Creel to Mazatlan
Day 14 to 17
Monday, March 22 to Thursday, March 25, 2010
Creel to Hidalgo Del Parral
Hidalgo Del Parral to Durango
Durango to Mazatlan
First a few comments on Mexico so far.
Most drivers are great, some are lunatics.
Mexican drivers are much more in tune with their surroundings as opposed to the dopey "in my own little world" driver frequently encountered back home.
Most people are extremely friendly and helpful, if a bit reserved at first.
Fuel is available all over the place.
Coffee generally sucks. Their idea of coffee is "instantaneo"
Lard is at the top of their food pyramid and is used everywhere. So long vegetarianism. I'll see you again when I get home.
Speed limits are only to be used as a suggested minimun speed for fully loaded trucks.
Beer is plentyful and cheap and available at drive through liquor stores.
Drunk driving is a national sport.
Creel to Parral was more twists and turns and this is where I encountered the first unfriendly individual so far. As a pickup truck came the other way, some kid in the back gave me the finger ...oh well!
In Parral I asked a police officer for directions to a cheap hotel. When I mentioned 300pesos maximum he lit up and directed me to one of the nicer hotels right in the centre. He first asked if I wanted to trade my bike for his little 125cc machine. The deal was off when I asked him to throw in his police powers to sweeten the pot.
In the morning I decided to "brave" the city's sidewalks in search of a three prong to two prong converter for use in older hotels, a set of shoe laces and a medical lab for a blood test. The converter was found in a ferreteria (hardware store) 3 doors down from the hotel. The shoe laces proved to be a bit of a puzzle. There were shoe stores all over the place. I'm not sure if it's just Parral or all of Mexico. But there must be some shoe fetish thing going on. Shoe stores seem to be the most plentyful type of store in this city. But none of them carry shoe laces ...huh? I had to go to a sewing and fabric store.
The medical lab was a breath of fresh air. I was expecting reams of paperwork and possibly a visit to a local doctor for a lab request. After the huge runaround and $100 expense for doctor and lab in California I was bracing for the worst. The lab technician informed me that the cost would be 50pesos ($4.00) and the results would be available in less than 2 hours ...hmm. What's wrong with this picture? USA = complicated and expensive. Mexico = cheaper than a Starbucks latte, quick and straightforward. Can't comment about Canada since we never see the actual direct cost.
So I left a bit later than usual and headed out for Durango. When looking at a map of Mexico, never be fooled by how far places are apart on the map. Often in order to travel 100km's as the crow flies, you actually put in 200km's or more. That's how twisty and winding the roads can be. Just because a road is listed as a main Federal or State highway doesn't mean that it's straight or has shoulders for that matter.
I was battling fierce crosswinds for a good part of the day. 50km's north of Durango something went flying out of my tank bag. I had failed to zip it up before leaving the Pemex station. I stopped to make sure nothing important was missing since I kept my passport and import documents in the tank bag. I could not find either of them anymore. So I went about scouring the side of the road, looking for the little plastic pouch where I kept it all. An hour later as the sun was hanging low on the horizon I had to call off the search and decided to proceed to Durango and contact the Canadian embassy in the morning.
I was in a fairly bad mood and was wondering how I would continue my trip. After a frustrating time trying to find an affordable motel I checked into the Best Western for 700pesos. It was very nice. I decided to go through my luggage piece by piece for one last search for my passport. I opened the tank bag all the way and immediately spotted the plastic envelope with my passport. I had decided to put it into a newly discovered pocket of my newly bought tank bag and forgot all about it. I yanked out the passport and started kissing it. Sorry Patti, it was a one time thing ;-)
View From Devil's Spine
Thursday morning I set out early to tackle the Federal highway to Mazatlan since I wanted to arrive there early. Fernando had told me it was a famous motorcycle road and I was becoming quite disappointed. It was just another typical Mexican road, but a lot less interesting. I went through the ramshackle mountain town of El Salto and soon felt embarassed for not trusting Fernando's words. This was one of the best motorcycle roads I've ever been on. The pictures I took simply don't do it any justic. For a stretch of well over 100km's there's not one single straight stretch. Over and over again you can see the road clinging to the mountainside across the valley, each time you think this was the last time it doubled back on itself. Just imagine California Hwy 1, plunk it into a ponderosa pine forest, which changes to a tropical climate as you drop down towards Mazatlan. Then take out all the straight stretches, add full sized transport trucks hauling 50' trailers and a few crazy Mexican drivers. Voila! the picture is complete. Huge jagged peaks are all over the place and large parts of the road are simply carved out of the steep mountainside. On the descent there were white, yellow and pink flowers all over the cliffs and hillsides. Some hills were covered in small sunflowers growing wild.
On Top of the Spine Itself
A note of caution on this road. It's meant to be savoured, not raced. The views are breathtaking, the trucks unforgiving and the curves tons of fun. A road with turns like this one would not allow trucks or large RV's if it were in Canada. But it's the only direct highway between Durango and Mazatlan and hence full of transport trucks. The corners are so tight that truckers have no choice but to take at least part of the oncoming lane to make the turns. I had to come to a full stop about 3 times to allow a truck make the corner instead of sweeping me into the cliff face with his back end by "insisting on my rights" ...ya don't got none when dealing with a truck in Mexico.
Mexico Hwy 40 to Mazatlan.
I had to strip down since it was getting too hot as was dropping towards sea level from over 2500 metres. As I was having lunch by the roadside a pickup truck from the highway construction company pulled in. They're punching through a massive project and building a toll highway from Mazatlan to Durango. It's quite impressive considering the terrain they're working in. The driver stopped for few seconds the turned around and stopped beside me. He smiled, greeted me and handed me a Mexican flag sticker for my bike. These are the nice little encounters that I cherish the most on my trips. The majestic mountains are great, the tequila is awesome and the beaches are to die for. But it's these little human encounters that are the cherry on my sundae.
I'm now in Mazatlan in a fleabag motel for 200pesos/night since there's no tent camping nearby. I'm seriously considering sending the tent either back home or to someone in the southern US to pick it up again along the way back home. I've only used it twice so far and I'm not sure it's worth the extra weight and hassle.