Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Copán ruins (Copán Ruinas)
After half a day of getting side tracked we finally visited Copán ruins. Copán is an archaeological site of the ancient Maya civilization located in western Honduras. Copán ruins are about a 1.5km walk from the town of the same name and according to the guide books it is safe to walk to and from. I was a little concerned when the man in front of us had a huge machete, so we stayed a safe distance behind him. Turns out he was probably a farmer or worker of some type. It was perfectly fine and safe to walk to them. The entrance fee was US$15 per person for the ruins only. The museum was an additional US$7 and we didn’t go in. I think we may be “ruined” out though, as although Copán ruins was beautiful it didn’t seem as spectacular as Tikal, Palenque or Monte Alban. However what made this site different from the others is it had intricate details and carvings on the buildings which were beautiful. What also set this site aside from the others was there was no-one there! It was weird; we seemed to be some of the only tourists there. I’m not sure if it’s just because it was the 24th of December, the day Honduras celebrates Christmas, but it was eerie being one of the only ones there.
We chose against a tour guide as the cost was either $25 total or $25 each. Either way, the site is relatively small that you can self-guide your way around very easily. You might not get all the detailed history and stories, but it all depends what you’re interested in. These guides also feed these red macaws nuts to get them to come closer. They seem very tame and not particularly scared of humans.
The ruins themselves are showing the same signs of wear and tear like the others we have visited. It’s an ongoing problem that is faced after excavating these sites. The rain and weather erodes the details and in the past people had access to climb all over them. The main staircase has been covered by tarpaulin for nearly 40 years now in a bid to try and protect the details. I think I read that the staircase holds one of the longest continuous texts telling stories over many years from the history of the Maya. As you might be able to see from some of the photos; the details are now very hard to read.
Christmas night craziness
The night started quietly enough with a plan for a few drinks and dinner with Samuel and Olivier, two guys from Montreal that were on our bus coming into Copán. It ended up as one of the craziest nights we’ve had on our trip so far. We didn’t even end up having dinner!
It all started on our way to dinner when we were sidetracked with numerous venders selling fireworks of all shapes and sizes. These were fireworks I’d never even seen before; with anything from small sparklers to massive rockets bigger then my arm.
The boys ended up buying the small candle looking fireworks, and then we continued on our way to dinner. The plan was to go and have a nice Christmas dinner. We found a place earlier that had a three course turkey dinner for $12, however it was closing and we didn’t eat. The original plan was a place around the corner but this was ridiculously priced at $40 for something similar. Yes, $40 in Central America for a meal – this is almost unheard of!
On our way to find somewhere different for dinner, we stopped in the central park for a look at the festivities and to set off some fireworks. We set off a number of candle rockets, a bargain at $1 for 25. Toby then had a strip fireworks he wanted to set off. He took this to the centre of the square and set about lighting them. It was a fairly impressive display of light and sound for only $0.75.
After finishing in the central park, we continued in search of dinner. This is when we came across a group of around 8 boys (anywhere between 5 to 10 years old) lighting off fireworks on an abandoned lot. Of course the boys had to stop – I’ve never seen Toby so happy!!! He ended up firing numerous fireworks with the boys and the scary thing is the 5 year old was showing Toby how to light the fireworks correctly. It was absolute mayhem! At first they lit up the candle looking rockets which when they made a noise you threw up into the air and left a trail of smoke and light before banging. However, in all the fun one of the boys handed Toby what is known as a bottle rocket. Toby found out the hard way why it’s called a bottle rocket – i.e. you are not supposed to light this from your hands. See the picture.
Luckily he didn’t blow any of his limbs off or have any injuries. I was hiding behind one of the 5 year old girls at the time as I don’t really like fireworks. They are a bit dangerous especially if you’re a foreigner and don’t know what you’re doing.
As this was all going on, two new people, Jesse and Nicole (from Oregon, USA) were walking past, and I could tell by Jesse’s face he wanted to join in the fun. Five minutes later he returned with a massive explosive quickly named as Cincuenta. This is the word for 50 in Spanish and how much it cost in Honduran money; equal to US$2.50.
After hours of fireworks fun we finally started walking to the square where all the action was supposed to happen. Unfortunately we got distracted again by a foreigner carrying triangular shaped fireworks and a huge smile on his face. “What does that do?” asked Toby. “Let me show you” replied Roberto. Then he proceeds to light one up and tells everyone to run and get the hell out of the way. Wow! What an explosion. It let out a huge deafening sound and numerous pieces of paper along with a cloud of smoke. As a result, Roberto then joined us in our parade of foreigners lighting up fireworks in the middle of the street.
We finally made it back to the square, about half an hour before midnight and were ready for the action with our fireworks in hand and lighter??? What! No wait; we didn’t have the lighter. Samuel, the only one with the lighter had gone off to make a phone call and was nowhere to be found. What were we going to do? We have plenty of fireworks but no light. Midnight finally arrived and the city exploded with fireworks all around and covered everything in a layer of smoke. It felt like we were in a war zone. Roberto luckily had a packet of matches and Toby had the brilliant idea of let’s light the sparkler as it lasts awhile and light our fireworks from the sparkler. Unfortunately; I was the one holding the sparkler, putting me in a very dangerous position as some of the foreigners had no idea what they were doing and were accidently throwing the fireworks at other people.. The funny thing is at breakfast time I overheard some tourists saying they were in the square but left as some crazy foreigners were being dangerous with fireworks. I think that was us.
Some food and a fireworks fight
Finally we found a food vendor!! Wahoo as we hadn’t really eaten lunch since we gave it up to the dog. Mmmm freshly made baleadas for 10L/$0.50ea (traditional Honduras snack: wheat flour tortilla, folded in half and filled with mashed fried beans). I think Toby ate three or four of them. While we were eating these, Jesse was still playing with fireworks and accidently threw one towards a group of kids. This was a mistake. They thought it was thrown by the kids at the end of the street so then a firework war broke out and we were in the middle of it eating our baleadas. I hid behind the trash can and was really concerned for my safety as fireworks were flying in every direction. It all ended safely with no one hurt.
The night didn’t end there
After finishing our food, Rodora, Samuel and Oliver returned to their beds as it was already around 1am. Roberto having lived in the town for many months proclaimed to know some good local bars. It was just the 4 of us now; Toby, Roberto, Jesse and Nicole. After a short walk we found a nice looking bar with loud music, but only maybe 15 or so locals sitting around drinking. The hotel looked quite new and very nice. Jesse started talking to the night watchman and in a matter of moments we were on a tour of the hotel. Apparently it had only been open for a month or two and the rooms were beautiful. Flat screen TV’s, well decorated and genuine hot water. After seeing some rooms, we were taken to the roof top for a view of the city. It was really nice and a bit of a random experience.
Since the bar was quiet, we decided it was time to move on. Roberto again had a tip on a local bar and we walked about 5-10 minutes out of town. He was right, this place sure was local. When we walked in, the small crowd in there was pretty shocked to see foreign tourists. We were welcomed with open arms and invited to sit down at their table. Jesse being super friendly and chatting in the broken Spanish he knew. The time now was around 3am and on the horizon someone spotted some police car lights flashing. At this point the barman and the other locals said it was time to leave since it was past opening hours. It was also at this point that Roberto completely disappeared. I think he had a fairly open fear of the police. The rest of us took this as a queue to return to our beds and get some sleep.
That ends the crazy night in Copan Ruins.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/