoon, the girl from Israel dressed it with first-aid supplies she carried in her backpack.

After the cave tour, we were able to relax as we tubed down the river for about a mile. We had to hike back to the starting point, where we crossed a bridge over to the Park entrance to Semuc Champey, which is a natural monument in a valley with steep walls surrounded by a tropical forest. There is a 300 meter long limestone bridge at the bottom, above which are several natural stepped pools of turquoise colored spring water. Our hotel had packed lunches for us, so we stopped to eat at the visitors’ center.

Pat and Rodney relax on the river
 The next activity was to be a hike up to an overlook high above the pools. It consisted of very steep steps going almost straight up, and when we saw the sign stating it was very “dificile,” we four “older” folks decided to forego this part of the tour. We walked straight on in to the pools, where we spent the time wading and swimming while waiting on the rest of our group. We were glad we made this decision, as everyone who came down the hill said it was very difficult. Katrina did send her camera up with one of the backpackers, so we could get pictures looking down at the pools. After spending time enjoying the pools, we walked back out to the bridge and boarded the truck for the ride back to the hotel.

Semuc Champey from observation platform

Swimming holes

The valley of Semuc Champey
 The next morning , we boarded a shuttle going west to the town of Coban. This trip required only about fifteen miles on a gravel road, much better maintained than the others we had been on, and then the rest of the way was on paved roads! We had to transfer to a bus about half way to the Rio, but even though it was a nine hour trip, we were certainly more comfortable than on the direct route we had taken to get to Lanquin.