I jumped the gun when I said that the ride east from Hermosillo to Yecora is one of the best rides anywhere. It is a damn good ride, but it pales in comparison to what we rode next. The road from Creel south through Parque Natural Barranca del Cobre is the most spectacular road I´ve ever riden. It is the new gold standard against which all other roads will be judged from now on (California rest in peace). The road is motorcycle heaven. It is freshly paved. There is no traffic. It winds it´s way over mountains giving spectacular views. The pinaccle is when it cuts through Copper Canyon. Imagine a canyon such as the Grand Canyon. Now imagine a ribbon of black asphalt carved right into it. The road enters Copper canyon from the north through a side canyon (which in itself is one of the most spectacular canyons I´ve seen). You emerge high on the side of Copper canyon, with dizzying views of the rock faces plunging into the depths below. The river that cuts through the canyon looks as though it´s being viewed from a plane. The road, carved right out of the canyon wall, twists and turns it´s way right down to the bottom, where it crosses a bridge over Rio Urique and then ascends the other side. It was such an experience that I didn´t even stop to take pictures. Not that there was a place to stop anyway. There is no room to pull over, and every metre of the road where you might want to stop is around a blind corner. Just because you haven´t seen another car in hours doesn´t mean there aren´t any.
That night we camped in the pine forest within the national park about a kilometer off the main road. We could hear thunder and see lightning, but the storms passed all around us without hitting us. In the morning when we set off again, I couldn´t help but wonder if the ride would seem boring after Copper Canyon. I need not have worried. The road wound it´s way right along the top of a mountain range. The air was cool and fresh and smelled of pines. It was another fantastic ride. Just when the pine forest was stating to get a bit monotonous, we were treated to another pleasant surprise. The road road descended thousands of feet from the top of the mountains down into the desert below. The landscape changed dramatically. There were vistas of open plains and rocky mesas. The road followed gorges down the sides of mountains. There were just 2 motorbikes, clear black tarmac, and an unpopulated desert lanscape. Any random picture of that ride would make a great poster.
Once we got near Hidalgo del Parral, the ride became ordinary compared to what we´d just ridden. After Parral, the road entered a flat plain next to a mountain range. The way the mountains rose abruptly from the plain reminded me of the landscape of southern Alberta. The road was actually straight for long stretches, another feature reminscent of Alberta. We were chased by menacing looking thunderstorms all day, but we managed to pass right between two storms with only a few minutes of giant raindrops. That day we rode 725 kilometres, which I know is nothing compared to the kind of kilmetres the Kid had to put in day after day to make it to Guatemala City on time, but for us that was a big day.
We camped next to a dry creek bed about 500 metres from the highway about an hour north of Durango. We had our customary meal of instant noodles cooked over our portable cook stove. Just as I was crawling into my sleeping bag, a truck drove down the dry creek bed and aimed a floodlight at the tents. Somebody was shouting something in Spanish. Up until that point we had not been disturbed in any of our free campsites. I was thinking the streak might be ending. Had we camped on somebody´s property who didn´t want us there? I emerged from my tent and saw an official looking vehicle, but could not see much because of the lights. I probably had an AK trained on my chest. I shouted “No hablo espanol”. There was another flurry of Spanish and then the truck took off and we were left in peace until about 5:00 AM when every truck driver that drove by on the highay blasted his horn. Was it possible that they could see the tents from the highway and were giving us the customary 5:00 AM Mexican wake-up call?
From our campsite north of Durango we put in another long day and made it all the way to Guadalajara. It was damn cold. During the rainy morning ride to Zacatecas (a city made fascinating by the fact that it´s built right up the sides of a valley high in the mountains), I was tempted to plug in my electric vest. At about that time we crossed the tropic of Cancer. So as we officially entered the tropics, I was as cold as I had been on the entire trip.
The ride to Guadalajara only got ineteresting about 100 kms away when the road left the fertile valley it had been following and started cutting over mountains. We were running out of daylight, but we could see that we were about to get soaked by a thunderstorm so we decided to press on to Guadalajara and find a “motorcycle hotel” (aka love motel, but I prefer the former term) instead of camping. The ride into Guardalajara turned into one of the hairiest of the trip so far (on paved roads that is). After night fell, the sky opened up and we were hit with torrential rains. We followed the road up a mountain right into the heart of a violent storm. The road was a mini river. There were boulders scattered over the road that had been washed down from the side of the mountain. I could barely see where I was going. Lightning was striking all around us. We were so high that we could see lightning below us. At one point, through the sheets of rain, my headlights illuminated some rocks crashing onto the road right in front of me. I had a moment where I wondered if that was all, or if the whole mountain was about to come crashing down.
