Guatemala 3: Semuc Champey to Antigua

Prior to departing the pit stop, the team had breakfast with a friendly Puerto Rican named Carlos.  Carlos was the solo competitor in the Puerto Rican exclusive race.  He was first Puerto Rican team to check into the pit stop at midnight and was preparing for another day of gruelling racing.

Both teams chatted and soon it was time to depart from the pit stop.  Receiving their clues, the teams set off to the main attractions in Semuc Chempey.  Their first challenge was to complete a tour of the nearby caves.

The view from the race route to Semuc Chempey What a turkey

They raced the 3 km from the lodge down to the river where they soon arrived at the cave entry.  Receiving their candles and after changing into appropriate swimwear, the teams entered the water.  They swam through the long sections and managed to keep their candles alight.  They clambered over rocks, past guano and soon arrived at a waterfall deep within the cave.  Both teams wanted to proceed further into the cave, but their guide decided not to continue for safety reasons.

The team in the caves Carlos, Mayan guide and Simon at the entry to the caves
The team celebrates successully completing the challenge

Returning to daylight, the teams boarded inner tubes and soon, as a human raft, were racing down the river.  They travelled a good km in very little time before reaching returning to the bank. With this task completed, both teams received their next clue and were soon on their way to the reserve of Semuc Chempey.

Post tubing celebrations Crossing the jungle bridge

Semuc Chempey is an amazing natural feature formed where the river travels below the surface through a series of nature caves only to emerge on downstream in a thunderous waterfall.  On the upstream side the tremendous flow of water over time has deposited minerals forming spectacular pools.  Arriving at the entry to the natural park, the teams climbed to the mirador (lookout) where photos were taken before they descended to the pools themselves for a swim.  Ang was a little disappointed as the pools were cloudy and not blue due to the heavy rain, but was still amazed by their beauty.

Semuc from above
Another panorama of Semuc
The racers pause to take in the view of Semuc The thunder that is Semuc
Panorama looking upstream
Semuc waterfalls panorama
Further downstream, Semuc whitewater

After the swim, they rapidly returned to the lodge and due to being too tired from the morning’s activities, negotiated a reduction in the tour and a refund of the unused proportion. The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing with Team Ireland.

Power was cut to the whole valley that evening and the team was treated to a spectacular firefly show as they played cards with Team Ireland.  Team Puerto Rico returned later that night, and said that the additional portion of the tour to a second cave was not worth it.

Receiving their next clues, team Australia and Puerto Rico set early alarms and went to bed.  Team Ireland received their clue separately and would be departing the following day for the next leg of their race.

Waking before dawn the next morning, Simon, Ang and Carlos waited, then after almost 20 minutes set about trying to locate and then wake the driver.  He said their was plenty of time before the shuttle, but then proceeded to race at top speed back to Lanquín, where the transport to Antigua was set to depart from.  After a bone jarring 20 minutes they raced into Lanquín and sped up to the van.  There they waited a good hour while other passengers slowly trickled in to the van.

The ride to Antigua with a change in Cobán was relatively uneventful.  They drove past numerous landslides, met a friendly peace corp volunteer and generally enjoyed the scenery.  Soon they arrived in the pretty colonial town of Antigua and both teams located suitable accommodation.

Guy sells food to cars in the mudslide traffic jam Church with rosary and ice cream guy
Antiguan street Antiguan dogs
Antiguan horse and cart Teams Australia and Puerto Rico successfully summit Cerro de la Cruz without being robbed
Guatemalan Bob the builders Carlos races for Pepsi

Receiving their next clue, Simon, Ang and Carlos, along with the peace corp volunteer, Christine, set off to Café No Se, where Simon and Carlos drank much Illegal Mezcal. Completing this challenge, both teams were given their next clue.

Having not completed the salsa lesson challenge in Cuba, the clue called for teams to dance salsa.  If the general public gave their apparoval, the teams would get their next clue.  In another amazing first, Teams from two different series came together to complete a challenge with Team Puerto Rico giving Team Australia a lesson in street Salsa. This belatedly completed the Cuban salsa class challenge provided by Callan.

Both teams then headed off on a pub crawl that included some of the prime Antigua hotspots, but unfortunately did not include the Jungle Party Hostel as there was no party on offer there.

Jungle party suffering from a distinct lack of party

Somewhat merry, both teams returned to their accommodation in the early hours, the pit stop for this leg of the race.  As a prize for their first place, Team Australia won three nights worth of rest and relaxation at Earth Lodge.