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As far as I can tell, Copan Ruinas is "the" Mayan site to visit in Honduras. More generally, one could say it's also "the" tourist destination in Honduras. Put another way, if someone has been to Honduras, they've probably been to Copan Ruinas.
Copan Ruinas is actually the name of a town located in the foothills of Honduras very close to both the El Salvadorian and Guatemalan borders. In our case, getting to the town from El Salvador was most easily done by crossing first into Guatemala. Though it is possible to cross directly from El Salvador, it requires a few more hours in a chicken bus.
It's so common for people to enter Honduras for the sole purpose of visiting Copan Ruinas from Guatemala that they have devised a special exit/entry visa system to accommodate exactly that, reducing your border crossing fees. This works well so long as you enter and exit the country from the same border crossing and don't plan to visit anywhere else while you are in Honduras.
The ruins themselves can be divided into 3 parts, the entrance which does not require any tickets to enter, has a large grassy picnic area and a self guided nature trail (with signs in English and Spanish) that takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Also in the entrance are the cages that are being used to help re-introduce the Scarlet Macaw to the forest. These photogenic birds are easy to spot, and numerous.
Next comes the main area. Located just past the entrance it lies behind a fenced in gate. To enter, you require a ticket, valued at 285 Lempiras ($15 USD) per person with an optional ticket to view the tunnels, created by archaeologists, for the same amount again. We chose not to view the tunnels, as the price seemed a bit too steep for us.
The main area has been beautifully restored, and consists of a series of Stella, and Temple buildings spread across 1 sq. km. Take your time looking around, the detail in the carvings is the best we've seen anywhere. Truly amazing. It took us about three hours of wandering around before we'd had a cursory glance over everything.
We arrived in the main area as soon as the gates opened, 8:00 AM, and had the place almost to ourselves. By the time we left near 11:00 AM several school buses had arrived on site and there was a significant amount of people pouring in. The staff let us know that this is pretty typical and advised us to avoid the park between 11:30 AM and 2:30 PM if we wished to avoid the crowds.
The last section of ruins that we visited were located 2km past the main entrance along the same road leading from the town. These ruins were also restored, and consisted of the residential buildings that belonged to the Mayan Elite. In contrast to the main area we were completely alone here even during the peak visiting hours, with the exception of the gatekeeper who decided to take on the role of unofficial tour guide - partly for hopes of a tip and partly out of boredom.
The Sepulturas, as this section of the ruins is erroneously called, requires your entry ticket from the main area to visit. It's quite large with a simple trail along the river connecting the various buildings. The lack of other tourists made this a perfect place to sit down and ponder the failed civilization of the ancients (if the Mayans can really be called ancient). We also brought our books with us. We set about reading them until the park closed at 4:00pm.
In addition to what we saw, there is also a Museum that houses much of the original carvings and pottery found at the ruin site (most of the carvings and statues you see outside in the ruins today are replicas). Like the tunnels, we found the additional museum fees of $7 USD a bit too much to swallow, and decided to pass. Seeing the replicas on the buildings was enough for us.
So, how do the ruins stack up? The carvings are the best we've seen. The buildings were about average.
Day 1Whitehorse to Lake Laberge 45km
- started at 10:45AM
- little map trouble
- 2 raft snack breaks (2nd sunny & great)
- rain on and off all day
- 30 minute lunch
- got to Lake Laberge 5:00ish
- smooth sailing til storm came in
- stopped to cook supper at 6:00 & had to wait out storm (wind & rain)
- got to camp @ 8:30
- Mike started fire w/ wet wood
- Shared glass of wine and went to bed
- High spirits (surprisingly - for Ashley)
Day 2Lake Laberge 24km
- no sleep (kept waking all night)
- rained all night
- woke up & waited in tents for rain to stop
- got up, opted for cold breakfast, packed up
- waited for weather to clear
- left @ 10:45 -> waves a plenty still
- bathroom stop, snack stop, lunch stop - slow going
- stopped @ Laurier creek for lunch
- saw a fox (1st wildlife sighting)
- Mike caught 2 grayling (threw 3 back)
- first catch on first cast ($9 fishing rod was knotted)
- cleaned fish and left
- paddled til weather got iffy (5:30)
- stopped & cooked fish & bannock / waited out weather with wine
- battled waves to get around bend & find camp
- camped on rocky, hilly shore w/ abandoned kayak #76 (no signs of ppl)
- hot chocolate & Bailey's
Day 3Lake Laberge to 30 Mile 22km
- good sleep though Ashley woke to think Mike was bear, Mike woke to think girls were bear
- windy & whitecaps
- bagel sand for breakfast
- Mike separated egg powder & added water to wrong bag... oops!
