#2 Honduras, Oct. 17, 2008

Dear Everybody,

On my early morning walk in Santa Barbara, I noticed a terrace where two people were drinking coffee. Although there was no restaurant sign, I assumed that it was, so I approached and asked if they had coffee. The lady brought me a cup and we chatted a bit, limited by my Spanish proficiency. After a second cup, I rose to pay but she wouldn’t accept any money! I asked if this were a restaurant and as clearly as I could tell from her complex answer, I think it was.

I stopped in the very nice market that had really good looking vegetables and cilantro oozing fragrance. Our cilantro in the supermarkets at home just doesn’t have that intensity.

After breakfast, I got a bus to Trinidad, (pop. 4,000) a pretty little back-woods town with a lovely plaza. When I went for lunch, there was no beer to be had but I saw some Chilean wine in a pulperia (grocery store) and bought that, once I learned that the proprietor had an opener and could open it. I brought it to a cafe, asked for a glass and almerzo (lunch) and got French fried chicken, rice, beans, salad, tortillas (small and fat) and crisply fried bananas with salsa—all quite satisfactory. Later when I tried unsuccessfully in several places to buy a bottle of water, I finally realized that they said they only had ‘bolsitas,’ which are little plastic packages (bolsas) of water. With nothing sharp (I carried on my pack in the airplane) I had a hard time opening them but finally used a safety pin, and finally got most of the water into an empty bottle.

Sunday was another day of buses (3) to go to Copan Ruinas where I am now. What a charming, fairly touristy, but authentic town that is next to the Mayan Copan ruins. After several days of the pleasant church on the plaza being closed, it was finally open so I went in. The first thing that greeted me was a prominent sign saying that photos were prohibited; the second thing was the ugliest church I’ve ever seen—and I’ve seen hundreds As for the photos—not to worry!

The Copan ruins are spectacular. Many years ago I had read John Lloyd Stephen’s book about his exploration of the Mayan ruins of Copan, in 1839. He brought along an artist named Catherwood who sketched the ruins. While some of them have been reconstructed, others look just as Catherwood drew them with big trees growing out of them.

 

 

 

 

There were a couple of dozen stelae, which are 10-foot tall intricately carved statues of stone, that are ‘portraits’ of the rulers. Most were carved about 600-800 AD. Then there were many altars, a ball court, and a hieroglyphic staircase where each step (and there must have been 100) had glyphs carved on it. Many of the glyphs that occur on all of these things have now been deciphered and so there is more and more knowledge of the Mayan. The glyphs predict an end of an era on Dec. 23, 2012; remember, you heard it here first!

The city flourished from about 400 – 800 AD; after that it went downhill, thought to have been caused by overpopulation with more and more land cleared on the hillsides, causing erosion. Then with a few drought years thrown in, the jungle reclaimed it, and so it goes. Let that be a lesson to us! But clearly in its heyday it was powerful!

The following day I walked 3 km to see the Sepulturas—another part of the spread-out Copan ruins. This apparently was the residential area where the rich and powerful nobles lived and it was worth seeing.

The walk to and from went through cow-country with many farms where the cows dropped what they were doing (eating) to watch me pass by. At one point a cowboy herded a bunch of recalcitrant cattle across the highway, stopping traffic for some minutes in both directions.

On my walk I also saw an animal that looked sort of rat-like only bigger and oddly proportioned. His hind legs seemed too long which elevated his rump and he walked strangely. Later I found out that the local name is cotusa and that they are eaten for food.

I’ll have to say that, in general, Honduran food wins no prizes. Yesterday for lunch in sort of an upscale restaurant I had a pork chop that I’m sure had been cooked three days earlier. Yesterday morning, since it was so early, I thought I’d try for some coffee in the market. It was great—real coffee, which it should be because this is coffee-growing country, and so, encouraged, I thought that later I would try one of the humble food stands in the market for lunch. I reasoned that the locals wouldn’t put up with bad food. This I did, but it was pretty mediocre, too. That afternoon I did have a nice treat at a coffee house—warm fried bananas with creme fraish and refried beans, as dips. When traveling, food is always important to me so in that way I’m a little disappointed. In the hostel where I’m staying, a number of fellow travelers cook their own food (mainly pasta) which I could do but I keep thinking if I can only find the right restaurant I could eat some good, downhome, authentic local food.

Downtown at the bank on the plaza there are always three guards with some crude-looking big guns standing at the front door. When I went into the bank to get some change, the door was locked; a guard within the bank opened the door for me and the three armed guards let me pass. Are Robert Redford and Paul Newman still on the loose?

Wednesday night, Thursday and Thursday night, and today (Friday) it has rained and rained, apparently because of a tropical depression that caused a lot of flooding in Nicaragua. It offered a chance to spend time visiting with fellow travelers but enough is enough! Send me some sunshine!!

Carol

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