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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Weekend Away at Guatemala Summer Camp

GUATEMALA | Saturday, 13 October 2007 | Views [1077]

We swore we'd never do a tour again. They always turn out to be lousy and we end up feeling ripped off. However, in Guatemala, it's just not safe to be venturing out on your own, and agencies have established small group tours with security guards/guides to provide an additional element of safety. We struggled with which agency to go with... there were good deals around town for only $60/pp. We decided to go with the program offered by our school, as they sold me on their "private guide, security and insurance line" and we paid $85/per person for a two night trip to Coban and Semuc Champey. This area is supposed to be a "natural environmental wonder" of Guatemala, where raging waterfalls give way to emerald green plunge pools. The drive up into the hills surrounding Coban reveals coffee fincas, orchid nurseries and phenomenal hiking. We are here in the midst of rainy season, and it rained the entire six hours that we were crammed into the tiny mini van. Our hotel for the night is actually very nice, and we have a private room in a very rustic, charming old style hacienda. We have dinner with some of our classmates at the all popular Casa D'Acuña, a rather overpriced restaurant but probably the best meal we'd have all weekend.

For breakfast, our driver whisks us off in the rain to Pollo Campero - Guatemala's answer to Kentucky Fried Chicken. All cholesteral'ed up, we head another hour or so to the Grutas de Lanquin. These are the famous caves where hundreds of bats fly out at sunset and cause quite a phenomenal scene. Unfortunately our driver doesn't like to drive this road at night, so he's taking us to the caves to seem them this morning. Not quite as grandiose as Howe Caverns in NY, these caves are slick and slimy, and dimly lit. Luckily they don't smell too bad of bat poo, like the caves in Vietnam, and the temperatures here are a bit cooler, which makes for a much more pleasant experience.

We can all understand why our driver doesn't like to drive this road in the dark. He's got a ton of trouble driving it during the daylight. It takes us several attempts to get up the steep, slick, thick mud incline, and several times we roll backwards. Flashes of "rides on the edge" from Laos come streaming back, and I can just picture all 12 of us rolling the mini van down a cliffside. You hear about these kinds of accidents all the time in Central and South America. Our driver requests all but a few of us squish into the back two seats for better traction, and "rear wheel" drive. The driver then instructs everyone to jump up and down in their seats while he drives. I guess that's his magic technique, because we finally make it up the hill, and over another hour into our nights lodging - Posadas Las Maria, a very basic, rustic cabin with rows of beds and bunks. There's no electricity or hot water, and at this point we're wondering what the money we paid for is going toward- lining the school coffers? The beds are pretty sick, dark sheets, and dead bugs. So we make the decision early on that we'll be sleeping fully clothed in our silk sleep sacks. That still won't keep all the night critters away, and this place is crawling with them. Not to mention that our bags are completely soaked from a bottle of milk that someone had in the back of the van, that drained right into our bags- a smell that will never truly go away. We head down to the summer camp bar area for a pretty hopeless lunch, and after biting into a chicken "pollo" sandwich that was literally only thick slabs of rubbery chicken skin, I opted out of the planned dinner order - pollo frito. I have a bag of granola stashed in a ziplock in the room which will be better than any pollo they serve here. We could never recommend this dump to others (Posadas Las Marias) - it is in the new Lonely Planet guide, touted as one of the only options on the river, new and rustic. Avoid it at all costs.

We trek into the waterfall park area - Semuc Champey, and are pleasantly surprised... the park is kept super clean and the waterfall is pretty amazing. It cascades down and forms a raging river which gets forced under a couple hundred meters of rock. On top of the rock lye tranquil, gorgeous turquoise pools where we take time out to swim, relax and enjoy. Our evening is filled with music by a local group of men playing Marimba, a traditional Guatemalan instrument that looks like a huge wooden xylophone, along with a large bass and drums. A small boy steps forward to play the cheese grater in rhythm. By the end of the night we're all up dancing, and getting more salsa instruction. After tonight's class, I've successfully memorized four sequential moves... not that I look very good doing them, but it's a start.

Despite being hot and sweaty, none of us showers before dropping into our nasty beds. There's no lighting, and no hot water, and it's a good thing, too, because as we awoke and went to use the shower, we discovered a huge scorpion by the water handle, we decide to go another day without showers and wait to reach home. That is, all except me, who showered with the scorpion unknowingly. While we actually enjoyed seeing the natural environment and special jewels of Guatemala... and we actually like rustic camping... it's paying $170 for the weekend between the two of us that caused us agony... that's three days of travel, or one night in a really nice hotel.

Tags: The Great Outdoors


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