September 02, 2010 GMT
New Mexico

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Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

New Mexico appears on first impressions to be a very gentle easing into Mexican culture. The adobe houses, Spanish sounding place and street names and Mexican food make it stand out from the other parts of the USA I have visited. My first New Mexican home was in Arroyo Seco, a short distance from Taos. The narrow twisting main street is much more European in character than the typical broad, straight USA main streets.


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Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the USA. Some of the buildings are believed to be over a thousand years old. The Pueblo people use an unwritten, unrecorded language called Tiwa and claim to have a detailed oral history tracing their existence back to the evolution of man.

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Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

The original San Geronimo Church was built around 1619 by Spanish priests and ‘Indian’ labour. The locals were forced into Catholicism and slavery by the Conquistadors in order to ‘civilise’ them. As more settlers moved in from the east Charles Bent was appointed Governor of New Mexico Territory and made his home in Taos. During the Mexican / USA war Bent was killed in an effort to overthrow the US Government. In retaliation US troops hung several Taos Pueblo leaders in the town plaza and destroyed the church leaving only the bell tower standing. Many lives were lost in the church, the bodies were the first to be buried next to the church to start the cemetery.

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San Geronimo Church Bell Tower Following The Churches Destruction By US Troops In 1847

The Rio Grande Gorge a few miles to the west of Taos on Highway 64 is spanned by one of the highest bridges in the USA at 660 feet (201 metres). The river continues south to El Paso, Texas where it forms the USA / Mexican border from there to the coast at Brownsville, Texas.

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Rio Grande, Canyon, New Mexico

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Vertical View of The Rio Grande Canyon, New Mexico

On a bike ride around the scenic “Enchanted Circle Drive” I stumbled across some live music playing in the park of a town called Red River. The main activity had been a Chilli cooking contest but this seemed to be over before I arrived. The music was naturally County And Western by a group from Texas. The singer, from the Texas coast was blaming the altitude for getting out of breath and needing a few moments longer between songs.

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Country & Western Rules

It was raining when I went into the town of Taos but fortunately the historic part where I was had covered walkways making it easy to remain dry and get around. The traditional Pueblo waterspouts coming from the buildings at roof height were pouring rainwater down onto parked cars so I made a mental note never to park under one. Taos, not to be confused with nearby Taos Pueblo was established around 1615 following the Spanish Conquest and has been home to an artists colony for over 100 years. D. H. Lawrence, Dennis Hopper and Kit Carson used to live here and actress Julia Roberts does live here.

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Town Of Taos, New Mexico

From Taos I rode to Santa Fe as it has a BMW dealership and I wanted to get spare filters and sparkplugs for servicing the bike through Central and South America. I’m sure I would be able to find parts when I actually needed them but it’s a lot easier when everyone speaks English and it may save me from having to detour into a major city to find a BMW dealer which I would rather avoid.

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Three Rivers National Forest Campground, New Mexico

When I started this trip in Miami, Florida at the end of March 2009 I always endeavoured to stay at any overnight stop for at least two nights in order to have the time to see something of the area. I would use the bike or walk to see the local sights which slowed the pace of travel and made the journey more relaxing. For most of this summer I have been dashing around trying and succeeding to get to everywhere I wanted to visit on the west side of the USA and Canada before my final USA visa expires which has been a bit hectic. Now that I’m close to the Mexican border I have slowed to a more leisurely pace for the remainder of my time in the USA.

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Seven Foot High Cactus, Three Rivers National Forest

The weather has been good for the last few weeks with afternoon temperatures usually between 80F and 85F (27C - 29C) and very dry apart from a couple of afternoon thunderstorms. I was worried about the heat as I got further south as the 95F (35C) temperatures in British Columbia sent me seeking the shade. That is the hottest I have experienced so far this summer and temperatures are starting to drop off now. My route from Montana to New Mexico has all been above 5,500 feet (1676 metres) which is why it has been cooler.

Casinos in the USA were once restricted to Las Vegas and Atlantic City but since a test case was won by the Native Americans against the Federal Government many of the semi autonomous ‘Native American Reservations’ are building and operating them.

