rockpools

The adventures of fat foot – taking a holiday from my holiday!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am one of the most clumsy individuals on earth… You know how this is going to go.

Let’s say it’s just my luck for me to hurt myself within two hours of arriving at a beautiful surf beach, and I hadn’t even been surfing yet!

After making the two hour journey from San Juan del Sur in less than comfortable conditions (two boys, two girls, nine beers and four backpacks in an old Hyundai accent that had deinitely seen better days), I wanted to stretch my weary legs with a quick sunset jog up and down the beach. Exercise isn’t something I see too much of these days, and I enjoyed it.

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Sunset run on the beach

Red faced and feeling the searing heat, I threw myself into the welcoming sea water, joining in with the two Mexicans, Alvaro and Isael, bodysurfing the waves. All was well, until one set started to build, the next wave stood up ahead of me.  I could see it coming and knew it was going to be bigger than the others. I dove under and grabbed the sand on the bottom with both hands.  The turbulent water hit me hard and I tumbled. The darkness under the water due to the black sand made it hard to detect the surface, and I came up gasping for air. No sooner had I surfaced, but the next wave came looming, a quick breath and down under I went for the second time. I wasn’t enjoying the experience so much, and relieved to find the surface once more.

I hadn’t realised I was hurt at this point, but when I went to put my foot down on the bottom to steady myself, I found that my foot wasn’t working as it should and I screamed out in pain. I wasn’t able to bear my weight, and the Mexicans helped carry me to shore where I collected myself, still in intense pain and just hoping that nothing was broken.

Over the course of the next day it because apparent that my midfoot was sprained and I wasn’t able to walk more than the distance between the beach, hammock and the dorm, around 50m at most.  This specifically excluded even a walk down to the shop which was around 200m away, and I had to rely on the help of others to get me water and food as I lay pondering my predicament in a hammock.

Trust that the one place that I am the most remote – there is no doctor or even a pharmacy in town – I would need assistance, and there was no way I could carry my bag or take a bus. I didn’t know what to do – should I lodge a travel insurance claim and get them to bail me out to the nearest hosptital in Managua ($120US for a cab there), or just stick it out and rest for a few days? I felt like I would be making a fuss over nothing, so after a quick consultation with my sister the physioterapist over the internet, decided to take more ibuprofen and stick to the RICE strategy.

My travel buddies left this morning for Ometope, a wonderfully hilly place which I just know would mean I wouldn’t be able to do anything. So I chose to stay at the beach for a few more days with new Norwegian friends Christina, Gro and Panilla, and a likeable American named Kenny.

Still there are worse places in the world to be stuck… it’s actually been nice to have a rest and not do anything, as much as I hated it to begin with. While there’s no creature comforts – fan “cooled” rooms, salt water showers (cold of course), and only a mini mart to buy your groceries, the small town’s charm grew on me day by day. The highlight of my day was listening for the vegetable truck to arrive in the morning, the loudspeaker blaring with details of whatever the produce of the day happened to be.

After almost a week I was able to walk again, and explored the natural rock pools with the crew, a great place to cool down in the searing heat! But as we discovered, you can only make it there on low tide (or face a gnarly climb up over the rocks with the powerful waves crashing down on you).
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We made the journey down the beach on Saturday night to party at Magnific Rock, up on a cliff and built jutting out into the ocean. I wish I’d made it there earlier to watch the sunset.

As a friend wisely advised me, maybe it’s just the universe conspiring to avoid me being in a place later on to keep me safe!

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Semuc Champay – a jungle paradise!

At least the drivers get shade!

At least the drivers get shade!

It took a bumpy, eight hour journey with twelve of us cramped in a small van to reach the peaceful paradise of Lanquin – this was for the most part due to the large number of seriously massive speed bumps and even a four Yamaha-powered car ferry!

No wonder it takes eight hours to get anywhere in Guatemala

No wonder it takes eight hours to get anywhere in Guatemala

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving into town we were greeted by the Zephyr lodge 4wd buggy, and as we climbed in eagerly, we saw a group of our backpacker friends cruise by smiling and laughing after completing their full day Semuc Champay tour – making it a priority to book this in straight away!

