Took a weekend trip to see the Copan Ruins in Honduras. It proved to be a tortuous six hour journey crushed into a mini bus with 12 people, no leg room and very hot...it got hotter as we approached the Guatemala- Honduras border. It was dark as we actually reached the border. The bus pulled up and we all trooped out to a long shed like building that was passport control. At window one, we paid 20 Quetzales to leave Guatemala and then moved to window two to pay $3 US to get into Honduras. Passport checked but no stamp, spoilsports! It was pitch black, so quite how they ensured we had all checked in I don't know. The lights at the kiosk windows attracted a million and one bugs (mainly mosquitoes). It was very hot and humid and we must have looked a right sorry bunch, they still let us in though. We reluctantly piled back into the mini bus for the last fifteen minutes to the village of Copan Ruinas where we had to find somewhere to stay. With trusty Lonely Planet Guide in hand we found central park and wandered uphill to find a hotel. First night we stayed in the nearest we could find, 4 to a room fro $7 usd each...Despite a ceiling fan it was the hottest room I think I have ever been in. We found a small place to eat which served nice food but only us in it (always a worry!) I had Fajitas Mixtas, a plate of beef, chicken, cream cheese, the inevitable re fried beans and tortillas..yummy though. Next day we changed hotels early before we went to the ruins. This time to a friendly, family run hotel with a balcony and hammocks to relax it. I got a single room (not quite the "group share" ethic I know but comfort called!)The ceiling fan in this room cooled me down as it was a smaller room and had only me to fan. Luxury! The park opened at 8am and we got there for 8.15. We booked a guide who spoke excellent English, great for me but poor for my Spanish. It was indecently humid in the park and there were the inevitable swarms of insects, so I bug sprayed my legs liberally (they like the legs best!), armed myself with sunscreen, water and my Tilley hat and we set off. Copan Ruins are now a Unesco World Heritage site. One of the most important Mayan civilisations lived, prospered and then crumbled here. As the population grew (20,00 at it's peak) the area couldn't sustain them. Erosion of natural resources, deforestation that brought floods and disease all led to the dwindling of the population. During the classic period (AD 250- 900) the city here dominated the region. It is renowned for it's artistic sculpture and hieroglyphics. This is my first visit to a Mayan site and I was blown away. Archaeologists believe that people lived in the Copan Valley since 1200 BC, under a series of impressive rulers with equally impressive names: Great Sun Lord Quetzal Macaw, Mat Head, Waterlily Jaguar, Moon Jaguar, Smoke Jaguar (a theme! but alas Jaguars no longer reside here!)Skillful craftsmen and sculptors flourished under the 13th King Uaxacachan Ubak K'awil ( commonly known as 18 rabbit...yes, I know!?) The jungle surrounds the ruins and encroaches on the main features constantly. Huge trees uproot stones and structures and any exposed areas are subject to the new hazard of pollution and acid rain. Many of the more impressive areas are protected with a tarpaulin roof, which distracts from the beauty a bit but entirely necessary! The two most impressive parts of the ruins are the Acropolis, the hieroglyphic stairway and the Ball Park. The trees around Copan ruins include some that produce a rubber type substance, which was used to make the balls used in the Ball Park games. These balls weighed 8lbs! and the game consisted of two teams on opposite sides of a court with sloping walls either side. Along each sloping wall are stone Jaguar heads, and the idea was to score by hitting the opposing teams heads! The best player/team captain, was given the "honour" of being ritually sacrificed by having his heart cut out and being beheaded!...Nice....good game? The hieroglyphic stairway was the work of King Smoke Shell. It has 63 steps and displays several thousand glyphs of the Royal house of Copan.The story told by the glyphs is still not fully understood and has been reconstructed from fallen stones, but out of sequence....The ball court is displayed on the one Lempira note (Official currency of Honduras) Archaeologists are still working inside the Acropolis structure, and in 1989 they discovered the Rosalila Temple in near perfect condition! Buried beneath the structure it was discovered through tunnels and unfortunately, is closed to visitors. However, at the Museum of Sculpture on the site, they have a life size reconstruction of the Temple in it's original colours. See the photo's, really amazing....Rosalila was dedicated to Copan's 10th ruler "Moon Jaguar". There are sculptures of Jaguars everywhere, alongside crocodiles, turtles, conch shells and Mayan heads! I loved this site, the patterns, stelae and the carvings and hieroglyphics one could study for an age. Brightly coloured wild macaws add to the general mysterious atmosphere and fly through the surrounding jungle. I could stay here for ever.....but six hours had to suffice.