Week of December 07, 2003
Since we got an early start out of Rio Dulce, we decided to chance the roads all the way into Honduras where we were going to see, you guessed it, another ruin. Much of the horror stories that we were told of the roads through Guatemala were, how do we say it, bumpkus (meaning the roads were excellent), so we thought a road going to a very substantial ruin would be well taken care of. Our assumption was correct and we breezed into the mountainous town of Copan Ruinas, with our only delay being at the border where the Official was rather talkative about futbol (soccer) and a rather slow typist.
Again, we were met with cobblestone roads, steep streets, taxi-carts (made from mopeds with a covered three-person seat in back), small cafes, quaint hotels and gracious people. One of these wonderful locals came in the form of a small boy named Hugo. As we were turned away from a hotel (because Cindy was a little too big for their parking area), Hugo realized we were in dire straits and directed us to a hotel he persistently swore could accommodate us and Cindy. Not only did he run up (and I mean "up") several streets to lead us to the Hotel Calle Real, he stayed around to help wave Gerson into the parking area. The hotel was perfect for Cindy and we were able to arrange a deal with the management wherein we would sleep in Cindy and only use a room for the bathroom facilities and the cable TV (all for around $5 U.S.).
The Copan Ruinas area exhibits evidence that people lived there as early as 1200 B.C. and shows substantial commercial activity between 900 and 500 B.C. Several kings commissioned the building of the city (ruin) but it was King Smoke Shell (749-763) that built the awesome Hieroglyphic Stairway, which immortalizes the achievements of the family dynasty from its establishment until 755, when the stairway was completed. It is the longest such inscription ever discovered in the Maya lands.
The collapse of the civilization at Copan had been a mystery; however, archaeologists have begun to surmise that the population grew at an unprecedented rate, thus straining the agricultural resources and in the end, Copan was no longer able to support itself. Many of the residents moved to the outlying areas and deforested wide areas along the hillsides. Massive erosion stripped the soils of the necessary nutrients and the land could not support the people and hence, they abandoned Copan. Skeletal remains of people who died during Copan's final years show marked evidence of malnutrition and infectious diseases, as well as decreased life spans.
Something to keep in mind when viewing the Copan ruins
is that the remains of 3450 structures have been found in the 24 square km (16+
square miles) surrounding the ruins. In a wider zone, 4509 structures have
been found in 1420 sites. These discoveries indicated that the population
of Copan had over 20,000 inhabitants, a population not reached again until the
Hugo, as is the custom of the guides in Copan Ruinas,
walked alongside of the horses for the entire trip. He guided us along the
Rio Copan and up into the nearby mountains wherein we had to pay a very small
fee to hike on foot to a Mayan birthing place. As the story goes, the
Mayan women would climb up to this small "temple" and birth their babies and you
can still just make out some of the carvings. We stopped into a nice
little Hacienda (which just happens to have a bar) and gave us a chance to have
a beer and relax with the cozy surroundings. Then, off downhill with Mini
and Loppy. All in all, it was a really nice tour- very unique in its own
rustic, backyard sort of way. Needless to say though, we leaped off the
horses at the first sign of civilization and choose to walk the five blocks
through the main plaza and back to our hotel, lest we attract followers looking
for me to have a baby.