Tag Archives: Copán

Tick tock, tuk tuk time

6 May

“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

~ Margo Channing (All About Eve)

The first time I travelled outside of Tegucigalpa I was surprised to find the streets full of tuk tuks. While you could be forgiven for thinking we’d suddenly travelled through a worm hole to India, this wasn’t the case.

Copan mototaxi

It turns out that motorised rickshaws, called motaxis here, are the most popular form of public transport outside of the major cities. They’re a cheap way of getting around, and also a bit of a novelty for tourists, so their popularity is understandable.

The majority are red-hued but you’ll come across green, yellow and black mototaxis too. Once I even saw a metallic gold one. I wish I had had my camera with me that day. Pimp my Tuk Tuk could be MTV’s next hit program.

As you might imagine, on asphalt they’re a reasonably smooth ride, but on the cobblestone streets often found in Honduran rural towns and villages it’s a whole other story.

When watching the short video I filmed in Copan, you’ll soon see that a mototaxi trip can be a teeth-rattling experience.

This weekend we travelled to the island of Amapala in the south of Honduras to eat lobster for lunch. (Hey, it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it.) After lunch we took a mototaxi tour of the island. There were four of us, so three sat in the back and I perched up front with the driver.

It was a bit of a precarious position as there was no real seat for me to sit on, just a small metal ledge, but by gripping onto the roof struts for dear life I was able to stay on board. It’s not uncommon to see, five, six, seven or even eight passengers crammed into a mototaxi like a red can of sardines.

Halfway through our driver needed to fill up, so we stopped at the equivalent of the local gas station. This was a simple white cement building, from which emerged an old man with a juice bottle full of fuel.

Our driver pulled out a plastic tube with a coke bottle funnel attached and they proceeded to fill up the spare tank (aka soft drink bottle) and the mototaxi itself.

Hondurans are nothing if not ingenious.

I must admit that despite the fact they’re a slow, noisy and bumpy form of transportation I have a big soft spot for mototaxis. I’ll miss seeing them puttering along the streets when I return home.

Riding in style: mototaxi at Amapala

Riding in style: mototaxi at Amapala

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“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan

3 May

“A man is a god in ruins.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The radio silence about my AFS excursion to Copán doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the trip, but is more a reflection of my slackness when it comes to uploading photos from my camera.

Confusingly the ruins are called Copán and the town is called Copán Ruinas (Copan Ruins). So you travel to the Copan Ruins to see Copán, not to Copán to see the ruins. Still with me?

It’s a long drive from Tegucigalpa to Copan Ruinas, which is situated close to the Guatemalan border in western Honduras. Including pit stops and a lunch break it took us just under 8 hours to get there, but it’s definitely worth the journey.

Copán Ruinas is a small town with cobblestoned streets and quaint colonial buildings.  As well as being the gateway to the ruins, there are also plenty of other tourist attractions to keep you busy.

On Friday afternoon we visited ‘Macaw Mountain’. As the name suggests, this is a tropical bird reserve featuring a large variety of parrots, parakeets, toucans, hawks, owls, and of course, macaws. All the birds are either donated rescued.

Meeting the locals

Meeting the locals

Macaw in Spanish is guacamaya. For some reason my brain insists on memorising the word as guayamaca. Maybe it’s my hamaca obsession filtering through.

We toured the ruins on Saturday afternoon. While Copan may not be as large or as big as some of the Aztec ruins I’ve seen in Mexico, the artwork is phenomenal. The detail in the sculptures, or ‘stelae’ as they’re called, is impressive.

My favourite statue was the one they called the Dancing Jaguar. Move over Nutbush and Macarena I think this will be the next dance craze:

Dancing Jaguar

Our guide was very knowledgeable and once I wrapped my head around her strong accent I really enjoyed her enthusiastic descriptions.

“Five, ten, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, Eighteen Rabbit King!”

Ok, so you kinda had to be there. But you can take my word for it, she was great.

 

It was a really interesting afternoon and I wish we’d had more time to take it all in.

Whenever I visit ruins I can’t help but remember one of my favourite poems, Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Ozymandias
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Here, there and everywhere

19 Apr

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”

~ Bill Bryson

I’ve settled into a nice routine here in Honduras. Weekdays I work at UNICEF from 8:00am to 4:30pm and then in the afternoon I either:

  • visit the gym (I’m trying to do this more often than not);
  • go to the mall (mostly to window shop and drink coffee); or
  • head home to read, watch How I Met Your Mother* on Netflix, or just chill out and relax.

*How have I only just now discovered this awesome TV show?

It’s a pretty cruisey lifestyle during the week, which is probably a good thing, as on the weekends it’s generally all go, go, go. My host-mum doesn’t like to hang around the house doing nothing and loves going on day trips or weekend excursions. This means she’s been doing a brilliant job of showing me the country.

This weekend we not only celebrate the birthday of a very important person (hint, hint) but we also mark my two-month anniversary here in Honduras. I can’t believe how quickly the time is flying by. Thanks to my host-mum though, I’ve managed to see a lot in that short space of time.

So far I’ve travelled to Valle de Angeles (multiple times), Santa Lucia, Tela (twice), San Pedro Sula, Lago de Yojoa, Comayagua (twice), Siguatepeque, San Lorenzo, El Hatillo, La Tigra and even to Santa Rosa de Lima in El Salvador for the infamous soup-inspired border crossing.

I’ve loved getting out and about and traversing this fascinating country. Tegucigalpa can be a little underwhelming so having a weekend away can be a very welcome break. I particularly enjoy visiting towns where you can walk freely on the streets and not constantly worry about security.

Looks pretty safe from a distance...

Looks pretty safe from a distance…

My next AFS camp will be held at Copán Ruinas, 25-28 April. I can’t wait to explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Copán. They’re meant to be impressive and are considered one of Honduras’ tourism highlights.

It will also be nice to see how the other AFS participants are doing. Hopefully they’ve been having just as much fun as I have. I’m really glad I decided to turn this particular travel dream of mine into a reality. Almost halfway through and there are no regrets, just lots of great experiences and happy memories.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Valle de Angeles again. My whole extended host-family will be gathering to help me celebrate my All About Me Day (aka birthday). My host-mum and her friends have decided the party theme will be ¡Tequila!

I’m already dreading Sunday morning’s headache.