- tried to eat the result (Ashley actually did)... double oops
- sandwiches were great
- forced to wait out whitecaps till 11:30
- Ashley felt eggs with every wave
- tried a tarp sail... worked @ start, then we pretty much just floated
- lunch stop & filtered water back to back (1 hour)
- paddled the rest of lake... weather cleared up & girls serenaded us w/ 99 bottles (in every genre/voice imaginable)
- stopped at Lower Labarge
- looked around, used outhouses (no squatting!)
- cooked supper: spaghetti with meat sauce... Soooooo Gooood!!!!!
- burned blasted egg powder
- paddled a little ways down river... the tug of the current was welcome
- camped on 1st available site... grassy hill (gorgeous!!)
- narrowly avoided another Mike dehydration spell
- spirits still high
Day 430 Mile 48km
- great sleep... snoozed a bit in th emorning b/c we didn't want to get up
- last bagels (pb&j) for breakfast
- had a nice float down 30 mile (barely paddled)
- stopped @ Domville Creek for water & hike to waterfall
- almost tipped canoe on rocky landing @ creek
- stopped for leisurely lunch by Red Painted Mountain
- saw a lynx
- Ashley got stung by wasp @ bathroom break
- got to Hootalinqua early (4:00ish)
- saw sights/cemetery
- Enchiladas & pudding for supper
- joined by fake Germans - turned out to be Spaniards
- lots of them (10) - noisy, wet, and setup tents right beside ours
- visited by fire
- named ourselves Mashley & Jananna
- Ashley was kept awake by Spaniards snoring & squawking
Day 5Hootalinqua to Cyr's Dredge 70.5km
- mmm... oatmeal for breakfast/beautiful summer weather
- went to Shipyard Island and saw Evelyn/Norcom (9:30)
- Mike rammed other canoe landing
- Ashley & Deanna took a turn steering
- paddled most of morning/afternoon - except for pee breaks
- rafted together for lunch
- made it to Big Salmon Village -> the Spanish Armada already took over the place for camp
- paddled on to "potential camp" on island... it sucked
- everyone cold & tired
- morale at all time low
- battled the wind and current to camp @ Cyr's Dredge (7:00ish)
- mashed potatoes, chili & cheese for supper... so good!
