12.11.08 Quirigua Ruins, Guatemala to Copan, Honduras

Copan Travel Blog

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12.11.08 Quirigua Ruins, Guatemala to Copan, Honduras


What a terrific day!  We’re into our version of Survivor Honduras!


We tipped the night watchman on our way out and he seemed surprised and pleased.  The Quirigua Ruins were a delightful place to overnight and we want other RV’ers to be welcome there in the future.


We followed our notes and stopped at a wonderful little roadside stand for fresh pineapple smoothies.  Delicious!  Unfortunately, Jazy had an upset stomach throughout the night and was still not up for eating, and Charles didn’t want one, so Lia and I enjoyed the fresh snack.  Given our lack of food in the RV, fruits are a welcome treat.


Border Crossing:

We drove for a few hours and with a few direction confirmations from helpers along the way, made the cutoff road for the La Florida border.  We changed $75 U.S. with the money changer and with the help of a nice English-speaking border helper, Jose, made out just fine with both sides (andd tipped.  We were lucky that we had two copies each of my passport and the RV title.  They had no photocopier and I saw no place to get it done. 


Also, I had the exact $30 U.S. they required for the Vehicle permit, which meant that I didn’t have to wait for the bank window to open after lunch.  I got big points with the Honduras Vehicle lady when we got her some staples for her stapler from the RV.  I had a feeling she didn’t have any more around and she seemed delighted.  They didn’t need to stamp our passports again since Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador have the 90-day C-4 tourist agreement. 


We did have to pay $1 and then $3 (per person each U.S.) for some fee.  It was hard to tell which window was for which country.  There were no big buildings, just little wooden huts basically along one side of the road with plenty of parking room for Ciao on the other side.  The road was lined with trucks and truckers, so again we were glad to know that we should drive right past them.  One trucker had a hummock strung under his truck!  We saw a truck stop that had a palapa with a bunch of hammocks strung underneath them.  Hotels advertise hammocks!  I love it!


Anyway, within about 45 minutes start to finish (and we were rather casual about the whole thing), we were on our way into Honduras.  On our first curve, we noticed that most of the other paved lane was missing down the mountainside!  There were no warnings for it if you were coming the other direction, so we were on high-alert after that.


Copan Ruines is only 10 kms from the border.  If you think the sign to Copan Ruines means that the Ruins themselves are that way, then you would be as confused as me.  The TOWN is called Copan Ruines and the Ruins are called “Copan” or “the Ruins.”  Got that? 


So instead of going AROUND town, we ended up on tiny, narrow cobblestone streets so small that I’m sure we were within a fraction of an inch from Ciao’s sides in places.  We’d long ago pulled in both mirrors.  One time a trucker had to direct us through, it was so incredibly tight.  Another time we had to pull forward, then reverse, and forward again to make a left turn.  People were helpful and usually patient.  It was nerve-wracking primarily because I really didn’t know if we’d physically fit.  I was really mad later when I found out that it was all so unnecessary, and that I could have bypassed it all!  Ugh!  If there is a GPS card for Central America, I am going to be really, REALLY mad that I don’t have it because I’d give almost anything for an accurate update!


Anyway, we survived that ordeal with relatively good humor and arrived a kilometer out of town at the famous Texaco station where RV’ers since the beginning of travel in Central America have reported overnighting.  Even our German friends from Costa Esmerlda in November stayed here.  We filled up on gas, but sorry, no go on overnighting.  Sorry, don’t allow.  No way, no how.  Very pleasant but non-negotiable.  But the police station 100 meters prior at the tope allowed it along the street.  Hmmm, that didn’t sound pleasant to be lined up along a busy street.  The next right turn past the Texaco was the ruins and they have a wonderful park-like parking area.  But they now do not allow overnight parking because of the sacred Maya spirit of the place.  They suggested the Texaco or the Police Station roadway.  Every person we asked said the same thing.  Neither were good options at that point.


We enjoyed the Copan ruins and walked all around the amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We climbed the temples and walked the enormous Grand Plaza that had once been cemented with lime.  The staela (engraved posts) were quite impressive, even if they were not as tall as the ones at Quirigua.  It was a perfect temperature and a light midst added to the mysterious spirit, presided over by massive ancient cieba trees.  We saw Macaws and the world’s largest rodent running free there in the park- fantastic!


As we were walking back to our RV, we were joined by a very nice Copan Tour Guide, who asked if we needed a place to park the motorhome and offered his land across the road.  In fact, he has been working for the past month building a campground, suitable for RV’s and tents.  We were intrigued and walked across the street, directly opposite the ruins and Texaco to see the site.  The boys were indeed working, moving dirt and fixing things up. 


