Walkabout: Travel Life and Photographs

I Found Chocolate Milk, It is a Good Day

March 16, 2007

Last week we finished up our studies and volunteer work. Both Kristin and Jon from Child-Aid and Norma, the head librarian from Probigua, were very impressed and happy with the work Rachel did at the library. And another volunteer this week will start where she left off. My work went all right, it did not go exactly as planned, but nothing ever does especially in Latin America. I’m not complaining by any means; I did become frustrated on some counts, but was able to experience another cultures work ethic. It’s much different from our own back in the States and for this is makes it more difficult to accept and adapt. To thank us for our work Jon had us all over to his house for lunch and personally gave thanks, and asked for advice as they hope to develop and expand their volunteer opportunities in the future.

Even though one chapter of our journey is over, we did not say goodbye to anyone just yet. We plan to return to Antigua for an additional week next month before leaving the country. However we did leave Antigua and set off for Coban in the northern part of the country. From there we were able to reach Semuc Champey, Las Marias, and Lanquin Caves.

Semuc Champey is claimed to be “the most beautiful spot in Guatemala” and we would have to agree with what we have seen so far. Nestled in between large, lush green mountains this natural limestone bridge stretches for nearly 1,000 feet. Below it is the River Cahabon and above it is a series of cascading, turquoise pools of water. All very in size and depth making some areas more private than others, and all are easily accessed through the assortment of waterfalls that spring from one to the other. Our tour led us up to “El Mirador” for a bird’s eye view of the place, than back down into the pools where we swam and jumped off a 20 foot ledge, ultimately we climbed down a rope ladder suspended in a waterfall to the rivers’ exit from the tunnel.

The next day we ventured off to Las Marias, which is a network of caves that string back into the mountain side for miles. The fun, and at times the scary, part of it all is the fact that a river runs through all of it. Armed with a simple candle each and nothing more our group went in. We went through a series of passage ways, most filled with water and others not. Much of the time we found ourselves unable to touch the bottom of the river and had to swim to carry on, all the while holding our candle out of the water to light our way. Twice we ran into waterfalls and climbed up through them using ladders previously placed there and secured by rope strapped to varying points. We eventually turned around after our candles reached their midpoint limit and hurried back before melted way entirely. We spent nearly two hours in the caves, which more than enough for both of us.

Our last stop was at Lanquin Caves. We were told the caves ran for 60km or more, but only the first few hundred yards are lit and the rest is unmapped. Impressive nevertheless as this was the biggest cave either of us had ever been in. And that’s saying a lot since we’ve been to Caves of the Wind, caves in Colorado, and New Zealand. We were even told that 600 Mayans were inside one of the caverns last month holding a sacred ceremony. They consider this cave to ‘good’ and use it to perform ‘white magic’. My goal now is to find an ‘evil’ cave for ‘black magic’. No comment as to why. =D

For now we’re back in Antigua resting a bit.  As the weather has started changing many people have become sick, including Rach and I a bit.  So we are taking it easy for a couple days and staying close to civilization before continuing on.