Wednesday, December 17, 2008


After a week relaxing and learning to dive, it was time to continue north. I decided to skip Tikal as it was too far out of the way and I didn’t have the time. Copán, however, was another Mayan ruins that was on the way to Antigua, Guatemala, so I headed there. As luck would have it, Brandon Olson was headed the same direction, so we planned on going together.

We met near the dock at around 5:45 AM, as the ferry leaves Útila each morning at 6:20. At least it’s supposed to leave every morning. The past few days, it hadn’t, due to strong winds. This morning, we were in luck. I also met a great guy that had been hanging out with Brandon for the week—Matt, a Marine who was on leave. We got to know each other a bit while we waited for the ferry to arrive and during the one-hour trip back to the mainland.

After the quick jaunt across the pond, Matt went his way, and Brandon and I made our way to the bus station where we had some time to kill before departure. The bus station was surrounded by a market, so we strolled around a bit, looking for a good place to have breakfast. We finally found what looked like a good place for an inexpensive, home-cooked meal. It was run by a single woman and she prepared our meal in front of us as we sat on bar stools at the counter. Eggs, meat, potatoes, and juice hit the spot.

Back by the bus, we waited a few more minutes before boarding. I picked up a couple Bachata CDs for just a couple bucks from one of the many nearby vendors. Part way through the several-hour trip to Copán, the bus pulled over for lunch. It was a pretty amazing rest stop. It was a huge building with a sloped roof on all sides and was open air. There were sofas, restrooms, and a restaurant inside. Outside was a nice swimming pool. It was one of the more interesting rest stops of my trip.

We arrived in Copán Ruinas, the small town near the ruins, in the evening. We found an inexpensive but decent hostel, dropped our stuff, and then headed out to get some dinner. I don’t think this little town is a party town, but no matter—we were tired. We went back to our room, did some reading, then hit the hay.

We got up at a decent time, around 7:30, got some breakfast, and then set out. You can catch a little auto-rickshaw-type taxi, but we elected to walk to the ruins. They’re only about a half-hour away on foot and the weather looked good. We took our time and shot a few photos of some old stone carvings along the way. During the first few shots, Brandon realized he had left his spare camera battery back in our room, so after we got to the ruins, he hopped a taxi back to the room to retrieve it. The taxi was only a few bucks and he was back before I knew it. I spent those few minutes looking at a large model of the ruins and looking at some maps in the visitor’s center.

We bought our tickets and headed in. Copán is the southeastern-most ruins of the Mayan civilization. The Mayan territory stretched all the way up to the top of the Yucatán peninsula and over to the Pacific Ocean. Copán is along the northern border of Honduras. These ruins were inhabited between the 5th and 9th centuries by some 20,000 Mayans.

As I’ve stated elsewhere in my blog, each ruins I’ve seen on my trip are different than the rest. It’s fun to see how the people in a particular region used whatever tools, resources, and landscape they had at the time to build their own, unique world. Copán has its own mysterious vibe, being somewhat hidden in the jungle and having myriad statues. These ruins also had a place where the people played a sport, called Mesoamerican ballgame these days, certainly for lack of knowing the name originally used. As human sacrifice was common in the old days, I wouldn’t want to lose a game of Mesoamerican ball. Talk about pressure to win!

A few interesting tidbits about the Mayans? Their writing system used glyphs (think hieroglyphics) and had more than a thousand different symbols. They used base 20 and base 5 numbers. They had a surprising knowledge of astronomical objects. They practiced human sacrifice.

After visiting the main Copán ruins, take a taxi just a few minutes farther down the street to Las Sepulturas. This is another site with more ruins, albeit smaller than the main Copán site. As long as you’re in the neighborhood, go see it. Brandon and I elected to pay a guy at the gate a few bucks to be our guide. He knew quite a bit about the ruins and gave us some good info while leading us through the site. There is a river near this site and in 1998 when hurricane Mitch struck, the flooding was such that this smaller site was revealed for the first time. At least that’s the story according to our guide.

During my trip, I had hardly any encounters with bugs. At Copán, I got assaulted. Also, while visiting the smaller ruins, it started raining. So, while not a perfect day—hot, rainy, muggy, and buggy—the ruins were a pleasure to visit and I couldn’t have had a better travel partner than Brandon. We really enjoyed ourselves.

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