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Published: October 24th 2008
After taking the advice of other travellers we decided to head to a place called Lanquin. It is a small village outside of Coban. From Antigua we got a shuttle bus to Lanquin. It was little more than a Hiace van and is supposed to hold up to 14 people. At one stage there were 20 of us crammed into the back. It is a funny set up. The driver has a conductor sort of friend who shouts out to people on the side of the road where we are going. These people then thumb a lift if they are interested and pay a minimal fee for what could be 5 or 50 minutes down the road. It is a way of making an extra few quid and when you consider that these people are earning 4 or 5 USD a day you could allow them a little more on the side
When we arrived we found a hostel called El Retiro. It was composed of a load of little huts on a huge plot of land, on the side of a hill facing down towards a beautiful, wide river. This big hostel had a great atmosphere and fantastic food.
The first place we wanted to visit was Semuc Champey. This is a place famous for its limestone bridge and rock pools from the flowing river. When we arrived we heard that due to heavy rain it had closed for a few days. However we were in luck and the next day we managed to get our names on the tour list. We were shown to our room and aside from a little hiccup of them having to replace the lock on our door it worked out really well for us. Also not having shaved for a while I had acquired a lot of facial growth so I spent some time getting through that while the lads fixed the door. We had some fun with that!
The town or village of Lanquin is really small and we would really only have trusted the food in the hostel. This was not necessarily true of everyone though. Because there are so many Israelis travelling through Central America they are catered for in a big way so it was funny to see signs outside restaurants and shops offering deals in Hebrew. About 80% of the people in our hostel were Israelis so
The view from our room
You could sit here and just look out all day
it was fairly quiet. No heavy nights on the sauce. Anyways on our first night of dining in the hostel we got a huge roast chicken buffet dinner and we knew that this was the place to eat so we stuck with that
We hit Semuc Champey on Monday and it was absolutely fantastic. It is a big tourist location but it is in the middle of nowhere so another trip on the Hiace was called for. When we got there I had to fashion a pair of shoes out of my flip flops because we were told that the rocks under the water were sharp and potentially dangerous. After a short spell with a knife and some twine I threw something together that Jimmy Choo himself would be proud of. In nothing but our swim and footwear we went down into the underwater caves. We were each given a candle and had to manage to swim and keep them lit at the same time. Yes it is as hard as it sounds! Because there are underwater waterfalls and we are under a river the flow underground was quite strong. It involved a lot of swimming, wading and climbing
This was what we were doing while the lads fixed the door
very slippery rocks and much of it in the dark. At one point we had to go through a water fall with just a rope to hold onto and then the current carried us down the river on the other side. Unfortunately we could not bring our cameras into the caves so there are no pictures. Sorry!
Then we went into the National Park. This was spectacular. After a bit of a walk we got to the rock pools. Our guide told us that the colours are usually aqua and clear but due the heavy rain over the past few days they were a bit muddy. They were still amazing. I was first to dive in and it was such a good swim. There is also a trek up to a look out over the river and pools but because it was still slippy and wet we did not get to do it. Great day though!
The next day in the early afternoon myself and two Israeli lads went tubing down the river with a local Mayan chap who works in the hostel. Aside from one or two low hanging branches in the head that was good fun
Then there was the Lanquin caves. After a quick trip in a truck we arrived with our guide who cannot have been older than 12. He was a nice lad. Most of the caves have walkways and lights but there are still huge areas that have not been explored yet. They think that the caves are about 30km deep. There are amazing stalagmite and stalagtite formations along with many different species of spiders and bats. There was also an area in the caves that the Mayans used as a sacrificing altar. The main reason people visit these caves happens at sunset. This is when the bats fly out in huge groups. I thought this was amazing and Vicki spent the time with her head up the back of my t-shirt. She is not a huge fan of bats
This whole area was a bit out of the way but definitely well worth the trip
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