We left Flores and made our way to Lanquin / Semuc Champey on a relatively pleasent 8 hour bus ride, checking into the Zephyr Lodge which is an amazing hostel overlooking the Lanquin valley and river that runs through.
For our first day, we signed up to a tour of the caves and water pools of Semuc Champey, an amazing national park about half an hours drive from Lanquin down an extremely hilly and rough dirt track. About 15 of us that had been hanging out jumped onto the back of a truck like cattle and bumped our way to the caves.
The caving was unlike anything we’ve ever done. We were given candles and led about 1km into the mountain, swimming through deep pools of water in the pitch black while trying to keep our candles alight, climbing a rope up a waterfall in the dark with nothing to fall onto and jumping off the cave’s rock face into a very small (but deep) pool of water. It was extremely dangerous but loads and loads of fun. You would never experience anything like it in any western country – you would have to be wearing shoes, lifejackets, headtorches, the place would be lit with floodlights and you would walk on a walkway (probably a lot safer but nowhere near as fun).
After about 2 hours in the cave we eventually made it back to daylight and headed down to play on a ropeswing jumping into the river. Again, completely unsafe but lots and lots of fun. Kel says its the safest rope swing he’s ever seen, but thats not saying much.
Next we headed into the national park and hiked for about 20 minutes to get up to the lookout over the ponds of Semuc Champey, an amazing view over the bright blue ponds of water. After a few (hundred) photos we headed down the mountain and went for a swim in the pools, sliding down rocks and climbing up waterfalls.
That night I got the biggest surprise of my entire life. I was laying on my bed arranging photos from the day when my best friend in the whole wide world, Lee, walked into the dorm room. Just the day before she had told me on email that she was heading to Melbourne for the weekend, so it took me almost a full minute to recognise her and register that she was actually in the room, as it was so out of context. Lee had been made redundant at work the week before so decided to come and surprise me. She emailed Kel and the two of them secretly organised for her to meet us in Semuc Champey. Lee traveled for about 48 hours through food poisoning and landslide covered roads to make it to see us. I’ve got her for three weeks, so we’re going to squeeze as much in as possible.
The day after Lee arrived we chilled out in the morning and then went tubing down the river in the afternoon with a few beers. The water was freezing cold, but (as we say in Australia), not so bad once you get in. Yesterday we headed back to do the caving and see Semuc Champey with Lee, as its unmissable if you trek all the way to Lanquin.
Today we rose very early to catch another 8 hour bus back to Antiqua. Poor Payno woke up with a stomach bug, but managed to brave the very, very packed bus and make it to Antigua with only one spew out the minivan window. Such a trooper. Kel spent the afternoon sleeping to regain strength while Lee and I checked out the town.
Tomorrow we have a day to check out the town and on Tuesday we’re going to climb a volcano for 7 hours and camp at the top, close to 4,000 meters in altitude. Its supposed to be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but well worth it (…hopefully).