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Mystic Copan in Honduras

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Mystic Copan in Honduras
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Mystic Copan
...from the journals of CW Bryant


March 29...
 
    “Gotcha!” mom cheered.
    Darn... she just beat me at Crazy-8’s... again!  We were relaxing before dinner, stretched out in our hammocks on the balcony overlooking the veranda at Hotel Madrugada.  It was once a hacienda for a tobacco plantation--now it’s our home for the next 4 days while visiting the sites at Copan Ruinas, Honduras.
 
Here's the Rio Copan Valley.   It was quite a day--up early with the roosters to catch our flight from the island of Roatan, Honduras to San Pedro Sula.  Unfortunately, mom and I were bumped from our flight.
    “Don’t worry, we’ll get there,” mom reassured me.     
    I think it was mom’s persistence because the airlines finally found room for us on a flight; we arrived in San Pedro Sula just an hour late.
    George of Maya Tropic Tours, luckily was still there to meet us.  We then were off for a 2-1/2 hour drive to Copan Ruinas.  
    While mom and George talked, I decided to stretch out on the back seat and rest my eyes...
    “Honk, honk,” I popped up from the back seat to see 3 huge long-horned cows standing in the middle of the road... just chewing their cud and staring at us!  Slowly they moved to the side of the road and let us pass.          
    “Cody, while you were asleep we saw pineapple and banana fields, lots of cowboys on horseback, and the mud houses the people live in,” Mom said, pointing at one.
     The mud houses have a wooden pole frame and are enclosed with mud blocks.  Mud keeps the home cool during the day, warm at night, and are cheap to build.  No doors or window glass--just curtains!
    “You could almost eat off the dirt floor, it’s always swept clean,” George commented.
    The countryside was dry, sort of barren with scraggly plants and pine trees.  March is the end of their dry season, The cobblestone streets of Copan Ruinas are neat,  just like this small town!rains come in May.  Now, I saw the cowboys and yep... more longhorns!
    After we put our bag in our room at Hotel Madrugada, we headed to the balcony, where Celestina, the cook, was serving lunch--steak, fried plantains, beans, salad, and tortillas.  Yum, I was hungry!
    The veranda below was full of plants, some with brightly colored flowers.  Further out was the lush Copan River Valley, where a farmer was harvesting corn.  We could also see the Museum of Mayan Sculpture at the ruins.
    After lunch, we met up with Douglas, our guide to the Regional Museum and the main park of Copan’s ruins.  He was fun, he knows a lot about the Maya.
    The museum is on the main square of the small town of Copan Ruinas.  There was a lot to see at the museum--bone and jade jewelry, a scribe’s sculptured bench, calendars and a tomb.  
 “Cody, how would you like to sport this look?” mom asked pointing to a glass case.
    Inside was a skull with a jade filling in one of its teeth... cool!   Also, in a shell were the drops of dried blood from an ancient sacrifice!
    “Copan may not have had as many structures nor nearly as large as ChichenItza, Tikal, or Palenque but it had the most carved monuments than anywhere else--the most intricate, decorative art of all the Maya cities,” said Douglas.  
    It was tops in art and astronomy!  I could tell... there were some pretty amazing sculptures.
    We jumped into Douglas’s truck and headed for the ruins of Copan, not even a mile out of town.
    A model of the site is in the Visitor’s Center.  It helped to see it on a smaller scale, for Douglas said that the main park is on 15 acres--that’s 17 football fields!  And, at one time, 24,000 Maya lived here.
    A path leads through trees to a guarded gate.  There, perched atop the fence were three brightly colored macaws--squawking for handouts.
    “Be careful, Cody, they eat fingers too!” Douglas cautioned.
    We learned the Macaws were considered sacred by the Maya and are seen in many of the sculptures as are other animals--jaguar, bats, rabbits, serpents, frogs, and snakes.
    Douglas led us to a bench under a guarumo tree.  Ants feed on this tree’s sap and lay eggs in its trunk.
    “Cody, come look.” Douglas  motioned to a spot below the tree.  “Here’s a lion ant’s lair.  See how the sand has been The Acropolis contains several temples, all with amazing histories.dug out looking like a funnel with a hole at the bottom?  “Now watch this...”
    He dropped an ant into the lair.  Struggling against the loose sand, the ant slid closer to the hole at the bottom.  All of a sudden something shot up from the hole--the ant was gone!  The lion ant is not much larger than an ant, but it has huge claws--all the better to eat its favorite food!
     We walked under a huge sprawling ceiba tree growing high on top of a big mound of dirt, its roots were larger around than my body!  They appeared to move along the forest floor, up and over mounds, breaking through rock like marauding tanks.  
    “What do you think that mound of dirt is?  asked Douglas.  
    Mom and I looked at each other curiously.
    Douglas explained “It’s the site of a ruin--maybe a house or even a temple.  This is what archeologists find first--a pile of stones covered with dirt, shrubs, even a ceiba tree.  They then gently remove every sculpted stone or fragment from the mound; index and catalog the hieroglyphic; and with luck are able to put the structure back together--like a giant puzzle!  You know, sometimes they use computers.  After the temple is reconstructed they mortar the stones in place.  Come on, let’s take a look at an example from start to finish.”  
    We headed up the hill, then jumped over an ancient aqueduct that still works, it removes rain water from the Maya The Temple of Inscriptions was important to Copan's last ruler, Yax Pac.city.  Wow, is this place ever neat!
    Note:  From 426 A.D. to 820 A.D. Copan had 16 rulers, some of whom were Yax k´uk´Mo´ (first ruler), Moon Jaguar, Smoke Jaguar, 18 Rabbit, Smoke Shell and the final ruler, Yax Pac.  Copan’s monuments, stelae, altars and hieroglyphic sculptures refer to the life and times of these Maya rulers, even carved pictures of the rulers appear on the stelae (free-standing sculptures carved on all 4-sides).  Before the 13th ruler (18 Rabbit) monuments were destroyed and built over with each changing ruler.  The four main attractions of the park are the Acropolis, Great Plaza, Hieroglyphic Stairway and Ball Court.



 

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