Turquoise waters and bat caves


It had only been a few short weeks since our last cross-Guatemala road trip. Luckily, there was still plenty of Guatemala to see.

After another hefty blow to the budget at a certain campground with an honor system beer fridge and a ‘charge it to the tent’ restaurant menu. We hit the road again to see some more of what was quickly moving up the ranks of our favourite countries.

Sure, the roads can be a little questionable and the food doesn’t quite reach the standards of Mexico. But Guatemala is awesome.

One popular spot in Guatemala that we had missed on our very first cross Guatemala road trip was Semuc Champey.

On our first cross country drive, we made a detour to see a hot springs waterfall. Only to find out that the river was muddy and flooded and said waterfall was not worth the visit. It seemed like it wasn’t the best time to make a separate detour to see Semuc Champey—since that was also a river-based feature. We weren’t sure that the tranquil, crystalline turquoise pools would be that tranquil, crystalline… or turquoise.

Our hope had been that the intervening months would mean that it was now the end of the rainy season and the rivers would not be flooded.

However, the rainy season just kept right on going into the dry season. Luckily, climate change is a fiction created by those evil scientists in order so sell solar panels. This misplaced weather must just be a season labelling error. Whatever the cause, the wet-dry season was putting a bit of a damper on our plans.

The blue pool we visited in Belize had been a murky brown puddle.

The cave tubing in Belize was called off due to raging rivers.

We were suspicious that this detour would also end in damp disappointment.

By this point we had already driven past the turnoff to Semuc Champey twice. So on the third pass, it was time to go check it out anyway. It couldn’t be any more disappointing than the blue pool above. Right?

See also  Finally. Guatemala.

The lady at the campground had told us that it was best to take the sealed main road and then a side detour of some gravel back roads from there.

After a bone-shaking drive on the detour we were regretting not taking any of the other roads that led to the area. The pots and pans were rattling. The beers in the fridge were no longer safe to open.

Also. It was a bit weird. Every time we drove through a village people were shouting “Gringo” at us. Just shouting “Gringo” and waving. A little girl shouted “Gringo” and waved, I called out “Guatelmalteca” back and returned the wave—she looked confused. We opted for just looking sheepish and waving back and everyone seemed to be cool with that.

As we drove alongside the swirling grey river the next morning, we remembered the confusingly wet dry season. The river was a crashing, grey, murky torrent. Nothing like the peaceful, terraced blue pools in the photos.

We probably weren’t going to see the legendary crystalline, peaceful turquoise terraces. Bugger.

Our planning had consisted of looking at a photo on the internet and saying “oh cool, we should go there”. We hadn’t actually read up about Semuc Champey at all before we arrived.

To save you, dear reader from having to nip off mid blog post and do your own research, here’s the lowdown.

This stretch of the ‘river’ is actually terraces formed on top of a limestone bridge that covers the main Cahabón river below. The turquoise pools are fed from a spring off to the side. These pools are much more pleasant to swim in than the raging death-river below would be.

Peaceful turquoise pools.
Raging death river disappearing beneath the limestone bridge in a swirling crush of watery death.
And here we are again: peaceful turquoise pools. Safe from crashing death river below.
We were suitably pleased by this turn of events.

Even the raging death river was actually quite calm and not flooded.

We passed the morning relaxing in the clear pools and testing out exactly how waterproof the camera really was. (It turns out very.) We were glad that on our third cross-country trip we had finally made the detour to this spectacular place.

See also  Lakeside living

The sunlight filtered through the canopy above catching the gently rippled surface of the pools creating a dancing network of light ribbons on the bottom of the gently flowing pools. As we bobbed about in the calm waters, tiny fish darted up and nibbled at our toes. Today had worked out well.

The limestone landscape of the area is also a prime location for exploring caves. After our relaxing morning of harassing small fish in the dappled underwater wonderland of Semuc Champey we were feeling far too lazy for any serious underground adventures.

Nearby, there was one cave which we really couldn’t resist visiting. Not to look at spectacular cave formations (although it did apparently have plenty of those). But for the bats.

Lanquin cave is home to a sizeable bat colony. Every day at dusk, the entire colony of thousands of bats fly out of the cave entrance. I’m fairly confident they must all fly in again in the mornings. However, I’m more of a night person, so we didn’t bother investigating if there was a morning show.

We waited expectantly within the cave entrance as night fell.

Waiting for the bats to wake up.

The cave’s location gives lazy tourists like us the chance to simply walk up into the cave entrance and be surrounded by bats.

We were enveloped in darkness, then, just as we were wondering if we’d arrived on a bat public holiday, the little furry sky-mice began to wake. Within minutes, thousands of bats were flying around us, dodging and swooping through the air with surprising grace.

The perfect way to end a great day in one of our favourite countries.

Well, actually the perfect way to end it was that the family running a small restaurant in the car park fixed us a tasty dinner. This also gave us a chance to practice our now slightly improved—but still terrible—Spanish over a hot meal that we didn’t even have to cook.

The perfect end to the perfect lazy day of touristing.

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