Monday, February 15, 2010

Segment 10. Silver City, NM to Urique,Chihuahua, Mexico (December 7 - 28, 2009)

Leaving Silver City, only about 100 miles north of the Mexican border, we rode along beautiful Great Divide roads while a winter storm began to clear...





Here, making sure that we're not lost!  The air is still very cold here...

Getting closer to the border...





This then is the final crossing of the Great Divide on the GD Mountain Bike Route.  About 45 miles north of the Mexican border.

In Hachita, our last town stop in the states, we gathered as four: Jason, Jeff, Anna, and Cass.  From there we would cross the border together, partly for companionship, and partly to ease any worries about safety and security, since nearly everyone in the states was worried about safety issues in the border zone (drug traffic, mafia crime, kidnapping, etc).

 

In these last few miles north of the border, near the Big Hatchet Mountains, we witnessed some incredible sunset scenery...

Here we are in formation as we reach the border...



This is part of the appalling border wall that the US has constructed and maintains with billions of taxpayer dollars.  To keep out all the bad Mexicans.

Our first break, this time in Mexico.  Luckily, the road turned to dirt just at the border, so we were able to do our first several kilometers in Mexico on this surface...

But that didn't last long, and we had to take a highway east to Janos, in northern Chihuahua.  The truck traffic reminded us of the Dalton Hwy. in Alaska, the Alaska Hwy. in British Colombia, and some of the Canadian highways in Alberta.  We hate cycling on highways, and truck traffic in general.  It doesn't help that there are no shoulders on most Mexican highways! (with the exception of recently built express highways).


This sign says: "Caution, overwide vehicle".  Not enticing when you are on a bicycle on a truckway with no shoulders.

Our first of many great northern Mexico sunsets:

We didn't waste time finding what was important in Janos.  Here's Cass after tasting some of his first Mexican burritos.

From Janos we continued to Nuevo Casas Grandes.  Apparently it has been one of the heaviest crime areas in Chihuahua recently, with mafia action, and disappearances, and unsolved murders, since President Calderon took office a few years ago and began trying to clean up drug mafia violence.  However, we saw none of that, and instead indulged in our first fish dinner in Mexico:

Anna and Cass are displaying sweet bread (pan dulce), quite excitedly...

Jason had a bolt break on his back rack and needed this bike shop to help him sort it out:
 

 

This is a classic bike wheel truing stand.

Leaving Nuevo Casas Grandes, we headed straight for a dirt road route through the mountains.  On the way we stopped off to visit archaeological ruins at Páquime, which was an ancestral puebloan city of sorts.  It was the largest population center of any of the ancient pueblo indian sites.
 

 

We left Nuevo Casas Grandes just after the Virgin of Guadalupe holiday.  This roadside shrine was full of recent offerings.
 

Our route started climbing pretty abruptly...
 

...while the Chihuahua road building teams tried in vain to pave our beloved dirt roads...
 

 

Here we are heading south, along incredible and very remote mountain roads...
 




  

A truly Mexican camping scene.  Four different corn tortilla toasting stations on the campfire at the same time. 
  

Rolling along through pine forest...
  
...with some manzanita interspersed at times...
  

The drastic effects of logging were seen in this area north of Ejido El Largo...
  

... but the cycling remained superb...
 

Here Cass is asking directions from the charcoal driver...
  

 A store where we were heartily welcomed by the friendly people of Ejido El Largo:
  

Roasting chilis and heating tamales, the old school way...
  

Leaving Ejido El Largo on a cold morning...
  

... we headed for Cuarenta Casas, another ancestral peublo archaeological site which was to remind us of Mesa Verde, but a much smaller version, of course.
  

 

 

Off our bikes for the afternoon, we head down to visit the dwellings...
  

  

Our first look at agave...
  

  

These ruins were exceptional for the original roof timber.  In Mesa Verde for example the roofs are mostly gone.
  
Paintings as seen on an interior wall:

 

The mountains opened up as we approached Madera...
 

... where we found a hotel room for 200 pesos (about 15 dollars), split four ways of course.


  

Evening colors viewed south of Madera, as we head towards Creel and the Copper Canyon area, a few days south still.
 

