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The Road to Palacios, Honduras

by Don C. Litton (pictured)

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 need tools.

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 one 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 here).

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 continues.

Road to Palacios (pt 2)
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Map from Omoa to Palacios

Road to Palacios (pt 1)
Road to Palacios (pt 2)

La Esperanza
Copan Ruinas
La Ceiba
May 2006
Oct 2007
San Juan Co-op
San Lorenzo
San Pedro Sula
Sta Rosa de Copan