Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What is that smell?

Early Tuesday morning we huffed ourselves to the bus station in Antigua to begin our long journey to Honduras. Since we both agreed that travel by chicken bus was not even an option (can you imagine 12 plus hours squished amongst strangers for days at a time?) we splurged for Hedman Alas, the “first class” bus that services Honduras. Though definitely better than chicken bus, Hedman Alas didn’t exactly live up to the hype. Our ride was comfortable enough, with blankets (if you requested one), snacks (a package of cookies and a juice box), movies, and reclining seats. The biggest problem we had was the smell coming from the bathroom……but not what you’re thinking. These buses use the strongest smelling air fresheners imaginable – probably not even available for purchase in the US, these suckers could make you high in seconds! Lucky me, I was nauseas with a migraine the entire ride to Copan.

When we finally arrived we were pleasantly surprised with the town. So quaint and charming, Copan may just have been the highlight of our entire trip. We stumbled across a great little hotel (definitely a step up from a backpackers place, but not crazy expensive) that is too new to be in any of our guide books. The staff there was fabulous and lucky for us we ended up being their only guests, so we got all their attention! I just about died and went to heaven when I got a look at the brand new, spotlessly clean, free-flowing hot water shower. If you’ve been following our blog you’ve seen what we showered in for our first 5 weeks in Guatemala. Enough said. So, if you’re planning a trip to Copan Ruinas, Yat B’alam is a must stay.

Copan is a small town best know for Mayan ruins that are about a 15-minute walk outside of the center. Archeologists believe that settlers began moving into the area near Rio Copan around 1400BC to take advantage of the areas rich agricultural potential, but didn’t begin construction of the city until 100AD. Near the end of Copan’s “heyday” the popluation grew at an unprecedented rate. This in turn greatly strained the agricultural resources of Copan and thus began the downfall. No longer agriculturally self-sufficient, food had to be imported from other areas. Deforestation became a problem as the urban core expanded and forced agricultural and residential areas into the surrounding valley. Although the Copan valley was not abandoned overnight, as it is thought that agriculturalists may have continued to live there for another 200 years, but by 1200AD the royal city of Copan became reclaimed by the jungle.

Aside from the ruins Copan is best known for, there are some other attractions worth checking out, including a bird park and butterfly sanctuary. We spent an afternoon taking a tour of Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve where we interacted with macaws, parakeets, parrots, toucans, hawks and owls. Although we have never really been “bird-people” this place was pretty cool – another must see.

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