Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Tuesday 29th March 2011

Unfortunately I wandered off Roatan with the key to our little cottage still in my pocket, something I only realised as we were gliding back to the Honduran mainland on the ferry. Consequently, it accompanied George and me on the buses we took across the north of the country to Copan Ruinas, a small, attractive town, that the guidebooks invariably describe as "colonial". This means that it has cobbled streets, pretty, if slightly shabby low-rise villas and lots flowers and greenery poking through cracks in said cobbles and villas. The taxis are tuk-tuks, one of which rocketed us through the streets, bouncing up and down the steep hills in squeals both of breaks and George.

We were lucky in Liberia (Costa Rica) when we rocked up in town to find a Sabenero festival in full swing. And so we were in Copan. In the town square that evening, hundreds of people milled around, amongst steaming food stalls and, constructed in the middle of the square, a faux Mayan temple. Two men dressed only in loincloths and Mayan headgear stood awkwardly on the structure, while dreadful "new age" synthesizer music crackled out of a PA system.

The Mayan theme and our visit to the town were inspired by the Mayan ruins that lie just a kilometre outside Copan Ruinas. We walked there the next day and clambered over the ancient stones. A few small pyramids are dotted over the site (I observed one female tourist climb to the top of one, and sit cross-legged bowing occasionally, obviously attempting to commune with the ancient race who practiced blood-letting and human sacrifice) in between huge tree roots, and rubble, but it's the amazingly preserved hieroglyphics that are the real draw. Faces, skulls, animals and baffling pictograms are etched all over stelae, the tumble down buildings and a giant staircase.

We encountered the Mayans again a few days later in Guatemala. We were staying in a small lakeside village called El Remate in a cosy thatched bungalow. George's iPhone alarm cut into the darkness at 5:00am. "This was a dreadful mistake" were her first words as we struggled to get out of bed to meet the 5:30am minibus to Tikal. But it wasn't. The minibus got us to the Tikal site at around 6:15. Rejecting a guide we strolled into a deserted ancient city. The Mayan ruins at Tikal cover a huge area filled with magisterial ruined plazas and giant pyramids that poke up through the jungle canopy. We wandered around, climbing the tallest pyramids, admiring the view and then getting giddy with vertigo when we realised how high we were. As we fulfilled our Indiana Jones fantasies, the jungle woke up around us, birds letting off bizarre squawks, howlers monkeys groaning, and the odd spider monkey swinging around.

By the time we were ready to leave the park was starting to fill up with more visitors and tour groups, and the magic of having the place to ourselves had dissolved. But while it lasted it was amazing, and as we passed the incoming tourists on our way out we wore our best smug faces, knowing we'd had the best of the place.

Temple V, Tikal

146 - posted at 19:44:41

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