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Published: January 20th 2014
After nearly a week spent chilling out by the lake in El Remate and Steve fantasising about being in Star Wars, we headed off on a bus to the town of Lanquin. El Remate is a lovely, quiet little town on the road to the ruins at Tikal. We stayed in a very basic hostel next to the lake that had its own jetty to swim from and sunbathe on. The water was clear and warm so we spend a good couple of days doing nothing. Steve had some jungle to explore so he was happy.
To get to Lanquin we booked a shuttle bus that was advertised as taking 8 hours but this was a bit optimistic. The shuttles in Guatemala pick you up from your hostel which means that it spends an hour driving round to every hostel in the area until the bus is full so it took us an hour just to leave the town. We all agreed that we would rather walk to a bus stop at a designated time and be able to leave earlier but hey, enough whinging.
11 hours later we arrived at a beautiful place by the river. The scenery
is stunning in Lanquin with steep, forested hills. The town itself reminded me of Vang Vieng in Laos as the town only seems to exist for tourists to do tubing down the river and for tours of the caves and Semuc Champey. As we were there to do the same we can’t really judge. We decided to opt out of the caves as I had been told about it and it sounds terrifying, crawling through small spaces and sliding down underground waterfalls with nothing but a candle. I have done my one caving experience on this trip and I don’t plan to repeat it.
We took the bus up to Semuc Champey and explored it by ourselves which was easy to do. It is an amazing place and I would definitely recommend it if you are in Guatemala. In a jungle-covered valley there is a staircase of waterfalls with natural pools to swim in. You can start at the top and work your way through all of the pools. There is a hike to the top of the hill where there is a lookout over the falls which is well worth it. It is a steep, muddy climb so
by the time you get to the pools you appreciate stripping off your sweaty clothes and jumping in. The water is clear and refreshing and we spent the whole day exploring and swimming.
After all of that strenuous activity we relaxed the next day and did the tubing from our hostel in the afternoon. It was fairly relaxed and they give you a beer to drink which lasted until we hit the rapids and it got filled with water. Our guides only instructions were ‘ass up’ so that we didn’t hit our bums on the rocks. Quite a nice way to spend an afternoon.
To break up the long bus journey to Antigua we stopped for a night at the Biotopo del Quetzal. This is a nature reserve just off the main road to Guatemala City that protects the national bird of Guatemala, the Quetzal. These birds are extremely rare and very beautiful, with a chest of crimson red and bright green feathers with a long tail. The Mayans believed their feathers to be sacred and their tail feathers were used in Aztec head dresses.
Despite being very rare we had only just checked into
The Quetzal bird
The one on the far left is the female
our hostel in the forest when the owner came and knocked on our door and told us to hurry up as there were two in the trees. I have never been a real bird lover but it was quite exciting. They look stunning with the sun making the green feathers glow. After wandering round the reserve which is very pretty, we got ready to have an early night as we were told that six am is the best time to see the birds. We had not banked on how cold it was going to be or there being a power cut. The staff were very accommodating and cooked for us in the dark. We then headed back to the room in the pitch black and freezing cold. I was particularly not happy when I shone my torch to see my way to the bathroom and spotted a massive cockroach in the doorway. Fun times.
It was worth it though and the owner makes the best hot chocolates which was a nice way to start the morning.
Next stop Antigua for Spanish school.
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