Tues, Feb. 11th: Left Gracias and headed for Copan Ruinas,
our first encounter with the Maya world. The road out of Gracias was newly paved, and had
wonderful big sweeping curves, no traffic and beautiful mountain scenery. We basically had
this all the way, some 130 Kms to Copan. We arrived fairly early in the afternoon and had
the luxury of browsing around for a cheap hostel. We found one, with a nice courtyard,
very basic small room ($5) with only 2 twin beds, but very clean. As it happened, our
friend John was in town, just a few doors down at another hostel, together with his
brother and a friend who were visiting from Germany.
That afternoon, we spent swapping info on places to see and places were heading
while sipping refreshing Cuba Libres (rum and coke) in our garden.
Wed, Feb. 12th: Said goodbye early to John and his traveling mates as they
were headed for Guatemala. We wanted to visit the ruins early as it gets quite hot during
the day. The ruins are actually only a nice kilometer walk from our hostel, passing a few
interesting Maya ruins, called stelae, along the side of the road. At the entrance we
reviewed our various options of activities and the prices: $10US/pp entrance to the ruins,
$12US/pp for entrance to the newly opened tunnels dug under the ruins, and $5US/pp for
entrance to the new sculpture museum. We decided to skip the tunnels (outrageous price we
thought), and did the ruins and the museum. Everyone told us to do the museum first to get
an idea what it must have looked like in its heyday, or at least when the first
archeologists found it. We did and it was quite impressive indeed. Many of the highly
artistic carvings found at the site were moved here to protect them from further
deterioration from the elements. Replicas have been made by local artisans and placed at
the site. The most impressive item in the museum is the life-size replica of the Rosalila
temple, which was discovered under on the larger pyramids, completely intact and with the
original paint still in place.
Outside on the path to the ruins we were quickly approached by a few guides, Chris
negotiated with one female guide for $10 for 2 hours (down from the normal price of $20
which they normally get for a group). Her English was not so good but she did a good job
trying. Whey she got stuck she could usually get her point across to us in Spanish. As
compensation for her effort, we endeavored to ask all of our questions in Spanish.
The whole place is basically one big temple complex, the normal citizens lived a few
kilometers away in basic stone dwellings. The Mayas had great skill in astronomy,
agriculture and art, and art is especially what this site is known for. The art depicted
here is mostly representative of the former kings and their dynasties, and things that
exemplified what was important to them, like animals, nature, sea creatures, etc. They
made extensive use of stucco, a substance harder than concrete we were told, to cover
their buildings, pave the floors of the temples and their homes, and also to pave
important pathways too and from the temples themselves. They also used many different
colors, derived from plants and insects, to paint their important buildings. Most of the
site dates back over 2,000 years.
By early afternoon we were fairly tired from the heat, walking around the ruins, and
were quite hungry. So, we left to go back to town.
Thurs, Feb. 13th: As Copan is a lovely city in its own right, we decided to
stay an extra day and look around a bit. It is small but its colonial architecture is very
well restored and maintained. It is set in lush green hills with a pleasant climate. There
is a nice plaza with stone replica sculptures from the site and a simple but elegant
church. The rest of the town is dedicated to tourism with loads of restaurants, shops and
tour agencies. In the early afternoon, we took our entrance ticket from the ruins, to
another site down the road where there is another related site of the stone homes the Maya
people lived in and the elegant home of the scribes, with more detailed carvings.