Saturday, July 6, 2013


The eight hour bus ride to Lanquin ended up taking closer to nine hours, not counting the half-hour late departure time. It was a pretty good ride, though, I have to say. For the first six hours or so, it was just me and an Irish guy and we happily chatted for that entire time. At about the six hour mark, we picked up some people, dropped them off, picked up some others, and then dropped them off. Even when the bus was full, it wasn't chicken bus full so you didn't hear any complaints from us.

When we finally arrived at Zephyr Lodge, we couldn't've been happier. Check out some pics here because I didn't get very many good ones, myself. We were surrounded by completely stunning scenery and all of the other guests were very chill and friendly. (I wasn't super thrilled with the attitude of one of the staff when I asked about a covering for an opening in the thatch roof that allowed my bed to get rained on, though. She said, "We're in the jungle, that's just the way it is." It stopped raining and wasn't ultimately a problem, but still.) The lodge is very isolated, so everyone hangs out together. All around, very good vibe, if maybe a bit too party-ish for my tastes.

ANYWAY. In making my way toward Lanquin, I thought that a visit to nearby Semuc Champey National Park would be a great way to spend my 4th of July. I know I said not that long ago that I don't really "do" tours, but...I did another tour. You kind of have to for this one, too, because transportation is pretty infrequent and guides are necessary for the cave portion of the trip anyway, so it just makes sense.

The park and caves are only about 10km away from the lodge, but it took nearly 45 minutes to get there. The roads are pretty rough and occasionally a truck will break down, blocking the entire road, which means you have to get out of your truck and walk up the hill to another one, one that we apparently...took? borrowed? I'm not sure exactly, but yes, that happened. Twelve of us stood in the back of a truck for this journey and I'm pretty sure it counts as part of the tour!

The Kan'Ba Caves were our first stop. There aren't too many pictures from the day because there was so much water involved, but here's a pretty waterfall that was just outside the entrance to the caves:
Unlike the cave at ATM that came with helmets and headlamps, this cave came with no helmets and stubby candles. And at the beginning of the cave, you have to swim one-handed as you hold your candle aloft with the other hand. It was quite the way to begin the day! We were in the cave for about two hours. Besides swimming, we did a lot of slippery climbing and maneuvering, we got to jump from a cave ledge into a pool, and (very, very) cool was when we got to walk behind a waterfall and then float through a cave river to get back to where everyone else was waiting.

The adventure didn't stop when we emerged out of the cave. There was a massive rope swing to jump off of into the river and a 21m bridge to jump off of into the same river. I didn't do either of these things because the river current was a bit strong for my liking as a not-so-good swimmer, so instead I just cheered on those who were jumping.
(Crazy German Robert, holding onto our guide's head for balance before he takes the leap)
We had a lunch of carne, rice, refried beans, salad, and tortillas prepared for us by a local lady who'd cooked everything and set up shop near the bridge. The rest of the day was spent at Semuc Champey. Semuc has a naturally created limestone bridge and the top of the bridge has a series of pools. First, you hike for about a half-hour, practically straight up to an area known as Mirador where you have a view of those pools. Thank god it wasn't a hot day because by the time we got to the top, my legs were jelly and I was dripping sweat. Pictures can't possibly capture what the eye does, but I gave it a shot:
When our guide said, "let's go swimming!" we really couldn't have been happier. After the cold cave water, then the hot climb, we were looking forward to the other end of the extreme again. The pools meant more opportunity for jumping from high heights. As I was scrambling up to the ledge, I couldn't help ask myself what the hell I was doing, considering I'm a bit afraid of heights and all. I was the next to last person to go and I was finding it hard to work up the courage when, out of nowhere, the last guy gave me a countdown. It worked! So I returned the favor for him when it was his turn. ;-)

There were also naturally formed slides (you can see them at the bottom, towards the right of the above picture) that weren't very long, but they were kind of exhilarating because they were so fast. Another very cool thing was this cave that only had enough room for your head (the rest of you was underwater). You entered the cave in one spot and came out in another. The light was shimmery and ethereal because it was reflected off the water. One of the pools had those dead skin eating fishes - at least that's what I hope it was, as the water was too deep for me to actually see, but that's what it felt like. By the time we got to the last pool with one last rope swing, I think most of our group was cold, tired, and seriously ready to be out of the water.

We got back to the truck and climbed aboard. We were all grinning like idiots, but completely exhausted. So, of course, it totally makes sense that it started raining about halfway back to the lodge. :-/ I was really looking forward to a cup of coffee, a hot shower (which is semi-open and overlooks the jungle, by the way), and dry clothes at that point.

Since it was the 4th of July, the lodge had prepared a "Happy Birthday, 'Merica" menu for dinner that night consisting of slow roasted pork shoulder, corn on the cob, potato salad, grilled veggie skewers, cole slaw, baked beans, and a couple of other things I'm forgetting. I'm pretty sure that, aside from one of the staff members, I was the only American there so it might've been a bit over the top, but it was fun and convivial all the same.

How was your 4th of July?


  1. I'm not ignoring you, honest. But it's hard for me to comment. My phone is very finicky with Blogger blogs. And so is my work computer. So I have to make sure I read from my PC, which I don't always. Anyway...

    Loved this post. I know you told me about this on the phone, but I was a bit distracted. :-) You do such a good job describing your experiences. I know and appreciate how long the writing takes, which makes me appreciate the quality even more. Keep up the good work!

    A hole in the ceiling? LOL! You can keep that particular jungle experience.

    Hugs and lots of love as you enjoy your next destination.

    1. Kathy - A hole in the ceiling makes it sound much more dramatic than it was. :) Thanks for all the kind words and support!