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Apache Casino, Near Ruidoso

White Sands National Monument is a place where sunglasses are most definitely required. The 275 square miles of drifting dazzlingly white gypsum sand dunes that form the National Monument are in the middle of the 4,000 square mile White Sands Missile Range used for testing experimental weapons and space technology. The National Monument is closed on average twice a week while tests take place. The worlds first nuclear explosion took place just to the north of White Sands National Monument with a test explosion on 16th July 1945 by the United States Army. Just over three weeks later the ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan. My mobile phone camera couldn't cope with the brightness and under exposed the pictures I took.

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White Sands National Monument. The Sand Is Much Brighter Than Shown In The Photo

Lincoln, New Mexico once had the most dangerous main street in the USA during the Lincoln County War between 1878 and 1881. Billy The Kid was the only person tried, convicted and sentenced for his part in the violence. He was due to be hung in Lincoln on 13th May 1881 for the murder of Sheriff Will Brady but killed two guards and escaped from the courthouse on 28th April 1881. I remember the film “Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid” with the Bob Dylan soundtrack which I have at home in England on an old LP. The music has being playing in my head all day!

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This Was Once The Most Dangerous Street In The USA

From Lincoln I travelled to Carlsbad Caverns in the south east of New Mexico. When I first heard about Carlsbad Caverns I wasn’t particularly interested, a big hole in the ground isn’t very exciting to an ex coalmine fitter. However a number of people said it was well worth the visit and I’m glad I listened. It is a mile and quarter walk, descending the height of an eighty story building to get to the bottom of the caverns then an additional mile to walk around the huge chamber called the ‘Big Room’. Fortunately there is a lift to take the British back to the surface and an elevator to do the same function for the Americans.

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Mouth Of Carlsbad Caverns

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The last glimmer of daylight descending into Carlsbad Caverns

I decided to enter my last state, Texas by a series of back roads including thirty miles of dirt road. The dirt road had long sections littered with large stones and went through a number of dry creek beds making it second and third gear terrain for me, a rider without health insurance and too old to bounce down the road and expect to stand up afterwards.

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The Road To Texas

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at 02:39 AM GMT
September 07, 2010 GMT
Texas

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A Backroad Into Texas

Texas is my thirtieth and final state of the USA on this trip. I entered Texas from New Mexico on a series of back roads to arrive at Dell City, a small quiet place built around a road junction which qualified it as a two street town. I bought some fruit and a cold drink at one of the two stores for lunch then headed on to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.


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Nodding Donkey Oil Pump Sucking The Black Gold From The Ground

I have seen more “Nodding Donkey” oil pumps in Texas than any of the other states. They churn away twenty four hours a day sucking from the depths of the earth the raw ingredient to lubricate and fuel my bike which I‘m very grateful for despite the odd pang of guilt about my carbon footprint as I leisurely cruise (hopefully) around the world.

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains N. P. has Guadalupe Peak, the highest mountain in Texas in it at 8749 feet (2667 metres). I normally would have been tempted to hike to the top, an 8.5 mile walk with 3000 feet of elevation gain but it was far too hot for anything so strenuous so I settled down in the shade with a book instead.

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Guadalupe Mountains NP Campsite

Having successfully arrived in Texas on back roads I decided to stick to them for the next leg of my journey south. The roads, a mix of paved and dirt were clearly shown on my map and GPS but after forty miles just as the dirt road was due to start there was a barrier across the road. It looked as if someone had built some kind of oil pumping plant right across the road. There was a narrow dirt track running around the plant but it was signposted as a private ranch road with threats of $2000 fines and a year in jail for trespassing. Risking my liberty and bank balance I ventured onto the track and rode round to the rear of the plant to see if the road continued. The ranch track did head in the right direction and the GPS was indicating to follow it but there were more threats of fines and jail so I decided to make a tactical retreat. The only option left was a large sweep to the east making the days ride a lot longer than originally planned and gave me a taste of the long, hot straight roads I had heard about in Texas.

