Diary/Photo Journal

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.). 

View down street from
hotel and a snug Cindy
Cool jungle plant
and a bridge that was
lost in Hurricane Mitch

The Copan Ruinas area exhibits evidence that people lived there as early as 1200 BCE and shows substantial commercial activity between 900 and 500 BCE  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. 

Layout of Copan
Hieroglyphic Stairway
with the achievements
of each King in the
dynasty inscribed on
every block/step
Various stellae
and the history of
the portrayed man is carved in glyphs on the back - all painted red


Various exquisite
carvings and statues

The last picture has to be
viewed as though looking
down and across - very sheer
wall that supports the acropolis

Fantastic views
from the
Copan ruins

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.

At the acropolis
Plaza steps - these
structures are found all
around Copan

Other Templos

Plaza de las Estelas
El Cemeterio
2nd largest Ball Court in
Central America
Structure 16

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 1980's.

Now, back to the Hugo story...

Hugo was more than he seemed for a ten-year old.  He was able to cajole Gerson into a three-hour horse back riding sojourn after we visited the ruins.  As we later found out, Hugo wants to be a tour guide when he grows up (like he isn't already there) and he certainly knows how to seek out and nab his customer, so we have no doubts about his future success. 

The horse back riding consisted of two, ahem, "horses" - one that barely held Gerson and mine that had one ear that flopped to one side.  We absolutely looked hysterical riding right through the middle of town and across the main plaza.  One woman commented in English that we looked like Joseph and Mary.  I had a retort but my lop-eared horse decided to trot at that very moment. 

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.

Hugo the tour guide extraordinaire
Check out Loppy's ear
The Mayan birthing rock -
they would straddle the two
larger rocks and deliver in between. 
The carvings look
like a frog and a crocodile

I was absolutely impervious
to that look, difficult as it may

Some locals around Copan Ruinas


View of the Copan ruins
and of Copan Ruinas
View across valley and
a sweet little thing waving
hello as we walked by


Home Page     Mexico/Central America Diary Index     Previous Diary page     MCA Diary page 16