Copan Ruins and cobbled streets

Trip Start Nov 15, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
En La Manzana Verde

Flag of Honduras  , Copán,
Saturday, July 31, 2010

I decided to get out of San Pedro Sula and get to the ruins, and what a good choice - the town of Copan Ruinas is beautiful. It reminds me of Cusco but on a much smaller scaler.
But first, another eventful bus journey - 4 hours instead of the anticipated 3 hours, and on a humid, local bus!  The driver was a complete lunatic, so much so, on one bend we lost the wheel hub caps from 2 wheels.  The drivers assistant ran across the highway to collect them and pop them in the baggage hold!  Bus journeys are taking their toll on me now - 16 hours from Managua, Nicaragua to San Pedro Sula, Honduras; 4 hours San Pedro Sula to Copan Ruinas and tomorrow after visiting the Mayan ruins, it's another 7 hours from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba.  I'm on a bus practically everyday - it's exhausting!  BUT, I have the beautiful Bay Islands, off the northern Caribbean coast of Honduras to look forward to in a couple of days and more diving - yay!!!

Copan Ruinas - the town:

The town of Copan Ruinas is a quaint, cobble street town with lush green mountains in the background (very similar to Cusco but on a much smaller scale).  There isn't really anything to see here (it's a stop off point to visit the Copan ruins 1.5km away) but I had a pleasant afternoon walking with Christine from the States and Ivan from Chile (who I'd met on the bus) around the plaza; the small cobbled streets; to a local Mayan sculpture artists house where he showed us his work and even let us take photo's from his rooftop terrace; and up to the old jail house for sunset and more views of the town.
It's great not to be in a big city again!

The Mayan Ruins in Copan:

Little is known of the rulers of Copán before the founding of a new
dynasty with its origins at Tikal (which I will also visit in Guatemala) in the early 5th century AD, although the city's origins can be traced back to the Preclassic period.  After this, Copán became one of the more powerful Maya city states and was a regional power in the southern Maya region, although it suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of its former vassal state Quirigua in 738, when the long-ruling king Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil was captured and beheaded by Quirigua's ruler K'ak' Tiliw Chan Yopaat (Cauac Sky).  Although this was a major setback, Copán's rulers began to build monumental structures again within a few decades.
The area of Copán continued to be occupied after the last major ceremonial structures and royal monuments were erected, but the population declined in the 8th and 9th centuries from perhaps over 20,000 in the city to less than 5,000. The ceremonial center was long abandoned and the surrounding valley home to only a few farming hamlets at the time of the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.

A fairly early morning start, as I only have 1/2 a day to visit the ruins because my bus leaves at 2:30pm for La Ceiba.  We walked around the ruins for 2.5 hours.  Set in green, woodland surroundings, the ruins are fairly well preserved but not that well signposted, hence the $25 fee for a tour guide.  But together with Ivan, Christine and Rica, our new addition to the group from Finland, we wandered around the site by ourselves, armed with our Lonely Planet guidebooks,  There's not much information on the culture and religious ceremonies of the Mayans in the guidebook, but at least there is a a map of the site and descriptions of places so we could work out where we were.  We tagged onto a larger group who had a tour guide for some parts.  The main paces of interest include:
a) the Acropolis - hieroglyphs, altars and temple inscriptions
b) the Royal Residence and the residential courtyards
c) the Ball Court - the largest in Central America.  It is not knows how the game was played but probably, a rubber ball was used and had to be kept i  the air without using their hands
d) the Hieroglyphic Stairway - 63 steps bearing history in several thousand glyphs, which are
   now jumbles, as archaeologists weren't sure how to put the fallen stones back
e) the Great Plaza & the huge intricately carved Stelae portraying the rules of Copan (AD613 - 738) such as "Smoke Imix" and "18 Rabbit".

Back to town:

We then found the local market and ate a gorgeous lunch of stewed beef, potatoes, potato salad and green salad for just 40 lempira ($2.16).  At our lunch table was a small boy also eating his lunch.  A smart, confident little guy, he introduced himself straight away, said he was 14 years of age (he looked younger), lived alone with his friends (an 18 yr old and a 20 yr old), and his parents lived 7km away.  Quite the little business man, he then described his jewellery business and when he finished his meal, he set off to grab his work and managed to make 2 sales out of the girls.  An impressive little fella!  When asked if he wanted to be a footballer as he loved playing football his response was "Nah, there's not enough money in it" - cute!
As usual, there was too much food for me so I started feeding my left over tortillas to an absolutely starving dog and soon enough I had a little kids around the table waiting to be fed too, which I was only too happy to do (sad but true).

The bus journey to La Ceiba was a total of 7 hours., including 20 minute transfer time in San Pedro Sula.  I met an American - Kevin on the bus as he was actually in my seat and we talked on the bus.  He was a novice backpacker, meeting friends in La Ceiba, only the bus was late and he didn't want to disturb them, so he tagged onto my and came to the hostel Banana Republic for the first night in La Ceiba.

La Ceiba:

A day is enough time in La Ceiba, if that.  Kevin and I walked around the mall, around the town and the beach front.  The poor guy had to endure my bikini shopping the whole day!  We had dinner with his friends who he was supposed to have met and stayed with last night and then went back to their beautiful apartment for drinks and cigars (for the boys) on the rooftop terrace.  Very pleasant indeed.
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