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Heading South On A Backroad Of Texas

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Garmin And I Think We Should Be Able To Ride Straight Through Here

I arrived at Davis Mountain State Park at the start of the Labour Day Weekend when all the campsites can be expected to be very busy. The sensible thing to do would have been to stay at Davis Mtn. S.P. for the weekend but with the days of my USA visa trickling rapidly away I gambled on leaving on the Saturday for Big Bend National Park on the Mexican border. Two young couples turned up at my campsite after dark claiming to have reserved it for the weekend. Assuming that the park rangers had accidentally double booked the site and taking the stance that possession is 9/10ths of the law I wasn’t moving but invited them to share the campsite as I was leaving in the morning. As there were no empty sites they accepted my offer, lit a campfire and sat around it talking and keeping me awake into the early hours!

An overhauling of my security procedures was required before entering Mexico. I had been carrying my passport, driving licence and bike documents inside my ‘Filofax’ diary which was usually left on the bike. I wanted somewhere to carry the documents on me at all times without having to transfer them to different pockets depending on what I was wearing. I hit on the idea of a document pouch worn round my neck and fashioned one from a pair of trousers bought at a charity (Thrift) shop for $1. By cutting everything away except the waistband and a large rear pocket I had what I was looking for although I found it more comfortable to wear it bandolier style with my head and one arm through the waistband rather than round my neck.

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Big Bend National Park Campsite

I headed for Big Bend National Park in the middle of the Labour Day Weekend and although I was tempted to stop for something to eat on the way thought I had better press on and try and secure a campsite. The park is huge, encompassing 196 miles of the Rio Grande on its southern boundary and has three campsites as well as a number of back country areas where wild camping is permitted. I got the last campsite that had a sun shelter built over the picnic table and the few available sites exposed to the sun were taken within two hours of my arrival.

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Rio Grande With Mexico On The Far Side

I was somewhat surprised and disappointed at the size of the Rio Grande, it hardly lives up to its name. I could easily have thrown a stone across the river into Mexico but didn’t want to risk initiating a tri-state diplomatic incident. I met my first proper Mexican as apposed to the numerous ones I have met previously who live in the USA. Victor had paddled illegally across the river in his canoe to sell souvenirs and if you didn’t want a souvenir he would sing you a Mexican song for a small donation. The border seems as porous as a sieve although I will stick to my original plan of crossing at Presidio, the nearest authorised crossing point to Big Bend National Park.

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Canyon In Big Bend N.P.

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Big Bend N.P.

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Big Bend N.P. Sunset

Highway 170 follows the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park west to Presidio running through Big Bend Ranch State Park. The road and scenery were great, I stopped at Contradando, an old adobe film set on the banks of the Rio Grande used for western films. All the buildings looked genuine from the outside but were just timber studding and plywood on the inside apart from the cantina which had adobe interior walls and a bar so it must have been used for interior shots as well. I had been comfortable in my bike suit until 11am but changed into thin trousers and left the jacket off as the temperature rose up to 91F (33C).

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Old Western Movie Filmset On Banks Of Rio Grande

There is a bunkhouse in Sauceda which was recommended to me but to get there I had to go virtually into Presidio then take a dirt road for 30 miles into the heart of Big Bend Ranch State Park. As I only had one night left on my USA visa and wanted to cross the border into Mexico reasonably early in the day I decided to find somewhere nearer Presidio. The best I could come up with was an RV (mobile home) park about four miles from town and six miles from the Mexican border.

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Film Set For 'Streets Of Laredo', 'Uphill All The Way', 'My Maria', 'Rio Diablo', & Others

I have done almost 33,000 miles in the USA and Canada in two summers and had the bike in storage for seven months through a chilly Montanan winter. I have only had one puncture but had to replace the chain and sprockets twice, replace a fork seal and the steering head bearings.

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Big Bend Ranch State Park, Rio Grande

I was hoping for more up to date information on the border crossing and the situation on the Mexican side as I got further south. I met a number of people in May who have second homes or live in their RV (mobile home) in Mexico through the winter and they all thought it was a wonderful place and had never had any trouble. The opposite extreme was the couple who thought there were only two possible outcomes of going to Mexico, death or kidnapping. I’m going to feel very foolish now if I am killed or kidnapped! More up to date information hasn’t been forthcoming as everyone I have spoken to said they stopped going to Mexico several years ago because of the border problems!

