Turismo aventura: Biotopo de Quetzal, Semuc Champey y Cuevas de la Candelaria

Biotopo de Quetzal, Semuc Champey y Cuevas de la Candelaria
14 y 15 de Julio, 2011
Antigua a Cobán: 5 hs
Cobán a Semuc Champey: 2 hs
Cobán a Cuevas de la Candelaria 2 h 30′ y La Candelaria a El Remate 3 h 40′

Llegando a Guatemala City nos encontramos con Rocío (que habíamos conocido en el viaje por las Islas de San Blas a bordo del Andiamo). Charlamos un ratito y nos despedimos pronto ya que teníamos un largo viaje. Camino a Cobán pasamos por el Biotopo de Quetzal, una reserva de bosque nuboso, donde se puede observar el pájaro nacional de Guatemala, el quetzal (aunque hay tan pocos, que es muy difícil verlo). Caminamos unas horas por la reserva y después visitamos lo que llaman el “Pozo Vivo” que nos habían recomendado. El Pozo vivo resultó ser un pozo de agua, que al acercarse y aplaudir, empezaba a moverse el agua. Finalmente llegamos a Cobán, una ciudad bastante fea y ruidosa. Al día siguiente festejamos el cumple de E y fuimos a visitar la reserva de Semuc Champey. Semuc Champey es una formación geológica bastante particular. Un gran río (Cahabón) pasa por una cueva y por encima de esta, desde las montañas caen manantiales de agua, que con el tiempo formaron pozas de aguas turquesas. Todo en medio del bosque tropical, con paredones bien verdes. Las aguas son super transparentes y bien refrescantes. T, E y abu Beto subieron hasta el mirador para ver las pozas. A la vuelta todos disfrutamos del agua fresca. A la tardecita, en el apuro por volver de día a Cobán, olvidamos la ventana del baúl abierta, y como la ruta era de ripio, perdimos una mochila con algo de ropa y cámaras de fotos y algunos zapatos….😦 alguien estará feliz usándolas… De vuelta en Cobán encontramos un lindo restaurante para cenar y festejar el cumple. A la mañana siguiente hicimos nuestra última parada camino a El Petén (la región ubicada más al norte y donde se encuentran la mayoría de ruinas mayas en Guatemala) y visitamos las Cuevas de la Candelaria. Estas cuevas son las más grandes de Centroamérica, y fueron utilizadas por los mayas para sus rituales. Tienen grandes ventanas por donde entra la luz y estalactitas gigantes formadas a través del tiempo por los minerales que contenía el agua. Después de dos horas de caminata en la cueva seguimos camino hacia el último destino en Guatemala: las ruinas de Tikal.

Cobán to Tikal – To go or not to go.
We had initially planned to go from Antigua to Cobán and then on to Tikal, essentially a ‘straight’ south-north route that would take us through the Biótopo del Quetzal, Semuc Champey, and the Candelaria caves. The abus would then fly back to Guatemala City and MELT would cross to México through a recently opened border crossing. But when we asked how long it would take us to go from Cobán to Tikal we heard anything between two and eight hours. After much deliberation and consulting the Thorn Tree forums of Lonely Planet we decided to go and were rewarded with some beautiful places and experiences.
When going through Guatemala City we stopped briefly to greet Rocío, a fellow passenger from our San Blás trip, and continued to the Biótopo del Quetzal. The Biótopo is a natural reservation near Cobán in an area where most of the forest has been transformed into farmland. The quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird (printed in all of their notes) and can still be seen here, although the only one we saw was displayed (dead) in the small ranger station. We still had a great time walking through the cloud forest taking two hours to do the one-hour loop. M behaved like a champ and walked essentially all the way.
The following day we went to Semuc Champey, a series of pools formed atop a 300 m long natural stone bridge under which the Cahabón river flows. The pools are fed with water from streams flowing down the mountain but when the Cahabón river has enough water it can flow over the pools. The ‘sumidero’ is the place where the water from the river goes under the bridge and is what Semuc Champey means in the Q’eqchi language. The road to get to Semuc Champey is paved except for the last ~20 km of a rough dirt and rock rock . After the first ten kms is Lanquin, a small town with a few hotels and the Lanquin caves. We were advised to do the last 10 km with a 4×4 vehicle, so we left Abus’ rental car along with the car seats at one of the hotels. The last 10 km were just as bad as the first 10 except for steeper grades that may become a problem if the road is wet. Once we got there we decided to take the long way to the pools climbing to the lookout and then going down to the pools. After a few steps up through the mud M, L, and Abu Susi decided to go directly to the pools and the boys continued. It took E, T and Abu Beto over an hour of climbing through lush vegetation and loud animal sounds to get to the mirador from where we could see all the pools and surrounding mountains. A spectacular view. From there we went down and directly into the pools. The water was cold but we were hot and everyone took a refreshing dip. We left when the park was about to close and still had to drive about two hours to Cobán. We threw all our stuff on the back of the car and E forgot to close the window of the back door. By the time we realized, we had lost one of Abus and M’s shoes, a backpack with two small cameras, a pocket knife and clothes, and probably other stuff. That night we celebrated E’s birthday with a delicious dinner at a small restaurant in Cobán.
After our last night we left early towards La Candelaria caves on the way Tikal. We had a bit of trouble finding the entrance to the caves. There were signs on the main road pointing left but no road. We ended up parking across the road in a ‘parking lot’ (the garden of a lonely house that was also a parking lot for some heavy trucks) and then walking about 1 km to the caves. We spent about two hours inside the giant caves. Walking was not easy with some climbing on slippery rocks required so M and Abu Susi waited for the rest in the first section of the caves. The caves are over 30 km long and have nine ‘windows’, so we saw only a small section. At times only a few meters high and at other about 50 meters, the caves were impressive.
We took the opportunity to donate most of the many notebooks, pencils and other school supplies that we had brought to a school that served over 100 students from around the area. Our initial idea was to give them away in small quantities but we had already covered all of south america and central america without doing it.
After stopping longer than we had planned at the caves we returned to our cars for a ride we still were not sure how long would take.

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