Friday, December 11, 2015

Follow You Into the Dark

After a relaxing night at the hostel, we woke up and decided... another relaxing day was in order. It's hard to get moving too quickly at a place as comfortable as Greengo's - it was another place that, if I felt like I could stay anywhere for a long time, this would be one of the places. There's a few things to do nearby, but mostly it's just about hanging out and chilling with the cool people there. Honestly, I would have stayed two nights even if I had nothing to do, just to put off getting back on that horrible road one more day.

Nonetheless, late in the morning we made plans to head to the Semuc Champey caves, the other main attraction in the area.

(This is another one you should probably check out pictures of online, since I don't have any, but I'll do my best to describe it.)

To get to the caves we had to walk a little past the entrance to the pools (once again accosted by the children, with Rose pleading with us to buy her chocolate in the few English phrases she'd learned), but not far. Just down the road we crossed the bridge over the river, where we found a group of people jumping off the edge to the swirling river eight meters below. There's honestly no way I would have attempted it myself after only looking at how fast the water below was moving, but I watched as a guide encouraged someone to jump, and then as their head popped up quite a ways downstream and they swam over to a little rocky area where they were able to climb out. I stored that way in my mind for later...

When we got to the entrance of the caves, we paid our $8 entrance fee, and were each handed a candle. We headed up the steps next to a cascading waterfall, and stopped where it was pouring out of a cave to light our candles. Once all the candles were lit, including two spare ones the guide brought with him, we waded down into the stream and into the dark.

It's really quite a surreal experience to go into a place that dark, with only the flickering of a candle to see by. I learned that I've probably never really used a candle to navigate a dark place, because apparently I don't know how. I kept holding the candle out towards the thing I was looking at, which meant the candle was in front of my face and my eyes would adjust to the light of the flame instead of the dark thing behind it, making it impossible to see what I wanted to. Eventually I got the hang of it though, and as we went deeper, we were wading or even swimming through the water while keeping our candle just above the surface, because it was the only light we had.

As we went deeper into the cave, we heard the rushing sounds of a waterfall. Apparently the caves had been closed down recently because the amount of rain had made the cave impassable at this spot, and I could see why - even now, the current was strong. And with the moving water came a pretty strong breeze too, which was enough to blow out quite a few of the candles. If you thought navigating in pitch black with just a candle was bad, try navigating by only other people's candles, as you're climbing up a rickety ladder.

After we got past the breezy part, we re-lit the candles that had gone out and continued onward. We climbed up a couple of smaller waterfalls, our guide giving us specific places to step and helping us watch out for places where there was an otherwise invisible hole in the rocks that we were walking on. Eventually, we made it to the "end" - or at least as far as the tour goes. The cave continues onward, but we stopped there and, with instruction from our guide again, climbed up to a small ledge and jumped down a few meters into the pool there. Again, just giving up my candle for a few minutes to climb up there was slightly unnerving, but the jump was amazing.

After we'd all jumped, we made our way back out. This time, when we got to the waterfall portion and I was descending the ladder, all of the candles went out. Luckily (or not so much luck, since it was planned that way), a short distance on either side of the windy section the guide had left the spare candles lit and stuck on a rock - one before the ladder and one after, so I was able to wade through the water in the dark using only the flickering of the candle around the corner to navigate by. I got there and re-lit my candle, and then waded back to help others light theirs and find their way down the ladder, since the guide was in the back and re-lighting his candle from the one he'd left at the other end.

After all that, we finally made our way back out of the cave and started heading back to the hostel. But on the way... I decided I had to try the bridge jump. I handed my bag, clothes, and sandals to Dan and Delphine, climbed up on the edge, and took the plunge eight meters (25 feet) down to the water below.

It was exhilarating, but when I popped up I was already surprised at how far the current had carried me. I started swimming hard for the shore, going perpendicular to the current. It turned out it wasn't as bad as I thought, because after I got out of the middle, the current slowed significantly. After that it actually started flowing slightly back upstream. That actually scared me a bit because that's how little eddies form that you can get stuck in, but it turned out to be fine and I got to shore and climbed up the rocks to the road again after a quite vigorous swim.

Even though it still wasn't a lot for the day, we spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the hostel. A few hours after the daily starting of the fire that served as the hot water source (2pm) we made our way to the showers. Let me tell you, this place had some of the best showers I've had in a hostel. Water that's actually as hot as you want, good water pressure, nice shower heads, decently clean, and a nice view above the wall of the hills in the distance. It was somehow made more pleasant by the rain that started coming down while I was in there.

We spent the evening watching a movie, eating good food from the restaurant, and just relaxing, with a little planning of the next day. The Belgians booked their shuttle to Antigua, and I sat and planned (dreaded) my ride back out of Semuc Champey.

It turned out my fears were somewhat justified in this case.

No comments:

Post a Comment