You are currently viewing Semuc Champey (Part 2 – The Pools)

Semuc Champey (Part 2 – The Pools)

We regrouped after our lunch break. Our guide explained that each of us had a choice about how to get to the turquoise pools on top of the limestone bridge that is Semuc Champey. The hard way is to climb the stairs up to the lookout and then continue and descend the stairs to the top of the pools. He said it might be too hard for some of us and seemed especially worried about parents with kids. The alternative is to skip the cliff completely and just walk up the flat path along the river, similar to what we had walked earlier with our tubes, just on the opposite side of the river.

Everyone in our group chose to go up to the lookout. The guide was a little surprised that all the kids wanted to do it, and they all did great. It wasn’t all that hard. Maybe 1500 steps with a total elevation gain of about 300 feet. Charmaine brought her drone with her and had hoped to be able to use it from below the pools earlier in the day, but she forgot to bring her phone, so there was no way to control it. This meant she was hauling her backpack everywhere without benefit. So she climbed all the stairs with the backpack on for training, and still beat almost everyone in our tour group to the top. Of course, Brett’s family was the fastest. They didn’t even notice they were climbing.

At the top they have built a lookout platform that hangs over the edge of the cliff. Because of where it is and how it is supported (or not), they limit the number of people on the lookout to 10 at a time. The view from the lookout is pretty, but it’s also the same picture you see over and over when you search the Internet for pictures of Semuc Champey. I looked around to see if there were any alternative viewpoints from which to get a shot, but I couldn’t find anything interesting.

After we took our pictures it was time to go down the stairs to the pools we had just been overlooking. The stairs on the way down seemed a little steeper and more direct than the path on the way up. My legs were pretty beat up from earlier events, so that may have played a role in my perception. My right heel was really hurting. My right achilles was bothering me too. And, of course, my left leg was still oozing blood down the front of my shin.

Disappearing River
Disappearing River

At the bottom of the stairs was the limestone bridge over the Cahabón River. We could walk out across the top pool and take a few pictures before putting our phones and other stuff (backpacks, cameras, etc.) into a locker so we could swim. The lockers don’t have locks on them, so some of us chose to swim with money in our pockets, but we didn’t have a lot of choice with the camera bag and our phones. We could either trust the lockers, or stand on the edge of the pools and not swim. We chose to swim.

At the edge of the top pool we walked out to where the river has carved a channel into the limestone and drops underground. It was really fascinating to stand there and watch as this raging river completely disappeared just a few feet away from where we were standing.

Upper Pools
Upper Pools

We took a few pictures of the upper pools before putting our phones away in a locker so we could swim for an hour or so. The lower pools were actually a lot prettier than the upper pools, but without a waterproof phone or camera, there wasn’t a way to capture them.

At 4:30 we regrouped at the lockers and headed back to the main gate where our pickup truck taxi awaited us. 45 minutes later we were back at our hostel. The ride back was really pleasant with the wind causing our wet shirts and shorts to dry as we bounced along the winding dirt road.

Playing Doctor
Playing Doctor

As soon as we arrived at the hostel, Brett and I walked up to a nearby pharmacy to buy some bandages and tools to clean out the wound on my leg. They didn’t have much, but we got some gauze and an ace bandage. They also sold us some antiseptic water (with some hydrogen peroxide in it). When we got back to the hotel, it was time for the cleaning. It wasn’t the most fun thing I have done, but we knew the river I was swimming in all day wasn’t exactly clean. The pools up top were probably cleaner than the river where I cut myself, but still far from clean enough to drink. They poked a hole in the lid of a water bottle so they could squeeze the bottle and spray out my wound. It worked really well. We wrapped it up and went to dinner.

We were smart enough to eat dinner at the hostel. It may not appear anywhere on TripAdvisor or Google, but it was so much better than anything else we saw in town.

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