The perilous journey to Semuc Champey

We arrived at the bus stop in Flores at 6am to find 15 people with backpacks waiting to fit on to the seven person minibus we had booked on to. The backpacks were shoved ‘securely’ on top with a rope and we piled in to settle down for what we already knew would be an eight hour journey.

What we weren’t prepared for, however, was the speed the bus approached the windy mountain roads and the sheer size of the metre long potholes! We stoped in Coban after five hours and, even though it was only 12km from there to Lanquin, it took us over two hours because of the quality of the roads. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve been on roller coasters less bumpy. At one point we had to reverse half a kilometre up a steep ridge to avoid an army truck heading in the opposite direction. The locals here all get around by jumping on to buses so every now and then you look out the window to find a small Guatemalan child peering back at you. A local later told us that before they ‘fixed’ the road it used to take them five hours to travel just 12km.

Never mind, it was well worth it when we finally did arrive. Zephyr Lodge is the most unbelievable place. Overlooking the river, even the open air showers have an incredible view of the mountains. Plus, they are actually hot which is like heaven after three weeks of ice cold showers!

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The town of Lanquin (unsurprisingly given how hard it is to get here!) is rural and undeveloped. Electricity is only available in most places between 6-10pm, the dress is traditionally Guatemalan and you can’t walk down a street without seeing at least one roaming pig. The hostel was next to a school – two tiny rooms with 50 chairs in each and a small courtyward. One morning, we stumbled across a Guatemalan rendition of Gangnam Style by the kids in school. Amazing.

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To get to Semuc Champey from Lanquin was another exciting journey in the back of a pickup truck. I could hardly move my arms the next day they were so sore from clinging on for dear life! It also didn’t help that we were stuck with two of the most annoying Americans I have ever had the misfortune to be stuck in the back of a pickup truck with – “Y’all fancy another singalong of ‘West Virginia, Take Me Home?’”

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I mean, I like a singalong as much as the next person. But, really??

Everyone we’ve met along the way had told us that Semuc Champey is the most impressive place in Central America and, so far, they seem right.


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