Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Copán, Honduras

The Mayan ruins of Copán are just 15km over the Guatemala/Honduras border. They are easier to get to than Tikal - only a 4 hour drive for us instead of 8. Surprisingly though, it seems there are more Guatemalans that visit the site than Hondurans because Copán is an 8-hour drive from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

We spent 3 tranquilo days including New Year's Eve 2013 exploring the ruins and the little town nearby named (confusingly) Copán Ruinas.

Bustling, authentic and adorable all at the same time, Copán Ruinas looks like a hillier version of La Antigua with its narrow cobblestone streets, little tourist shops with purses, textiles and knickknacks, backpacker hostels and restaurants appealing to the western pallet. Like Antigua, the little pueblo has an everyday side to it also, with hardware stores, comedors, tortilla makers, and lots of locals riding Tuktuks going about their daily business. The main difference is that there aren't any Mayan locals wearing their traditional textile skirts and huipiles. Instead the ladies in town are dressed in modern jeans and colorful tight tops and the dudes all look like working cowboys, with shiny belt buckles, muddy boots, dusty wranglers and sweat-stained cowboy hats.

The food was basically the same: plates of beans, tortillas and plantains, and lots of homemade signs advertising caldo de gallina (chicken soup). In addition to the comida típica we found "baleadas" which were delicious Honduran quesadillas: a fresh flour tortilla folded in half and filled with refried beans, crumbly dry cheese and butter. The perfect nighttime street food - cheap and delicious! We tried them basic, and we tried them with fried eggs and avocado inside, all were excellent.

The ruins of Copán were amazing, lots more carvings and stelae than we saw at Tikal, protected in a smaller park with shorter temples. Open just during the daytime so no sunsets or sunrises in the park, but the temples were all right at or below treeline so didn't offer the same views as Tikal and Yaxhá. Our guide had some fascinating insights, and was an interesting guy too - his Mom owns an Inn in town and he's planning a motorcycle trip to visit all the Mayan ruins in Mexico and Central America, he's looking for sponsors and wants to film the whole thing to turn it into a documentary that will increase tourism in the area. It's so awesome to meet locals who have a vision, young visionaries with dreams and enough of an education to pull it off.

Some locals we met at a real German-owned microbrewery in town (yes! finally! good beer in Central America!!!) told us we HAD to go to the Bird Sanctuary, Macaw Mountain up the hill. It was a really cool park with a bunch of parrots, owls, hawks and other little creatures that had been rescued from poachers or donated by pet owners who couldn't take care of them anymore. The Scarlet Macaws are happy enough to make some babies and the babies are being released into the valley to try to build up the wild population. The huge red macaws are gorgeous birds, have the intelligence of a 3-year old human and can live up to 80 years, but they have the loudest ear-splitting screech I've ever heard, I seriously don't know why anyone would want one as a pet, excruciating!

We splurged on one night at a gorgeous destination hotel called Hacienda San Lucas a little way out of town. It's an old hacienda with amazing views of the valley, candle lit dinners, the best margaritas ever, and a yoga pavilion that I want to live in. It was totally expensive ($140 a night!) but worth it if you spend a full day there relaxing and doing yoga and hiking to the little Los Sapos Mayan carvings that are nearby.

Our other 2 nights we spent at Hotel ViaVia, a cute backpacker hostel with cheap rooms and tasty international food. And then Hotel La Posada de Belssy on New Years's Eve, which was disappointing. The room smelled like a public men's room - due to the urinal cake ziptied to the sink. We discretely detached the offending cake and set it outside the door hidden among some potted plants; that helped. The room was cramped and dark with a double and single bed in it - perfect for cheap backpackers but it made the room feel like a submarine with high ceilings. Oh well, we really only slept there and they had some nice hammocks on the roof.

New Year's Eve in a small town in Honduras was crazy! A few organized parties going on in bars but most of the action was in the Plaza Central where all the boys under 18 were lighting fireworks and chucking them at each other across the square. Total war zone. The night before a stray firework set a knickknack store on fire and burned down a couple shops around it. But did they mellow out the next night? Hell no! No lessons to be learned there... oh well. Humans are stupid, especially the males. But anyways, we bought a random assortment of bottled drinks at a little convenience store and enjoyed the street scene. Ladies were done up like prom night and teetering on high heels clinging to their proud hombres while other hombres made catcalls from the sidelines. Honduras is unbelievable in the catcalling realm compared to Guatemala, the men are such hasslers! As our friend said many a time when some 13 year old ogled her, "Sick!" One Tuktuk driver we rode with fired off his "whoop-whoop" siren at EVERY WOMAN he passed, and actually got close enough to spank one poor chica as he drove by. Sick.

When 2014 arrived we were dancing outside a bar/hotel called Costes who had a DJ - DJ Bais! - set up on the street along with smoke and bubble machines. So much fun! We had no idea what to expect for New Years in Copán but it totally exceeded any expectations. We danced in the street with Aussies, Americans, Hondurans and who knows who else into the wee hours.

Happy New Year!!!

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