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Lanquin, a trip to the subterranean adventure

The departure point to get to Lanquín is the departmental head, Cobán, that is three hours of this colorful municipality. In order to arrive it is necessary to go by the highway that leads to San Pedro Carchá. From there, the passage is through a dirt road, from where the view is spectacular.

The topography of the region is as generous as it is diverse. For a moment there are plains, soon the depth of gravines astonishes in a symphony of sounds, colors, and the penetrating scent of the forest.

The origin of these grottos goes back to the change of direction experienced by the Lanquín river, that in the entrance receives the visitor with the brilliant turquoise of its waters. This strongly drags thousands of liters of crystalline water and one very small breeze that refreshes all the surroundings.

Lanquín offers a beautiful shelter. The landscape made up of a splendid scene that includes thick vegetation and the reassuring murmur of the river, transports us immediately in a stroll without time. Finally, the magnificence of decayed rocky crags by the erosive force of the water finishes off the scene that flows from its depths.

Everything is combined in this space to assume a new adventure, to enter an underground world where the shades reign. With equipment in hand and a camera, the adventure can be prolonged to live the strongest emotions on this hidden paradise.

Natural accuracy

One of the biggest spectacles than Lanquín offers is the flight of thousands and thousands of bats that inhabit their interior.

With the exactitude of a clock, they all leave at six in the afternoon and return precise at 5:30 in the morning. It is even more incredible that if a person interposes in their way, these winged mammals avoid the collision accurately. Plan your next visit to be part of this fabulous episode.

Expedition through the rocks

To enter the place, tourists must register at the office that is located at the riverbank close to the entrance. The fee is of Q10.00 for Guatemalans and Q25.00 for foreigners, which is used to cover the cost of electric power installed inside it to illuminate this rocky cathedral.

To enjoy this land odyssey, it is recommended to by accompanied by local guides, who can offer a safe path, besides additional information about previous expeditions.

Without anything to forget

Part of the path is illuminated by electric power, but you have to walk cautiously. The floor is slippery because of moisture. Rocks make the entrance a bit difficult, so it is advised to use proper shoes and a helmet.

Use light pants and shirt, and try to keep your things in a backpack to have your hands free in case of slipping. Even your photographic equipment should not be too exposed, protect it with appropriate bags and be aware that lighting is somewhat scarce.

To our amazement, one of the best guides is Nicolas, a q'eqchi eleven-year-old boy who knows every detail of the grouts given that he visits them regularly since he was very young.

Nicolas is a child who studies during the week like anyone else. However, during the weekends and holidays, his life turns into an adventure, since he is committed to guide expeditions to the interior of these marvelous creations of nature. On his explanations, he provides tourists a real lesson of the wisdom preserved orally by the members of his community.

Lanquín, such as other places in the region, suffered the consequences of the internal armed conflict, and many of the documented facts disappeared. Because of that, its members through oral tradition have preserved the history of the community, and Nicolas is the best evidence of that. With solemnity, he tells us interesting anecdotes of his ancestors and of the rituals held in its interior since pre-hispanic times.

Whimsical shapes

The bizarre rock formations of thousands of years look like animals. Each one is named differently, and the most famous ones are the monkey, the tiger, the femur, and the altar of sacrifices.

On this paradise, nature has been splendid, the sprout of Lanquin River and the magic of this rocky world are the perfect surrounding to get in peace with life.

For this boy, the half hour path with electric lighting to the depths is a routine, since he has been doing it since he was six. The grouts, from the moment they were discovered, have represented a challenge for scientists around the world, who have come to Guatemala to find out everything they can about it. The complete path is a mystery since an apparent limit has not been found yet, besides, there are no maps to guide you. The inhabitants of the region think that maybe they are related to the grouts of Aktun Kan in Peten, but no one has dared to prove it.

This place offers such fascination, that one of the most memorable tours took place 75 years ago. An expedition of 15 French men came to explore them, carrying specialized equipment. The effort was so big that only three of them came out alive, and to this day no one knows what happened to the rest.

Thousands of years in action

The grottos offer impressive scenery composed by strange formations of karst or calcium carbonate. Its chemical composition allows this material to deploy and sediment in contact with water; this creates the caverns and the diverse calcareous formations, a slow process that takes thousands of years. Water product of outside rains filters through the vaults and creates interesting natural sculptures: stalactites and stalagmites. Centuries after, these two join to form one solid column that is known as stalagnatum.

The feeling of getting in is overwhelming, considering that the caves are the product of nature's action and where formed when humans did not exist. They have peculiar formations that seem like animals and objects. The glitter of minerals gives to it excitement that combines with the light that shyly introduces itself into this mansion where adventure, the unknown, and the desire to go farther combine.

Lizbeth Barrientos