travel - places

A Visit to Copan Ruins in Honduras: THE MAYAN STELAE OF COPÁN

Stella and Sky, Copan

If you visit my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a sucker for ancient ruins and art. Angkor Wat is one of the most spectacular places in the world, a combination of the holy and mundane; the intricate details of the sculpture and the vast open plains of the land create a magnificent juxtaposition.

Stella front view, Copan

A half a world away, in Honduras, Copan is equally majestic, yet because of its locale, often overlooked and ignored. From its heights, the Mayans could see a vast expanses in any direction to the horizon. We visited the ruins after and incredible, tumultuous rainstorm had washed out the roads in the village and the verdant greens of the distant hills were glowing in the light after the storm.

We took a tuk-tuk moto taxi out of the town, bumping and jostling over the rocky turf and around the flood pools that swelled across the earth. At a tiny kiosk, we paid and entrance fee to the grounds, no more than a pittance, and when we walked in, only a pair of stark red parrots greeted us.

Parrots, Copan
Stela of the King close-up, Copan
Stela of the King, medium, Copan

There was an air of stillness and silence on the grounds. The lawn manicured flat as a putting green, our footfalls muted by the slick wet grass. We walked through the open courtyard, past the massive staircase, at the zenith of the steps, warriors hearts were cut out in sacrifice to the gods, so that blood ran down to the stairs and back to the soil.

Stela, profile, Copan

Alone with the stelae, pillars of stone carved a thousand years ago to solidify the enduring presence and looming nature of the rulers and kings in the people’s eyes, I felt watched. Stone eyes tracked our movements. The avian twitter and caw of the birds and the shrieks of the monkeys lent depth and perspective to the loneliness of the ruins. The animal presence of the jungle remained the one constant in this luscious hill country, since before the conquistadors had arrived in the 15th century. On one of the stela, the name of a Spaniard is scratched, the first European graffiti in a new world, a man made blemish older than the founding of most nations.

Stela in relief against the sky, Copan

We walked aimlessly through the trees and and across the lawn till we found a path that circled up and into the woods. An eerie calm remained among the wet boughs, as they dampened the sound of our breath, so only the rustle and drip of water in the leaves remained.

Lone Tree Above Copan Ruins

At the top of the climb, a tree arched out over the edge, and we were greeted with a panorama that stretched out across the plains, limitless, a vision that seemed both timeless and immediately present. At the end of our visit, there was no lesson to be learned, only the act of arrival and departure endless repeated, and the beauty of temporal memories that will soon be forgotten.

Panoramic landscape above Copan

As always, prints of my artwork are available for purchase. Contact me for more info, and thanks for visiting.


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