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at 09:51 PM GMT
September 21, 2010 GMT
Mexico - Copper Canyon

My first day in Mexico turned out to be a comedy of errors. In all the best western films the Mexican bandits get drunk on tequila in the cantina, sleep late, drink some more tequila and it’s close to lunchtime before they are ready for any serious banditry. Therefore my cunning plan was to cross the border early and be well away from the troubled border area before any self respecting bandido was awake.

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Canyon Along Hwy 16 Between The Border And Chihuahua City


The first thing to go wrong was when I removed the USA / Canada memory card from the GPS and installed the Mexican one. There was no map displaying and the initial reaction is to panic. How can I possibly navigate without a GPS? It’s amazing how reliant you become on having a machine to tell you which way to go. Fortunately I was going to be following one road, Hwy 16 for a couple of hundred miles so the navigation shouldn’t be too difficult.

I camped six miles from the border in Presidio, Texas and was up early enough to feed the mosquitoes. By 8am I was handing my B2 USA visa into The Department of Homeland Security at the border. Crossing the Rio Grande to the Mexican side I rode slowly past some officials trying to get their attention but they looked straight through me. I realised that they were customs and expected to reach immigration next but no, there I was in Mexico and more specifically Ojinaga High Street without my feet touching the ground. I remembered Grant’s advise on the HU website about getting insurance at the border and sure enough there were a couple of offices just beyond the border selling insurance. Picking one at random I got sixty days of cover for $70.

Feeling that something was wrong, I should have got an immigration stamp in my passport and possibly completed some paperwork to take the bike into Mexico but also feeling relieved that I was in Mexico and through the bureaucracy so quickly I headed towards Chihuahua remembering that there was another check point 20 miles or so from the border. I was soon beyond Ojinaga as Hwy 16 climbed into the mountains almost completely free of traffic and totally free of bandidos, killers and kidnappers, my early start had obviously caught them all napping.

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Canyon Along Hwy 16 Between The Border And Chihuahua City

After 25 miles I was beginning to think that there wasn’t going to be a second check point but a mile or two later there it was. A friendly guy came over who could thankfully speak English and wanted to see some sort of vehicle permit. Obviously this was something I should have got at the border but I thought and hoped I could get it at this second checkpoint but alas, no I would have to return to the border at Ojinaga.

After trying to get away from the border area as quickly as possible I was now riding the first 27 miles three times! Once back in Ojinaga I got some Pesos from a cash point machine (ATM) and realised I hadn’t a clue what a Peso was worth. I got the temporary vehicle import paperwork and an immigration stamp in my passport at the border. The system seems to be that you are supposed to know that you have to park and chase after the stamps and paperwork on your own volition. If you don’t you will find out 27 miles later!

I now needed fuel to reach Chihuahua and was hungry so bought food and a drink for me and a drink for the bike. Having dealt with Immigration, Vehicle Imports, corner shop trader and fuel sellers (four at the pump and two in the office, I never discovered what they all do) and found them all helpful and friendly to someone whose only Spanish is “No habla Espanol“ I forgot all about the bandidos, killers and kidnappers and headed down Hwy 16 once again. The man at the checkpoint wanting to see the vehicle import documentation was happy and 2.5 hours after my first visit I was finally leaving the checkpoint and heading for Chihuahua again. There was another military checkpoint further on manned by a group of army recruits with guns almost bigger than they were. Once again, taking my helmet off, grinning and saying “No habla Espanol” seemed to amuse them and we maintained a friendly banter while they searched my bags. Whatever they were looking for they didn’t find and I was free to go.

My Spanish has now advanced from “No habla Espanol” which according to Google-Translate actually means “Does not speak Spanish” and may explain the amused expressions on the faces of the military to “Soy no habla Espanol”, “I do not speak Spanish”, I think the Mexican population at large quickly appreciates that I don’t speak Spanish regardless of how or what I say!

