Sunday, November 8, 2009

take you wonder by wonder

Well despite all of my emotional baggage here, I just had the most amazing day.

As you know, I had french toast and coffee for breakfast. It was peaceful, I got up early and tried to embrace solitude. So, good start. Then we hop in the back of a truck which gives us a truly rumbly ride for 8 km to the river. The ride itself was worth it, seriously the views around here took my breath away. There are so many mountain tops, and fog is constantly shrouding the peaks. We went through the town and up and down hills and mountains, getting joggled around, sometimes whipped by branches. It was exhilerating and beautiful. We arrived at a green river. First stop, swing out into the river. The drop was longer than I expected. I'm pretty sure I'm one of the least graceful people I know. Next stop, into the caves!

I don´t have a lot of experience with caves, but these were at the top of a beautiful cascade of water, and we waded in, everyone with a candle. The candles, obviously, enhanced the atmosphere. Trailing through in a long snake of people, bobbing up and down in the water that came up to my eyes at some parts, hands raised above to protect the flames. I don´t have much tolerance for group activities, but today was just so wonderful all around that I managed just fine. Bats swooped, we clambered up and down, swam, avoided stalagmites and stalactites, at one point I lost my balance and fell, banging my knee. It hurt, but all you can do is continue on. When we got to a part mostly above water I saw I was bleeding quite a bit, and I hoped no one else would notice so they wouldn't send me out. Later, after returning to daylight, I realized it was quite a gruesome gash. The deepest cut I've ever had, and if it wasn't on my knee I would probably get stitches at home. But all we had was some alcohol to clean it out, and I sure as hell wasn't going to miss out on the rest of the day because of a silly flesh wound. It was nice to hear everyone say how tough I was, I've got to say. In the cave we continued along until arriving at a pool where we could climb up and get a perfect cave dive. I'm not going to lie, I was kind of scared. It was fun jumping so far down in a place where you imagine you must hit some rocks, but you don't. It's the perfect underground diving area.

On the way out, one of the guides motioned to a "shortcut", and I was the first one who got to go through. It was a tiny opening in rushing water. I was the only one on the other side for a while, alone with a single candle and my headlamp (thanks Anne!) I wasn't sure which way to go, as the guide was helping people through the small opening on the other side. I could either go up a ladder, or continue into another cave. I went on ahead alone, but it was so dark! and the reflections in the water looked like people, it was so creepy! I kept asking the guys behind me to come with me to see if that was the exit, but they wanted to stay for the guide, the pansies. So I went ahead, and lo and behold Sarah soon followed so I wasn't alone for long. We emerged into the light and the green and the trees. It's jungle here, but more woodsy than Tikal was.

After the cave was waterfall jumping. I have no skill at measuring distances, but let me just say that I think that jump was the scariest thing I've ever physically done. I'm not sure it compares with some emotional courage I've displayed, but as far as physical action goes, I think it wins. The waterfall was beautiful, the footholds climbing up to the top were perfect, everyone watched as you jumped out and plummeted (what looked to me to be very far below) into the current. And wow, my ass hurt SO BAD. I was so scared that my gut instinct was to curl up my legs as I approached the water, so I landed right smack on my butt. I wouldn't be surprised if I woke up with bruises tomorrow. And the water was cold. WOW.

And then there was more! We went tubing down the river! The waterfall, trees, moss, water, sky, gentle current, vines, birdsong, mountains soaring above, fog... Again, the photographer in me was crying all day because we were constantly in or surrounded by water so I couldn't take pictures.

And then there was more. We hopped back onto the back of that wonderful truck which drove up to the limestone bridge. One of the cute guides flirted with me, which helped salve my pride after me recent rejection of sorts, and despite my bleeding and gruesome knee, Sarah, Kriss, and I opted for the climb up to the top for the view. It was a 20 minute steep climb, and no, despite my 20 lb weight loss for the trip, I am not that fit. So there was plenty of heavy breathing and sweating, though I'm glad we did it, the view was worth it. We made our way slowly down to the bridge and the pools that have formed along the top of it. They're perfect wading pools that you can even dive into in places. It rained.

So, even though I was with Sarah and Kriss, and I like them both obviously, and their company, I still feel pretty alone. You know, they're all into each other, and I have no one to share my significant looks with as I experience this beautiful place. Sarah's looks are spent on Kriss, and I have... myself. I am so familiar with this feeling, but it doesn't make it easier. And it's just a week, after that I'll have Sarah back. So yeah, I can last through a week. But I want someone I love right next to me, grabbing my hand in a thrill when there's a beautiful moment. I also wished I could be out there without the big group, it's a transcendent place.

The ride back was even better, I was right in front of the truck as it whipped around corners, sending me leaning over a steep fall as I see Dr. Seuss mountains towering above. And so much mist and fog, I had a few jaw dropping moments. To add to this vista before, my truck was spirited enough to belt out Disney classics on the way back. Yes, this is undeniably completely cheesey, but I couldn't help but thrill when belting out A Whole New World, careening around corners of some of the most beautiful country I've ever seen, high up in the mountains.

Semuc Chempey is a MUST for anyone traveling in Central America.

We're going to stay another day because I love it so much here. I'm going to take a really long walk through the little mountain village of Lanquin that's nearby, and maybe even hitch a ride back to Semuc Chempey just to be able to take pictures. Though I am going to be outrageously sore from everything we did today. I haven't been so physically taxed in a long time. Walking in water and clambering over rocks where you are constantly at risk to fall painfully on your butt requires a lot of muscle control!

Dinner tonight? A plate BURSTING with vegetables. It is sooo wonderful to eat produce again! There are magic chefs in the kitchen here because everything is perfect. It's not just everywhere that makes such fantastic vegetarian cuisine. This just makes my cup overfloweth.



Rebecca said...

Laura, that sounds awesome. AWESOME. I love the visual of the Dr. Seuss mountains. I hope you're not too sore tomorrow!

Elizabeth said...

You're doing great. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! You deserve it.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE do not hitch-hike! Ever.

Sara said...

I just realized that title was from Aladdin.