First, let us admit that we are late risers. We often wake up so late that we miss the free breakfast at our hostel. Sometimes our blogging or Ryan’s work from the road requires him to contact people on the other side of the world at awkward times. After midnight is a normal sleeping time, and as late as 3 am is not rare. This is also the reason why we have a vast collection of sunset photos, but just 1 lonely photo of the sunrise, from 9 years ago in Mount Fuji, Japan, and that was because we didn’t sleep that night. So yeah, we’re not going to wake up at 5 am unless it’s absolutely necessary.
If you are not familiar with Honduras, in short, I can tell you that while it is a wonderful place and we are having an amazing time, it’s not the safest country in the world. The homicide rate here is ranked as #2 in the world, after El Savador. The streets are full of heavily armed people. Security guards are everywhere, even inside the shopping malls. Most of them wield a pistol, but for some, the shotgun is the way to go, even for guarding a clothing stores or cinema. In the most cities walking on the street after dark is not recommended. A fellow travel blogger that had been in that city mentioned they heard gunshots during in the night, followed by wailing sirens.
Last week we were in CopÃ¡n Ruinas village. A small town not far from the famous Mayan ruins of CopÃ¡n. The village is quite rustic and touristy, even though locals also live there. Because it’s a major tourism site of Honduras, the government pays a lot of attention to keeping the place very safe for the tourists, and indeed even though we still see armed security guards (or because of that), we felt entirely safe there. You can walk the streets comfortably, even at night. It’s a very friendly, and welcoming place. At least we thought so until we were woken up by something shocking.
That was our second morning in the village. We were enjoying our beauty sleep, when a loud noise startled us.
Bang.. bang… – quiet – bang bang bang…. – quiet – bang…
My eyes opened wide with fear, and I was instantly awake, without my usual long period of grogginess. I nudged Ryan, “Did you hear that?”
The bangs started again, and now Ryan’s eyes flew open. We were startled.
“So early in the morning.”
Bang.. bang… We could hear the report of the explosions echoing across the valley, and though it was hard to be sure, it sounded like they were coming from the street outside our B&B.
“What on earth..?”
“Isn’t Copan supposed to be safe?”
“You’d think so…”
“Do you think it’s the drug traffickers?”
“What time is it?”
“It’s 5 in the morning.”
“Gunshots at 5 in the morning?”
We were frightened, especially after the warnings the we’ve read about Honduras.
Then we heard from far away, a booming voice shouting in Spanish, incomprehensible with the echoing and our poor command of the language. And then music from a brass band starting to play…
“This is really weird. Gun shots and nobody cares, just playing music?”
“Hmm… Maybe it’s hunting?”
“At 5 am? Why?”
We waited for more noises, but after a while there was no more sounds. And somehow we fell back into a fitful sleep.
Later in the morning, we asked the owner of our B&B about the frightening noises. Her answer surprised us.
“Yeah, that’s how people here celebrate. Today is the start of the town’s annual festival, and in the morning they love to wake people up by making noise with firecrackers and music.”
Ryan and I: “Ahh!”
She: “Yes, they love fire crackers in the morning, and blasting music and announcements from loudspeakers.”
Ryan and I: “Music?”
She: “Yes, and it’s not only for town celebrations. They also do this when it’s your birthday. They’ll wake you up with firecrackers, music, banging pots and pans, and anything else to wake you up at 4 in the morning.”
Ryan and I: “4AM!!”
She: “Yes, sometimes it’s better, no fire crackers, but a mariachi band instead. But very very loud. You might want to sleep in late on your birthday, but you can’t do that here.”
Whew, so this is the reason for the noise in the morning. Not scary gun shots, but the start of a festival. What a way to start a special day!
That was the first morning we got startled by the firecrackers. Do you remember that the B&B owner mentioned it’s a week-long fair? Well, that’s how we were woken up each morning when we were there. Only, the following mornings, we only startled for a few seconds but then remember it’s still the celebration week. In our second day, did that knowledge allow me to go back to sleep with the noises still going on? Absolutely not. It was way too loud. The announcement van was passing by our B&B, and the wake up invitation was too loud to ignore. The music was hilariously loud too. The third day though, it didn’t even wake Ryan up, he was immune to it already. Good for him!
Even though this kinda annoying especially for late risers like us, we felt lucky that we experienced something that is really local and unique like this. A guy we met mentioned they also do this for birthdays in Guatemala. We wonder where else they do this. The whole of Central America, or an even wider area?
Copan Ruinas is more than just a touristy village. Real local people live there and areas around it. They live here, and they don’t speak English even at the most basic level, unlike most of other touristy spots we’ve visited. We felt lucky to be in a village when the locals are having their annual celebration like this. We enjoyed the rest of the fair. Mayan style kids beauty pageant, dancing performances in the town’s plaza, the evening food bazaar around the town with super loud music, and of course the fire cracker wake up calls in the morning.
Even without this, we already love Copan Ruinas for the Mayan ruins, for the local people’s friendliness, for the pretty looking village with cobblestone roads and colorful houses, for the peaceful air with armed security guards in the same time, and for the super delicious traditional food. With the town fair, our Copan Ruinas experience was one of our best travelling experiences!
Have you been in Central America and experienced something like this? Ever been scared and realised later you were frightened of nothing?