- went to bed early... everyone played out
Day 6Cyr's Dredge to ... 68km Writing obviously influenced by alcohol almost illegible
- pancakes for breakfast
- slow going
- paddled to Little Salmon (only stopped for bathroom breaks - Mike had a weak bladder)
- explored cemeteries
- saw a porcupine
- went silent by Eagle's Bluff... canoes turned to see it
- paddled most of day
- tried to stop @ island but saw bear tracks
- found awesome unmarked campsite on bluff with bench
- Spanish armada took up camp right across river from us (now 6 canoes)
- went for swim in river... Mike had freak out about cold
- drank wine & had fire
- mooned Spanish
- really hot day when sun was out
- saw beaver (or 2)
Day 7... to Island past Carmacks 30km
- Ashley woke up hungover, quinoa flakes for breakfast
- slow to leave camp - left @ 10:45
- paddled to Carmacks
- arrived @ Coal Mine Campground @ 1:30
- rough landing @ dock
- found it overtaken by Spanish
- went to "downtown" Carmacks
- split into 2 groups
- one stayed w/ canoes other showered, laundered, shopped, phoned home
- bought cheese burger & fries - shared $20
- left to find camp (6:00)
- got to island (#3) at 9:00 after combo of paddling & rafting (and a small rainstorm)
- after some debate decided to set up camp
- snacks for supper
- bed @ 11:00
Day 8Island past Carmacks to Thom's Cabin 74km Writing obviously influenced by alcohol almost illegible
- woke up early & left @ 9:45
- stopped for break before 5 finger rapids
- ran rapids... were great but too short/too tame
- ran rink rapids... didn't even notice
- stopped for lunch on island - hot & sunny
- paddled a ways, (rafted the whole way) then spotted forest fire
- stopped @ cabin to inquire about fire but no one was home
- waited an hour to decide what to do
- paddled to another private cabin
- was told fire was burning for a month & was under control
- stopped @ Minto for Supper - it was too smoky to camp
- lost gorp
- paddled around island to Thom's Cabin
- great campground
- met Johnny from Czech Republic (capsized in Laberge)
- drank wine, Baileys & hot chocolate
- went to be about 1AM
Day 9Thom's Cabin to Good Camp Island #2 (past Fort Selkirk) 62km
- woke up around 8:00
- left @ 9:45
- switched partners up: Mike & Jane (up ahead) Deanna & Ashley (behind)
- hard paddling all morning (very windy)
- arrived @ Fort Selkirk 1:30
- had hummus for lunch (mmm..)
- met large group from Edmonton/Ontario/Whitehorse
- really nice group, shared candy store with us
- warned them about Spaniards
- watched video & looked around Fort Selkirk
- left @ 5:00 to find camp
- rafted for 2 hours
- saw sheep
- missed 1st "good camp" on map
- island hopped to final camp
- stayed for supper @ failed attempt - Indian Tacos (complicated, tasty, too filling)
- paddled to next "good camp" on map
- arrived @ 10:00 - found Johnny Czech here
- setup camp
- went to bed
Day 10(Mosquito) Island Camp to Crappy Island Camp somewhere before Britannia Creek 46km
- woke up late (9:30) to rain
- got going around 11:30
- slow pace set by girls
- cold, windy, rainy
- got to Selwyn River Cabin @ 1:30 (23km)
- had lunch & lit fire - used Sawvivor & Mora Knife
- enjoyed dryness & warmth & shelter from wind until Spaniards arrived (4:00ish)
- put out fire
- left to find suitable camp
- saw male moose
- island/shore hopped until spirits were low (and Deanna's shoulder hurt)
- stopped for supper @ potential (but ultimately crappy) spot
- did some more investigations by rafting by
- stopped @ gravelly beach on shore 9:30
- set up camp on mucky uneven slope (our tent site sucked but was the best sloppy seconds available)
- went to bed early: cold feet, no fire, no tea
Day 11Crappy Island Camp to Better Island [10km pas Kirkman Creek] 58km
- woke up @ 8:00ish - super sore
- left @ 9:30
- cold & windy again, some rain
- paddled slowish
- rafted up for lunch
- paddled a good pace (because we led) to Kirkman Creek where the Burian family has a bakery
- bought a homemade rootbeer & chocolate cake to share... delicious
- decided not to camp there (would find something free)
- planned to find island 5km away
- 1st two islands had bear tracks... decided to move on
- found a suitable camp (5:45)... flat sandy tent spot (girls chose to setup on rocks)
