02.03.2011 - 05.03.2011 30 °C
Rising early, we were the only ones in a small shuttle bus, headed for Honduras. The five hour journey took us across the El Saladorian boarder back into Guatemala, only to cross the ten minutes back into Honduras, arriving into Copan in time to enjoy a full day. Andrew and I had packed three peanut-butter sandwiches and offering the driver one we were surprised by his delight in his first tasting of mantequilla de mani (peanut-butter). We are constantly reminded of how lucky we are to have all we do, especially when seeing the joy in such small and, for us, ordinary things.
We were dropped off at the Via Via Hostal and took a room for the night. We walked around the small town, with narrow one-way streets criss-crossing with old cobblestone. Tuk-tuk taxi's zip through the hill-top town, offering to take you to the numerous highlights of the region. Little bars, shops and hotels cluster in the little town. With no building over two-stories, bright colours of chipping paint and windows full of flower-boxes, Copan is a cute and sleepy place to stay while taking in the local sites. During the mid-day the town is quiet with few people wandering the streets, choosing to stay indoors to avoid the hot sun, but in the evenings people venture out and street vendors start selling barbecued meats and fresh fruits.
Having arrived to town early, we decided to make the most of our day and signed up for a horseback ride. The traditional indigenous Mayan people reside in hilltop villages near Copan. With only a short horseback ride into the hills, you can tour the small village of La Pintada. where corn-husk dolls are made and sold and young children play amongst the adobe brick housing. We mounted our two horses, and while they were beautiful and strong, both Andrew and I felt guilty riding the slightly skinny animals and vowed to not do this again; however, we continued the journey with our guide and learned that we were his first business in the past two weeks and that today was a good day for him. Crossing over the small Copan river, we learned that over the wet-season the area floods with water. Rich farm lands are located on either side of the river and all types of fruits and vegetables are harvested here, from tomatoes, corn and beans, to oranges and coffee -found higher in the hills. We arrived to the village of La Pintada to be surrounded by children, all thrusting the corn husk dolls in our faces, shouting over each other for you to please buy. With a few lempiras (the local currency 1US=18Lmps), we handed them our change, a few candies, and walked around their village. We saw men piecing together an adobe house, proud to tell us how strong it was, tough enough to last through the rainy seasons. The children followed, just as curious about us as we were about their way of life and soon two brave little ones approached our guide to ask if we'd like to hear them sing a song in their native tongue -Chorti. The Mayan dialect is nothing like Spanish and impossible for us to understand, but their proud voices rang in unison as they sang chorus after chorus.
The Maya-Chorti Indigenous people have been struggling for land rights in the area for many years, attempting to reclaim their ancestral lands. There has been both historic and recent turmoil between the people as the Chorti were turned away from their land claims and used as farm hands for years on prospering Honduras fincas (farms).
After spending some time in the village, we headed back towards the town of Copan on our horses, laughing at my silly and strong-willed horse that insisted on being the leader at all times and would not allow Andrew's horse to pass, under any circumstance.
Copan lies only 1km North West of the only Mayan site in Honduras -the Copan Ruins. We moved hotels the following morning after a loud and restless night at the hostel, and then hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the ruins ($1). The entereance to the ruins is a "pricey," $15 per person, but the World Heritage Site is a must-see when in Copan. The site lacks the grandeur of Tikal's towering pyramids and wide scale, but the Copan Ruins boast incredibly intact carvings and some of the world's best preserved stelae -intricately carved stone sculptures similar to a short totem pole, depicting past leaders in the Mayan civilization. We toured the area, marveling at how detailed the carvings were and how such a feat was possible so long ago. With the Mayan people inhabiting the site from approximately 1400BC through to 100AD, it is remarkable that these carvings are still so intact today. On the way out of the site we found nearly a dozen Macaw's flying between the trees. The park sets out food for these beautiful birds and so they sleep and stay in the immediate vicinity, but with unclipped wings they fly freely and show off their stunning primary-coloured wings. While eating we could walk right up to the birds, obviously comfortable with the tourists that visit the site.
On our third full day in Copan, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the hot springs. We were told repeatedly by travelers and locals alike that these were something not to be missed, but the hour long trip and high tour pricetag was a deterent. We found out that entereance was actually inexpensive, but that the ride out could range as high as $55US. After haggling with our driver, we settled on something we deamed resonable. A 24km drive north of Copan will bring you to the quiet jungle Aguas Termales making a relaxing day trip to the natural spa. The volcanic hot water comes from a water fall into lower pools, as hot as 85 degrees celsius. Small pools have been built from rocks, but done very tastefully and organically, allowing the hot water to mix with the cool river water that runs further down the hillside. With water cascading over falls that can massage the neck and shoulders, steam rising as if from a steam room and clay for natural mud masks, the visit to these hot springs was like a visit to the spa, We lazied away a few hours enjoying the tranquil quiet, with next to no one there.
After our three days in Copan, we bought tickets for our journey north to the Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea. We had to rise early, once again, to catch an 8 hour ride to the coast. From mainland La Ceiba's bus depot we caught a taxi to the ferries and waited an hour for the boat that leaves twice daily for the islands. We will return to La Ceiba on our way back to do some other sightseeing but were tired and ready for some diving on the islands. The rough boat trip took us an hour-and-a-half out to the island of Utila, but was well worth the long and taxing journey... but I will leave that for the next blog. Stay tuned.
Love to friends and family,
Ana and Andrew