More ruins and wildlife at Copan

Trip Start Sep 28, 2007
Trip End Jun 25, 2008

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Flag of Honduras  ,
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Copan Ruinas

We left Antigua and tried to leave Guatemala, but the traffic had other ideas. There was a nasty accident involving a car and truck,and while that would obviously cause delays, the serious delays happened from people driving into the other lane to try and  sneak ahead, and then no one could move. Such stupid behaviour.

I'd noted this behaviour first on the chicken bus a few days before. As soon as our line of traffic  stopped for roadworks, the bus driver swung straight into the oncoming lane and kept driving without a moment's hesitation.

Traffic jams clearly happen all the time.  When our lane finally got  going again we passed a number of freight trucks and the drivers had hung hammocks underneath  between the front and back groups of tires, and looked quite content, munching nuts that the opportunistic  young women were selling.

We soon got to Honduras, and the city by the Mayan ruins, Copan Ruinas.

When we arrived at the site, the wildlife in the first 100 metres made me doubt the 'crumblies' as one lady on our group calls ruins, would get a look in.

Before we even got to the gate we were fascinated by the young ceiba tree thats trunk was covered in spiky thorns like a rosebush. (I'm not sure if it is a special variety of the tree, but we've not seen thorns on older trees.)

We had an amazing welcoming party of macaws at the entrance gate. They must be the largest parrots on Earth with huge long red wings and tail feathers with yellow and  blue patches of feathers also. They look beautiful when they fly and make one hell of a racket.  Keeping them as pets would give you plenty of opportunities to become friends with the noise control officer no doubt.

A few steps more and we spotted strange brown mammals that we'd never seen before. We think they were agoutis. They have no tail, large round bottoms and thin legs. They scamper about and have a little red colouring by their tiny ears. We saw one sitting up and eating a nut like a squirrel might, and then we saw a tiny squirrel scamper up a tree just beside. There were also bright yellow birds and woodpeckers and smaller parrots flying around.

It's no wonder that the animals live there, because Copan is a beautiful site. It's like wandering through a park and there were so few tourists, it was peaceful.

The point of difference about Copan is the large number of deeply carved stone sculptures.

Artistically impressive, they also have lasted much better than thinly carved figures at other sites  as it takes much more erosion to wipe out the imagery.

The first area has large stelae (slabs of stone sticking out of the ground). They were of each of the main kings and each one was very different, with different animals carved in front, to form offering platforms.  My favourite was a turtle.

Next was the ball court,which looks much more playable than at other sites with three disc targets on each side rather than a tiny hoop on each side at the centre.

Next to that is the massive stairway where each stone has been carved to tell the history of Copan. It's very impressive.

Wandering around the Acropolis and east plaza, we were impressed to see such a variety of sculptured faces. Some were rounded like a fat Buddha and some that looked more like monkeys. We wondered if the artists of Copan had a lot more scope to express themselves artistically rather than conforming to an aesthetic ideal, or if the variation was more discernible because the deeper carvings have survived the years better.

The other amazing thing  was the size of the trees with huge buttress roots on top of the structures. They give an idea of how overgrown the site was when they started digging.

Soon it was closing time and after more ogling the macaws, who were nosily grooming each other at the gate, we left.

We went into the main square at Copan Ruinas to get some supplies and here is an example of how lovely and laid back Hondurans are:  the sunset was just fading but I stopped on the opposite side of the road to the square to get a photo with the pink sky behind. A jeep came along filled with young people, and rather than drive in front of the view and spoil my shot, the guy stopped and waited for me to finish. I was overwhelmed at the kindness of his gesture. Can you imagine young guys in  New Zealand doing the same?

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