- bannock & soup for supper
- played a game of 31... nice to relax & visit (girls had never played before) Ashley won
- went to bet @ 10:00
Day 12Better Island to Bushwhacked Shore Camp (just past Stewart Island) 37km
- slow start
- left @ 10:40
- paddled until White River
- stopped to hike up slope and look @ white River (trail rough & overgrown)
- Deanna lost thermos
- had lunch w/ the bugs
- hiked down
- found creek to pump water from
- got brown water - delicious
- took a back channel past Stewart Island
- found camp on 3rd try
- got to camp @ 6
- cut down some thistle to pitch tent
- while we had supper (Italian Savoury Pasta & butterscotch pudding) girls heard a loud crash in bushes (we think it was a startled moose)
- tied down barrels & canoe
- launched bear banger
- bugs got bad, so we spent night in tent
- played a game of crib - Ashley won
- read books
- went to bed
- rain started: poured hard (a little worried about sleeping on cliff)
Day 13Bushwhacked Shore Camp to Nice (Wild) Shore Camp @ Reindeer Creek 53km
- woke up @ 7:30
- took down tent in rain
- left @ 8:30
- paddled for about 1/2 hour and stopped on island for breakfast (in the rain)
- paddled all morning in rain
- stopped @ misty creek for H20
- stopped for lunch @2 on island (terrible Halal corned beef)
- stayed there til clothes dried out (rain had stopped & blue sky was out)
- paddled to camp (2nd try)
- arrived @ 4:30
- set out tents to dry
- cleared camp
- had supper
- drank some wine
- played war (Mike won)
- saw a mouse
- played Yahtzee with girls (Deanna won)
- went to bet @ 10:00
Day 14Reindeer Creek to Island just before Dawson City 40km
- woke up @ 8:30
- left @ 10:30
- paddled/rafted until lunch @ 1:00
- left in search of creek for water
- Jane was feeling sick so we rafted
- found adequate creek
- rain started... poured for a little while
- rafted up in search of camp
- went until jane had to pee and Deanna realized how close to Dawson we were
- island we stopped at turned out to be great camp
- had roaring fire on sand & burned most of our garbage
- had some wine, Bailey's & hot chocolate
- tried cooking Tomato Alfredo Sidekick on fire - didn't work so we reverted to stove
- sat by fire
- went to bed @ 8:30
- talked & read
El Salvador Summary:Length of Stay: 19 days Average Cost per Day for Two People: $23.26 Cities Visited: 4 Distance Traveled: 748 km in 17 buses Days Sick: 0 for Ashley, 2 for Mike Number of Items Lost: 0 Biggest Tourist Traps: none Exchange Rate: $1 CAD =$1 USD (the US Dollar is the official currency in El Salvador) For more great stats, check out our statistics page!
Our RouteHonduras border [El Espino] - San Miguel - Juayua (Ataco) - Playa El Tunco - Organic farm near San Andres Ruinas - Honduras border [Anguiatu]
- Connecting with the food we eat while WWOOFing on an organic farm... our eleven days here were a game changer for us!
- The laidback vibe and mountain scenery of Juayua and the brilliant murals in Ataco on the Ruta de las Flores
- Surfing lesson in Playa El Tunco
- The people... every we went, the people were beyond friendly
- Mike got a nasty cold (on the back of another one earlier in Nicaragua) for several days, keeping us out of the surf until the last minute in Playa El Tunco
Surprises/Lessons LearnedNote: Normally, these are separate categories, but for this country they seem to be one and the same.
- The ENTIRE country! I don't think we were expecting a lot from El Salvador but we were blown away by the culture, the land, and the people. I can't believe how un-touristed the whole area is! It just goes to show you that the best places often don't come with the hype.
- We may just be becoming vegetarians. (I know, I know... we're surprised too.) After eleven days of eating delicious vegan food on the farm, feeling energetic as a result, and a few documentaries on factory farming and the health benefits of organic food, we'll never look at lunch the same way again.
- Sustainable food production may just be in our future. We've never been more at peace than when we were living and working at the permaculture organic farm. The last 27 years of my life have trained me that life can't be that easy... but maybe it can.
