I was in Copan Ruinas between the 30th of December and the 2nd of January 2013, and made it a point of finding out what is new in town, new being I guess the significant changes of the past 18 months or so. I must confess, I was quite pleasantly surprised.
For a change, I stayed at the Hotel Buena Vista, which is a pleasant, middle of the road hotel, with a nice interior courtyard that has an inviting pool. As its name states, it offers a lovely view of town, because it is strategically located on the top of a mountain overlooking town and the Copan Valley down below. The rooms were simple, but very clean, and the bathrooms had the benefit of hot water, making for a pleasant hot water shower in the cool Copan climate. Rooms also have air-conditioning and a TV.
As a man on a mission, I set out early on the 31st to Rio Amarillo, located only 15 km east of Copan, on the main road between San Pedro Sula and Copan Ruinas. The site has been selected as the ideal spot for the Copan Airfield, and some time in the future, God only knows if the medium or long term, there will be an operational airport built here to provide air service to Copan. In the meantime, the government has been working on a small archaeological site located in the vicinity that is known as Rio Amarillo. Entrance fee: $5.00 US dollars per person if you are a foreigner, less if you are Honduran. (they will request your ID before selling you your ticket!). The site is quite small, and unfortunately has been destroyed partially by a creek that flows just next to it. In addition, an old road virtually passed right in the middle of the site and surely had its negative effects on the ruins. In any case, the site has been partially restored, and is a pleasant walk through the jungle. From the little information that I could gather, most of the site dates back to the fifth century and belongs to the preclassic Maya period, which means that there are few elaborate carvings, much unlike what you see in the Copan Archaeological site. If you are a Mayan enthusiast, and enjoy a walk in the jungle, the site is quite interesting, however if you are not seriously into the Mayan culture, my advice is to skip the site.
Kind of disappointed with what I saw at Rio Amarillo, I decided to explore more the surroundings, and set out to look for Rastrojon, a small site located in the Copan River Valley, high in the mountains overlooking the Copan River. The site is not officially open to the public and is currently being excavated by an archaeological team from Harvard University. Access is truly very simple, drive up to the Clarion Hotel, park your car in the parking lot and then walk up a dirt road that leads up the hill on the left hand side of the parking lot, just as you enter the area. A short, 150 meter hike up the road you will come up to a gate, which is usually closed, but not locked, go past the gate, and continue another 50 yards and you will see a cemented trail with steps on the left leading further up the hill. At the top you will come upon this small site, which apparently was kind of a military outpost to provide security for Copan. The site is small, but interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed the views from the mountain top, truly and ideal spot for military outpost.
To end my day before the New Year Eve celebration with family in Copan Ruinas, I had one more important stop to make: a short visit to Hacienda San Lucas. This is one of the most unique spots in Copan, actually, in Honduras, where you will enjoy the tranquillity, the inspiring view, and best of all, the true Honduran hospitality. This is the perfect spot for a relaxing sunset, no better spot in the World to see the sun set for the last time in the year. A truly memorable experience, made even better with the company of my dear friend Flavia Cueva, owner and manager of the Hacienda San Lucas, while we sipped a glass of wine…
As I had to get up and leave, I could not resist taking a picture of the artistic “Nacimiento” a very local rendering meant to represent the birth of Christ which I am happy to share in a photo for your enjoyment! As I left, the staff at San Lucas was illuminating the whole hacienda building with candles, creating a truly mystic, romantic atmosphere which I can not even try to describe. Instead, I suggest you make it a point to make reservations at San Lucas for dinner next time you are in town. It is a true dining experience!
New Years Eve in Honduras is a serious event, and families come together to celebrate this by having dinner together, lighting as many noisy firecrackers as they can afford and getting in a festive mood. The closer it gets to midnight, the more the firecrackers are lit up. Perhaps one of the more traditional acts to say goodbye to the old year is the burning of the old man. This old man is made much in same fashion as that of a scarecrow, however they stuff the guy with noisy firecrackers. Many will dress him up in a true bandido fashion, but instead of having the traditional bullet belts across his chest he will have firecrackers across him! Local folklore has taken the concept even further, and many time they actually make a mock of one of their least favorite local or national leaders by dressing the old man like them and then burning them up!
The old man is traditionally made up in the weeks prior to the years end, and all of the community starts to stuff him with firecrackers in the weeks leading to the New Year. By New Years Eve, the poor bastard is loaded with gun powder and will go up in a big bang when lit up at exactly midnight, in due time to bury the old year and receive the new one!. This year, many people in Tegucigalpa dressed their old man to resemble president Lobo and then had the thrill of lighting him on fire and see him blow up!
On a change of subjects, the most important changes I could find in Copan, other than the progress with archaeological investigations, were the following:
Comedor y Pupuseria Mary, an old, well established, locally owned restaurant has finally moved to their new location and now offers some hotel rooms too! The new location, one block to the north of the Soccer field located at the entrance to town offers a nice refreshed look, but with the same atmosphere of their old setting. Food, great as always, although a bit more expensive, it is still a good deal for local food in town.
Café Ixchel. Just next to Comedor y Pupuseria Mary is a new café that offers a lovely setting, with a colourful flowered interior patio. A perfect spot for breakfast or a daytime café accompanied by some freshly made desserts and pastries. They also offer a variety of delicious lunch options. The coffee is from their own family finca and can also be purchased to take back home with you. Service is extremely friendly and you can take advantage and arrange for a spa session at the Ixchel Spa, located a few miles out of town at the family finca. A very fine experience indeed that I highly recommend! For more information, visit www.spaixchel.com
Cafe San Rafael has now expanded their menu and include a variety of deli sandwiches, all made with the home made gourmet cheeses. This place is so popular that I was not able to find a table to sit in when I visited the place during this trip. They truly deserve the good name they have earned. A true must during your visit to town! for more info visit www.cafesanrafael.com/
Terramaya Bed and Breakfast. Although not really brand new, Terramaya has been open for over a year, I had committed the terrible mistake of not visiting it to get acquainted with the facilities. Terramaya is even better that I ever expected. Howard and Angela Rosenzweig have done an absolutely wonderful job at putting this little gem together. This is a true boutique style bed and breakfast, located close to downtown, yet far from the noise of Central Park. 6 lovely rooms, a cosy little garden and a massage room tucked away discreetly in a corner offer everything you would want in a bed and breakfast. Friendly personalized service, sparkling clean rooms, air conditioning and spacious rooms, together with a comfy living room area and porch. Prices are very reasonable. For more info, visit www.terramayacopan.com
Finally, and referring to the highway between San Pedro Sula and Copan, I can inform you that the road is dire need of being rebuilt. If you are driving, make sure you do so with caution, as pot holes abound and new ones are “born” on a daily basis. You can easily blow a tire in your car if you fall into one of the really deep ones, so take your time and don’t get distracted enjoying the lovely scenery along the way! Above all, try not to drive at night, pot holes have a way of hiding from your site at the dark, but I can assure you that your tires will find them!