Guatemala - Semuc Champey and Tikal

Published: June 22nd 2016
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After a great stay at lake Atitlan we followed the Gringo trail back to Antigua and onwards inlands. Compared to South America the countries in Central America are relatively small, so after a two hour drive in a reasonably comfortable van we arrived in Coban. The small town has little to offer for travellers, but it made for a good base for a trip to our next destination, Semuc Champey. Semuc is a very interesting natural phenomena where the river dips under the rocks for a couple of hundred of meters and leave a series of shallow pools, great for swimming and playing. Not surprisingly it is a favourite place for the locals to come and hang out. The trip out there is an adventure by itself, 2 hours on steep and unpaved roads, but sharing a van with a group of Guatemalans on a family reunion made it a fun trip. The most surprising part of the day was probably our driver/guide. As we had booked this trip through our hotel we had no idea that our driver would be our guide as well, but he actually put on swimming trunks and guided us through all the pools to show us the best spots for jumping and sliding of rocks and even swimming under some of them. At least for us that was a first, a swimming guide. After a great day of fun we returned to Coban to continue our trip from there.

Next stop Tikal. Having been fortunate enough to have visited both Machu Picchu in Peru and Angkor Wat in Cambodia we were looking forward to see how these famous Maya ruins would compare. We decided to set up camp in Flores, a backpackers town not far from Tikal. This time the van ride was less comfortable. The small van was already completely packed when it picked us up, so we spent the next 4 hours sharing a seat in front next to the driver. The good thing was that we were able to open the window, so we weren't as hot as the people in the back. The bad thing is that my right arm burned to a crisp from being in the sun outside the van for hours.

Flores was a bit different from what we expected. During the day everyone was visiting Tikal and as it was extremely hot, the streets were deserted until late afternoon. After a day of relaxing in the shade and airconditioning we went to visit Tikal. In size, one of the biggest Maya cities (90.000 inhabitants at its peak) Tikal is pretty well-preserved/restored. Large parts are still untouched and may contain many more buildings still covered by jungle, but it was great to be able to walk through all the ruins and imaging how life was back then. Aside from human sacrifice and ball games where the winners would kill the losers, it seemed like it was a highly developed society. Perhaps not as spectacular as Machu Picchu, it was definitely worth the visit. After another night in Flores we continued on to Belize, the final country on our fantastic trip.

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