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Tarahumara Women From The Chihuahua Region

Initially I thought I might make it to Creel beside Copper Canyon, my first real destination in Mexico but backtracking to Ojinaga ruled that out. I decided to get through Chihuahua then start looking for somewhere to stay on the western outskirts of the city. I navigated to Chihuahua without incident but getting out the other side wasn’t as straight forward. I went through the town centre, melted whilst standing at all the red lights and ended up taking any main road that was heading south west (as indicated by the GPS) until I accidentally stumbled on the right one. Shortly afterwards I saw a motel and as I pulled up read a sign saying that rooms were 200 Pesos. I had no idea how much 200 Pesos was but decided to stop anyway as I hoped to sort out the GPS problem, wanted a shower and as I hadn’t seen any campsites was probably going to have to stay in a motel anyway.

After showering I checked the exchange rate and my air conditioned room with shower and secure covered parking was $15, less than I had paid the previous night for a small patch of hard Texas ground to put my tent on and the privilege of feeding the mosquitoes in the morning. And there was more good news, searching my box of Garmin bits I found another unlabelled memory card. Once inserted Garmin could confidently navigate anywhere in Mexico but I have no idea where the memory card I had originally fitted came from.

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Statue Of Christ On The Hilltop Overlooking Creel

The next day I headed for Creel which is a good base for exploring Copper Canyon. More good roads and scenery with little traffic although what traffic there was doesn’t give you the amount of road space that you get in the USA, not a problem, it just requires a bit more attention. At 2238 metres (7242 feet) Creel has an almost perfect climate for me at this time of year, cool enough to avoid baking in helmet and bike suit, cool enough for walking but still shirtsleeves weather. The clouds do build up and there have been some late afternoon thunderstorms but you can’t have everything.

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Creel, Chihuahua

I met someone at the Grand Canyon in Arizona who said that if I was going to Mexico I should visit Copper Canyon, it was bigger, deeper, wider and grander than the Grand Canyon without the commercialisation and the crowds. It’s certainly very dramatic, wild and rugged country. In one respect it reminds me more of the maze of canyons in Canyonlands in Utah, Copper Canyon is one of eleven interlocking canyons, twisting in different directions in a confused tangle of gorges and whitewater. The whole area is covered in trees which tend to soften and blur the canyon sides which for me meant that the Grand Canyon has the bigger initial wow factor. That said, I spent two weeks exploring the Copper Canyon area, saw some amazing scenery and feel as though I have only scratched the surface of the place.

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Copper Canyon

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Copper Canyon

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Copper Canyon

I was in Creel for Mexico’s 200th Independence day. The town square or plaza was decorated and a stage built for live music for a party the evening before which ran on until the early hours. The following day there was going to be a parade but I didn’t know what time it was and I missed it. By the time I went out the town centre was being reopened to traffic.

A postscript to my comedy of errors in entering Mexico. I read in a guide book that you had to take your tourist card issued at the border to a bank to have it stamped after paying a fee. I had borrowed the book from it’s author who was staying in the same hotel so making use of his expertise I checked with him which of the numerous official bit of paper issued at the border was the tourist card. The following day I waited in a queue at the bank for over two hours only to be sent to the manager by the confused bank teller. After ten minutes of trying to communicate with each other I finally understood when he said “No Necesario”. It turns out I had paid the fee at the border only instead of stamping the card they had stapled a receipt to it which I couldn’t read.

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Creel Plaza

I decided to ride the short distance to Lake Arareko and walk around the lake taking a picnic lunch. Halfway round when I could see my bike across the lake there were some thunderclaps and I thought I was in for a soaking but the rain fortunately held off. I got back to the bike still dry but thirsty and hungry. After a quick shower I walked into town for a Mexican meal or a meal as they call it here. I’m in the country that gave the world chocolate, sweet corn and Mexican food which has to be a good thing.

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Lake Arareko

Another day I took a ride to Basaseachi Waterfall, a 173 mile roundtrip. It was warm so I left the motorbike suit behind and only carried lightweight hiking waterproofs. The road took me up over some mountains and it got cooler and cooler so that by the time I arrived at the small town beside the falls I was ready for a hot drink and some warm food. The road was mainly paved but there were short stretches of dirt and two of these were deeply rutted.

