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February 13th 2015
Published: February 13th 2015
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Copan, Honduras, is one of the best Mayan sites. It was built over a long period, 900 BC to 800 AD and was home to 50,000 people. We spent some time exploring the ruins. In the Grand Plaza stand stone stelae, each carved with a larger-then-life image of a scary king. A flight of 63 steps has thousands of hieroglyphs carved into it. The whole city is covered in intricate carvings. We find houses, palaces, temples and a pelota court. Pelota is a cross between tennis and squash but nobody knows how it was played.

Over time, problems emerged. The city grew beyond the ability of the local agriculture to support it; generations of inter-breeding in the ruling royal family had predictable consequences; they got heavily into hallucinogenic drugs and held six-week long fiestas. Slowly, the city imploded and died.

For a thousand years Copan was forgotten, the stone looted to build local farmsteads. It was not until the 1800s that a British team rediscovered the site. Even today, most of the ruins are still just ruins. There are a lot of small hills which they believe are collapsed buildings but nobody is certain.

Macaws fly over the ruins. They have recently been reintroduced to the valley and it is wonderful to see these scarlet birds flying and squawking in the trees. Later we visit Macaw Mountain where the breading takes place. The older birds, rescued from being injured or being pets, are too habituated to be released but their off-spring are released back into the wild to fly free.

Lunch in a little cafe features cheese and yogurt made on a farm just up the road and coffee from a local plantation. The fruit is local too, no food miles here!

Then we headed north-east to Roatan Island in the Caribbean Sea. A four hour ride in a local "chicken bus ", once an American school bus, got us to San Pedro. Another four hour ride, this time in an old coach, and we are at the coast. Then just a 90 minute ferry ride and we reach Roatan.

The island is more Caribbean than Central American. White sand, palm trees and Bob Marley. Our little cabin is right on the ocean; the view from the hammock on the deck is of blue, blue sea. The ground around us looks volcanic but is, in fact, brown coral.

Little water taxis take us from point to point around the island, a cool way to travel. The reef is only just off shore and the water below us teems with fish of all colours, it's like a huge aquarium!

But, after two days of chilling, we are off again tomorrow. An early flight and then a bus will take us to Leon in Nicaragua. More from there.

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