Hey Lanquin… we need to talk
My dear friend, Lanquin, arriving in your tiny, mountainous, jungle village is a bittersweet feeling. On one hand you’re the place I’ve been looking forward to returning to the most. Even the most deliberately chosen words cannot define your beauty. Photos cannot capture you. You are magic. You are the best place that I’ve ever been in my entire life and I will die a happy man if I never find a place more special than you.
On the other hand, we parted company with a dear friend and partner in crime who had been traveling with us for quite some time and this is never an easy thing to do. Ingrid proved to us (in case we didn’t already know) that Dutch girls can drink like us, party like us, travel like us, laugh like us and most importantly put up with us and all of our nonsense. As she hopped of the ‘bus’ (aka some blokes minivan) in the remote village of Tactic all by herself, ready to embark on a week of volunteer work with a desperately poor community, she proved to us one final time that she is a pretty special person.
We’ll miss you Ingrid (and you have cool shoes).
Lanquin, you play host to my favourite hostel – El Retiro. My favourite hostel anywhere in the world. I still talk about El Retiro being a paradise that juggles party, relaxation, eco friendly & sustainable operation, good food, beautiful scenery, cool staff… the complete package. When I heard that a new hostel had taken over the title as ‘the best hostel in Lanquin’ I was a little taken aback. Not possible I thought.
Enter Zephyr Lodge.
I just need to take a moment here.
Perched on the top of a large hill and surrounded by a valley, Zephyr Lodge boasts close to a 360degree view. Amazement. It sounds silly to follow how good the view is by mentioning the shower, but bear with me. The shower is mental. Thanks to the remoteness of your town, Lanquin, the shower at Zephyr looks out towards the vast nothingness. I mean, it literally looks out over the valley and to the sweeping hills opposite. I mean, literally, through a huge open air window from waist height to ceiling, it looks out at this stunning view. This was the first time in my life that I needed sunglasses in the shower. Inhibitions quickly evaporate and float away with the steam as you realize that it’s just you (and whoever you’re showering with *wink*) and nature.
But even in this beautiful place I just couldn’t shake that sad feeling. I guess we were still a little dejected about losing our friend, even if it was to a noble cause. Goddamn noble causes… Always stealing my friends away from me. What about me, huh? Uh oh… is that the old me creeping back into the picture? Unfortunately, yes… yes it is.
Fancy a drink? Yes… yes I do.
I can’t really explain the next 2 days in great detail as it’s still a little hazy. They were the sort of days where you wake up with various bodily pains and head down to the bar/common area and hear, “how are you feeling today?!”
And then you pound a couple beers while you wait for your breakfast to arrive.
The second morning that I woke up I realized that my foot was a little tender. Then I saw the blood soaked bandages. After some pretty intense concentration and meditation I figured out what had happened – something that I didn’t remember what it was. I decided to go and investigate.
So it turns out that I accidentally smashed a few glasses at various stages over the day/night and felt bad about the staff cleaning up after me. When I broke the last glass I decided that the best idea was for me to clean it up. So I stood up… and that’s kinda where it went wrong. I stood up, onto the pile of broken glass, that I had just broken, with no shoes on.
On the plus side, I went to bed after this, at 11pm, and managed to get a pretty decent rest/coma/unconscious period due to excessive blood loss. On the down side, my bar tab was higher than the rest of the hostel combined for that day/night (excluding Nicko’s which was 50 Quetzales less than mine).
4 pretty big, deep cuts on my foot now act as a reminder of how stupid I am (like I need a reminder).
So day 3 has to be a quiet day. Healthy breakfast of fruit, yoghurt and granola, plenty of water, planning the daytrip to Semuc Champey for the next day, maybe a quiet game of cards, a gentle rock in a hammock and a splash about in the river. But wait, who’s this walking towards the front desk with her backpack on? Kinda cute actually… Oh shit!
“INGRID! What are you doing here?”
“Ugh! I don’t want to talk about it. Can you get me a beer?”
“3 beers please!”
So a quiet day of cards was off the cards as our comrade had unexpectedly rejoined us. She regaled us with stories of no running water, filthy living quarters, the disorganized volunteer program that essentially had nothing for her to do and (my personal favourite) having to eat rat for dinner. I think that rat fajitas were the straw that broke the camels back… or rather the anvil that broke the rodents back.
Booze booze booze booze booze.
Day four at Zephyr is your free day! This means that you stay for free and only pay for drinks, food, tours etc. Today we’re making up for lost time and cramming as many crazy activities as we can into one short day.
Enter Semuc Champey.
After a quick breakfast, 17 of our nearest and dearest pile into the back of a pickup truck and commence the hour or so ride from the hostel to Semuc on one of the bumpiest roads I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I had parkinsons disease. Is that a little tasteless? Well, sorry… but it’s the old me, remember? I don’t mean to sound cruel, bitter and thoughtless, but I am, so that’s generally how it comes out.
Jump off a giant rope swing into a raging river? Check. Spend an hour being guided through a pitch black, water filled cave? Having to swim one handed in said cave, whilst holding your only light source, a candle, with the other hand? Climbing a waterfall in said cave? Jumping, blind, from high ledges into deep pools in said cave? Check, check, check & check.
Quite a busy morning. What more can we cram into this day?
Walk across a bridge? Hell no. Jump off it? You know it. 10 meter drop to the water? Check.
Hike for an hour (with a pretty tender foot) up to the mirador? Check. Best view in town? Check.
Hike back down? Check. Naturally formed waterfall/waterslides? Check. Fish cleaning my wounds? Check.
Jumping off the illegal, hush-hush, do it at your own risk and don’t tell anybody, 15 meter blind drop into raging river? Ok, I’ll admit that I actually didn’t do this. Not because I’m not crazy enough, brave enough, manly enough, cool enough, tough enough or because I was too scared (although they are all good reasons). No, I didn’t do it because at this stage I was struggling to walk with my self inflicted gammy foot and landing on it after a 15 meter plunge wasn’t super appetizing to me at this point, but many brave souls conquered the jump on this day. I prefer the smaller jumps.
I’m thankful for our extra days with our dear friend Ingrid and all of the lovely new friends that we made at Zephyr, but after 6 days in Lanquin, the time has come for us to go our separate ways. But I love you and you’re my favourite place, so why am I leaving?
I could never live here. Not permanently. You are special because you’re cut off from the world, high in the mountains surrounded by tropical jungle, but it is also this quality that renders you unsuitable as a permanent home. I’m a city boy. I like people and McDonalds and reliable internet and other stupid modern luxuries that I’ve grown accustomed to. Also, I don’t think that I would ever get used to your beauty, but if the impossible should occur and I do, then every other beautiful aspect of life would forever be tarnished because it will never be as beautiful as you.
Thank you for putting up with my antics again, Lanquin. I feel suitably refreshed and cleansed again. I enjoyed letting my curly hair down and giving the old me a chance to resurface for a little bit, but I think I’ll leave the old me behind as I head to Flores. He can be a bit of a jerk.
I won’t say goodbye to you because I know I’ll be back again one day. Instead I’ll say hasta la proxima – until next time. See Lanquin, I even learned a little spanish for you.
By the time you read this I’ll already be gone.