A Peace Corps volunteer had just completed a trail building project in the Semuc Champey Natural Monument and invited friends and donors to the opening, during my last semester teaching in Guatemala, 2006. It was a five-hour drive, and Sarah, our host, promised the opening ceremonies would wait until we arrived. We made good time, despite road work, and found our lodging in the nearby village of Lanquin. The “hotel” was composed of a scattering of thatched roof huts up and down a very vertical hillside, at the top was the road, at bottom a fast-moving river. Quite the backpacker’s haven, the four of us women were by far the oldest guests in residence.
A group of contributors, workers, and project leaders converged at the orange and yellow visitor center to start the hike. Before setting off on the trail, Sarah discussed the project in Spanish and Q’eqchi, the indigenous language commonly spoken in the province of Alta Verapaz. The new segment of trail led to a mirador, or overlook, with numbered stations and an interpretive booklet describing plants, trees and environmental commentary, well written by Sarah. One can imagine the hours she must have spent investigating and wandering in this dense rainforest. One stop marked a little valley where birds were always singing, another noted the pure, clean forest air.
In a long line, we climbed high, muddy steps of rock, with occasional wooden boardwalk, ladders, or stairs over less passable paths for about an hour until we reached the mirador. My first breathtaking view of the terraced pools—they shone like jewels of jade, ringed with gold, way below us. A series of round basins, pouring downhill into each other, in limestone cliffs and bowls.
We continued down to connect to the main trail, and soon reached the pools. Always prepared (well, almost always), I had my swimsuit on under my clothes, and jumped in with a friend for a swim. The water was refreshingly cool, deep in spots, with natural limestone shelves to stand on by the edges. A perfect reward for a long strenuous hike!
Back at the hotel, we asked a worker about bringing our car inside the gate. His coworker, we were informed, would open the gate at 6:00pm. My watch said it was already 6:25pm. “Hora de Dios”, he clarified, God’s time. Not everyone accepted the country’s recent change to daylight savings time, especially in rural areas. The next morning, the trees were wrapped in wispy clouds as we rose and headed down to breakfast by the river, before our long drive back to the city.
Please do not download or reproduce images from this site. ©
Your comments are welcome!
Email me at: Ruth@RuthRosenfeld.com