Wet season images of Copán

Copan Ruins

 

Taking a 4 am shuttle from Antigua, Guatemala, across the border to Copán Ruinas, Honduras, it is possible to make a one-day journey to the Mayan ruins of the Copán archaeological site. It is a rewarding trip if you are short on time, but the Copán area is worth more than that; several days would not be a waste.

The river pebble streets of the pueblo Copán Ruinas lead to alluring garden cafés. White-hatted, black-booted, red-eyed cowboys lean in doorways of bars and hotels. Crossing the bridge east out of town and walking on a path along the lime-green valley, the ruins of Copán lie hidden in the trees on the edge of the river.

Scarlet macaws peer down at the entrance to the site. Agoutis forage in the nearby forest. Walking into a clearing, ornate stelae of former rulers of the Mayan dynasty stand like sentinels on the lawn. The roots of large trees penetrate the crumbling grey steps and walls of the Temple of the Inscriptions. A human stone head lies to one side. The court of the Juego de Pelota (a ball game) is decorated with detailed shrieking macaw heads in place of the more typical scoring rings. Behind this is the hieroglyphic stairway, hundreds of weathered steps built around 700 AD, and said to be the longest inscribed text of the pre-Columbian world.

Copan Ruins

 

The temples may not be as grand as Tikal, a larger Mayan site in Guatemala, but the detailed carvings on walls and over doorways are unique. The museum houses a full-size model of the now below ground, colourful and ornate Rosalila temple. Copán a World Heritage site, was a cultural centre and the largest city to the south of the Mayan empire, which extended from Mexico´s Yucatan Peninsula. Further up the valley, the rain teems down at Las Sepulturas. In closed-canopy wet forest, the dwellings and courtyards of kings and nobles have an eerie atmosphere.

The rain had eased back in Copán Ruinas. The heat dried us out, steam rose from the streets. The town’s central park was peaceful, a terracotta, horseshoe-shaped pergola sheltering Hondurans squatting on their haunches to avoid the blistering heat. Horses bounced through town, their metal shoes clipping on the stones.

 

 on the road into Copan Ruinas

A hike along the other side of the muddy Rio Copán and up to where Mayan stone toads, a symbol of fertility, sat gently on a rise, reveals that the river rushes down the valley, twisting and turning like a livid snake. We could see the ruins below, sitting in the trees at a curve in the river, a hint of why they remained all but unnoticed until the 19th century.

The humidity pounded us as we returned along the river. Women sat on sweat-soaked horses while men loaded river pebbles onto a truck bogged to the axles in soft river mud. On the potholed dirt road, another man used silted river water to fill his overheated radiator. He started his engine and smoke coughed into the jungle air.

We got a Port Royal beer and the rain came again and we too hovered in doorways of Copán Ruinas, even the inside walls of hotels seeped. It was welcome, the downpour, the hike had soaked us in perspiration. It wasn’t hard to understand why the Mayans thought the earth was a crocodile floating on a river

Copan Ruinas

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~ by Drifting, Rambling on January 31, 2008.

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