Monday, February 15, 2010

Segment 12. Guachochi, Chihuahua to Zacatecas, Zacatecas via Durango (1/20/10-2/9/10)

The frame bag template, a greasy paper bag, which Jeff will use to make a frame bag similar to Jason's:

Jeff's rim had broken on the ride to Guachochi, one of the reasons for our very long stay in this town not known by tourists, and here he is starting to rebuild his wheel:

Jason also suffered from a broken rim, coincidentally, at the same time.  Here Jeff trues the wheel in a biting wind.

Pollo Loco, of Mariscos Bucanero. We ate lots of shrimp here, including ceviche made with the poop of a rare ant found only on a certain type of tree, then harvested by local Tarahumara indians. Delicious!
The ant poop, called ari, is pretty spicy. Here Cass manages a smile while trying to cope with the poo...
A gift of a bag of ari. It's a rare delicasy, and very expensive.  Thanks Pollo!

The man and his alligator skin boots  (right photo courtesy Anna Kortschak)

This sign is saying: "Plant a tree to help recover our forest and its lost wealth":       

Back on rough roads...
...on the way to Guazárachi hot springs....
A rare moment, Cass pushing his bike.

The landscapes here were beautiful, and sparsely populated...

At the start of a long descent...
...into a beautiful canyon...
...where a gorgeous cascade and pool of warm water awaited us. (photo Anna Kortschak)

We took a rest day here at the hot springs, after the tough and long road to get here...
Tent hole repairs number 17 and 18...

Love those Tarahumara Indian women's day-glo socks.

A morning soak... muy a gusto

Riding back out from the springs, here Cass is on bedrock.

The amazing pine forests that blanket the sierra tarahumara.  Half of the world's pine species are found in this region.

A beautiful prairie falcon seen along the road near Balleza.

Sleeping bag drying line, after a frosty night

The following photos are of a vulture carnage seen from a lovely dirt road we took out of Balleza...

 These are all Black Vultures.

The photographer at work...

"Cass versus the last vulture": which we dared Cass to try and approach the vultures, and took bets on how far he would get before the last vulture flew off.  Cass surpassed all three of our bets, and engaged in an amazing and strategic psychological battle with the last vulture.  They performed a dance of sorts, the last vulture wily and also brazen, mirroring each other's movements, until finally the last vulture conceded.  Cass, however, did not leap across the carrion and attempt to grab the vulture around the neck, an act which would have earned him great respect.

Pulled over to let traffic pass...
A burning field...

A cowboy approaches our lunch spot.

A scene from El Vergel.

Meat drying in the mid-day sun.

Pinole, the energy powder made from ground toasted corn, which the Tarahumara long-distance runners rely on for high performance.  Our personal tests with it were inconclusive.

After leaving Chihuahua after nearly two months and entering Durango, en pura sierra, we found ourselves in serious logging country...

Here Cass is fixing his back rack, which had rattled loose on these very rough roads, while a huge log truck passes by.

We passed what is the coldest point in Mexico, near La Rosilla, among great scenery, great skies, and snow.
A spring by the roadside with some sweet mountain water.

A typical village from this area of northern Durango, followed by the horrors of industrial logging:

This type of cattle guard could taco a wheel pretty easily if you hit it at full speed...

We found ourselves on a magical dirt road leaving the high sierra on a screaming and very fun descent...

...ending up in Guanacevi.

Our campsite just past Guanacevi. In the course of the night, several masked military men with assault rifles snuck up on us and then studied our bicycles and tentsites, making sure we were the genuine article and not just some drug runners posing as long distance cyclists.

View from the rooftop in Tepehuanes, a cool little town in northern Durango.

5:17 pm

5:21 pm

It had become obvious to us that we just didn't fit in in Mexico without decent sombreros...

As for the boots, maybe later.(photo Anna K.)
cowboy style. (photo Anna K.)

This sweet girl got photos with all of us and gave us each keychains to remember Durango by.

 The label on the inside of our hats.  Precious.

After a long day o' ridin' in the saddle, as the sun begins to set, sometimes I just look down at my tall shadow and think "Damn! I appreciate my lucidity..."
(photo Anna K.)

A bust of the ever-present Pancho Villa.  He was born in Durango, later to be a key figure in the Mexican Revolution as the leader of the Division of the North, and later still to torment the USA with his raids and anti-American behavior.  He eluded 10,000 US troops for 9 months while hiding in the very sierra madre that we have been travelling down.

Riding the old railway line out of Tepehuanes with Abraham, the only cyclist in town... Abraham was an angel, first finding us while trying on cowboy hats, then introducing himself as a mountain biker, then telling us about the old rail line, thereby saving us paved road kilometers, and finally giving us contacts down the road in Santiago Papasquiarro...

The dog waits while the puncture gets fixed.

Near our campsite, a beautiful river, and a cardinal-like pyrrhuloxia:

We followed the old rail line as far as we could, sometimes having to parallel on dirt roads:
 Los Tres Bicicleteros (photo Anna K.)

This was very fun riding...
... interspersed by minor challenges...

Black phoebe


An old station stop, before the train was discontinued and the random citizens of Durango began tearing up the rails, ties, and anything else of use!

Quillote, harvested from the agave plant. Sweet, cool, and delicious.  This was a gift from Abraham.

Cass mends a flat tire.

We continued as long as we could, then were forced to bail off the train line...

Cowboys on bikes and real cowboys (photo Anna K.)

Back on pavement after a river ford and some routefinding, this sign is saying that it is completely forbidden to steal rails, sleepers, signs, spikes, etc. from the old rail line.  The reason we were able to travel some 35 km like that was because of railway theft!

