Sunday, June 7, 2009

6/7/09 3 Days of Adventure, Day 2

So I wake up and realize I need money. Bad. I come to find out that the one bank in town has no ATM and won't take my VISA to get money out of my checking account. And of course, credit cards aren't accepted anywhere. My only option is to take the emergency $40 I have (down from an emergency $400!) and change it into enough for me to live for a couple of days until I can get back to the nearest town with an ATM (Coban, 40 miles away.) I wait in line for 40 minutes and the 1 teller they have working will only change $20 because the other $20 has a small tear in it. Needless to say I'm pretty fucking pissed but what can one do but live by their rules, right? So I take my little bit of cash and figure out that I can go to Semuc Champey, visit the Marias caves which have a whole underground waterfall and pool ecosystem, and stay another night in my hotel with the money I have if I don't eat that day. Sucks, but again, what can I do? I wisely hop in the back of a pickup for the 12km ride to Semuc Champey (wisely because the road is so steep and rocky I never would have been able to make it on the bike) and after a 30 minute bone-shattering ride I arrive at Semuc Champey. Words and pictures can't do it justice and I'll just say it's the most beautiful and paradise-like spot I have ever been. A thundering river going underneath cascading pools of crystal clear water in huge limestone bowls. You start at the top and can just slowly work your way down the stepped pools until you reach a waterfall, underground cave and river system, and 30 foot drop into the river below. the pictures I took were minimal because you need a waterproof camera to get good shots. Luckily I ran into my friend Jens from Hostal 5 and the girl he has been seeing, Anna, a kiwi living in Denver who also stayed at the hostel and is one of those really adventurous world-travelling girls. And she looks great in a bikini as well. :-) And she has a waterproof camera and promised to send me the pics of our time in the water, as I spent the rest of the day with them. Actually, I latched onto the tail end of a tour they were on with a guide who was supposed to take them by rope down a waterfall and into the cave with the river rushing by and the waterfall overhead. However, Toto the tour guide kept stalling so Jens, who had done the tour with another guide the day before led the way. While we were in the water, Toto got swept away by the current and Jens had to save him! We realized that Toto couldn't swim! I realize that options are limited down here but Toto may have to rethink his career choice. We finished up that part of the tour and decided to skip lunch and complete the tour at the Marias caves, where you go in with a group and guide, have a candle to see where you are going (barely) and are basically swimming from room to room and occasionally rope climbing up waterfalls. They keep us waiting for an hour but promise to make it worth our while. I had a problem though, my flip-flops were falling apart and even if they hadn't been, I would have lost them in the water anyway. So I went BAREFOOT. I capitalized that for a reason. Imagine swimming in a pitch black cave with bats and thundering water everywhere for 1.5 hours with a candle in one hand above the water and varying degrees of big, sharp rocks under your feet. I was good until the end of the tour when I was repeatedly kicking sharp rocks as I was swimming. My curses echoed through the caves, and we were all cold and exhausted. That being said, I never once regretted going in and felt like I was on a mission. More importantly, it was a pretty unforgettable experience as well as being a personal little adventure in perseverance. I'm sure my enthusiasm stems from being stuck in Antigua for a week with no choice but to wait. It definitely recharged my batteries which had been fading hard as I wrote about before. Really it was just what I needed to kick-start me into completing this trip with a fresh outlook. Anyway, you would never have something like this in the states, candles and no shoes and shit like that! We went back to the hostel that everyone was staying at beside the river (my bike and things were still in Lanquin) and ate our asses off. Jens understood my situation and I reluctantly took about 15 bucks to gorge on food with everyone else. We ended up hanging out for a few hours with various people and before I knew it, it was too late to catch a ride back to my hotel. Jens and Anna insisted I stay with them and we ended up 3 to a bed, which was actually a completely cool vibe, n0t weird at all. All I can say is that things are different when you are travelling, trust and living in close quarters are a way of life. I went to sleep with the same feeling of self-satisfaction and drifted in and out of sleep all night.

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