Tuesday, September 06, 2011

 

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Jonesy and his feathered friends
Road trip! A group of us (6 cruisers) hired a van and took a 4-hour road trip up to see the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras. This trip had a dual purpose, 1) fun, 2) exit the country of Guatemala and re-enter 3 days later which gets us another visa to stay in Guatemala for another 90 days. I had a new visa already because I had traveled to the USA recently, but of course I went along for the "fun" part!


The last half of the trip up to Copan was made over winding, mountain roads. Yes, there was beautiful scenery of rural life in Guatemala but the road had been recently washed out in many places by landslides from the recent heavy storm. So it was slow travel over some gravel roadbed and to avoid the rock piles hiding around the curves.
Sure glad I wasn't doing the driving! Plus, we were riding in a passenger van with seats, not a standing-room-only pickup truck which is the usual mode of transportation in these farming areas. Finally, we reached the border and Honduras was in sight! We trotted back and forth across the border to visit immigration offices on both sides and to get our rubber stamps in our passports (out of Guatemala and in to Honduras). Only 10 more miles to go!


That afternoon, after settling into our hotel we all headed out to explore the small town of Copan Ruinas. As is usually the case in Central American towns, everything revolves around a center plaza or park. Here cowboys linger after doing their business in town, and women sell colorful fruits to enjoy. We were very impressed with how clean Copan Ruinas is!

The next morning we all gathered together in the plaza (when in Honduras, do as the Hondurans do) and headed off for the 1 kilometer walk to the Mayan Ruins. Wow! There is even a paved walkway lined with shade trees leading from the town out to the ruins. Amazing. Along the way the local school children were practicing for a parade. As we are all moms or dads, we had to pause to watch. The youngest were about kindergarten age and were so cute trying to keep in lines!

At the ruins, we each paid our $15 US fee for general park entrance, plus we hired a guide for just an additional $25 total for our group of 6. We were told we could have Fidel our guide for up to 2 hours. Four hours later, he was still excitedly sharing his knowledge of the ancient Mayan city of Copan, the culture of Mayans, and pointing out plants and trees that were used by these people. The 6 of us were limply trailing along in dire need of food, and to get the weight off of our feet. He was an excellent guide and we loved every minute of it! Notice that he uses a stick with a feather on the end to point out details so that his hands don't touch these ancient carvings.

We climbed up and down the steps to the tops of several temples, each with it's own history of the king who had it built by the slaves. In this photo you are looking at the ball court in one of the plazas. When the city was occupied, there wasn't grass here, but paving stones covered with a white stucco. The buildings were covered with stucco that was tinted a deep red color! Under the massive tarp is the stairway of the kings. The tarp is there to protect it from further damage by the rains. This stairway has the entire history of this settlement carved into it.

Here's a view of a smaller temple looking down from the top of a larger temple. The surrounding hills are still farmed by some of the descendants of the ancient city. Large Scarlet Macaws can be seen and heard within the park (yes, they do feed them so these birds will stick around).  We found this little 4"  frog hanging out on an alter almost perfectly camouflaged.

All among the ruins were the tall stellae stone carvings such as the one shown earlier with our guide. Different kings were glorified in these monuments and in front of each was a carved alter for sacrifices. Yep, we saw one which had a concave area for the victim's head to rest and a trough for the blood to drain down Eeeww. These Mayans only sacrificed slaves who were captive enemies, not their own people.
I really liked this bat demon carving. There were hundreds of stone carvings on display in the museum. Inside of the open-roofed museum, they have built a replica of one of the smaller temples and painted it the colors that it would have been back in the day. Very different! Of course, I had to "plank" across the center doorway floor. No, I'll never grow up.

The next day we visited Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve which was just 2 km outside of town.
That is where the picture of Jonesy with the birds was taken. He is holding an endangered Green Macaw, a Blue and Gold Macaw, and a Scarlet Macaw. This park exceeded all of our expectations! It was beautiful, quiet (except for the birds) and our $10US entry fee included a guided tour. These birds are mostly rescue birds and there are projects underway to increase the populations of the endangered birds. The aviaries are HUGE structures which allow the birds to fly around and the walkways are smooth and well-crafted.

So how close have YOU gotten to a toucan? Isn't he beautiful? We decided not to swim in the creek at the park as it was still muddy and running wildly from the recent storms, but we did enjoy a cup of fresh coffee made from the beans that are grown locally. In fact, some of the plants in the shade along the walkways were coffee plants, and many other lovely tropical flowers. This spot is a must-see for anyone visiting Copan.

After a wild ride along muddy roads on the local form of intra-town transportation called a  "tuk-tuk", Jonesy pays the driver $1 per person. We hit the hotel for some downtime before dinner. The hotel roof is covered with a thatched "palapa" roof and has tables and chairs. We all would meet up there in the evenings to relax, consume adult beverages and enjoy the views and/or rainstorms.
Here's a picture of Jonesy on the rooftop. Notice the new shirt? We scored 3 shirts for about $1.25US TOTAL at an "American Clothing" shop a few days before we left for Honduras. Can't beat the price - probably somebody had a vacation in Hawaii and wouldn't wear the shirt in the mainland. So it got handed down to the Guatemalans - and us. It's a big business buying used clothing from the USA to sell here.

Dinner out with friends isn't just about the food - it's also about how that food gets to your table! At this little restaurant in Copan, some of it is carried on top of the waitress' heads! Not just full bottles of wine, but also little stoneware pots which have a hot coal inside to keep the refried beans hot for dipping! The grilled meats were so tasty here and of course, the company of friends made it even more special.
So, that was our lovely trip to Honduras and we are now back on the boat in Mario's Marina. We'll go back to Honduras again as there is so much more to do and see there. Next time we're planning to spend more time at Macaw Mountain including lunch in their cafe, walks along the nature trails, and chilling in the stream. We also would like to hang out at the hot springs near Copan and perhaps take a road trip out to other areas where there are interesting Mayan archaeological sites and coffee plantations.
What? No knitting content? No...I really don't have anything to share that is as cute as this little girl riding her mama's feet in a doorway in Copan. Life is good.

Comments:
What a joy to get to read and see your post. The Episcopal Church in Louisiana has a sister relationship with the Copan Deanery in Honduras. Nice to be able to see pictures!
 
Does it get any better?
 
I love reading at work and feel like I am traveling with you
 
I'm so glad you take the time to post your travels. Our school district collects school supplies at the end of the school year to be sent to Honduras. You'd be surprised how much stuff doesn't get used.
 
OH MY GOODNESS, how fun! Yes I am envious but I live on the wild side through you. What great pictures, no knitting needed (just don't make a habit of it!!!)
 
Terry, I have been reading your blog since day one and it just keeps getting better and better, much love to you and Jonesy!
 
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