La Mosquitia, a Travelogue

These are my personal notes from a journey into the Honduran part of La Mosquitia. Starting in Trujillo, I travelled down the Mosquito coast and up to Las Marias. Most of my journey was within the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve.

sunset.jpg A Monday morning in mid June, I start my trip into La Mosquitia from Trujillo. The night before I had met a Swiss/Finnish couple who told me there were buses leaving from Tocoa. A morning bus takes me back along the road towards La Ceiba. Asking for a bus to Sangrelaya, people start to talk about a 'carro' and show me to the back of the bus station. Twelve o'clock, they said, that's when the carro leaves.

It is a hot day. The fierce sunlight makes me move towards the small stalls where I can buy a drink and get something to eat. As the temperature rises I realize that long pants and boots are not the most suitable clothing. I quickly remove the legs, turning my trousers into shorts, and feel somewhat better. When the carro arrives it turns out to be a Toyota pickup truck. Eight adults, three kids and loads of luggage goes on the back. Up front are the driver, two ladies and a fourth kid. Need I say it's going to be a tiring ride? A puncture along the road gives us a welcome rest from our crammed positions on the back of the pickup.

The ride from Tocoa to Punta de Piedra on the coast is rather uninteresting. Some changes in the landscape, but not much to see for the visitor. But from here it's a beautiful ride. Maybe it's because I'm tired after five hours on the back of the Toyota, but it feels absolutely enchanting as we continue along the beach towards Sangrelaya, sometimes we drive right at the edge of the water.

We pass through some of the villages. Houses of wood or clay, a few tin-roofs, the rest made of palm leaves. People have come back from the day's work. Playing in the open areas, gathering in large groups, talking and laughing, being in no rush. A complete lack of modern society's attributes.
The sun is setting, canoes have been pulled high up on the beach, children are playing, several persons are fishing, most with just a line and a hook, some with casting nets[eng.?], a large canoe with a catch of fish being sold, cowboys, on horses, have mustered their cattle and are pushing them along the beach.

It's like a dream, almost magical. But when I wake up tomorrow I'm going to realize that life in the villages are probably not as idyllic and romantic as it seems to me now, but for the moment being I'm just relaxing and enjoying life.

It's just after six o'clock when we set out for a walk from Sangrelaya to Palacios. I've been offered to stay the night in the village but three other persons are heading down the beach, so I'll join them for the walk. I've left parts of my luggage in Trujillo. My backpack weighs only 8 kg, it's a pure pleasure to carry it.

It doesn't take long until the moon shines brightly on us as we walk along the beach. My companions are a woman and her son who lives in Tocamacho, and a young man who is heading home to Palacios. He frightens me for a while, or maybe I should blame my lousy spanish, by talking of drugs and arms, but he turns out to be a soldier in the army and not an armed drugdealer.

It's a long walk, not by the distance which somebody said to be 12 kilometers, but as the sand makes it harder to walk than it would be going on solid ground. Two and a half hours of walking at a brisk, if not to say fast, tempo takes us to Tocamacho. We have shared most of my water along the way. In Tocamacho we rest and buy a soft drink.
We leave the woman and her son. Continuing along the moonlit beach. Sometimes we have to make short detours away from the beach, due to the incoming tide. Another 45 minutes takes us to Batalla. It is now 9:30 PM and not a single soul is awake in the village. We'll have to wake up one family and a man brings us over the lagoon in his canoe. In the darkness we collect all our small banknotes. The sum amounts to almost the price he asked for, and he seems to be satisfied. We still pay a high price, but at least we've arrived in Palacios.

We walk down the runway until we reach Cecilio Colindres' hotel (he also runs a travel agency here). After banging on the door for quite some time we manage to wake up one of the guests, but not the owner. We give up and continue, past the end of the runway and the old wrecked airplane, to the other hotel. It's full. Later I heard that there was a conference on eco-tourism that week; the probable reason for filling the hotel. We therefore return to Colindres' hotel and, finally, manage to wake him up. To my relief he speaks english (even norwegian, and we briefly converse in a swedish/norwegian mix) and, more important, he has one empty room.