So, you're not allowed to steal the railroad infrastructure? Since when?

Arrived in Santiago Papasquiarro, we were met by local mountain bikers (thanks to Abraham), who found us a place to stay, and invited us on a group ride slated for the following day...

(photo Anna K.)
(photo Anna K.)

What, you've never seen a man in crocs and a cowboy hat using a sewing machine before? (photo Anna K.)

(photo Anna K.)

"They killed him for stealing the truck."  Evidence of some of the violent crime in northern Mexico.

Jose Ramon, our gracious host in Santiago.  He led us out of town (slack-biking for the first time for us since Jasper National Park) on this fantastic dirt road, whose scenery reminded us of the GDMTBR in southern New Mexico...

Loggerhead shrike.

Asking directions in a little village, looking for the route to Canatlán.

Thanks to the guys in Santiago, we had a contact in Canatlán, Genaro Garcia, who showed us around and offered us a room in a hotel.

FREE TAMALES! We ate many delicious tamales with pasas, or raisins.

Leaving the hotel after a stormy night. (photo Anna K.)

Jason tocando su guitarrita. (photo Anna K.)

The crew pictured with Genaro Garcia.

Invited to gordita breakfast by our hosts in Canatlán!
The ladies of Gorditas La Plaza, Canatlán. Gracias por la rica comida!!

The Aztec tale of the founding of Tenochtitlán pictured here, seen on a highway sign.

A vermillion flycatcher seen on the road from Canatlán to Durango

First things first. Upon arrival in Durango, Panchito Garcia immediately goes to work making sure our bikes are in fine shape.  Panchito's contact had been given to us by Genaro in Canatlán.

The cathedral on the main plaza in Durango.

Seafood restaurant in a school bus.

A famous old building in Durango converted into a bank.  Great arches and columns.

Panchito gives us advice about seafood. Don't eat shrimp between May and August!

The view from the mirador above the city, where we were interviewed for a local sports TV show...

Yoda, Frida and Jorge's pug.  They were our Warm Showers hosts in Durango.

and churros.

With Panchito and another mountain biker named Miguel we went on a ride in the mountains near is the statue commemorating the world´s three Durangos, in Colorado, Mexico, and Spain.

This sign is marking the Ruta el Alacrán, or the Scorpion Route, a local outdoors recreation project, which we followed for awhile.

Great singletrack...

Cass´ chainring bolts all worked loose on this ride, so he had to improvise a solution to be able to continue riding back to Durango.

more singletrack, and some bushwhacking...

We came near to the end of this ride by crossing an obsolete railroad bridge.  VERY high over the gorge, and with plenty of wide gaps passing underneath as we crossed!

Gorditas, gorditas, gorditas, to celebrate the end of a great ride.

Later that evening, Frida and Jorge took us out to a few bars in Durango, this one an old store room accessible by catacombs, a few stories underground.  Jorge is central in the photo...

Miguelito patiently waited while we took care of our final errands in Durango, then showed us an awesome route to take out of the city...

Yellow-headed blackbirds by the thousands...

Miguel.  El Saltito in the background.

We ended our ride for the day and parted ways with Miguelito in Nombre de Dios, a cool little town from the 1560s. It is on the old silver trail between Mexico City and Santa Fe.  The above sign depicting the trail roughly parallels our own route, down from west of Albuquerque.

Market day in Vicente Guerrero.  Here a pharmacy promotion, dancing to Latin rhythms.

Got chiles?

Riding the rollers, on an incomplete section of new roadway.

Eventually the paved section ended, and we headed towards Zacatecas on a network of great dirt roads:

(photo Anna Kortschak)

We camped in a random wash near Mesillas, and the following morning Cass was very cheery, as it was his birthday (February 8).

Long-billed Thrasher.

"Well, I cant stand cobbles and i dont like fences..." This was actually a nice climb.

The next 40 km or so have entered our short list of Hall of Fame riding in Mexico.  Incredible scenery, low rolling mountains, forest, and plenty of short ascents and descents...

These cattleguards are a real disaster for cyclists.

Jason descending down from the mountains...
and still more dirt road travel...

Sunrise from just beyond Guadalupe de Trujillo...

Flat tire, after only a few miles this morning.
One of our favorite moments, when the pavement ends and dirt begins...

A scene from Santa Rosa, where Cass and Anna waited for us to catch up after the flat tire delay. (photo Anna K.)

We rode 110 km on this day into Zacatecas, and midday found us about here...

... and later riding this great linking jeep track, rough and rocky and gorgeous...

...weaving between cactus and yucca...

... and finally working our way through farm lands.

A few more scenes from this epic day...

A rendition of the famous painting of San Martín Caballero, using painted sand, and hanging in a shop in a small village along the way.

Our Schwalbe tire tread.  Unmistakeable.  We have only changed tires once since Alaska, nearly 12000 km.

On windy days we can't ride with the sombreros or they act as windsails.

Joshua tree-like woody yuccas near Nueva Australia.
Anna loves Australia and being an Australian. (photo Anna K., from Australia)

Zacatecas as seen from about 40 km distant...

the cathedral in El Maguey, getting closer to Zacatecas.

roadside raptor.
Aargh!  Jason ends the day like it started, with another puncture, 10km from Zacatecas and its getting dark...


Anonymous said...

Wow! what a great trip Jeff. You are doing it! We are so jealous!

Carlos and Anna from Barcelona, Spain

Anonymous said...


Way cool man, i am gld to see you doing all these wonderful things and enjoying life to the fullest.

Rich Hinkle (405)406-2871