Monday, January 23, 2017

The Mayan Temple Complex at Copan, Honduras

A Scarlet Macaw at Copan, the National bird of Honduras
Our driver Otto picked us up at 8:00 am so that we could get an early start exploring the ruins before it got really hot. It was the perfect time of day and we spent around 3 hours touring the site. We hired one of the official guides, Juan, whose family has been at Copan "forever".  This is one of the most beautiful Mayan sites we've been to and I'd love to come back with my watercolors and do some paintings.  Before coming to any historic location I try and read about the place in advance. I read "Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan" by John Lloyd Stephens. He and Frederick Catherwood visited here in 1841 and it was wonderful to see the original after enjoying Catherwood's detailed drawings. Copan was occupied for 2,000 years and was the capitol city of a major Classic Period Kingdom from the 5th to the 9th Century. At it's peak it had 20,000 inhabitants and covered 100 square miles. It is now a UNESCO heritage site.
We did a lot of hiking around the large temple complex.

Like Quirigua the stele are beautiful and very detailed.

Some are original and others replicas, the originals being
in museums.

We sat at several spots with our guide Juan while he talked about the history of the site. Here we are looking at the ball court.
The final version was completed in 738 AD.
Back in Copan Ruinas we had lunch at Cafe San Rafael. The owner trained as a cheesemaker in the U.S. and makes over 20 types of cow and goat cheeses. We shared a platter of various cheeses, veggies, fruit, bread and crackers for lunch and then took some back to Guatemala with us.  In the afternoon we enjoyed swimming in the hotel pool - it was great to cool off. That evening we had dinner at Carnitas Nia Lola, a nearby restaurant owned by our guide Juan's brother. We had a mixed grill with lots of local accompaniments. And the waitresses carry in the beer and some of the food on their heads - fun!
Our guide introduced us to several archaeologists
working on the site.

The famous Hieroglyphic Staircase - 2200 glyphs form the longest known
Maya text. Figures of the most famous rulers are spaced on the stairs. The
entire area is protected by a tent from the elements.

Many of the buildings still have trees in place. We enjoyed
the shade throughout the complex - very unlike the completely
open Chichen Itza. But there wasn't any grass or trees originally
here. It was all white concrete and red buildings!

The light was wonderful in the early morning.

Heather, Scott, Dennis and Doris on the temple stairs

There were stairs everywhere.

This is the west complex 

This retaining wall protects the Acropolis now but the Copan
River diverted at one point and eroded away a significant
part of the structure.

This relief has been given the nickname "Disco Jaguar" and
it fits!!

Alter Q depicts the succession of 16 kings and is one of the most
famous monuments here.

This crocodile must have just had a good meal.

I enjoyed the beautiful forest all around the site. There are some magnificent trees.

A selection of cheeses at Cafe San Rafael
On the way back from Copan our car lost power and we had to spend 3 hours at a gas station until Otto's friend came to take us the rest of the way. Poor Otto had to arrange a tow back to the Rio. Luckily the gas station managed to give us some lunch; chicken, rice and beans. And Scott and I took a walk up into the countryside and enjoyed views of local farms.
On the way back we did some grocery shopping at the larger supermarket in Morales, about 40 minutes from the Rio. The car was totally packed with ourselves, our baggage and the food.

Our waitress at Carnitas Nia Lola

And a photo taken with some of the other customers. Our guide
from the morning at Copan introduced us around.

A glimpse of the our meal including mixed grill on the left,
fried plantains on the right and rice, beans, salsa and pickled

This cow found us equally fascinating!

This is beautiful country, mostly cattle farms.

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