The ruins of Copán (Honduras)
It takes about seven hours to drive from Antigua to Copán in Honduras. Most of the road is a narrow highway with a passing lane in some areas, but it would have been useful the whole way as the road winds it way East-Northeast of Guatemala City in mountainous terrain. The ride is not for the faint of heart.
At this time of year, the dry season, which they call summer here, (Winter is during the rainy season from May to October.) the trees are mostly bare except in low lying areas.
We left at 4 am, and I sat in front with the driver of the van. The sunrise was spectacular; there were often clouds below us over the valleys.
Copán is a small, border town which is frequented for its beautiful Mayan ruins which are considered to be the oldest. Copán lasted through the reign of sixteen kings. It is also considered to be the most beautiful of all the ruins found in Mayan territory which includes the south of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and parts of El Salvador.
After checking in at a nice little hotel, I was picked up by the guide who took me by tuktuk to the ruins. We spent the afternoon walking around the many courtyards, and pyramids, and the ball court. The guide was knowledgeable as he had worked his whole life at the ruins, first with archeologists digging and tunneling their way into the past and then re-constructing much of it as the stalae, the pyramids, the carvings and most of the artifacts were either overgrown with trees, or broken and strewn about by the forces of nature and man.
The other nice aspect of the Copán ruins is the setting. It is like a park and in places like the jungle. The whole site is well looked after. Many Scarlet Macaw which have been bred in order to save them from extinction now live in freedom. They do not wander too far as feeding stations and nests are provided for them. There are also other forms of wildlife. I happened to see a snake and a pair of Central American Agouti which are large rodents. They are related to the guinea pig and are quiet and quite shy.
At the hotel, I asked the young woman at the desk how late a woman alone can walk on the streets of the town. She answered that any woman can walk on any street as late as she pleases. This was a surprise to me as I had heard that Honduras is a lawless place… but not in Copán, apparently.
At any rate, I went to bed soon after dinner since I was up since 3 am.
The next morning, I walked back to the ruins, about one kilometre, to visit the museum. It houses most of the original statues and carvings to protect them from the sun and rain. On the actual site, they have installed reproductions. The beauty and complexity of the works are mind-boggling.
Before leaving Guatemala, I hope to visit Tikal the biggest of all the Mayan ruins. It is said that if Tikal could be compared to New York, Copán would be Paris.