Monday, January 19, 2015

Day 8: All the Adrenaline

This weekend 15 volunteers went up to Semuc Champey, and let me tell you, it was the most surreal weekend I have ever had.

Semuc Champey is about 8.5 hours away from Antigua. We piled in, 10 per shuttle bus/van and hurdled through the mountains, weaving through narrow roads, around potholes and fallen rocks and staring down beautiful cliffs and valleys and small towns. That was the first 7.5 hours (including stops for food). We were then dropped off on the side of the road where a pickup truck waited for us and we piled in the back for the next hour. It was 9 kilometres, however since it rains most mornings, the amount of mud, winding roads and rocks makes it an extremely bumpy ride. We managed to get to the hostel, El Portal, unscathed and in awe of our surroundings. The power is only on from 6pm - 10pm. There is no hot water. But man is this place beautiful and how else do you add character?

First on the agenda on day 2 is wake up at 5 AM because there is a rooster outside your window and some lovely men who are renovating the hut next to ours. 🙇 But alas, it is a new day. After bumping around in the dark and breakfast we make our way into the small rainforest and up the mountain. I use the terms rainforest and mountain lightly; the mountain, although not the easiest thing I've climbed, didn't take us more than 2-3 hours to climb. And then we hit the pozas, the natural pools, where a river flowed down the mountain and through the pools, over a waterfall and back into the river. The view is surreal. We are in awe, giddy that yes, we are here breathing in this air and jumping over mini waterfalls to the next pool. I tried to slide down the last, larger waterfall at our guide's suggestion. He was joking and I was thoroughly disappointed.

After we are all chilled a little bit too much we hike home (most of us in our bathing suits and barefooted as our muddy shoes are definitely not appealing to put back on) and grab some lunch. Then it is a five minute walk to the caves where we are handed candles that we will need to use the whole time for light. Most of the way through the caves we are either waist deep in water or can't touch. A candle will go out and someone will help them relight it. Honestly, it is hard to describe how thrilling and adrenaline inducing the caves are. We climb a waterfall using a rope, end up in pitch black when most of our candles go out, jump from a high spot in the caves into a pool below, slide down a mini (very mini) waterfall (that is pitch black at the bottom) and the whole time the stalagtites throw shadows and look like prehistoric teeth, waiting for their next meal. When we end up back out into the light it feels like it couldn't have been real. We were given tubes to float down the river while kids tried to sell us beers from their tubes. The water was cold but when the sun cme out it brought me right back to summers gone by in thr Slocan Valley in BC, mountains on either side. Our last adventure to end the day is to jump off the bridge into the water below. Only 4 of us worked up the nerve, and I think my heart restarted.

Our walk back to the hostels resulted in being covered in mud (and probably poop, let's face it) and being very grateful for a (cold) shower and dry clothes.

So yes, that was my weekend. Actually that was all done in one day. 2 days of driving for one day of pure adrenaline and excitement and beauty.

I would love to upload photos but Blogger won't let me, so the ones on Facebook and Instagram will have to do.

Here I am in week 2 and very excited for the adventures that await.

XO Ale (Alex in Spanish is Ale, pronounced Al-eh)

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