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Published: November 16th 2008
Copan, Semuc, and Lanquin are beautiful and must see places for those of you who visit Guatemala. Semuc is a hidden gem as not too many people know about it.
Copan is the nearest town to Semuc and Lanquin, and from the top of my head there are no more than a few hundred people who live there. You can reach everything around the town within minutes. There is not much in town but many go there to get transportation from locals to reach the secluded place of Semuc and Lanquin. The one hostel I recommend staying in Copan is the Hotel Acuna. They have excellent service and the food is arguably the best in town, and all of this for an inexpensive price.
Grutas de Lanquin is a huge cavern that seems endless as you explore it. Be weary of bats and of spider-looking insects. Indigenous people still worship in this cavern, and there is evidence of this from the back ashes of fire on the rocks throughout the cavern. The Maya believe that caves are a gateway to the underworld where gods live. There is a myth of how the Maya was created, and the story is
that twin brothers (the hero twins) entered the underworld through a cave and defeated the evil gods there. This coup was attempted before by their ancestors but to no avail. The hero twins succeeded by deceiving the gods to be sacrificed and the twins emerged from underworld/cave as the sun and moon as a gift to the soon-to-made humans. After defeating the evil gods, the hero twins made the Maya from corn. This is why caves and corn are important to Maya custom. Interestingly enough, as some of you may know, the Maya moved toward the northern region of the Yucatan peninsula during the post classic period after much of the ancient cities had suffered from a water drought. It only made sense then to move toward the sea and toward a better environment. The Yucatan was probably a haven to them because of the infinite underwater cave systems located there. Until recently I discovered that most, if not all, of the Yucatan is full of underwater caves that divers explore through ponds (cenotes) that are all over the Yucatan. Some cenotes lead to others while some lead to the Gulf of Mexico. About a year ago, Mexico City claimed
that they had discovered the world’s longest underwater cave system in the Yucatan peninsula. I could only imagine how the Maya probably valued these cenotes as a gateway to the underworld that they praised and valued so much because of its relation to their gods. Lastly, there is an influence of modern culture found in the cavern we visited because you will see the personification of an animal or person, like the Virgin Mary on the limestone in the cavern. These limestone images are clearly noted with a big sign next to the figure…very exciting to see the mixture of religion culture.
Semuc Champey is something like the caves in the Yucatan. The cave in Semuc is approximately 10 meters in height and 300 meters long. That’s about 33 ft high and 990 ft long. What makes Semuc unique is its structure. It’s a cave with a river flowing through it, and it has water that flows on top of it as well, and this creates the beautiful, turquoise pools that you can swim in. Truly, truly a beautiful place. Just remember that when you arrive to Semuc and when you are in a particular instant to encounter the
beautiful turquoise water from a great distance above. Let go of all your inhibitions, jump and let gravity summit you. Scream from the top of your lungs, “VIVA GUATE, VIVA LOS MAYAS!” and don’t forget to hold your breath as your feet collide with the water molecules that ripple around you after submergence, for you should be grateful that your dangerous fall what soften by the clear water, unless of course you belly flop like my friend Miguel.
Paraphrased hard copy journal entry:
I thought I wasn’t gonna make it here alive because I was on a bus w/ a crazy driver.
He drove around cars on a single lane because they were driving too slowly. And when it seemed impossible or rather dangerous to drive around them on a blind turn, he didn’t anyway and me and Tony held on for dear life as he was living la vida loca or being cuckoo for coco puffs. We made it in one piece and I feel like kissing the floor now. We decided that we needed to chill and chilax and had some drinks at our hotel (Hotel Acuna--a must stay if you’re in the area). We
had some Negra Modelo and ate some appetizer: warm cheese on round piece of bread sticks.Yummy. We then went around the city toward the plaza, and there we met some German girls who were doctors that were volunteering for sometime at a hospital in the highlands of Guatemala. Their names were Mikher and Anika, and I’m probably spelling it wrong. Meeting the German doctors made me realize two things. One, that there is a big need of health education throughout the country, and two, that there is a limited connection with foreigners and locals if there is a language barrier and a culture difference among people like the German doctors who struggled to communicate with their patients. It was nice to meet them and to get their perspective as foreign doctors.
Today was one of the most memorable days of my life. Me and Tony went to Semuc Champey and Grutas de Lanquin. Our company and friends to be were Charlie, Miguel, and Rene. They were really cool guys. This trip was exclusive because we were the only two that went on this trip with them. It took us about a good 2.5 hours to get there...Semuc was
empty at the entrance of the hike trail. And it looked like we would be the only two but more people came later. We hiked about a mile to reach the beautiful turquoise pools to swim in. Rene then starts climbing the side of the pools to jump off from above. We soon followed and it was a lot fun…We climbed down a rope latter to reach the exit of the cave where the river flowed violently out. I have so much respect for nature. That river could have easily crushed us if we had fallen in.
I got an eerie feeling being in there but it was overshadowed more with excitement and wonder. This place, as Rene puts it is a special place to the Maya people. It was a place of ritual and praise to the gods of the spiritual world. I hope the pictures I took show the wonder of this place.
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