Bus adventures,Maya ruins and a leftover hurricane

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Oct 04, 2007

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Flag of Honduras  ,
Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Our first experience on a ¨luxury¨class bus (to Copan) was not exactly the epitome of customer service.  In La Ceiba, we went with some friends to the Hedman Alas bus terminal, home of first class buses which would take us to Copan, six hours away, in total comfort, for only $23. We weren´t really planning on taking such an expensive bus, but there were no other options at this terminal and we didn´t want to waste time looking around so we said what the heck. At around 7:30, we bought our tickets for the 10 AM bus and waited... and waited.... and waited.  Thankfully, Austin Powers in Goldmember was playing in the waiting room.
Finally it was time to get on the bus. We got in line for the security check, in which they look through your hand luggage and then for some unknown reason, snap a picture of you with a digital camera. It was very difficult to resist the temptation to make funny faces at the very serious security guy taking the pictures. When we finally did get on to the bus (we were almost the last ones), we made an alarming discovery. The bus company had screwed up and given a Swiss girl seat number 44, which didn´t technically exist on this bus. So they had told her to sit in seat 35, which happened to be one of our seats. There were no more seats left on the bus, and to make it worse, they had also screwed up the seat of one of our friends, so she didn´t have a place either. Three people and one free seat = problem. We waited around and tried to talk to them to see what could be done. They weren´t willing to let anyone sit on the floor, and they weren´t willing to make the girl move from our seat (she was also traveling with 3 friends). We tried telling them that the fact that they had screwed up her seat assignment was not really our problem, since we had two tickets for two seats which did exist, but they didn´t listen. Finally the manager comes to us and tells us he has a solution to the problem: ¨We will give you your money back, and
you will get off the bus.¨ Now this really pissed us off, and both Ido and I switched into argumentitive Israeli mode and explained to them that we had been some of the first people there and we weren´t about to get off the bus, and that they were being ridiculous. The bus company people went off to think some more, and then one
of the Swiss girls came up from the back row and suggested that since the seats were so huge anyway and we were all in the last row together, that we should all just squish together a little and sit down and then the bus could go. It was really the only solution, since none of us wanted to force someone else to get off the bus. And so we finally left La Ceiba, at around 11:30. At least the luxury bus had some perks - free snacks and drinks, and a place to plug in headphones to watch the movie so you could actually hear what was going on. By the way, the Sandra Bullock flick, Premonition, makes pretty much no sense but is quite entertaining.

After switching buses in San Pedro Sula we finally got to the charming little town of Copan Ruinas around 5:30 PM, only to discover that our umbrella had not made it onto the bus somehow, even though it had been securely strapped to  We met a nice couple from San Francisco, who we ended up going out to dinner and beers with at a Californian-owned place called the Red Frog. While we were there, it started to rain, and rain, and rain. We saw some amazing lighting bolts from our table upstairs. But eventually it was time to go back to the hotel, and no end to the rain in sight. We tried in vain to flag down a tuk-tuk (moto taxi). In the end we had no choice but to take off our flip flops and run in the rain all the way back to the hotel. The hot shower back in our room was definitely the best one of the entire trip so far....

The next day we headed off to Copan, the ancient Maya city famed for its well-preserved carvings and stellae. We decided to get a guide, since it was only $25 per group, regardless of the size of the group. In our group of 5 were two kind of crazy kiwis and an equally nutty Austrian. Together with our very enthusiastic and fast-talking guide, Juan, we were bound to have a good time. At the entrance to the park, there were around 15 scarlet macaws just hanging out on the fence. When we got there they were still sleepy so Ido managed to pet them a little bit. Apparently they are free to fly away whenever they want, but they get free food and a nice place to sleep, so they usually stay there.
In the site itself we had a great tour with explanations about the Maya people and the priest-rulers, who apparently were a bunch of pierced, tattooed, pot-belled stoners who spent most of their time in a trance high on peyote, mescal, and hot chocolate with chiles (an aphrodesiac). Somehow despite this state, they managed to work out a very accurate calendar, which predicted the end of the long count on December 21, 2012, implying some kind of catastrophe. In times of trouble, they would hold ball games in the ball court. In their game, the players could touch the ball with everything except hands and feet, and the object was to keep it off the ground and hit the macaw head markers on the sides of the court. The best player (or worst, depending on who you ask) had the honor of being sacrificed to the gods after the game. We saw the stone altar upon which his head would be placed, with a channel for the blood to run down and be collected to burn as an offering to the gods. Of course, not everyone was in the upper class. At its peak, Copan had a population of around 20-25,000, supported by slaves and farmers who worked the land around the city and built the temples and pyramids (without use of beasts of burden or the wheel). Overpopulation was the city´s downfall. At some point around 700 AD ( I think), the city was slowly abandoned. Agricultural lands had been overexploited and the city suffered from famine and disease.
The guide was very knowlegable, and pointed out to us the special features of Copan, including the hieroglyphic staircase, a series of steps made up of 3000 glyphs telling the entire story of the place and its 16 rulers, the only one of its kind found in the Maya world. Juan also told us that the Maya people originally came from Mongolia, and that they inherited the swastika symbol and the yin-yang from Asia . . . because you know, once all the continents had been together as one, like Atlantis. . . 
When we reached the gate on the way out of Copan, the macaws were a bit more active than they had been in the morning. We wanted to feed them something, and then realized that Phoenix had brought an apple for breakfast. She gave up the apple as a sacrifice to the macaws, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. At one point she was surrounded on all sides by huge, brightly colored birds with half-ton pressure beaks, all clamoring for another bite of apple, and even pulling gently on her clothes to get her attention. A little scary, but also really fun.
Our last stop in Copan was the museum, which has many of the original sculptures as well as a life size reconstruction of one of the grandest temples of the city, painted bright red, as the whole city had been back in the day. It was really impressive.
We didn´t really do much more in Copan. Ido had a bit of a cold so we took it easy for the rest of the day.
The next day, we headed off towards Guatemala.
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