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Summer Reed Song: 夏芦詩 Around the World Not All Who Wander Are Lost

A Utopian Jungle

GUATEMALA | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [298] | Scholarship Entry

Utopia is a perfect name for this hostel, a huge hardwood building with no walls right in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle. From my 2nd floor hammock (30 Quetzals per night) I could see the lime green glow of fireflies buzzing around the trees in the lush river valley just outside my room. The noise of the jungle was an overwhelming wall of sound: no traffic or people, just crickets, cicadas, birds, and howler monkeys.

I came to Semuc Champey for the same reason everyone does: to see the aqua pools carved out of the limestone that sits atop the River Cahabon. The pools are filled with cool, clear spring water as the river rages below ground.

Utopia runs daily tours to the Natural Monument for Q150. We hiked 1.2 km to the viewpoint 50 m above the pools. The beauty of the pools was stunning, an archipelago of bright blue, each separated by the cool light gray of the limestone. The wall of jungle started right at the edge of the river bank and spread up to the top of the steep hill opposite us like a dark green velvet carpet.

After hiking back down, we spent an hour relaxing in the cool water, swarming minnows giving natural pedicures as they ate the dead skin from our feet and legs. The tiny fish had the look and feel of carpentry nails: thin, smooth, gray, and biting.

Our guide, Elder, led us along the slippery bottom of the shallow pools to a small waterfall on the far side of the archipelago. We sat down and he instructed us to use the jagged rocks of the waterfall as a slide to the pool below. By the time he told us what we were going to do, it was too late to get out of the slippery current. In fact, the two people waiting ahead of me were not even enough to stop me as I careened out of control and slid headfirst into the water.

You could not say anyone on our tour looked graceful as each slid and bumped down the rocks, limbs flailing, mouths screaming, faces contorted in concern. From the pool below we watched as the locals, calm and smiling, glided into the water below like the rocks were a child’s playground slide. The scratches and bruises we suffered were worth the local experience.

Semuc Champey is the most stunning and remote place I have ever been. The contrast between the colors of the pools, trees, and stone create a spectacular natural beauty. A bumpy 2-hour bus ride from the nearest city, Coban, helps this gem remain quiet: a retreat into the beauty and rawness of the Guatemalan jungle.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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