One of the coolest tours we've done so far.
16.05.2009 - 17.05.2009
Lanquin is a long (6-8 hour) bus ride from Lake Atitlan, but well worth the trip. We arrived fairly late meaning the hostel we intended to stay at was full and everything looked closed. We ended up taking the recommendation of the bus driver and going to a spot another 15 minutes away which didn't turn out so well. We decided to splurge and get the room with the private bath. Unfortunately, the toilet did not have a seat, and the sink ended up upside down on the floor after I brushed it lightly when passing by it. I had to pull a little Dutch boy and plug the pipe with my finger while Nelly went to get the water turned off. Needless to say, we were glad to move to El Retiro the next day which proved to be an all around better experience.
Later that day we got to see thousands of bats exiting Lanquin cave at dusk, flying right by us, brushing our heads with their wings.
We also got to see our old friend the tailless whip scorpion, whom we had originally encountered at Ensuenos in Little, Nicaragua.
This was a much healthier specimen, and this time we got a little more intimate with it after having done a little research and determining it was completely harmless.
The next day we went to Semuc Champey where we explored a cave that required swimming while holding a candle in one hand, as well as several precarious steel ladders and the option to use a rope to get up and down a small waterfall. It was just a very raw adventure experience, all enjoyed in flip flops which we had tied to our feet so as not to lose them in the water. Suffice to say you would never get to enjoy anything like it in North America without a lot of training, waivers and other red tape.
After the cave we had a little fun on a rope swing into the river, probably about 12 feet high. Then we took a leisurely float down the river on some inner tubes. After that we had the opportunity to jump off a 30 foot bridge into the same river. This is the highest thing I've jumped off to date and my heart was pounding like mad the first time I did it. It's been a while since I've been so scared. Nelly and I didn't even feel that mad adrenaline when we went skydiving for the first time just before leaving LA.
After the fun on the bridge, we finally got to the main attraction, the natural pools. It's a spot where the river dives thunderously underground, under a 300 foot mass of rock.
This is a peculiar rock deposit that has many crystal clear freshwater pools formed entirely by groundwater runoff from the mountains above. In the rainy season the river rises substantially, but still does not contribute to these pools. The water is beautiful, and you can start up at the spot where the river goes underground, then swim along the placid pools, diving from one down to the next. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I've seen, made even more beautiful by the fact that you can actually enjoy it firsthand. We took a hard half hour hike up the mountain to enjoy the viewpoint.
We then came back down to meet the guide who had promised us one last thrill, jumping into the 20 foot waterfall where the river comes back out from underground.
This involved a 25 foot rappel in flip flops, without a harness down a moss covered rock face. Amazingly, everyone foolish enough to try it (Nelly and I included) managed to get down without incident. After the rappel, we swam a short distance across the bottom of the waterfall, then climbed up a 20 foot face to an amazing cave where the river came out. From here we had the option of jumping the 20 foot drop into the waterfall which was quite a thrill indeed.