The Americas travel blog

The stairs

This morning we try to have breakfast at a cafe outside the Hotel but there seems to be nothing open early enough, so we head back to eat in our Hotel. Our tour of Copan ruins begins at 8 am before it gets too hot. This Mayan city of 20,000 inhabitants thrived from the 5th to the 9th century and covered an area of 27 sq kms. We meet our guide Cesar at the entrance to the site. Our first stop is not the main area but the Sepulturas, which is further down the road. Here was the residential area of the middle class. We can see the remains of some of the Mayan homes, made from volcanic rock and inside each home are their stone beds which they then used animal skins to add comfort and we can see how additional rooms were added as their family grew. There have also been tombs found beneath these buildings with the skeleton always in the foetal position. The more prominent the family, the more decoration on the buildings. There is also a Taiwanese archaeological team still working on some of the structures in this area, uncovering more each year and restoring buildings for future generations to see. We now return to the main site where we walk down the wide main plaza used mainly by the King. Along the way we can see the telltale mounds usually with trees growing out from them, including the massive Ceiba tree, that indicate there is a structure underneath that still has not been explored. Tikal, also a Mayan city in Guatemala (we saw it in 2012) is known for its enormous structures and size overall and is compared to New York. Whereas Copan is smaller, known for the beauty of its carvings and decoration and therefore compared to Paris. First we see the Acropolis, the royal complex of the King. Here the decoration and carvings on all the buildings are spectacular. We see crocodiles, jaguar, many skulls, the Mayan calendar and statues of the 16 kings that ruled Copan over 400 years.

We continue on to see the Great Plaza which was public space for ceremonies and rituals. Here was a court for ball games and the massive Hieroglyphic stairway of 62 steps leading up to a temple. On these steps are 2200 glyphs that together form the longest known Maya hieroglyphic text. On every 12th step is a large sculptured figure which shows the most important rulers. Adjacent to the stairs is an open area for ceremonies and here are 6 statues of the 13th ruler.

There is also a museum on site, which we visit. Here they have a full scale replica of Rosalila Temple which was found almost intact in 1989. It is intact because it was not destroyed but built over in 571AD. This replica shows what this city must have looked like, as all the structures had stucco and were painted wonderful bright colours.

Back to town and we have the rest of the day free. Phil and I share a sandwich at one of the cafes and wander through a few shops. There is also a small museum in the town that has some amazing survivors from the period, ceramics, jade jewellery tools and even a skeleton.

Tonight we eat dinner at Casa de Via Via which has a lovely courtyard out the back. I have Fajitas de Pollo which is amazing. One of the best meals I have had in Central America. The meal is 2 fajitas, strips of chicken, carrot and capsicum in a mild chill sauce and then half an avocado with a tomato salsa inside. Yum!!

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