El Salvador Journal - Where Did We Spend Our Time?San Miguel - 1 night This was a stopover the break up the buses between Somoto, Nicaragua and Juayua, El Salvador. Here we experienced our first (through eighth) authentic Salvadorean pupusas. Juayua - 3 nights We spent our time wondering around town, breathing in the mountain air, and enjoying the vibe. We took in the smaller-than-normal food fair between our regular meals of pupusas. Before we left, we took a day trip to beautiful Ataco to see the brilliantly-coloured murals that cover their walls. Playa El Tunco - 4 nights Mike's cold kept us from doing much for the first few days. We did a lot of blogging to prepare for our eleven days without technology on the farm. On our last day, we tried our hand at surfing with our first ever lesson. Mike rocked it (as much as you can in your first hour with a surfboard) and I was a spectacular failure... but we had a blast doing it! Organic Farm near San Andreas Ruinas - 11 nights We found this farm through HelpX and decided to give a volunteer experience a try. What an experience! We planted veggies and gardens, picked fruit, learned how to cook organic vegetarian cuisine, practiced yoga, and exercised our mind through books, discussions and documentaries on healthy living, spirituality, economics and politics. We left different people.
Why It Is a Game ChangerTo get your head in the right place for this, I'm going to prescribe some documentaries that you have to watch. This is mandatory homework.
- Money as Debt - Best start off by realizing how messed up our society really is.
- The Corporation - Following the same theme as above, we are surrounded by lunacy.
- The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear - a BBC series just to keep you questioning the lies that the multimedia giants are feeding you.
- Peaceable Kingdom - A documentary about factory farms. If you don't become vegetarian after watching this, you have no heart.
- Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 days - Are diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies or are they strictly genetic?
- World Without Cancer - An oldie but a goodie, following the same theme as above.
- Gardens of Destiny - A documentary about the Canadian seed bank.
- Garbage Warrior - Why are we building houses when we could be building Earth Ships?
Organic Food Enthusiasts:The first thing we noticed was the food. Organic food is more delicious, and full of flavour than the stuff produced by the "green revolution", chemical rich farming that we are accustomed to. This is because the plants have the time and environmental stimulus needed to develop a whole host of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial chemicals that we as humans should be eating. I'm entirely convinced that the addition of these vitamins to our diet contributed immensely to the way we feel. It is now our goal to supply ourselves with organic food as much as possible. When we say organic food, we are not talking about the "Certified Organic" stuff that you can pay a premium for and purchase from just about any grocery store. We are talking about plants grown from organic seeds in a "natural" environment with all the proper stimulus (birds, insects, disease, the works).
Vegetarians:Being vegetarian is an ethical issue for us. Now that our eyes have been opened to the way the animals we eat are treated, we just can't go back to eating meat in the vast quantities that we were before we started this trip. As they say, some things when learned can't be unlearned. Now don't get us wrong, we don't actually have a problem with killing animals and eating them. Our problem lies with the way factory farm operations treat the animals from birth until death, confining them to cages, feeding them food that would kill them except for the copious amounts of antibiotics it's loaded with, etc. Some of the worst offenders are dairy cows and even more so, egg laying chickens. I'm not quite sure how this will all shake out yet, but for now we have cut out meat and are trying our best to reduce our consumption of milk/egg products.
No Longer Slaves:The modern day fiat monetary system creates more debt then real currency because of interest. It's therefore impossible for the world to get out of debt. Looking at it another way, the world will always owe more money than exists, creating in practice a form of modern day slavery that will always require unsustainable growth in consumption and borrowing to keep the system from collapsing. As an ex politician, I see now that politics are futile. This stems from the realization that politicians don't have the power to make the decisions that need to be made to "fix" our broken system. The real decisions are made by those who control the media, fund the election campaigns, and decide what industrial projects are undertaken by approving bank loans. Our society can not be fixed, it needs to be abandoned. Our laws do not just allow, but require companies to maximize profits at the expense of the earth's resources and it's people. Scarcity and exploitation are good for profits. We will never live in a world where our basic necessities are plentiful, and our lifestyles are sustainable unless the focus is removed from profitability. Our food system produces unnatural/unhealthy garbage to put it politely. But there is a way out, and we intend to take it. All we need to do is quit society. What life beyond society will look like is a subject that we will be exploring for the next little while. To give you some idea of what we are talking about, one of the plans we are considering is to purchase a piece of fertile land about 2 acres in size. With that, we could produce our own organic food, return to a 4 hour work day, connect with nature, and live rich and rewarding lives far superior to what we could possibly hope to find inside the "system".