Plasticine

Utopia, Semuc Champey
Utopia, Semuc Champey

It could be a Saturday. It could be a Tuesday. Its completely arbitrary on the road. Time becomes plasticine; its stretched thin in some places and clumped together in others. You feel like days are being snatched away from you, but that you’ve been away forever and seen and done the stars. Because traveling is life on crack. You cram in so many places and people and food and drink and books and photos and beaches and waterfalls so that it can shove into your backpack, and hope that it satiates you till you haul it out again and dust it off for the next trip.

Sometimes, I’m not sure I’m built for traveling. I wish I could be more blasé and flit in and out of places with ease, but anyone who knows me knows I’m much too sentimental, which makes the constant string of goodbyes hard. Julia and I keep saying we’re the worst travelers because we keep getting too attached to places and people and grinding our feet and staying for longer than planned.

El Tunco, El Salvador
El Tunco, El Salvador

El Tunco was two streets long, tucked on the edge of El Salvador, with nothing to do other than eat, drink and surf (of which we managed 2 out of 3) and we lounged around in our flip flops for five days. Longevity does mean you get to know the locals though, who took us to caves where you had to slip your clothes into empty crevices to keep them dry, and waterfalls you could jump from. Other days we would get enchiladas piled high with cabbage and avocado, sit on the beach under pink skies sharing a coconut, and watch the surfers catch their last wave as the sun eased itself under the horizon.

It was the same feeling in Semuc Champey, Guatemala–one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Because Lainey and Kat missed their connecting flight from Texas to Guatemala City (for a McDonalds ranch salad no less), Julia and I ended up in the fortunate position of being stuck in Utopia. Kitschy but appropriately named, Utopia is a self-proclaimed eco-lodge lonelily nestled deep in the middle of the national park, with nothing but river and forest as far as the eye can see. Days were spent lazily in soft sand gathered on river banks, hiking to canyons, jumping off more waterfalls and tall trees, barbecuing on bonfires, reading, writing, and watching the sunrise from our hammocks. While the sun was often on our side, beating and blazing, Semuc was just as beautiful in the rain. Mist would roll down its hills and tiptoe into the braided rivers below. Exploring Semuc’s labyrinth of caves is dark, deep and insane. You wade through still waters holding up a single candle to guide you, the hot wax dripping on your knuckles a welcome distraction from the freezing waters and the sharp pain on your ankles from kicking stray rocks in the water. You climb ropes up and down waterfalls and fall into black holes not knowing where you’ll end up. I realize now, that a lot of my trip thus far has been spent jumping off tall things. I suppose there’s a heavy handed metaphor in there somewhere (facing your fears, diving headfirst into unknown waters, etc)… I ended my time in Semuc jumping off a very high bridge despite being told by a local that I should only do it if “I wanted to die”. I didn’t, but I wanted to catch my tube which was being dragged along the river ahead of me. And it was worth it; sailing down the river, weaving and ducking rapids, swept up in grand cliff faces and arching trees. It’s hard to imagine anything manmade ever being as beautiful.

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