Its still very cold here at night!  Awoke in a field with ice all over the bicycle, not to mention the camping gear.
 

This is a roadside shrine/painting as we get closer to Creel.

A ranchito about 20 km north of Creel...
 

This sign is explaining that conifer forests are an integral part of the human/natural community and therefore it is prohibited to cut firewood, cut posts, make beams, or to graze any type of domestic animal in the area.
  

Arrived in Creel, here is a sunset scene from the apartment we rented for a few days.
 

We went mountain biking on our second full day in Creel...

Here is El Valle de los Monjes (Valley of the Monks), so named because the rock forms are supposed to resemble monks.
 

This is Jose Gomez, a Creel local who we happened across at the start of our ride.  He decided to show us around little known trails, mostly singletrack, and we spent a great afternoon riding with him.
  



Here we are negotiating some Copper Canyon slickrock...
 

The topography around Creel is exceptionally rough and beautiful...  

Jason on some slickrock, trails worn through by centuries of human as well as livestock foot traffic...
 

We also visited Recowata Warm Springs near Creel.  The temperature of the water was a bit too low, however, for our taste.  Here the maintenance men are giving a new paintjob to one of the pools.

We got our first taste of walking in the canyon country as we went on an afternoon dayhike around Recowata.

The access road to Recowata was so steep and rough that we had to push our way back out.  If you look closely you will see Anna making her way up (bottom left).

Back in Creel, this is one of the places we stayed...
... and here is the communal dinner area at Casa Margarita's, a well known hostel in Creel.  This is an international crowd, with a fair share of Mexican tourists as well.

On the frigid morning of December 24th, there was quite a scene in Creel, as three groups of cyclists coming down from Alaska were all in town...
Besides us, there was a couple from Holland, who also had travelled down the Great Divide Route.  Karen and Martin.
As well as a tandem-riding couple, Canadian-New Zealander, Roland and Belinda.

With Jason off to Puerto Escondido for Xmas/New Year, and Anna one day ahead of us on the route, Cass and Jeff headed off towards Urique.  Here is a spectacular vista along the way...


At Divisadero, a tourist stop along the El Chepe Scenic Railroad which runs from Chihuahua city to the coast, crossing Copper Canyon country, we came across this sign commemorating the Tarahumara Indian runners.  These runners are some of the world's most intense long-distance runners.  The Tarahumara developed a ball game, in which runners chase a kicked ball up, down, and through canyon country, over the centuries.  This game can often last days!

Local boys checking out our bikes...

The scene from Divisadero:

Our first glimpse of gorditas, standard Mexican cuisine.  Corn tortilla pockets stuffed with all kinds of things.  I chose a red corn potato-stuffed gordita, Cass a blue corn meat/cheese gordita. 
 

Another view from Divisadero:
 

Christmas Day now, we head off on dirt roads once again, aiming for Urique about 90 km away.
 

 


This ride featured amazing dirt road riding...
... and eventually, after some grueling climbs, we arrived above Urique Canyon...


Urique is pictured at the bottom of the gorge.

We had great evening colors as we descended the 6000 foot deep Urique Canyon.  It is the deepest canyon in North America.


Cactus spotted about two-thirds of the way down...

Arrived in Urique, we stayed at Entre Amigos, a hostel run by an American named Keith.  It is unique in that Keith has planted and maintained an amazing organic orchard and garden, which guests can access and harvest from.  We started by making fresh squeezed grapefruit juice...

Here is the amazing garden with its many varieties of lettuce, chard, beets, green onions, green beans, etc.

Anna harvesting greens in the garden:


Here is Jeff making cilantro spinach walnut pesto, with primitive tools (photo courtesy Anna Kortschak)...
... and here is the final product, a dinner with pasto and aforementioned pesto, along with salad and avocado grapefruit dressing, and a side of steamed green beans.   Very green, and absolutely to-die-for after so many days on the road.

A marvelous dusk scene viewed from Urique town:


1 comment:

Adrian said...

i am envious of the food, the wonderful food, not to metion the scenery, the fresh air, the adventure etc -- but always the food -- you guys do it right