COPAN, Honduras "The channel was for the blood," Gustavo explains, pointing to the famous Mayan altar, shaped like plump UFO. "After the sacred ball game, a human sacrifice would occur here. Maybe the captain of the winning team, maybe the losers. We don't know."
"Rough sport," I remark.
The site sprawls before us, the monoliths of the "Copan Renaissance" patron 18 Rabbit and other leaders, the stepped temples and hieroglyphic staircase: its 2,500 tiles jumbled by a modern collapse like a inter-millennial Scrabble set.
In 1839, gentleman explorer and author John L Stephens bought the site for $50. Some travel writers have all the luck...
"The reader is perhaps curious to know how old cities sell in Central America," he wrote. "Like other articles of trade, they are regulated by the quantity in market and the demand; but not being staples articles, like cotton and indigo, they were held at fancy prices and at the time were dull of sale."
The market's flooded of late, unfortunately. No budget UNESCO World Heritage sites to be had here. Move along...