The Road to Palacios, Honduras
by Don C. Litton
Have dream; will travel
(but more about that later). For now, a four-wheel drive
and a sense of adventure -- that's all that's needed to make the trip from Tela
to Palacios. Come along.
We traveled in two four-door diesel pick-ups.
Leaving before dawn from Tela we
reached La Ceiba by about 7:30 am (about a hour and a half drive.) To get from
Ceiba to Palacios, you should allow a full day, though it is possible to do it
in about 6 or 7 hours. Many heavily loaded four-dour pick-ups make the trip
often apparently. We saw one truck that had a two-ton load (One ton more than it
was supposed to handle) and a tire losing air fast.
In Tocoa we found out that, for about 400-500 Lps, you can catch a ride from
there to Palacios in the back of a pick-up. If you choose this take lots of
sunscreen, a hat that won't blow off, long-sleeve shirts and something to cover
your mouth to keep out the dust. (A kidney belt and a cushion to sit on are good
ideas too.) This may be the only commercial way to get to Palacios since there
are no airlines going in there anymore. Ask around to find out where to catch
one of these trucks going to Batalla. It is easy to catch a bus to Tocoa from
Ceiba or Tela.
About an hour from Tocoa is Bonito Oriental. There are no gas stations or
mechanics past this town, so fill up at the UNO station at the east end of town
and then head for Limon. Be sure everything (especially your battery!) is
securely anchored because the road from Bonito Oriental to Iriona is dirt and
not well-maintained. Our battery was not anchored and it slid against the AC
hose pinning it against a pulley and cutting it.
After that we had no AC. In addition one of our trucks stopped running halfway
back. Fortunately it was just a fuel filter clogged by water or sediment stirred up by the washboard road.
A clogged fuel filter is easily remedied on a diesel engine by draining it
(easy, owner's manual shows you how.) You don't need to remove it nor do you
Past a sea of palm plantations and through some pine savanna, the road will dip
down to the coast past the turnoff to Limon. Now and then the road drops down to
cross a stream at a "vado" or ford. In rainy weather these will probably not be
passable. Along the coast the road connects a series of Garifuna villages,
Batalla being the last.
Just past the village of Iriona you need to drive down to the beach and continue
on entirely on sand. (Though the tracks go through soft sand, it seemed to me
smarter to drive on the harder wet sand.) In many places you need to drive
through the sea water washing up against old mangrove trunks or a sand berm.
When we were there the Caribbean was as calm as a lake, really! But if there is
any storm swell at all I am sure the beach will not be passable in at least 4 or
5 spots. In any case you'll need 4-wheel drive and low range.
If you manage to only hitch a ride to Ciriboya or Iriona, you can find someone
with a skiff to take you along the coast. We saw three adventurous gringos who
had taken a skiff from Ciriboya to Sangrelaya and then hitched a ride with a
truck that was passing through Sangrelaya.
As with all the Garifuna villages, the tracks go right through the village, at
times winding around to avoid houses. Kids will run out and jump on the back of
the truck to ride the length of town until their parents yell at them and they
bail out without warning.
Give 'Em a Lift
Many people will really appreciate a lift from
village to another. We made a number of friends that way. Most were students or
teachers returning to school
in a larger city. We reached Sangrelaya at about 1:30 pm and had a casual lunch
there before continuing on.
There are two river-mouth crossings (pictured). One is at Rio Calderas and then again at Rio Tocamacho. In both cases there were friendly Garifuna gentlemen there
ready with their plank and drum rafts (balsas) to ferry our trucks
the 30 yards or so. Each truck, each trip cost 150 Lps. I suppose the
ferrymen work dawn to dusk as when we returned there were men ready
early in the morning.
Once you reach Batalla, hire the gentleman whose house is near the boat landing
-- have him watch and wash your car while you're gone. (Road to Palacios cont'd
Don is a 48 year-old sixth-grade math and science teacher living in L.A. In a former life, he was
a river guide on the Snake, Salmon and Colorado. Don's wife is from Honduras. When not traveling,
Don entertains a vague dream of retiring somewhere tropical, owning an eco-lodge. The journey
Road to Palacios (pt 2)
Good Writer and Have
Map from Omoa to Palacios
Road to Palacios (pt 1)
Road to Palacios (pt 2)