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A Weekend in Honduras

Written by Jared on March 11, 2012

A scarlet macaw in Copan.Start: February 24, Antigua, Guatemala
Finish: February 26, Copán, Honduras
Scarlet Macaws Seen: A couple dozen
Fancy Mayan Sculptures Seen: More than I can count
Hours Spent Toiling in the Sun: 17

Being able to do the unexpected is one of the things I enjoy most about traveling. For example, we met a tour guide at our campsite in Tikal several weeks ago who recommended we visit Copán, in Honduras. He made the analogy that if Tikal was the New York of the Mayan civilization, Copán was the Paris.

We'd never planned to see much of Honduras. Of all the countries in Central America it appeals the least to us in terms of safety, activities and infrastructure. But after a few beers with José and bit of enthusiastic persuasion, we quickly decided to add it to our list of weekend excursions while we're studying Spanish in Antigua.

A view of the streets of Copan.

Copán Ruinas (Copan Ruins) is the official name of our destination, roughly 15 minutes over the Guatemala/Honduras border, directly east of Guatemala City. For the first time this trip we opted to take a bus rather than deal with the hassle of driving and finding accommodation with secure parking.

Our hotel in Copan.

It took roughly eight hours to get to Copán. It should have been five or six, but the bus was an hour late and traffic through Guatemala City was horrible. Rush hour seems to be between noon and two o' clock here.

We arrived in the dark, and our first choice of hotels was booked up. Luckily we met a helpful guy on the street who was recruiting tourists for his mother's guesthouse down the street (pictured above). Our improved Spanish skills paid off a lot, after three weeks of school everything is becoming much easier.

The central square in Copan.

After a night's sleep, we're up and moving early to beat the heat. The actual ruins are a 20 minute walk through the town of Copán Ruinas (if that's not confusing) and past the central square (pictured above). But first, we ask the Honduran lady who runs our small hotel to cook us up a delicious breakfast. We are surprised with a huge $3 plate of eggs, pancakes, ham, refried beans and coffee...our mad Spanish skills pay off again!

The path to Copan ruins.

It's about a mile walk along the main road on this path leading to the ruins. We're the only people who seem to be hoofing it, and we see our fair share of tour buses heading in, this does not bode well.

A scale model of the ruins of Copan.

At the visitors center outside the park entrance we find a scale model of the ruins. Not as huge as Tikal, but we knew that. The main attraction of Copán are the well-preserved carvings.

Scarlet macaws just inside the entrance of the ruins of Copan.

Just inside the entrance to the ruins are several macaw coops, with 20 or 30 of the brightly colored birds flapping around constantly. I wouldn't exactly call these guys "wild" although they are free to leave, they were bread and raised in captivity in an effort to reintroduce macaws to the Honduran wilderness.

Our first sight of the ruins of Copan.

Copán is located on the very southeastern edge of what was the Mayan civilization. It was settled for more than 2000 years, with its peak between the 4th and 8th centuries. The massive amount of inscriptions and carved stelas found in the site have told researches more about Copán's past rulers than most other sites we've visited.

The ball court in the ruins of Copan.

The remains of the Mesoamerican ball court, rebuilt several times throughout the centuries. This is the second largest ball court ever discovered.

Inscriptions on the steps of the main pyramid of Copan.

The Heiroglyphic Staircase consists of 2200 stones, each containing a glyph, and forms the longest known Mayan text. All but the bottom six steps collapsed and were rebuilt several decades ago. Unfortunately, at the time Mayan glyphs were still indecipherable, and the bricks were reassembled out of order, thus the message is scrambled. Efforts to translate and reorder the bricks continue to this day.

Steps leading up to the top of the ruins.

Unlike Tikal and the other Mayan ruins we visited in southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, Copán lacks a dominating pyramid. Above, we climb the stairs to Temple 16 along the ruined remains of the eastern edge of the acropolis. Thankfully it's a cloudy day (for the most part) and the heat and humidity aren't a big problem.

A small grove of trees in the sun.

The sun does occasionally break through. As we stop to take a break after descending Temple 16, we're greeted with this view, and 50 or so Honduran school children on a field trip.

A stela at the ruins of Copan.

The intricately carved stelas are what set Copán apart. Each tells the story of a ruler or important event that befell the city.

A stela at the ruins of Copan.

The stelas stand roughly 10 feet tall and are carved on all surfaces. They were originally painted, you can see a bit of the red pigments remaining in the two pictures above.

Ok, enough of ruins! Back to our home in San Miguel Escobar and the Global Visionaries office.

The start of the path we built at the GV office.

Our project, which started before we left for Copán and finished shortly after, was to build a concrete walkway between the office building and the newly-roofed patio and storage area. GV entertains several large groups of students every year, and as you can see, it's taken a toll on the grass.

The hole is dug and the forms in place so we can begin pouring concrete into the path.

For two days we dug the 3' x 20' x 6" deep hole. The last day before our trip to Honduras we setup the wooden form and filled in a couple inches of gravel. It was a lot of work, needless to say we all slept well those nights.

Whitney mans the hose while the rest of us mix concrete by hand.

Fast forward through the weekend, and help has arrived! Our friends Whitney (aka The Hose Beast) and Amanda flew down from Seattle to spend a couple weeks with us in Guatemala. We were nice enough to wait for them to arrive until we started mixing and pouring the concrete.

I dump one of many loads of concrete into the form.

Mix. Dump. Smooth. It went something like that for four hours. It's been at least 15 years since I've done anything with concrete, and that time I had a power mixer. My blisters are still healing, and I wasn't even the worst off.

Jessica and I smooth out the concrete.

We sort of made it up as we went along, it was a team effort. Everyone making sure the others didn't do anything stupid.

Jessica applies the finishing touches - a US and Guatemalan coin.

Finished right on time at 6 o' clock, Jessica applies the finishing touches: a U.S. dollar coin and a Guatemalan Quetzal coin.

The path is complete!

After the weekend we return to check on our work and remove the wooden molds. It seems like everything turned out alright, I guess time will tell!

Up Next: We finally get to spend a weekend in Antigua! Also, coffee tasting.


#2 Juergen 2013-01-02 23:51
We actually enjoyed our travels in Honduras very much (apart from the rainy season and muddy roads)! It's one country I would want to go back to providing security isn't sliding any further downhill.
#1 James 2012-04-08 20:44
Damn! Those carvings are epic. Nice work on the concrete. You guys are heading out from Antigua soon I believe? Were heading to GuatCity on Wednesday, might stop in Antigua for lunch or something if you guys are still around.


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