A long and rough day has come to an end. There are no places where I can buy food. I'm hungry, eating of my spare food. My last water is used with the toothbrush. I'm soon sleeping.

sisto.jpg Opposite the second hotel is a large tree, spreading some of its branches over the water. That's where the tuk-tuks and lanchas leave from. I leave at midday for a trip to Playita, at the eastern end of Laguna Ibans. A short walk brings me to Nuevo Jerusalem, and after another half hour I'm in Kury where I ask for profesor Sisto.

I arrange my trip up to Las Marias with Sisto and take it easy for the rest of the day. Sitting on the porch of profesor Sisto's house I can hear the waves break on the beach just behind the trees. A refreshing wind is blowing. Feels like paradise.
When I walk down on the beach I can just about discern Rio/Barra Plátano in the haze at the far end of the beach.

boat.jpg Today it's a long journey upriver. I have chartered the lancha and profesor Sisto's son is the captain. We also bring another relative of his, and during the way we pick up more people who are having motor problems in their tuk-tuk. After seven hours we arrive in Las Marias.

Being the only tourist makes the trip comparatively expensive. But what to do, we're in the rainy season and visitors are few. I'll pay and try to keep a happy smile on my face.

In Las Marias I have Rollins, Sisto's son, to take me to Doña Herrera, where I get a bed, food, and the information I need.

Before I left Trujillo I bought a few tins with food, upon recommendation. But I never used these, neither here in Las Marias or in any other place, since I felt it would be almost an insult not to eat what the locals could prepare for me. And the locals don't have many means to make a living, so I gladly contributed to their, presumably still meagre, income.

plutarco.jpg A hike through the forest, up to the 'buena vista'. When the weather is clear, you're supposed to see all the way down to the coast and the village of Cocobila. It's not a long walk, but the humid air makes it a sweating experience. Plutarco, my guide for the day, explains about the medical and other uses of plants along the way. When I ask about a plant which doesn't grow close to the path he makes a detour just to find it and show me. Animal life, however, is limited.

Excursion in a pipante up to the petroglyphs. Being unused to the dugout, I find the movements when punting the pipante upriver rather distracting. I spend most of the time trying to keep my balance in the canoe, and less time enjoying the life along the river. The trip as a whole is still worthwhile. For the first time, I see a boa constrictor in real life.

Three hours of punting and a one hour walk for me and one of the guides, in order to pass the worst rapids, brings us the our destination. Returning down goes swiftly.

rain.jpg The river has risen approximately 30 cm (1 ft) due to frequent rains the last two days. This means that most of the obstacles in the river are deep in the water and we pass without problems. Back in Kury after a four hour boat ride.

I stay in Kury for the rest of the day. Planning to move to Palacios tomorrow (until I realize that there aren't any boats going on Sundays). I take a walk down to Rio Plátano during the afternoon, just out of curiosity.

Setting out early in the morning to walk towards Cocobila. Passes Nuevo Jerusalem. In Belén I ask for boats going to Palacios during the day. No luck. So I continue to Cocobila, but the result there is the same. However, I find that I can buy an airline ticket from here. Good. It means that I have a reserved seat on the airplane tomorrow.

kids.jpg Having to stay in Cocobila is actually better than staying in Palacios. I can't fly back to Trujillo until tomorrow anyway. And in Cocobila there is a comforting breeze blowing, whereas Palacios is a rather muggy place. And Laguna Ibans with its fresh water is very nice for a swim.

An early boat to Palacios. Breakfast and waiting for the airplane to arrive. The timetable says 11 am, but it may slip an hour or two. In the meantime, a small Cessna is taking off for the trip to Puerto Lempira.

I'm back in Trujillo in the early afternoon. A one-week fiesta is being celebrated this week. Tonight the centre of the festival is on the corner just outside my hotel. Two enormous speakers on the street opposite my room are drowning me with music all night long. Lots of fun, but not much sleep...

Another year?
I've already started to think of a longer journey. More or less the same start with Trujillo, Palacios and down to Kury and Rio Plátano. But from there I'd like to continue to Brus Laguna and yonder, all the way to the Nicaraguan border. Even to cross the border and spend some time in Nicaragua, both in La Mosquitia and the rest of the country.
Exactly where to go, and what to see, I don't know. If anyone can share some information I'd be most happy.

© 1997 by Lars Fälting
Last updated 30 Aug 1997
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