The following post details the Global Goulets’ journey from May 11 – 13:
Day 41 – By Monday in the late afternoon, our car was refreshed and in better condition than it had been since long before we’d bought it a few months back, thanks to our new mechanic friends in Fray de las Casas. We were proud owners of a Santa Maria with a full-blown face-lift. Everything was excellent. We were on our way to a spectacular destination, this place known as Semuc Champay no more than 3 hours away, and all of our car problems were behind us. What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, it’s moments like this when we can’t possibly think up a potential hazard that things tend to domino in a detrimental way against our wishes. First, the brake light lit back up on the dashboard, a problem we were convinced had been solved when our friend Maino back in Fray replaced the rusted brake line. But this was a problem for another day. A more immediate danger was the rapid retreat of the sun. While we gawked in awe at the magnificent blood orange sun fading behind the green mountainscapes, we began to remember it’s importance to the safety of our journey. “Come back, sun!” we wanted to say. It was well before 7pm that the final glimmers of the sun’s presence dipped beyond recognition, leaving us on unrailed mountain ledges without a hint of light to guide us. But this was not just another night breaking our cardinal rule to never drive in the dark. Our fears were compounded when a gang of hombres demanding 100 quetzales to let us pass through their makeshift traffic checkpoint spontaneously halted us in the middle of the road to Semuc Champay. Into the depths of Guatemala’s furthest reaches we ventured, as we discussed our various emergency options. All of a sudden, without explanation, our radio stopped working entirely. More time driving under these deathly quiet conditions only heightened our nerves. At last, by some miracle, we found a little family-run hotel called Posada Casa El Zapote, where the dude behind the front desk waved us in and gave us a safe place to set up our tent for the equivalent of 2 dollars a head. A giant exhale exploded from the Goulets’ gaskets.
Day 42 – In the morning, upon wake up, we all agreed we’d failed to achieve lucidity in our dreams, an endeavor we’d embarked upon while together reading a book on the subject of lucid dreaming. Despite the multitude of problems and fears that plagued our previous rally day, the reality was we were in an amazingly remote place near one of Central America’s great destinations. The hostel had arranged a tour of Semuc Champey for us and we soon met our guide, Manu, who would go on to deliver a day we would not soon forget. Walking down into the valley, Manu pointed out cacao and coffee plants, and even gave us a little flower pod where inside we found little red beads that turned into paint once we rubbed them under our eyes like football players prepping for the big game.
There’s no better way to describe our day in Semuc Champay than to simply say it was a ton of fun. We met other gringos, explored bat-filled caves, jumped off a series of cliffs into the waters below, did the same from a rope swing, went tubing calmly down a lazy river, hiked up to a miraculous mirador (viewpoint) from the rocky cliffs high above the valley below, and eventually even swam down Semuc Champay’s 7 levels of pools. To document it all, we took our GoPro 3+, equipped with a floaty device and pole. We got some great shots over the course of the day, but we’re pretty sure our exofficio underwear photo shoot stole the show. Semuc’s slippery rocks about which Manu failed to warn us caused a couple bumps, bruises, and blood, but luckily no broken bones for the Goulets. At 4:30, we jumped in the rear of a pickup with a bundle of other locals and trucked back up to our hotel. Even though we paid Manu to hang out with us for the day, we know we were his gringos favoritos.
Day 43 – Lightning streaks overhead as we fell asleep the night before should have signaled the need to put on the tent’s rainfly, but we ignored the sky’s warning. As a result, rainfall through the mesh ceiling of our tent abruptly stunted our sleep just after 6am. Awake, for better or worse, we packed up our little home and said goodbye to Manu and the crew at Zapote. As we drove off, the warmth of daylight had a way of making the roads that had seemed so terrifying a couple of nights back appear rather harmless. The clouds broke just as the roads transitioned back to tarmac. Remember, we were committed to sticking with old-fashioned paper maps, so our task to drive to Antigua through dangerous Guatemala City by way of any number of crisscrossing roadways was quite a daunting one. The day inched onward, while Roberto’s warnings about robberies at traffic lights on the forefront of our minds. “Just don’t drive through at night,” we’d been told. We agreed this was not the place to violate our oft-broken rule. And for once, we didn’t. Darkness didn’t find us until we’d entered the safe haven that is Antigua.