Honduras – Copán Ruinas

Getting out of El Salvador was painless and on schedule, I was on my way to Copán Ruinas, a town in Honduras whose namesake is, as you might have guessed it, the Mayan ruins of Copán. Quickly, the bus filled up with other Hondurans and since it had no roof rack to put luggage on, I had to spend the three hours to La Entrada, the town where I was to switch buses, with both my backpacks on my lap.The second bus ride, same shit. By the end of it, my legs were starting to feel numb. Finally at the ruins, I checked in the most presentable hostel that I could find, dropped my things and had a well deserved beer before heading out to check the town. Copán Ruinas is actually one the prettiest village I’ve encountered in Honduras: it’s got a nice plaza, cobble stoned streets and pretty houses. After a meal, I hung around the main plaza for a while listening to … an open air evangelical mass. Having had enough of it, I came back and opened my computer for a bit of productive time, but the previous days had taken their toll and I was in bed before 22h00, a very rare occurrence in my case.

Copan Ruinas main square

Up early the next morning, I had breakfast while chatting with Kai, a Japanese traveler and before making my way to ruins, did a bit of studying for my tec course. The Copán ruins are a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the grandest cities (others being Tikal in Guatemala and Palenque in Mexico) the Mayan civilization has left us before vanishing mysteriously. The site is immense and extremely well taken care of thanks to a debt write off from the Spanish government towards Honduras. The way I understood it, Honduras owed a bunch of money to Spain, and the latter offered the Honduran government to cancel that debt if they would invest massively into making ruins the site that it deserves to be.

Ruins of Copan

For a good couple of hours, I visited every corner of this immense complex, marveling at the achievements of the civilization that built it. I had seen Mayan ruins before in El Salvador and Mexico, but nothing that came even close to that scale. Archaeologists have done a stellar job at clearing the place and rebuilding many structures stone by stone. It must have been a colossal ordeal, as the grounds had been abandoned for nearly a thousand years when they were rediscovered and must have been overgrown with thick dense forest.

Copan Ruinas streetI was back quite early at the hostel, had another chat with my Japanese acquaintance and worked for the remainder of the night. Up early again after a restful night, I spent the morning studying and got out for my afternoon visit back to the ruins, but this time to a different site: Las Sepulturas, a residential complex where the Copán nobility used to live and not too far from the main complex. Beforehand tough, I completed my postcard duty, had an awesome (but cheap!) meal at a comedor and toured around Copán town before walking to Las Sepulturas. This archeological site was far smaller than Copán, but to my surprise, it was entirely devoid of visitors and people save for a gardener and two soldiers. I toured it for a good hour and then decided to make the way back a bit more interesting.

 

Panorama of Last Sepulturas, click for a larger version

Panorama of Last Sepulturas, click for a larger version

I had obviously reached the site using a paved road, but I knew and had seen that both archaeological complexes where actually by the river (logical) from which the valley, the town and the main ruins got their name. It also seemed that their was a dirt path that followed the river. Easy I thought, so I jumped the fence, and started following the trail. Soon, it dead-ended into the river but not to be let down by this small obstacle, I crossed a barbed wire fence and started making my way through a corn field, hoping that the trail would resume soon. It didn’t, so for a good two hours, I was walking amid crops, forest, high herbs and passing one barbed wire fence after another, trying not to get spotted in the process, because I was clearly trespassing. Eventually, I emerged back into Copán town, thankfully not too scratched from that little hike. I was hoping for a bit of ambiance that night in the hostel, but was let down big time. Oh well, I’ll save my energy for Utila, my next destination and a place that is sure to provide more partying than anyone can handle.

First tough, I had to meet my cousin Philippe in San Pedro Sula. He was arriving late from Canada so the plan was to spend the night there and make our way next morning to La Ceiba, where we would meet another cousin, Simon, and from there take the ferry to Utila for a week or hardcore diving and a reasonable amount of partying … yeah right.

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