When we gassed up, a local offered to drive us to a nearby motorcycle hotel. You would never know it was there unless you knew where to go, as our helper did. Good for him. When we ordered room service that night, with our motorcycles parked discreetly in the closed garage under our room, we were amused to find Viagra on the menu. The cost was 150 pesos, or about US$13.
The next day I put a new Pirelli MT60 rear tire on my bike. The stock tire made it over 10,000 kms (I stopped to take a picture when the odometre rolled over to 10,000.0. We happened to be in a particularly scenic spot too). I wonder where I´ll be when it hits 20,000? I also had sheared a bolt on my luggage rack on one of my crashes that I could not dislodge, so I had the guys fix that too.
We left Guadalajara late because of the work done to my bike, so it was dark by the time we hit Camilo so we decided to stop for the night in a hotel. While checking in, they asked us if we wanted a view. “A view of what?” I asked. Why the volcano of course. This was an exciting development. In the morning we set out to try and ride our bikes as close as possible. The volcano was huge, rising 4330 metres. It was shooting a plume of ash into the sky. In 1999 it had erupted sending ash 8 km into the sky. In 2003, there was an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale that killed 25 people and damaged 10,000 homes. There is a 11 km curfew radius around the volcano. All the villages in the area are on alert for immediate evacuation.
a road that lead us close, but ended up skirting away. So we found another road leading through the forest to a small village on the slope of the volcano. Here the road ended. Or so it would seem. We found a dirt track that lead us even closer. We followed this up the side of the Volcano until it ended, in a great spot for a photo opportunity. We were well within the 11 km curfew radius. We would have liked to get even closer, but victory was still ours.
Later that day we arrived on the Pacific coast. Highay 200, from El Faro to Playa Azul is Mexico´s version of the Big Sur coast highway, winding it´s way along the bluffs with the Pacific crashing into the rocks below. The road even feels like the California coast highway – is this the turn where the footpegs are gong to grind against the asphalt? It goes on for hundreds of kilometres, beating it´s northern cousin in that respect. However, over and over again garbage had been dumped on the side of the road. I was disappointed that such beautiful scenery could be marred in such a way. Thus, although the road is amazingly fun to ride, I can´t rank it higher than Big Sur because it is not as pristine.
That night we camped on a secluded beach just off the road. We went for a moonlight swim, body surfing on the swells of the warm Pacific. It had been a great day: we had ridden up the side of a volcano and gone for a swim in the pacific all on the same day.
Last night we stayed in Acapulco, and treated ourselves to a hotel room. Showers are such a luxury when you´ve been camping in the hot and steamy coastal climate. I´m even having some ladies clean my clothes for me as I write this. I know it´s not roughing it, but being clean is such a good feeling I couldn´t help myself.
PS – The Bucket Incident
I have been pretty good at finding places to take care of business on the trip so far. Only once did I have to do it wilderness style. However, I was having trouble yesterday. A few of the banos we had stopped at did not meet my standards and I passed on them, thinking I could wait for better conditions. Unfortunately there came a point a few hours later, after several more failed attempts, when I had to pull over at a food stand on the side of the road and ask the oft repeated question “Donde estan los banos?” Initially I was told there were no banos aqui. In the process of asking where the proximo banos were, a communication lapse occurred. I thought that the woman was asking me if I was headed east, and said “Si”. Then she nodded, disappeared for a moment, and returned with a bucket full of water. “Oh God, she doesn´t expect expect me to do business in that bucket does she?” I thought with horror.
Sadly, I was at the point where I would have done it. Luckily, the woman then pointed to an outhouse in the distance with doors labelled “damas” and “hombres”. I understood. The bucket of water was only to help with the flushing. For a moment I considered pulling a Borat with the bucket, but decided against it. The bano turned out to be muy limpia and it was actually pleasant experience (the woman had even kindly given me some papel). When I returned with the bucket, I was able to say ¨gracias – no problemo”, all proud of myself. I had done better than Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man, that´s for sure.
I think Ted thought the whole episode was pretty amusing. He snapped a picture of me carrying the bucket back with a grin on his face. Maybe I should snap a picture of the wide smile on his face when he emerges from the woods after having disappeared for about ten minutes…