CA 2: Copan, Honduras

I’m going to lead off again by saying how much I LOVE this town.  So quiet, so peaceful, so completely laid back.  I was telling D that I think this is the smallest place we’ve been to and he was hard pressed to disagree.  Copacabana in Bolivia may come close, but there was more of a hustle and bustle there.  Which is odd, since it was probably the place on the last trip with the LEAST hustle and bustle.  I guess the closest I could equate the town to is the main strip of Easter Island, though the population here is definitely bigger. 

Either way, the town itself defies comparison.  As does our B & B, which greeted us this morning with an amazing breakfast of fresh fruit, real (?) coffee and some awesome eggs and homemade bread.  This place is a keeper for sure.

Today was the day to see the ruins Copan Ruinas was named after, the archaeological site of Copan.  Nice little walk outside of town, Copan was a major Mayan power for about 750 years and was known as the “Paris of the Mayan World” due to its artistic innovations.  Sites like Chichen Itza or Tikal (up in a couple of days) had the bigger, more impressive pyramids but Copan had some amazing sculpture and hieroglyphics, so much so that people from as far as Mexico City would make their way there.  It definitely didn’t disappoint.

Before you even get to the ruins, you’re greeted by something just as beautiful.  Real, natural macaws!!!  Now, I know they aren’t exactly “wild” anymore by the fruit that has been left behind to keep them there for the tourists, but the Mayans at Copan did worship the macaw way back when, so the birds are native to the area, even if they need a little convincing to stick around.  It doesn’t change the fact that seeing dozens of these guys at once as you enter is simply beautiful.

Daina and I said no to a $35 guided tour and yes to a $1 map, which gave us a lot of freedom.  You walk out into the main plaza, where many of the stellae (some original, some replicas with the originals in the museum) dot the ground.  The detail on these things is amazing, looking almost like the Hindu and Buddhist sculptures we saw in Southeast Asia at time, but with their own distinctive flair.  There are plenty of nooks and crannies to discover including two tunnels.  Turns out that, when a building was really important but was taking up space for something else really important, Mayans would build over it but leave the former structure completely intact.  The tunnels let you have a look at some of these structures, though you have to double your ticket price.  You have your standard Mayan Ball Court in the ruins as well and you are allowed to climb on these ruins, though the Hondurans have put signs up in places where it might not be the best for you to go.  It’s not the chaos that is Angkor, but it’s not the “STAY THE F’ OFF!” that you get in overrun sites in Mexico.

That’s another thing to note about Copan.  It wasn’t empty, but even at the busiest time of the day, it never felt crowded.  The biggest group we saw was a group of about twelve people.  The guides are super respectful, nobody is trying to sell you anything inside the ruins.  It really is a relaxed archaeological experience.

Love this little guy!
 (who is actually a Jaguar-King-God)

Back to the sculptures.  Not only were these things beautiful, but there was a “neat” factor you don’t find everywhere.  Once sculpture of a woman in a pyramid had a giant incense holder that was in her hands built in.  A sculpture of the Jaguar King had a movable head.  There was an entire stairway of hieroglyphics and random skulls and heads that would surprise you out of nowhere.  Different from anything I’ve seen, even at some of the other Mayan sites I’ve been to.

Once we got done the ruins, we wandered a “nature trail” that didn’t seem to have a defined ending (we turned back once we reached what looked like somebody’s farm) and saw the Sculpture Museum, which was actually buried under one one of the temples and featured a full replica of a temple known as the Rosalila – the actual temple, as I noted before, is still intact under another temple.  All the art there was worthy of being in the ancient history section of any major museum and made for a nice cap on the experience.

We got done around midday, when the sun started to hit, walked back into town for a bit to eat (the Hondurans know how to make their tortillas, I’ll give them that) and now we’re back at the Casa for some relaxation.  There’s a few more things we want to hit around town, including a zipline tour of the canopy that Daina is really hyped for, and a cool viewpoint from the top of an old prison/fort and… well, who knows?  This place is so chill, I might be okay just laying back and relaxing a bit. 

Really, I think that’s the overall theme of this one.  There will be a couple go-go-go days in Guatemala but, more so than any vacation D and I have been on (save actual resorts), we’re taking it slow around all the beauty. 

He has “real people” vacation time, unlike my teacher vacation time, so he deserves it!

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