Diamond in the Rough

After a comfy seven-hour ride from Guatemala on a nearly deserted bus, we arrived at the Guatemalan-Honduran border. The process of getting into Honduras was surprisingly simple and cost a mere two dollars. The only annoyance, which was actually quite comical, were the guys that buy your Guatemalan pesos when you’re leaving Guatemala only to sell a few back to you minutes later at a higher price so you can pay the entrance fee into Honduras (which oddly enough, must be paid in Guatemalan pesos). Buddy bought my money from me and literally waited two feet away while the border agent told me I needed Guatemalan pesos to pay the fee. I turned around after being told, and there he was with this proud “gotcha” look on his face, which was actually priceless. Honduras 1, Maia 0.

Another 50 kms into Honduras, you get to the little town of Copan where we intended to spend a few days to see the Copan Ruins and this fabulous bird sanctuary that everyone and their mother kept blabbing about.

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If you love history, the ruins will not disappoint. Inhabited by the Maya as far back as 100 A.D., the Copan dynasty ran from about 500 to 900 A.D. It is believed that at one point, there were about 20,000 Mayans in the area; however, somewhere around 900 A.D, they abandoned the city, which remained relatively untouched until it was discovered towards the end of the 16th century. The Copan Ruins is one of the greatest sites showing Maya civilization via its temples, plazas and statues, and it was quite impressive and well-preserved.

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As is the way with my friend Katie and I, we had quite the experience while there. Our guide was a local, probably in his 40s, very friendly, kind of good-looking, and of course, bat-shit crazy. And drunk. Did I mention it was 9am at the start of our tour?!

Aside from the stench of booze and slurred speech, we knew he was a bit “off” from the get-go as he insisted we take our hair out of our ponytails because of something to do with the Mayan gods preferring it that way. I’d like to think they’d have been okay with my hair up since it was pushing 40 degrees that day, but who was I to argue with an expert…and gods…

He also wanted us to go bare feet and would periodically have us rub trees, smell the air, listen to the sounds of life at the site, and close our eyes in meditation. I went along with it as he seemed pretty harmless and seeing as my chakras were all abuzz, not to mention the jokes and zingers he was providing for Katie and me later on. We spent most of the day there but then ‘fled’ to the bird sanctuary when we finished the tour and he started pouring on the ‘let’s-hang-out-later-on-tonight’ charm. The bird sanctuary was a little lack lustre; nonetheless, the two sites together make for a nice little day trip and lets you get a good feel for the area if you boot around by tuk-tuk.

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Copan is a quaint little town. Along its winding cobblestone streets, you won’t see a grand town square or any big monuments or colonial attractions, but it certainly didn’t lack personality. One of the surprising highlights was the people and the happenin’ night life. Perhaps it was because we were not expecting it to be party central, but this place was on fire.  There was one little area around the main square that was teeming with food stalls, souvenir stands, bars and of course, cackling locals and music on bust. We frequented one little bar/restaurant for beers and snippets of the World Cup, and to play with the owner’s new puppy who we quickly became obsessed with and visited every time we strolled by.

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At another place, I was approached by a little girl who wanted to try out the few phrases she knew in English. After our little convo, she invited me up on the dance floor where her and her aunt were tearing it up. And even though she destroyed me up there, I held my own and had fun and probably gave her something to tell her little friends later on.

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We also found ourselves at the world’s best (and worst) karaoke bar and had the time  of our lives, listening to cheezy 80s cover songs, while wolfing down pizza and beer. I don’t know how many times we talked about how friendly and happy everyone was, right down to the street dogs who looked generally well fed and content to live in this little slice of Honduran heaven.

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Out of everywhere I’ve travelled to in Central America, I felt I could have stayed in Honduras longer. I know the country gets a bad rap because of the violence in some areas, which I don’t dispute is there, but from what I saw, the people are warm and welcoming and are very much apart of its appeal. For my next trip there, I think I’ll head to the coast and hope to find the same beauty and hospitality that wowed us in Copan.