Mayan Ruins and Macaws

Copan Travel Blog

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Off in a tuk-tuk to Macaw Mountain.

Hello all,

I woke up this morning in pretty good shape.  Seemingly the hotel's precautions reduced or eliminated the amount of insect bites I got last night, so I'm pretty happy about that.  This is my last whole day in Central America, so I figured I would make the best of it.  But first, I had to watch the New York hotdog eating contest on tv.  Only ESPN Deportes decided not to show it, and the internet feed I found was crappy at best.  Even so I was able to follow things, and if you haven't seen it....  yuck!

After that I mustered all of my energy, packed up some things and headed for the local Mayan Ruins.  A short tuk-tuk ride later we pulled into the site about 2kms south of town.  The admission was pretty steep, $15 for admission, and $15 extra for access to the tunnels.

A load of Scarlet Macaws hanging in a big enclosure.
  I sprung for both and was interested in possibly getting a guide, but at $20 for each guide I couldn't justify it.  I glanced around for another group that would have been interested in sharing a guide and didn't see anybody.  I had brought my Rough Guide along, and it has a nice little map and some descriptions of highlights in it.

After the entrance the was a 200 meter walk to the gate, and along the way the trees and ground were populated with a dozen or so beautiful Scarlet Macaws.  I have seen them before in pet stores and such, but these were huge and flying free.  The sight of them in flight was absolutely gorgeous, and they were mostly unafraid of people.  As a former bird owner it was really impressive.

I went through the gate and headed for the temples.

A trio of African Parrots pose for me.
  Just for reference, I have been to Tikal in Guatemala a few years ago, and that site is much more visually arresting.  Tikal is set in untouched jungle, and it's temple structures are very tall and well restored.  It also covers many square miles, and is miles from anything.  Copan is certainly on a smaller scale, with much smaller buildings, but is known for the quantity and quality of it's carvings (or stela).  In Tikal, when new temples were built the carvings of old ones were destroyed or defaced, but Copan is a wealth of wonderful, significant carvings.

The crowd was a bit light, and that made the huge open plazas seem even larger.  The initial area I visited had one low slung temple called Structure 4 that was the centerpiece of the Gran Plaza and the Plaza Central.

I think this guy wanted to bite me.
  Also in the Gran Plaza was Stela H, maybe the best example of the carvings on the site.  It depicts possibly the greatest of Copan's rulers 'Eighteen Rabbit', who served for 43 years until he was beheaded by a neighboring ruler after a catastrophic defeat.

Copan also has a fine example of a ball court for the Mayan game 'Pitz'.  The court is I-shaped with sloping rock floors on each side, and although Copan's is a bit small, like other things it is in great condition.  Next to the ball court, climbing the front of the large Temple 26 is the Hieroglyphic Stairway.  The Hieroglyphic Stairway is 72 steps high, and they are made up of 2200 blocks each with old Mayan hieroglyphics on them.  Together they make up the longest known Maya hieroglyphic text.

Toucans are very cool. This one was very hoppy.
  They are covered by a huge tarp, and there were people actively working on restoring and preserving them when I was there.

After climbing Temple 11 and ascending the Acropolis I emerged onto the East Court, a small green area.  Here I had my ticket checked and entered the Rolalila Tunnel.  The tunnel was excavated in recent history because of the Mayan tendency to build temples on top of each other, and they show these well preserved older temples underneath.  The tunnel was pretty short, but clearly showed the Rosalila Temple that was covered by Temple 16, the tallest structure in Copan.  The Jaguar Tunnel across the East Court was much longer, and showed the older structures under Temples 20 and 21.  Pretty amazing stuff that they have been able to successfully dig this stuff out, and worth the extra $15 to get the good view of the building progression of the city.

Now these birds didn't mind me at all... or they just assumed I was a tree.

The rest of the Ruins were nice as I exited past the West Court and climbed down to a surrounding trail.  Along this trail unrestored and unexcavated ruins could be seen along the right side.  I wonder if future plans call for exploring these as well.  More great pictures of Macaws on the way out, and I did happen upon what I think was a Paca on the path out to the ticket office.  I just checked online, and am fairly certain it was a Paca.  In Guatemala two years ago I ate one of these things in a restaurant, it was called Tepezcuintle and was scrumpcious.  It didn't look very appetizing grazing the grounds.

I took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel, and told the drive I was leaving town on the early bus in the morning.

A couple of Emerald Toucanets. As the name suggests they're a smaller type of toucan.
  He offered to wake up to pick me up at the hotel and take me to the bus stop at 4:45am for 100 Lempira.  It seemed reasonable, so after I made sure of the time and that it was tomorrow I agreed.  I chilled in the room for about an hour, and then decided to hit a nearby bird park that was recommended to me.  Another tuk-tuk took me up a cobblestone road 3km north of town to a beautiful property that had a river flowing through it.

Admission was $10, but I am a bird lover so I hoped for the best.  My guide for the visit was Fino, a local teen whose brother is currently living in Ontario, Canada.  He had only been speaking English for a year, but had an amazing grasp of it.  I can't even begin to describe the variety and beauty of these huge macaws, parrots, toucans, owls and hawks.

A Grey Hawk attempts to burn through me with it's eyes.
  Some have been rescued from the wild, and some donated to the property by owner that can't care for them anymore.  The enclosures for most of the birds are enormous, and there is a section that houses the birds in cages for part of the day, and lets them fly free for the rest.  Fino pulled out a Scarlett Macaw, a Blue & Gray, and a few Africans for a photo session.  I must say I photograph very well with birds.

I had an iced coffee at the end of the tour, and then took a tuk-tuk back into town.  I paid my bill at the hotel, and asked the front desk if I could rely on my driver to get me in the morning.  She said it should not be a problem, but last minute arrangements could be made if need be.  I went to have some dinner at a place called the Red Toad.

Scarlet Macaws fly freely around the entrance to Copan,
  It was good, and ironically aside from the fast food on the trip it may have been the most American meal of the journey.  I need to work my way back into American society somehow.

I got back to the room and checked my airline reservation online.  Bingo!  Another First Class upgrade for the flight to Houston!  Now I've just got to wake up by 4am and be ready.  Wish me luck again.  :)

Later, Phil

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Off in a tuk-tuk to Macaw Mountain.
Off in a tuk-tuk to Macaw Mountain.
A load of Scarlet Macaws hanging i…
A load of Scarlet Macaws hanging …
A trio of African Parrots pose for…
A trio of African Parrots pose fo…
I think this guy wanted to bite me.
I think this guy wanted to bite me.
Toucans are very cool.  This one w…
Toucans are very cool. This one …
Now these birds didnt mind me at …
Now these birds didn't mind me at…
A couple of Emerald Toucanets.  As…
A couple of Emerald Toucanets. A…
A Grey Hawk attempts to burn throu…
A Grey Hawk attempts to burn thro…
Scarlet Macaws fly freely around t…
Scarlet Macaws fly freely around …
Structure 4 between the Gran Plaza…
Structure 4 between the Gran Plaz…
Stela H depicting Eighteen Rabbit …
Stela H depicting Eighteen Rabbit…
Game on!  This is the ball court i…
Game on! This is the ball court …
The Hieroglyphic Stairway gets som…
The Hieroglyphic Stairway gets so…
The view from Temple 11.
The view from Temple 11.
The Rosalila Tunnel.
The Rosalila Tunnel.
Ill give you one guess what altar…
I'll give you one guess what alta…
Copan
photo by: Biedjee