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Basaseachi Waterfall From The Top

Basaseachi Falls are the 20th highest falls in the world and the third highest in the Americas. At 246 metres (807 feet) they are the biggest I have seen. Of course now I want get to the nineteen bigger falls wherever they are!

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Snake In Pool At Basaseachi Falls

I was enjoying the view from the top, basking in the warmer afternoon weather and watched a small snake swimming in a pool wondering if there was a path down to the bottom of the falls. It was a mixed blessing when I found that there was. It was very rough and uneven as well as being steep enough to have to hang on to the vegetation or the cliff wall in places. However once it was discovered I had no choice but to venture down and then make the arduous ascent later,

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Basaseachi Waterfall From The Bottom

Shortly after setting off on the return journey as I started to climb back into the mountains there were the obvious signs of rain ahead. I was putting on the lightweight waterproofs as the first heavy drops began to fall. Soon it was raining heavily with water running down the road, the drainage unable to cope and the thunder clashed loudly overhead. I got colder and wetter and had trouble seeing through the visor which is overdue being replaced. The two soft rutted sections were fun with water and mud splattering up my legs. Once I reached the summit and started to descend the rain eased considerably and stopped altogether for periods although it was raining steadily for the last fifteen miles as I shivered, stuck behind an old pickup truck crawling along. I will carry proper waterproofs with me on any longer trips in future.

The following morning I realised a drawback of travelling light and not thinking about what I had been wearing. I often wear my lightweight shorts under my trousers so that I can swap from bike trousers to lightweight trousers or remove either to just wear the shorts whilst maintaining what little dignity I have left. Both the shorts and trousers were still wet so that I had nothing to wear other than the bike trousers until the shorts dried.

I was premature in stating that Garmin could now navigate throughout Mexico. The map and database are nowhere near as detailed as the European or USA ones. Roads that have clearly existed for a while and appear on maps aren’t in the Garmin Map. Seeking alternative navigational aids I thought I had discovered a new way of plotting routes but suspect I have just caught up with everybody else. Using Google Earth I started locating destinations and waypoints then transferring the grid references into the GPS. This has worked so far apart from Garmin refusing to plot a route because there are no roads nearby when we are actually riding on the ‘missing’ well established tarmac road!

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Cusarare Waterfall Near Creel

I have spoken to a number of travellers who visit Mexico regularly. From what they say and from my own positive experience I think the ’Mexican border problem’ isn’t as bad as it used to be. Everyone I have met has been helpful and friendly. Certainly the vast majority of visitors experience no problems. I guess the situation will have to be stable and safe for several years before tourists get the confidence to start coming back in their previous numbers. It seems a shame, walking around Creel with all its empty restaurants wondering which one to give my custom to.

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Copper Canyon, South Of Creel

The road from Creel running south east towards Parral is one not to be missed, particularly the first section that runs through the Copper Canyon area. The mountainous road snakes through and over the canyons with stunning scenery but being Mexico you have to look out for horses, cattle, donkeys, goats, small boy goat herders, chickens, rocks and patches of mud. I saw all of these lurking around different bends! Dogs were unusually absent though.

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at 01:29 AM GMT
September 29, 2010 GMT
Mexico - Durango - Mazatlan

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Plaza De Armas, Durango

I arrived in the city of Durango with last weeks dual celebration lights and decorations still up. They celebrated their 200th Independence Day and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican revolution on the 16th September. The party continues in Durango with nightly free performances in the main Plaza De Armas whilst I was there.


I was staying in a hotel just round the corner from Plaza De Armas with all the downtown sights within walking distance so the bike could stay in the hotel car park.

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Las Alamedas, Durango

One of the reasons for coming here was that the Durango to Mazatlan Highway 40 was supposed to be one of the best roads in Mexico. I left my camping gear in Durango so I was travelling reasonably light for the 190 mile ride which descends 8500 feet to sea level.

