Coban, Lanquin/Semuc Champay, Tikal, Rio Dulce,

Trip Start Feb 10, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

We have had some amazing adventures since my last entry. We arrived in Lanquin last Wednesday to visit Semuc Champay. We stayed at a really nice hostel called El Retiro. It was set right next to a river in a small green valley, which was very beautiful. Thursday morning we headed out for the day with a tour guide to show us the Semuc Champay caves and bring us to the actually waterfalls in -Semuc Champay. The caves are made of limestone that go into the mountain for over 6 miles, and are over 50 million years old. They were discovered by the Mayans thousands of years ago, and were used to preform ceremonies. To go in the caves all we needed was our bathing suits, water shoes and a candle to light the way. The caves have a small stream running through them that connect to the near by river. This means that we were literally swimming through them with only a lit candle to show us the way! So we climbed, swam and slid our way through the caves. It was absolutely incredible! We were with a big group of people which made it even better. After we made our way out of the caves, we headed towards the famous waterfalls of Semuc Champay. There is a bridge along the way that were able to jump off of, so most of took the opportunity. Jenna is a little frightened of heights so she took some serious convincing (she was literally shaking). I jumped off a second time to help ease her fears, and she was able throw herself off. Before we reached the falls our guide stopped to show us cocoa trees, a cardamin plant and these seed pods that the Mayans used as paint, and are still used to color food. The pods have seeds in them that are red, and when you press on them they burst to create an earthy red color. We painted our faces and moved on to the cocoa tree, where one of the fruits was opened and we were able to try the seeds. They were sooo good!! It is hard to believe that chocolate is made from them, the taste is nothing like chocolate! We were also able to pick a cardamin seed and smell the fresh aroma. Finally we made it to the falls. They were absolutely incredible! The pools were crystal clear green and blue with moss covered rocks, and would spill over to the next pools creating small waterfalls. There were at least 5 levels of this, including a part at the top where the river went under ground. It is all set in a tropical rainforest among huge mountain and hills. It is just like a scenic picture from a calendar!
That night I ended up getting really sick...I think it was either from swallowing too much river water or the chicken I ate in town. I was so miserable for the whole next day (I will not get into the gruesome details!) that we decided to stay an extra day so I could re cooperate, and still be able to visit the falls again. Luckily I did feel better the next day and we were able to return to the falls. We swam in the refreshing crystal clear waters and slid down from pool to beautiful pool. We took the mirador hike which was straight up the mountain, but from the top you can see all of the pools, and surrounding area. It was breath taking!
The next morning we left at 10am to head back to Coban, to begin the longest trek of our journey so far (to Tikal). We jumped from van to van, being smashed in between large sweaty men. It was also an incredibly hot day, just to make things more uncomfortable. It was worse than any chicken bus we had been on. At one point I counted 24 people, in one freaking van. We finally made it to El Remate (about 30km from Tikal) at 8pm that evening. We were exhausted! In fact we were so tired we just went to the nearest hostel, which turned out to be little huts, with dirt for floors. We were so tired we did not care, and just went straight to bed! We were up at 5am the next day to head to Tikal, one of the biggest Mayan ruin sights in the world. They were absolutely amazing! The buildings or pyramids were incredibly tall, and there were over 50 different ruins in a six mile area (they were inhabited around 900ad). There were carvings of various gods, that were still visible and others that had crumbled away over time. We climbed many of them, from the top we could see for miles,including many of the other ruins. Some of them had wooden ladders to get to the top, but some of the others just had the actual steps of the pyramids. There were random paths in between ruins that seemed like they lead no where. We spent over 4 hours wandering around and probably only saw half the park, but were able to see the main highlights. In the distance we could hear the cry of howler monkeys and the calls of exotic birds. We even saw a family of monkeys playing in a tree above our heads. It was an another incredible day.
Yesterday we headed for Rio Dulce. We were lucky enough to get on a direct shuttle which only took about 4 hours. We are staying at a Hotel Backpackers, a hostel that is literally on top of the river. We are staying in the dorm section where if you walked the wrong way, you would end up in the river! It is really beautiful here as well. Today we are going to Finca Paradiso (my spelling may be off), a hot spring waterfall, and tomorrow we are headed to Livingston. From there we are going to Utila island off the coast of Honduras in the Carribean Sea to get certified as scuba divers!
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