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Adalberto.H.Vega's photo of a carving at Copán.

Fabulous carvings are scattered all of over Copán. Photo by Adalberto.H.Vega.

Michael Angelo’s ancient Mayan cousin must have lived here. Seriously. Copán, which lies in the northwestern part of Honduras not far from Guatemala, is covered with spectacularly carved stele and sculptures. History written in stone. You can see Mayan carvings at other sites, but nothing compares to those at Copán.

Copán was occupied for over 2,000 years from pre-classic through post-classic times. The city reached it’s height in the Late Classic era and is believed to have been home to 20,000-25,000 people. Walking around the ruins and reading my guidebook, I couldn’t help but think that one of the rulers- a man named 18 Rabbit, was a bit of an egomaniac, reminiscent of Ramesses II (only not as obsessed with size).

Although Copán was a regional power in its time, the site is compact and easy to enjoy without becoming too overwhelmed. This makes it an excellent place to explore the classic elements of Mayan architecture such as the tiered layers of rock which were used to form the Mayan arch and the ubiquitous ball courts.

Adalberto.H.Vega's photo of an arch and ball court at Copán.

The Mayan arch. Photo by Adalberto.H.Vega.

And of course, there are pyramids.   Two of these maybe considered highlights. One, Structure 26, boasts a stairway with Mayan writing carved into every step- The Hieroglyphic stairway.

Another, Rosalilia, is a pyramid within a pyramid. As happens in cities that are occupied for thousands of years, new structures were built on top of old ones. In the case of Rosalilia, special care was taken to preserve the inner building, which is entombed in Structure 16. Thus protected from the elements and from humans who wanted to loot or recycle building materials, Rosalilia offers us a chance to see what Mayan temples looked like in their time. There is a full-scale replica of Rosalilia in the Copán museum, allowing visitors to see her in her brilliant colors, while still protecting the original.

Dennis Jarvis's photo of the Rosalila replica in the museum at Copán.

Rosalila! Photo by Dennis Jarvis.

Like other Mayan ruins, Copán is an excellent place to enjoy the natural wonders of Central America. Things are lush and green, and a flock of scarlet macaws call this place home. The adjacent town, Copán Ruinas (the ruins are called “Copán” and the town is called “Copán Ruinas” – don’t ask), is a fabulously pleasant place to hang out. With plenty of good restaurants, affordable hotels and a walking path from town to the ruins, it has all the amenities without being annoyingly touristy. There’s even a zip-line.

Adalberto.H.Vega's of carvings at Copán.

Interesting characters? Photo by Adalberto.H.Vega.

“Are you Bob?” I asked reaching out to shake the hand of the owner Bed, Breakfast and Microbrewery at Lago de Yajoa.  “And is it true that you’re from Timber?”

He looked at me quizzically.  “I’m from Gales Creek,” I added.

Then he looked at me as if I had three heads, turned to a friend and said, “These are not big towns we’re talking about.”

They’re hardly towns at all.  Nestled in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, Gales Creek has an official population of about 650 people.  At its height, it had a couple of taverns, a store, a volunteer fire station, a school and a church.  Most of that’s no longer functioning.  Timber, about seven miles away is even smaller, with a population of 131.  But it has a stop sign where the train tracks cross the highway, so that makes it more official.

And now I was at Lago de Yojoa, in the middle of Honduras, introducing myself to Bob From Timber.

This kind of thing happens all the time.  My parents (from the same booming metropolis of Gales Creek) met a couple from the next valley over in an elevator in Shanghai.  And prior to introducing myself to Bob, I’d met two young men from Vernonia, another Coast Range town (a “big city” of 2,000 people, located 15 miles from Timber). Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise.  I’d met quite a few people from the Pacific Northwest traveling in Central America – all of us enjoying being warm in February.  And of course, when the guidebook says that an”Oregonian Brewmaster” has set up a good place to stay, we flock there like flies on shit.  But you just don’t expect to meet people from places that small, that far away.  Traveling makes the world seem bigger and smaller at the same time.

Dominic Sherony's photo of a Gartered Trogon.

Gartered Trogon. Photo by Gartered Trogon.

Lago de Yajoa is for the Birds

I’m a baby birder (it’s me that’s the baby, not the birds).  I don’t really know anything about bird watching, but a friend’s enthusiasm has leaked over and I’m starting to get into it.  I like being in nature, trying to refine my powers of observation, and being dazzled by the brilliant colors.

Lago de Yajoa is home to around 400 species of birds.  Sitting in the courtyard, sipping my beer, I met up with a naturalist who takes folks out on bird watching tours at the lake.

I saw five different kinds of toucans that day and learned, to my delight, that the Spanish word for woodpecker is “carpintero”.  (And saw three different kinds of carpinteros.)

Adalberto.H.Vega' s photo of a keel-billed toucan. Like one I saw at Lago de Yajoa.

Toucan! Like one I saw at Lago de Yajoa. Photo by Adalberto.H.Vega.

The area around Lago de Yajoa includes three National Parks and a 43 meter waterfall.  You should go there.  (Even if you’re not from a microscopic town in western Oregon.)