Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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The actual ruins Copan Ruinas, Honduras, Tuesday, 01 July 2008 11:11pm

An interesting fact about gregariousness that I hadn't really considered the implications of before is that it only takes one, and it doesn't have to be me.

I got up fairly early, hoping to beat the crowds to the ruins. Breakfast at the hotel was a fairly good Eggs Benedict. The Hollandaise wasn't anything special, which is what normally sets an Eggs Benedict apart. But the bread was unusually good. A bit denser than an English muffin.

I also learned the answer to a question that I'd wondered about before I left: what's the Spanish name for a Bloody Mary? It seemed like the obvious translation would verge on sacrilege, and that the English historical connections would be a bit obscure. It turns out to be "Bloody Mary", at least on all of the menus where I've seen one offered.

It wasn't a long walk to the ruins. I tried to hire the guide who Christy recommended, but it turns out that there are two Juliuses and that the one who was there was booked for a tour group already. I got Fredy instead.

He was a fine guide. Not extraordinary, but he explained the site and answered my questions with conviction (I've learned to be skeptical about the content of the answers guides give on tours, but good delivery is important).

The site itself was surprisingly small. We were done with the tour in about two hours, including a good deal of photography time. The carvings are quite good, but I was expecting something more on the scale of Tikal. Honestly, after Angkor, I may be spoiled.

After the tour was over, I poked around a bit, taking more photos. I thought it was just a matter of time before the tour buses arrived and the place was mobbed, but even at the busiest point, there were only a few dozen people in view at any time. A big, and refreshing, change from Chichen Itza or most of the Angkor sites.

I started walking towards Las Sepulturas, the other site on the ticket. It's just another kilometer or so down the road, but a young girl hopped out of a moto-taxi (a fully-covered Bajaj rickshaw, not like the motorcycles with carts on the back in Southeast Asia), so I grabbed it.

At the site, I was shown around by a guy who was hanging around the entrance. I think he was not an official guide. He only spoke Spanish, but his descriptions were very clear. He complimented me on the clarity of my spoken Spanish, if not its scope. The time spent studying in Guatemala must have given me a good accent for this region.

He showed me around one of the sites. It turns out that, though there are some burial sites there, it's a full residential complex with houses and religious buildings, not just a set of sepulchres.

I looked around the rest of the site on my own. It was pretty small, and most of the buildings were simple and undecorated, but the striking thing was how empty it was. I literally did not see another person until I was on my way out, when one woman arrived with a guide. The site was a little too well-groomed for a full Indiana Jones feeling (I saw some crews with lawnmowers on my way back), but it was a strange feeling to be so alone in a place like that.

I took another moto-taxi back to the main ruins for lunch, then went to the on-site museum. The museum is far more impressive than the site itself. There are a lot of reconstructions and examples of the best of the best of the carvings. Some really fantastic stuff. There are bats nesting inside of the museum (it's open to the sky above a recreation of a temple). I was amused to find that one of the challenges that the Mayan hero twins had to face on their journey through Xibalba was to spend a night in The House of the Bats. Apparently very frightening!

I'm getting soft. I took another moto-taxi back to town. Did a bit of souvenir shopping. There's less good stuff here than in some of the places I've been before. It seems to be mostly tchochkes. Checked my email, but the power went out (the whole block, not just the Internet... what do you call an Internet cafe when there's no pretense of cafe?).

I had dinner at a churruscaria. It was quite tasty, but I had to ask for the check three times. I was there long enough for their US pop music CD to loop. It started raining while I was eating, so perhaps the delay was for the best.

After dinner, I stopped by one bar, but found the crowd too thin, and went by another. I was ordering a beer when a girl named Rachel from Cornwall struck up a conversation. She and her boyfriend (Ben, from New Zealand) are in the last month of two years away, and are counting down the days until they're home. We talked about the relative merits of South Asia and Central America, about growing a moustache (Ben is trying, with little success), and about what to do in the area.

I got roped into a game of Acey-Deucy, where I was far-and-away the most sober person. I still managed to lose 20 Lempiras ($1.10). I also talked to a guy from Atlanta, who's being a tour guide (his group is leaving for Roatan tomorrow morning), and badly lost a foosball game on the most rickety table I've ever played on.

Pretty good day.

One interesting exchange: "So are you a traveler?" "No, I'm just on vacation." Maybe that needs to change.

This is the first day that I've taken enough pictures to look at one of them the same evening and think "Wait, what's that a picture of? Oh Yeah!"

Oh. I also meant to mention the nature walk at Copan. I mostly saw plants, but I did see some lizards and an agouti. There are a bunch of macaws here that are fed and pose for pictures. The other bit of nature that discovered me were the mosquitos. Apparently, even with DEET, my right hand and left shoulder are delicious. Biters take note! I got a couple of dime-sized welts from the bites! They seem to have gone down now.