The lodge itself was more of a hotel than a hostel, perched on a steep hill a short walk outside of town – on first sight we wondered how the buggy would even get up there. The promise of a pool to relax in all day, facilities overlooking the valley, and a stunning view to wake up to each morning. I can get used to this.

That pool!

That pool!

Climbing in the back of the buggy for the 10km drive to Semuc Champay, we jostled for our positions and settled in for the next hour’s shake rattle and roll over the steep graded narrow hillside streets, Ben exclaiming and ducking every so often after a low hanging branch came hurtling towards his head. Yes, it took an hour to go ten kilometres!

Each of us was given a candle to light as we entered into the cave system. Safety Sam has clearly not made it to Guatemala yet, with no proper lighting, rickety ladders, and only the guides instruction of where not to step to help us navigate safely. At one point I was asked if I wanted to climb the waterfall, sure did. My candle was extingused and placed into my mouth as I held my weight back on the rope and climbed upwards over the vertical rock.

Heading down into the cave by candlelight

Heading down into the cave by candlelight

Reaching the turnaround point, a few of us opted to jump a few metres off the rocks into the darkness of pool below, with only a vague instruction from the guide as to where we needed to jump – great fun! However, my near death experience came when we had to squeeze ourselves between rocks and drop down behind the waterfall on the way back. Full of confidence, I stepped up and positioned myself, and was told to go when ready. Not quite sure what that meant, I didnt realise the water was literally just below my feet and I did an awkward half step down thingy which resulted in me gasping for air with my head stuck in an air pocket behind the waterfall. Luckily, I’m a confident swimmer and didn’t panic!

Exiting the cave, on the way back down to the river to go tubing, we were afforded the opportunity to try the aptly named “car crash” swing and of course so we of us were not smart enough to refuse. Keeping the swing underneath myself, I drew my legs up close and launched towards the river, however as the seat was not so slippery it took a fair amount of force to push myself forwards off the seat when we reached our destination – only to end up crashing face first into the water and regretting the whole incident for days afterwards.  Ben, too, had a similar dilemma as did everyone else who was game enough to try it!

Me vs the car crash swing! You know who won

Each one of us armed with a tube we headed for the river, followed by some enterprising Guatemalan boys holding small eskies selling beers. Who am I to refuse?

Of course it was Ben’s luck to get the tube with a hole in it, which had completely deflated by the end of the ride!

Arriving at the bridge it was time to take the 12m plunge down into the water below. I stepped up the the railing, climbed over one foot then the other, and launched myself off the ledge.

Leaping into the crystal clear water

Leaping into the crystal clear water

Ben however, liked to stand on the edge and talk about it for ten minutes, by which time I’d made it back up. Bets were made and beers promised if he didn’t jump but still no action. “For Engaaaland!” was the cry but still no action and those beers were looking tasty. Finally he managed to talk himself into it – but only after the rest of us were about to go eat our lunch!

For Engalaaaand!

Following a good feed, we began a short but steep hike up to the viewpoint and we were afforded a great view of the rockpools and their turqoise coloured water, which would be our next adventure.

Semuc Champay rockpools from above

Following a guide through the maze of natural rock slides, we made our way down to the bottom – moving more quickly after we discovered the resident fish woud nibble on your feet if you stood in one place just slightly too long.

Sliding down the rocks

Happily heading back to the hostel, the daily Zephyr happy “hour” took its toll, along with the tequila dice game which no sober person would ever bet on as it was heavily favoured towards the house.

While if you stay three nights at Zephyr you get the fourth night for free, we thought the better of it as we knew we would spend the savings and then some over the bar. We booked our shuttle for Antigua for 8am the following day, and after another killer happy hour, we all managed to make it on somehow! (after a little frenzied bag packing and tab clearing going on, what’s a little help amongst friends!)

Ten hours later after our first tour of the infamous Guatemala city traffic, we would arrive in Antigua, a charming old colonial city that would be my home for the next four weeks.