contains mild peril

Friday, April 07, 2006

My first time - I'm too old for this

OK another tale of Guatamalan travels.... to be honest I'm writing this a month after the fact but my notes are from the night it happened. Do you care? I wish my scanner worked as I'd just scan 'em. Can't even be arsed reading them again so here goes - an excercise (for me) in typing and for you in reading.

good luck.

"Saturday night after Semuc Champey and Grutas [something] Rey.
Helluva day. Before I start I'm writing this after the day, sitting in casa D'Acuna (again) and I reckon I've insulted the proprietor (again) by ordering Gallo rather than wine.
Anyway, expected to be on my own for this trip with maybe 1 other person (doddery pensioner knowing my luck). Instead got a nice guy and 2 US girls (Elaine + Vivian?). Then into the ineveitable shuttle minibus, full of people.
Before we reach our destination, the driver wonders whether we'd like to 'upgrade' caves we're visiting. Its the first good day in ages apparently.
We upgrade.
Good choice. Walked and swam through a cave complex, holding a candle for light. Any of you who know me may know I'm NOT a confident swimmer. Soon my candle was doused as I thrashed around. Not very manly. Its amazing that you can have any fun while scared and embarrassed.
Honestly - I was in the middle of a line of people swimming and treading water through these caves. Swimming I can kinda do but "treading water" is just a foreign language to me. Hence inapropriate splashing feet, swallowing of water and girly gasping while holding some crumbs of wax (the remnants of the candle). When we reach the 'end' and turn back to retrace our "steps" I head to the back of the line so I can 'swim' between rocky crags and ignore the idea of treading water. hanging onto these rocky outcrops cuts me arms a bit but do I give a monkey's? No. Well, not until a current (current?!? I'm in a cave!!) tries to take me under the outcrop and I get genuinely scared for a second (its a dark cave, I'm behind the group, "safety" is a word I'm unlikely to hear in Spanish).

After all this we emerge blinking and shivering into the light (though I am maniacally grinning as I'm still alive) and I begin to relax (ie my muscles are beginning to stop gripping themselves). From here we walk to a staging post and shed the umpteenth-hand trainers we put on to go into the caves (I've done this in size 9 trainers - I'm usually an 11) and cos I wasn't prepared (how come everyone else had flip flops?) I go barefoot to the "next bit". However, this is land and if its sharp stones I care not a shit - its land and I could fucking dance on this stuff!! Anyway, now we get into inner-tubes and float down the river. Fucking fantastic! I love it! Truly - its wonderful!! I'm giggling. After my obvious crapness in the cave this may sound odd but honestly its wonderful. While going down the river I learn that all US and Canadian kids do this in "summer camp" - "it ain't no big deal".

It is a fucking big deal.

They've forgotten what its like doing it the first time. And its beautiful- this is a truly beautiful river and area but as we'd been clambering though caves and shit none of us had our cameras so no pics I'm afraid. The closest I've got pics of are of Semuc Champey itself - hit the piccies on the right and look for those ones.

So, we float down to Semuc Champey proper. This is a series of torquoise pools which really are as beautiful as professional photographers can make them. If not more so. I wish I had me glasses on.
However this wasn't just a pleasant float or scenic end of the trip.

oh no.
Now we float/ swim this bit of the river from pool to pool which is a bit like going down the different levels of a canal (I guess) without the locks. and more beautiful. and no barges. How do I describe a river that's cut its way through a mainly limestone landscape leaving 'shelves' of harder stone along the way which contain these still, torquoise pools? Probably that's the best you'll get from me.
But this did mean for me, a bit of a gentle swim (although these pools are about 10-20ft deep and I don't "tread") and its quite a drop between each step or pool.
Hence my first ever jump from 14ft into water. The most I'd done before was jumping 2ft from the edge of the swimming pool in Stevenage.
Its a bit embarressing for me to have done so many "first" on the same day when I'm a 35 year old man. First time panicking in a dark cave that I'm swimming through. First time "tubing" down a river. First time "bombing" from a bit of a height. shit. 10 year olds discover this stuff and well they should.
Somehow I'm gonna make sure my niece learns how to swim.

and speak Spanish.



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