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Durango - Mazatlan Road Crossing A River

The scenery was certainly spectacular but on my journey to Mazatlan there were numerous hold ups for road works and on the continuously twisting descent a lot of rockslides and several trees had been washed down onto the road. The biggest rock I saw was a metre diameter sphere sitting in the middle of my lane. There was also an accident where a large truck had overturned on a hairpin bend shedding its load. The cab was crushed down to the seat on the drivers side so it is difficult to imagine how he could have survived. There are a lot of potholes to watch out for too which can be difficult to spot as the predominantly tree lined road plunges between bright sunlight and dark shadow. I was glad I had ridden the road but I was also glad to see the Pacific Ocean and the end of the journey as it had been a tiring day.

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Looking Down At The Clouds

As I stopped to take a photo four local guys swept round a corner and skidded to a halt beside me on their small motorbikes. One of them rode down the wrong side of the road, turned round and wheelied back up then wanted me to do the same. I declined citing too much grey hair, brittle bone disease and the lack of health insurance. I’m no Charley Boorman and believe God gave motorcycles two wheels for a reason!

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Then It Was Supposed To Be My Turn

In Mazatlan the bike chain showed signs of serious wear and will need replacing soon. This will be the third chain I have fitted in the 34,000 miles on this trip so far. Had I realised I would be changing the chain so often I would have brought a chain link splitter and done the job myself. Up till now I have paid a mechanic each time. A number plate support tube which had cracked has now snapped completely in two places although the number plate assembly still feels solidly attached. I think I remember seeing an additional number plate support listed in the Touratech catalogue but was confident at the time that if additional support were needed BMW would have fitted it! I will endeavour to get the tube welded as soon as possible and will try to stay clear of rough roads in the mean while.

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Mazatlan Beach

Mazatlan offers good beaches and fabulous sunsets but my favourite area was the old town with its narrow streets and a quiet tree lined plaza with European style cafes with tables and sun umbrellas out on the pavement.

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Mazatlan Plaza

It was 8C (14F) degrees warmer at the coast in Mazatlan than on the high plateau in Durango. I like the idea being able to ride to a warmer or cooler climate within a day. The rainy season is due to finish at the end of September which is in a few days time although I haven’t seen much rain since leaving Creel and the Copper Canyon area.

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Mazatlan Sunset

The return journey back to Durango along highway 40 was a bit smoother as most of the rocks and trees that had been washed onto the road had been removed although workers were still clearing up the last of them. I saw one guy breaking up a large rock with a hammer and chisel which seemed a brutal labour intensive approach but incredibly macho. A new rockslide, or one I somehow failed to spot on the way to Mazatlan included a rock as big as a medium sized car lying in the drainage ditch and extending into the road. Another rockslide still completely blocked one lane of the road.

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A Good Section Of Durango - Mazatlan Highway 40

The 8500 feet ascent was marred by trucks trundling slowly round the endless bends making overtaking difficult for a European. The Mexican drivers simply overtook the trucks around blind bends and as it happens survived to tell the tale every time whilst I took the cowardly approach of waiting until there was sufficient road in view to know I had time to complete the overtake before any oncoming traffic made mincemeat (hamburger meat for those from the US) of me. If a car wanted to overtake me I would pull over and signal them to pass and occasionally one would reciprocate for me.

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Durango - Mazatlan Highway 40

The trucks use all of the road to make their turns and when two trucks approached a bend at the same time the one coming downhill would give way to the one coming up. Anything smaller than a truck was just expected to get out of the way regardless of whether they were going up or down and I certainly wasn‘t going to get into an argument with one of them.

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Durango Plaza De Armas

The roads on the Plaza De Armas round the corner from my hotel were closed by police when I got back to Durango leaving me to find an alternative route to the hotel car park. As there was usually some kind of free entertainment on each evening in the plaza I assumed there was going to be some kind of parade so walked back to the plaza after dinner. There were hundreds of police in full riot gear on the streets as some kind of student demonstration was taking place. I didn’t hang around too long but think it passed off peacefully as I was close enough to hear any trouble from the hotel.

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at 04:06 AM GMT
 


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