Published: January 7th 2011December 28th 2010
The border crossing from Nicaragua to Honduras is relatively straight forward, firstly because they are part of the CA-4 border agreement with El Salvador and Guatemala, and secondly because I am on an international bus which assists you through the controls. My destination is San Pedro Susa in the north west of Honduras and requires only a brief stop in the capital, Tegucigalpa (long enough enough to realise the capital is a quite an unpleasant place!) Fortunately my arrival into San Pedro Susa coincides with the last bus to the Caribbean coastal town of La Ceiba, so I jump on that and stay the night in a cheap backpackers.
The ferry ride to Utila (forming part of the Bay Islands) goes without incident. Upon arrival, I head straight for Captain Morgans Dive Centre and book myself in for a few dives. The prime reasons for choosing this dive centre is because its accommodation is based on Jewel Cay, located amongst a grouping of small islands off the main island of Utila. I realise I have chosen well; the former tranquility of 'Utila Town´has been severely degraded by motorbikes and four-wheelers driving extremely fast in vast numbers up and down the only road (which was formerly a pedestrian footpath). Jewel Cay is a world apart; a tiny community with no vehciles on two tiny islands connected by a small footbridge, set amongst turqoise waters and reefs full of sealife. It was the first place on the Bay Islands to be colonised by British who had come from the Cayman Islands and so English, with a Caribbean flavour, is widely spoken.
Whilst I´d had a poor nights sleep I head for two morning dives on Christmas Eve, particularly as the weather appears favourable. We see many tropical fish and plenty of coral formations through some good visibility so its a successful morning. However, on the first dive I´m forever clearing my mask owing to incoming water and feel cold throughout. I also use most of my air and have to share my guides air whilst underwater. Something felt a little wrong but it was not until I went for lunch - which I couldn´t eat - and almost fell down some stairs that I realised I wasnt well. So, I spent the remainder of Christmas Eve and the majority of Christmas Day wrapped up in bed. Bah humbug!
I leave the Bay Islands feeling a little unfulfilled but don´t think I missed out on much owing to the bad weather making for poor diving conditions. I hop on a series of buses and make my way to the Copan Ruins near the Guatemalan border. I stay in the quaint little town of Copan, only a short walk from the ruins. This allows me to walk to the ruins as they open at 8am, thereby having an almost solitary walk around the ruins before the tour buses arrive.
Copán is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization, which was the capital city of a major Classic period kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries AD. Copán was occupied for more than two thousand years, with its population peaking at some 20,000. However, the population declined in the 8th and 9th centuries to less than 5,000, the ceremonial center was long abandoned and the surrounding valley home to only a few farming hamlets at the time of the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Archaeologists are still working out what happened to the Maya at the end of the Classic period; that is, what caused the collapse at the apparenty peak of its powers and abandonment of so many cities. This background adds to the eerie feeling as you wander around the ruins, which have been retained and made safe in very sympathetic way. Many of the ruins have been reclaimed by the jungle and you are even greeted by wild (but quite tame) Macaws squawking as you enter the main site. By far the most impressive part of the ruins are the large pyramid like temples which are in surprisingly good condition. Interestingly, there is a ball court overlooked by Macaw stone carvings on two sloping temples, which participants used to keep a rubber ball in the air without using their hands; perhaps the modern game has its origins in the Maya kingdom! Even more interestingly, archaeologists are still uncovering tunnels leading to other hidden treasures such as the remarkable Rosalila temple located within Temple 16. A massive life size version of the Rosalila temple is located within the on site museum; it definitely sets the mind wandering as to what other surpises lie beneath and within the ruins.
After Copan, I head towards Guatemala. However, given that this blog appears a little thin, here are some of the better books I´ve read along my travels which I´d recommend to all:
A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre
Disgrace, J M Coetzee
Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto ´Che´ Guevara
Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller
The Next 100 Years, George Freidman
We Need to Talk about Kevin, Lionel Shriver
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Steig Larsson
The Girl who Played with Fire, Steig Larsson
The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest, Steig Larsson
The Man Swam the Amazon, Martin Strel & Matthew Mohlke
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway
I´m currently reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which is turning out to be as good a book as the reviews inidcate. I hope to have finished the book by the time I finish my next blog: Guatemala.