This weekend we went sightseeing to Semuc Champey, supposedly the most beautiful place in Guatemala.
Once we got to Semuc, the tour guide let us taste fresh cacao seeds. They were sweet and yummy, but we were cautioned to only suck off the outer part and not chew or eat the actual bean. Many of the locals make drinking chocolate to sell for extra money. Some houses had blankets spread on the ground with cacao seeds in various stages of processing.
After the cave tour, we went tubing down the river, where some Guatemalan boys tried selling us beer. Even after we had left, they grabbed their little coolers and a tube, and followed us down the river. Some people bought the beer and tried to tube and drink. Don't tube and drink- your tube will float the wrong way and your beer will end up in the river.
After tubing, we had lunch. Some of the backpackers had bought a "lunchbox" which consisted of a sandwich, granola bar and a piece of fruit (25q, or $3.50). Hubs and I opted for the local food, which cost 40q ($5.75) but was infinitely better. Superb grilled chicken with beans, guacamole, salad, corn tortillas and rice. Yummy.
Next up, we went to the park to see the pools. The guide asked us if we wanted to go to the lookout (where Hubs and I are in the picture). We said sure, we'll go to the lookout. So our whole group headed up the stairs. And up, and up, and up. We thought it would never end. The beer drinkers started lagging behind, and there was one comment of, "Whoever said we should do this deserves a punch in the face!" Being the speedy quick medal-winning runners* that we are, we made it to the top first, though I was too tired to really enjoy it. The way down was a lot easier.
Then we swam in the pools. This was pretty fun. At the last pool, the tour guide took some of us through an underground cave. Unlike the last cave which had more air than water, this cave only had enough room for your face. Not your whole head, just your face. Not for claustrophobic people and again, not for tourism in the United States.
After swimming, everyone was dog-tired and ready to go home. One backpacker had bought some cardamom (a big Guatemalan export) candies and shared them with everyone. It was my first time every having cardamom candy.
Back at the hostel, we changed out of our swimsuits and grabbed a bite to eat. It was superb. We got a different room- a private one this time- in a loft above one of the rooms. It was absolutely beautiful and perfect, sleeping under a thatched roof. I also saw an enormous cockroach that was 1 1/2" long, but that only added to the charm.
While it was indeed a beautiful place, there were no towels or paper towels in the bathrooms to wipe our hands on (...?), and we found out last night that that one of the girls (who slept in our 10-person room the first night) had been robbed of a ring and an expensive wrist watch while we were touring Semuc Champey. Luckily Hubs and I had taken our stuff with us to the park.
Here's to surviving caves, thieves, and excruciating hikes!
*Hubs and I have indeed both won medals running 5Ks, but I wouldn't call myself the speediest runner.