The campground will be terrific within a few months!  There is a nice, level grassy area at the top of a short hill, through a gate and secure behind a fence.  We are plugged into electric and it is just 120 limpira ($6.50 U.S.) for the night.  He trimmed a tree limb by the driveway today to allow RV clearance and plans to widen the gate, as Ciao barely squeezed in.  I also advised on a gravity-assisted sanistation as well.  He and his wife both speak beautiful English, as he has been a tour guide for 29 years, one of the very first at Copan!


The best was yet to come!  They had 2 daughters, age 14 and 15, both born in Houston, Texas and a son aged 12!  Of course, they spoke beautiful English having lived in the States since last March.  They have returned to Honduras from Texas for the year to learn the culture and were simply delightful. 


We had so much fun with them!  They accompanied us in tuk-tuk taxis (I must get one of these 3-wheeled little cars!) to town and showed us where to use the ATM for limperas and to eat dinner.  We insisted that they eat with us.  Just talking with them about life in Honduras, what they see as the comparisons and similarities, and having other kids around was a tremendous treat for us.  They took us to get some contact saline at the Farmacia and we borrowed their cell phone (and bought minutes for them and us at another store) so we could call Ned afterward- a real treat! 


Then we tuk-tuked back to camp where their Dad and brother started a nice campfire.  We pulled out our Mexican multi-colored marshmallows and everyone enjoyed roasting them.  We showed the kids inside the RV and they showed Jazy, Charles and Lia their rooms.  Jazy got her nails painted.  Some of the kids played a rowdy game of tag.  There are puppies here that they enjoy.  Good fun times!


Their Mom and Dad were intrigued with the GPS and I enjoyed showing the Nuvi 650 to them.  The locations in Central America are not very detailed and the Lodging/Food/Fuel resources are non-existent, but still we can find GPS coordinates and major roads.  They mentioned that the problem with ordering such items for them is getting the product to them without it being taken along the route.  Perhaps FedEx will be an option for them, but we weren’t sure all the details.  Life can be complicated.


Another issue is water.  They have a large cistern (I forget it’s name here) that holds enough water so that when the city’s water supply is shut off for days at a time without warning (due to dirty water from too much rain, or some other issue), they have water for use.  It can be challenging for them.  The water is not potable and they drink bottled water.


School is through Grades 1 to 10 and the 15-year-old is starting her training for Nurse already.  She will have 2 years of school and then 2 years of unpaid community service, but she’ll then be ready to work as a professional.  You must be 18 to get a driver’s license here, but most people do not own cars.  The tuk-tuk was just 10 limpira per person to run into town ($.55 U.S.).


We were told that we should buy something like “Tinytomal” for Jazy’s stomach.  She ate well at dinner, but it would be great to have on hand.  Jonna also advised something in Mexico – I should look at my notes and get that in hand.  While I have 2 courses of antibiotics for each of us, we’ll use as a last resort. Wish we’d picked some up at the farmacia.


This is a beautiful country with rolling mountains covered in lush trees and sweet, clean air.  The people again seem very friendly and kind.  The Copan town’s central plaza had a nice park and central fountain.  A small, pretty cathedral presides over the square.  The Copan streets are all old cobblestone.  Tuk-tuks are the only taxis allowed, so it’s very pedestrian-friendly (except for the stray crazy RV coming through!).  I’m told that Copan is a very expensive town in which to live because of all the tourists. 


Tours:  The Dad told me about several tours that he can offer.  Two horseback riding tours ($25 each?) sounded delightful, but so did the Hot Springs Spa Tour ($25) and the coffee-plantation tour ($35 each).  Because we all get to go, it’s educational, and it’s particular to this environment, we chose the last one.  We are so excited about hiking down a mountain and seeing the coffee-making process!  Lunch at a nice restaurant is also included in the price. 


We’ll go at 8:30 am and since it is on our road north, we’ll head on after that.  I would *really* like to stay to enjoy his mother’s massage- she is a massage therapist in town (who trained the therapist at the Hot Springs Spa), but time marches on and we want to see as much as possible of Honduras before Nicaragua.  We don’t plan to return because we will likely transit through El Salvador on the way back (west) after Panama. 


We are now delighted that Texaco said “No.”  to overnighting.  Otherwise, we’d have never known about this terrific new camping option with such a nice family!  We will be sad to leave this wonderful family tomorrow.


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photo by: Cho