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Published: March 3rd 2016
I woke up early in the mornings because of the time difference between Europe and Central America. The good part about this is that I got to enjoy the fabulous morning light
Semuc Champey, Xela and some other nice places
The first place I went to in Guatemala was the Maya site Tikal. Tikal is a spectacular place and I have decided to dedicate an entire blog entry to it. I will put that one up later on. Here in this the first blog from Guatemala I have collected photos I have taken in a few other places.
First I am going to write a little about a small place called Semuc Champey
. Semuc Champey is a popular tourist destination thanks to a series of natural pools located in a former riverbed. At some time the river found its way through cracks in the rock. The cracks grew wider and wider and eventually became a cave. More and more water flowed through the cave which made it grow in size. Eventually the cave was large enough to swallow the entire river. So the river simply disappears in one spot, goes through the cave for a while and reappears again a few hundred meters downstream. Above ground the former riverbed is still visible, however isn't dry. There is a set of beautiful all natural pools there and that is
Sunrise over Semuc Champey
Another photo shot early in the morning
what the fuzz is all about at Semuc Champey. It is a truly remarkable place so its popularity is, if you ask me, well deserved.
I stayed in a hostel a few kilometres away from the actual site. I signed up for a tour including transport to and from the pools, entry fee, a cave tour and a few other things. We started with the cave tour. The entire group walked a few hundred meters into a cave and the only light we had was candles. In the cave we swam, we waded, we walked and we climbed. At one place we climbed up a waterfall inside the cave. That was fun! At the deepest point we came to in the cave is was possible jump from a ledge into a small pond. I thought that jump looked a bit dangerous so I decided to skip that part.
After the cave we could try a swing. I thought it looked safe enough. The swing started from an elevation and continued out over the river. There the person on the swing was supposed to let go and jump into the river. I have jumped from
There is a set of beautiful all natural pools at Semuc Champey and that is what the fuzz is all about when it comes to this place
swings hundreds of times as a kid. Back then I landed on hard surfaces like sand or grass. This swing was somewhat larger than the swings I tried 30 years ago but then if you land on water it is not a hard surface so what can possible go wrong. Well, I have a video of me doing the jump in the river so you can actually look at it yourselves.
It doesn't look dangerous, does it? I didn't attempt to make any silly stunt, but when I let go of the swing I lost control of the jump and I began to rotate forward in the air. But still, I land on water what can possible go wrong? More things can go wrong than you think. There is one part of the human anatomy that is particularly sensitive to pressure changes, the eardrum. When I landed I smashed the right side of my head in the water. Water pressed into the ear and the sudden pressure change was enough to pierce a hole in my eardrum. This has happed to me once before so I knew that I had an injury and
The pools are popular. It is a truly remarkable place so the popularity is, if you ask me, well deserved.
I also knew how to deal with it. The injury itself is not dangerous. The eardrum heals by itself in a matter of a few weeks. The problem is that when the ear drum is pierced like that dirty water enters the ear and that is sure to cause an infection. I immediately left the tour and went to see a doctor. I did get an infection and it was such a nasty one that the first antibiotic was not able to deal with it. Not until I a few days later went to see yet another doctor who prescribed me another, considerably stronger, antibiotic was I cured.
Since I was forced to leave the tour I missed out on the visit to the pools, the very highlight of the tour. Instead I had to go there on my own the day after. It was OK but being there without friends and at the same time having an ear infection killed much of the joy with it…
After Semuc Champey I went to the city Quetzaltenango
, or Xela as it is often called. Xela is located in a valley and in the vicinity there
The river and the landscape at Semuc Champey
are several volcanoes. I would have liked to hike up one of the volcanoes but it wasn't possible this time. You see, my pierced eardrum wasn't my only health issue. I also had a knee injury that made it impractical to walk longer distances. I got this injury from running. I guess the combination of being a middle aged man and have running as the preferred form of exercise is a bad one. I could walk, I could even run a little bit in spite of the pains in the knee. It was just that I wasn't quite up to a more than five kilometer hike in rocky and steep terrain. Mostly because it would neither be comfortable nor enjoyable. But part of the reason was also that I was a bit afraid that my knee might actually give up on me altogether. It would be so darned embarrassing if that was to happen far from the nearest road. I mean, I can't even imagine the humiliation if they would have to bring me out with a helicopter.
So to be on the safe side, the volcano hike was out of the question. Fortunately there are other
The river disappears into a cave
So the river simply disappears in one spot, goes through the cave for a while and reappears again a few hundred meters downstream.
things worth seeing in and around Xela.
First of all, Quetzaltenango itself is a place worth visiting. There are a lot of nice buildings in the town and from what I understand many of them are from the 19th century. So I did some walking around and enjoyed the architecture.
A nice half day trip from Xela is the Fuentes Georginas, a spa constructed around a natural hot spring. The spa is located some way up in the mountains overlooking the surrounding landscape. When I visited the spa it was foggy though so I didn't get to see any of the views. But instead I managed to take a cool photo of a tree in the fog.
On one other day I went to a place called San Andrés Xecul
. It is a small village, not far from Quetzaltenango, where the main attraction is the local church which is decorated with statues and painted in bright colors.
I have to mention the Christmas decorations they had in the church. It would have been just another baby Jesus and Joseph and Maria in a stable scene if it hadn't been for
On the cave tour the entire group walked a few hundred meters into a cave and the only light we had was candles.
a somewhat unusual addition - a Ferris Wheel. I would like to know exactly what they were thinking when they added that…
The main industry in San Andrés Xecul is production and dying of yarn. In several places in the village there are newly dyed yarn hung up to dry on the roofs of the houses. I asked at a few places if I could get entry to the roof to take photos, because the colors were amazing. But they all said no. Well, one asked for money but I refused to pay as much as they asked. I tried to negotiate it down a bit but had no success. So the only photo I have was taken from a distance with a telephoto lens.
I also visited Chichicastenango, a city known for its lively market. The market was interesting but not photogenic. So I have only posted one photo from there and it is not even a good one.
Both Quetzaltenango and Chichicastenango have interesting cemeteries. I went to both of them and took a lot of nice photos. I also took several good photos in a cemetery in Antigua
Cave tour - the waterfall
In the cave we swam, we waded, we walked and we climbed. At one place we climbed up a waterfall inside the cave. That was fun!
during this journey in Guatemala. I have decided to put those photos in a separate blog entry, a blog entry I will publish a few weeks from now. I think those photos are worth looking at.
The last place I am going to write about here is Santiago de Atitlan
. It is a small town on the shore of Lago Atitlan, a picturesque lake surrounded by several volcanoes. Santiago de Atitlan is where I spent New Year. I was probably very lucky that day because I think I was the last person to find accommodation in the town that night. Everything was booked out except one bed in a private home where they rented out rooms.
Santiago de Atitlan was a nice place to spend New Year. It is a place where there are a lot tourists and that means there are restaurants and cafés that are open even on New Years Day. That's good because my kind of New Year celebration is to eat good, drink nice coffee and just have a good time in a relaxed environment.
Yes, that is right. I actually have to mention yet another Christmas decoration before
Evening at Parque a Centro América
I quit writing. The church in Santiago de Atitlan had such a tacky one that I just had to film it. Will I go to Hell for thinking this is hideous?
This was all for now. In the next blog entry I will write about what I did in the last couple of days I spend in Guatemala. I'll throw in a little cliffhanger here at the end. In the next entry I will write about a thing I saw which was so spectacular that it will make it into my memoirs if I ever decide to write them.
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