The Mayan Ruins of Copan

Trip Start Feb 01, 2012
Trip End Feb 21, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel La Posada
What I did
Copan National Park
Macaw Mountain bird park

Flag of Honduras  ,
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We had to rush a bit this morning since we had to find a breakfast place and be back by 8:30 for the excursion to the Copan ruins.  We wandered around before finding a quick nice place on the corner opposite the square.  Clare had a continental breakfast and David and I had tipicos with egg, beans, tortilla & plantains.  It was good - so was the coffee.

We walked to the ruins - it was a decent walk and the scenery had its points of interest.  We passed a bird, horse, and some cattle with two calves.  There were also some stelae with carvings along the road.  When we got to the site, we were assigned a guide and his name was Marvin.  His English was quite good but he used the word "mature" in a way that I couldn't quite figure out.  He also used a familiar American expression that I can't remember now and it bothers me.  We walked to the ruins along a path where he pointed out various trees - the mahogany, a variety of ceipa that was sacred to the Mayas and we call a kapok tree.  He also pointed out a tree with peeling bark that was called something like naked skin (Gumbo-limbo) and was used to treat skin diseases.  There must have been others but now I can't remember them.  Ah, yes, some sort of cedar tree was also quite prevalent.  I was quite interested because we haven't gotten much in the way of botanical information except for the trees that Lou knows such as the Pink Showers tree that we saw yesterday and the buttercup tree and the flamboyant.  Marvin also mentioned that a lot of plants and animals of Central America are not native.  Oh, he also pointed out the jicaro* tree that has gourds from which maracas are made.  (*Crescentia alata (variously called Mexican Calabash, Jicaro, Morrito, Winged Calabash [1]) is a species in the trumpet-flower family Bignoniaceae, native to southern Mexico and Central America south to Costa Rica.  from Wikipedia)

We climbed up over an unexcavated mound into the West Court and looked at the reconstructed pyramids and the various stelae situated around the court.  The carvings were quite visible although the colors were pretty much gone.  They have started to move the carvings and stelae into the museum and replace them with concrete replicas in order to stave off further erosion.  From the West Court we went up and over to get to where we saw the famous Hieroglyphic Stairs.  This is the longest written carving in all of the Americas I believe.  From there we went to the ball court where Marvin explained how the captain of the winning team was sacrificed and became a god.  The teams played in response to some catastrophe or need in order to please the gods so it was not really sport.  They had a rubber ball that weighed over 3 kilos and they could not touch it with their hands, feet, or head so they bounced it off their chests, shoulders, thighs, etc. 

Then we walked into another area that had a number of carvings in the middle of an area where the Mayans sat on stone benches and watched the proceedings - the Ceremonial Court.  Our guide did mention several of the 16 Copan kings and the last was named Rising Sun.  Marvin said he was more like the setting sun since he was the last one.  The most famous was 18 Rabbits.  He pointed out at least one of the doorways to the tunnels, but I thought that he said the tunnels were only used by the excavators and not the Mayans.

After the formal tour was over, I followed David and Clare to the Museum where I was finally able to see Cama Zotz, the bat god.  Apparently he doesn't get a lot of attention since he is a god of the underworld and associated with death.  He is not that cute but I was certainly excited to see the rather large representation in the middle of a wall exhibit.  They also have a huge model of the special altar - the Rosalilia - with paint - it is reddish pink with white, green and yellow.  There were more carvings here and some of the faces were quite natural looking.  There was the sculpture of the old woman's head and I don't know how I could have missed it.

We checked out the gift shop.  Unfortunately for me, there were no bat t-shirts.  No bat anything.  I tried asking for bats in Spanish - murcielagos.  We walked back to the town.  It was not a bad walk except for the last part up the cobbled hill.  Then we went out for lunch at the place where we had drinks last night.  We ordered pollo churrasco and got some really good chicken.  I had another samida - which is watermelon juice - very good.  We had to rush, I went to get some postcard stamps at the post office and then ducked into a souvenir shop for a few minutes, went back to the hotel, and saw Clare.  She was wondering what had happened to me.

After reorganizing, we were off to Macaw Mountain - the bird park - on the tuk-tuks (three-wheeled taxis).  It was a wild ride up cobbled hills, barely missing other vehicles and people, but we made it.  The park is lovely with paths along a river and heavily planted with labelled shrubs and trees.  In the beginning most of the birds were in cages - these were some breeding macaws and some parrots, some owls.  Our guide spoke about placing some of the birds back in the wild.  However, they cannot put ones that have been raised in captivity back - I need to check this because I thought once the chicks grew up, they were put into nature reserves - maybe that is not considered as wild.  After awhile we went to an area where the birds were allowed outside their cages.  This was much nicer because we could see them closer and take photos without the cage wires.  (Everything revolves around photos.)  We took turns having the birds on our shoulders and head.  I was near the last because I hadn't planned on doing it, but everyone shouted that I had to do it.  It was fine - the birds are so beautiful.  The one on my head seemed to be pecking at my hair.  Someone said he had an earring in his mouth but it was only shiny paper.  He did dig into my arm a little.  Actually I didn't have any on my shoulders - which is just as well since poor Clare's blouse had several holes ripped into it.  Lou had warned us not to wear anything we valued.  My skin isn't so valuable after all.

We then went to the coffee shop and some of us had coffee.  Or cappuccinos.  I went to the souvenir shop to buy some coffee and a feather painting.  We rode back on our tuk-tuk.  I think the ride was even wilder - they raced with one another.  We ended up nearly last because we had to wait for first one truck and then another backing out into the street and obstructing us.  Before that, we just whizzed by and around all sorts of obstacles - I can still see the little boy hopping across the street to get out of the way.

We went for a short shopping trip to get needed souvenirs.  Clare and David were looking for masks they had seen previously.  I was looking for a bat t-shirt.  David found me two - one, the Copan bat on orange (however, it is a size small), and the other, a drawing of a real bat on black.  He also found me a Copan bat on a postcard.  I was happy - mission accomplished.  Now I have to find more nice souvenirs for my family.  I expect to do that in Guatemala - either at the Chichicastenango market or in Antigua. 

A short rest and regroup at the hotel and we went out for dinner.  This is me as a third wheel with Clare and David on Valentine's Day.  The first choice - where Lou was going to eat - was filled with tables - all with reserved signs and balloons with pink and white ribbons.  The second restaurant - Twisted Tanya's - also proved to be full.  We decided to go back to yesterday's restaurant and found Naomi, Jane and Kerry there.  And room for us as well!

We ate well and drank well and were full.  We used up our Honduran money and I had to go into dollars and try to figure out how much extra I needed to pay in dollars.  I wasn't certain it was right but the waitress never came back for more money.  We waited a bit and then left and they closed the door behind us because they were closing.  Lou had warned us that these towns do not stay open late.  Copan is the most touristy of the Honduran places though because it has the ruins.  Lou joked that the ruins are called simply Copan and the town is named Copan Ruinas.  Kerry was willing to stay out a bit longer but both Clare and I were ready to crash.  I still had to finish packing up, writing up today's events in this blog, and writing out my postcards since now I had the stamps to mail them.  Well, packing is mostly done - as done as it can be tonight - and now the blogging is done.

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