It is with Herculean effort that I’m keeping my eyes open right now. It’s 2am and I’ve been waking up to this screen for at 45 minute increments since about 10:30pm. I finally made it to Antigua and my friend Eleanor filled me with celebratory beers and nachos. The past two nights have been tortuously internet free and I’ve had to survive by doing terrible things like spending time with new friends having conversations. It’s truly awful guys. Here’s a quick recap of Rio Dulce to here – followed by a pretty big poll – so stick around.
Rio Dulce – I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid this town if you are not a divorced, broke, alcoholic, depressed, weed smoking 40-70 year old white man who a. owns or wants to own a sailboat, b. gets no respect from his kids and community back home, c. never quite made it, and d. wants to live in a place where broken men can talk about boats all day long and live like pretend big shots. On the flip side, considering the alternatives, I think these guys really have a great thing going for themselves and are lucky to have this place. It’s just a terrible place to visit.
Tuesday started great. I walked around town, had breakfast, took some photos, and worked out under the supervision of a VERY suspicious old lady who was wearing an apron that looked both so stylish and functional I spent some time calculating ways to justify wearing an apron myself. My shuttle to Semuc Champey was scheduled to leave at 1pm from the Sun Dog Cafe. (Full of sailboat owners.) I arrived at 12:30. It had already left and I was told I had to wait until the morrow. I finally convinced the guy that this wasn’t an option and one more second in this town would lead to at least one murder/suicide – and he stuck me in a taxi and had the shuttle turn around. 10 minutes later, I was shuttling. With one other passenger – an idealistic 22yr old German with more causes than I could keep straight. Also, (small world) our driver was from the hills past the hot waterfalls and not only knew the Mormon I met on Monday but calls himself a Mormon as well and went on to talk about how now he has friends in Alaska and California and Colorado and Utah. Our journey took us through his town – no electricity, no paved road, and I saw a grandma on the side of the road with her shirt off. It puts having new friends in Colorado in a whole new perspective.
After five hours of grueling ridge to valley dirt roads with only one stop for food and one to look at an armadillo caught by local hunters, we arrived at the Zephyr Lodge. My cousin Tucker worked with these guys years ago and let them know I’d be coming. They didn’t know I’d be coming and were full – but when I told them the whole story, they put me on a mattress in the attic above the bar in the bartender’s room. All in all, they were great people, the place was beautiful and was in a storybook setting. The showers featured hot water and a view up the valley that makes sunset showering a ticket worthy event.
Wednesday’s Semuc Champey tour started with a 90 minute cave climb/swim/scramble all lit by candles. The gimmick is that you sometimes have to hold the candle in your mouth as you swim along. It was chilly but pretty amazing. After this, we had the option to do a sizable rope swing into the river. Even though this terrified me, I tried this because I’m all about new experiences and looking like an idiot on camera. It was indeed terrifying – so much so that I forgot to press record. I DIDN’T make that mistake when we got to the bridge jump. Let me be clear about one thing – I am NOT the sort of person who as EVER jumped off things. Heights scare me. Especially 35 foot drops into brown swirling water. The rope swing was fun terrifying. This was panic inducing. But after a bunch of the group went, I succumbed to the pressure. Below is a video of what happened. I can honestly say I have never been so terrified in my life.
After the bridge, we hiked up to a vista point of the 300 meters of limestone pools formed above the river that one day decided to go underground for a while. The hike was beautiful and the pools were filled with pedicure fish that give you little fish kisses if you stand still. I have a video of it that I’ll upload when my battery isn’t at 13%. All in all, I had a great time and somehow I didn’t die in the swirling brown waters of death.
Today I took a terrible 8 hour shuttle to Antigua that ended in a light scuffle between me and the driver. With 12% battery, I’ll let your imaginations fill in the blanks. He truly was awful and tried to ram my buddy and drive off with me halfway out of the van. Everybody hated him. Here’s a picture of the bad man. It took two and a half beers to forget him.
MOVING ON… I fly out on Wednesday. 5 days to work with. I no longer have time to see all the sights of Guatemala and Belize. I’m more keen to spend more time on Guatemala and then end with a couple days of beach time and snorkeling in Belize. Here are the options for what might be the last poll of the trip. I’m at 10% so I might have to post this now and then add more explanations later…
1. Check out Antigua today, visit the cult of Maximon and a market and whatever else is charming in Antigua and then head out on the overnight bus to Tikal – the majestic Mayan Ruins in Northern Guatemala. Tikal is on every “Must See” list for the region. Heading there tomorrow night means I have Saturday and some of Sunday to explore, leaving me Monday and Tuesday in Belize.
2. Stay an extra day and head to Lake Atitlan (another must see) for Friday night, then take the Saturday overnight bus to Tikal, leaving only one day in Belize.
3. Stay an extra day and do a light evening volcano hike where you buy a stick then poke lava and set your stick on fire. Then take the Saturday overnight bus to Tikal…
4. Friday volcano, Saturday Red Hot Chili Peppers and Paul Van Dyke in Guatemala City. Then Sunday overnight to Tikal and probably less than 24 hours in Belize.
5. Same as #4 but substitute the lake for the volcano.