On our day off in Cobán we went to Lanquín and Semuc Champey, a town and national park about 70km east of Cobán. It was out of our way to bike there, and so we took a collectivo, which are basically minibuses to go to the small towns around Cobán so the people can take their produce (mainly crafts) to the central market to sell. The first bus was at 6am, so we were up at 5 and out the door by 5:30. Even though it was a Sunday, and she didn’t have any other reason to be up that early, Erica got up to make us a light breakfast before we headed out and made sure we knew where to go to take the collectivo.
The collectivo took 3 hours and cost 30 quetzals ($3.75) even though it wasn’t that far to Lanquin, partly because the last 10km was bouncing down a dirt road, but also because being public transport it had to stop at every little town for the assistant to stick his head out the window and shout LANQUÍN LANQUÍN repeatedly to attract more passengers and, so it seemed, to try to ensure that no passenger could sleep. In the town of Lanquín, a pickup truck went past us and offered us a ride to Semuc Champey but told us that it’d be 25Q, as it was only 10km we turned him down and figured we could just walk until we thumbed a ride. It took about 30 minutes of walking before a pickup, other than the one that tried to charge us 25Q, went past us and he stopped almost immediately. They were a family from down near the Pacific on a trip to see some of their country.
Semuc Champey is a national park famous for a 300m-long limestone bridge. When we heard about that we hoped for an epic bridge that we could walk over, it was slighty less impressive than that with it being underwater and covering a part where the river was forced under it. The two things it had in spades though were beauty and tourists. The tourists were mainly from the US and a group of them had come on a tour bus together with a guide who had decided that to make things more interesting they would put on war paint. For me at least, it achieved nothing more than making them look ridiculous. It’s a problem with going to places that are so famous, maybe made worse by us being there on a Sunday, they get overcrowded with buses of people who don’t understand that you might not want to hear them so much while you’re trying to enjoy the peace. It’s why in a way I’m really not looking forward to some of the more famous Mayan ruins, like Chichen Itza.
After walking around, including going up to the viewpoint to get a glorious sight of the pools of water swarming with sunburnt tourists, we went to the pools for a swim and to relax for a while before heading back to the car park. The family who we had hitched with wasn’t there, although there car still was, and there weren’t many other cars to get a ride with so I took a nap and Peter read Moby Dick while we waited for them. It turned out that they were having a great time by one of the other pools and so I got the best part of a couple of hours of badly needed sleep. The family had their other car in Cobán and so were driving back that night, it took about 2 hours all the way back to the house, instead of the 3 hours for the collectivo to Lanquín and hour to get to Semuc Champey, and it was free! Even though there were 5 of us in the back of the pickup, it was probably about as comfortable as the collectivo would have been, although slightly chillier.
In a pool