Halfway through my first experience in Central America, I was lucky enough to explore a hidden gem in Guatemala: Semuc Champey. The road to Semuc Champey was an intimidating one, to say the least. The winding dirt cutout in the cliffside of the Sierra de Chamá mountains in Guatemala made for some white-knuckled passengers as we careened into the deep, lush valley of green. Upon entering the small local town nearby, a few friends and I were transferred to the back of a 4x4 truck like cattle and took off even deeper into the jungle. Intimidation aside- the excitement was obvious in all our faces.
Exiting the truck and following a trail into the trees, the sound of local birds grew louder and more overpowering. It was as though they were attempting to cast one last blanket of intimidation to ward off the weary. A moment later, as our trail emerged from the trees, we caught the first glimpse of our destination. A pool of water shifting from turquoise to emerald lay before us, fed by a waterfall and drained by another. After a few more steps, another pool came out from hiding, then another. My eyes have never been so wide as the first moment I witnessed hundreds of emerald pools cascading down through hundreds of waterfalls of all shapes and sizes in the middle of the ravenous jungle. I haven't found words to describe the beauty as of yet.
After jumping off waterfalls and swimming through different pools, I made my way to the headwaters above. I had no idea what to expect, but I was teeming with curiosity. As the pools came to an end, the sound of rushing water grew louder, which confused me. Why were these beautiful pools so calm if the water was raging above? As I climbed my way toward the overpowering sound and turned the last corner, my mind was thrown into disarray. There before me was a wild river flowing steadfast through a beautiful gorge in front of me. From where I was standing, I should have been swept away by the current... Yet somehow, I was left dry and confused as the roaring waters flowed directly into a cavern under my feet and disappeared into the mountain, leaving no trace behind. I later learned that this river flows directly under the beautiful emerald pools, unbeknownst to their awe-inspired visitors. This puzzle continues to baffle me long after the trek back through the jungle and to my temporary home of Cobán.
Semuc Champey, Guatemala // Photographer: Jason Wilson // Canon 5D MK III + Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II // ISO 160, f/8, 30"