It of course had to happen - the happy, sufficiently exotic but still familiar bubble that is Antigua, had to end. But for me, what a way to exit Guatemala! Predictably, we had to end my five weeks with a bang at Rilley's - which we did. I left Antigua (with very little sleep) on Saturday 3 October with some friends heading to Coban on to Lanquin for Semuc Champey. We arrived at El Retiro lodge - a backpacker's paradise - just in time to head to the bat caves - which were impressive, both in terms of the size of the caves (we were told that there are some 30kms that have been explored so far; even though we saw only the first 500 meters or so) and the different formations inside, but in particular for the guizilions of bats leaving the caves every nightfall. We sat at the entrance, entranced by the sight and sense of so many (somewhat creapy) creatures flying out a few centimeters from our faces, whilst not once touching any of us. Back to El Retiro, amongst others, it very much lived up to its culinary reputation with a Mexican buffet on the Sat night - I have never before seen plates stacked quite as high - with apparently very little shame on the part of the majority of the worn-out and hungry backpackers. Every meal was a treat. The next day - Sunday - was Semuc Champey day. I don't think I can do it justice here - but it certainly was one of the best adventure days ever - and astoundingly beautiful. From a 'river experience' perspective, South Africa has nothing that can compare. Starting off we did a trek through a cave system with a river (and the odd waterfall) inside - sometimes ankle deep; sometimes wading and at times swimming - all whilst holding a candle in one hand. Overwhelming for the senses. After exploring the caves (ending with diving off rocks into a deep pool in the heart of the cave system) we floated down the tranquil Rio Cahabon with tubes; had lunch; did a trek up to the viewpoint to look down on the river and pools of Semuc Champey (by now sweating rather profusely - this is rain forest country after all), and ended the day swimming in the beautiful pools (my camera was out of action, so you will have to google this one). We then spent a day relaxing at El Retiro, and then took the direct route to Rio Dulce - a slow, arduous but ultimately beautiful trip (only spoiled by the fact that our driver - who was supposed to take us all the way to Rio Dulce, concocted a story and shoved us into a predictably squashed and overloaded mini-bus taxi from El Nestor to Rio Dulce - let me state categorically the last hour was not fun (or perhaps I'm making too much of having my nose embedded in another man's armpit for one hour or so ...). Rio Dulce was and is beautiful and tranquil, and we took the river trip up to Livingston - my first view of the Caribbean. But other than this important fact, Livingston is, rather sadly, entirely forgettable. During my stay at Rio Dulce I had a chat with an old rather salty sea dog of a sailor, who advised me that the borders to Honduras had re-opened. Thus I made up my mind to head for Roatan in the Bay Islands - next installment to follow!