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We ended up spending 5 nights in Durango as warmshowers guests of Frida Blum and Jorge Luis. They’d very kindly allowed us to stay with them over Christmas, and without their stunning hospitality the festive season would likely have fizzled and flopped.

We stayed in the middle of Durango - very good for wandering the streets looking at colonial architecture, but less good for tribute bands at 3am...

Our warmshowers hosts in Durango, Frida and Jorge Luis, are wrapped round Yoda's little claw..

We were warmly included in all their family gatherings, often lasting until the early hours of the morning. Our meal at Jorge Luis’s parents on Xmas Eve didn’t START until midnight! It’s a tribute to the people we were introduced to that they didn’t take offence at the glazed looks on our faces resulting from it being a long way past our normal bed-time of 8pm. Frida’s mother discovered that I had a flute with him, so a happy couple of hours was spent sight-reading classical flute duets. I even discovered some JS Bach Sonatas for flute and piano that I’d not come across before. There were damp eyes all round when we finally headed out of town towards Zacatecas.

About 45km down the road from Durango, the waterfall of El Saltito makes a great lunch spot as we head off the highway to Nombre de Dios

Our camp-spot, off the highway a few kms after Nombre de Dios was nice and secluded. We investigated a glint to make sure we weren't disturbing anyone, and discovered some nicely flamboyant bee-hives :-)

While we were in Durango we’d discussed our difficulties finding up-to-date maps for Mexico that allowed us to take the small roads. Frida told us to buy the latest 2011 Guia Roji road atlas. Our route to Zacatecas, which took in some very nice back roads, was fully covered, so this may form the basis for our future route planning

Out on the open road - off the main highway out from Suchil

We’d lifted the outline of the Durango-Zacatecas route-plan from the Cass Gilbert article that we’d been given by Gary Blakley in Del Norte. It didn’t disappoint, especially the section of the Cordiliera de la Moneda de Cinco Pesos between Mesillas and Francisco I Madero. The rolling and flat riding from there on was marred by lots of wind, but would be nice and fast without.

The riding from Mesillas to San Francisco equals the best on our trip. Early in the climb out of Mesillas there's a random kilometre or two of cobblestone. Given the current Mexican mission to surface the small roads we like, this may not be here too much longer - a real shame.

Lately we've found ourselves re-experiencing the 'bicycle-proof' cattleguard. The local heavily loaded, creaking cars find these pretty hard too! Getting off to push your bike gingerly over these does allow a proper pause to enjoy the view though.

Cruising down to the farmlands that cover the plain from San Francisco I Madero to the other side of Matias Ramos

The diagonal variety was new to us - maybe designed by someone ambivalent to bicycles, rather than openly hostile.

This photo had to be taken. A mostly abandoned hamlet, maybe named for the wide-open spaces common to Mexico and Australia, or by someone a long way from home?

Now we’re in Zacatecas, doing a bit of city-based tourism, poking around very the very fine colonial buildings. For the first time in Mexico we’re out-numbered by other travellers, and here they’re almost all Mexican. Thanks to Lonely Planet we’ve holed up in a cheap and cheerful hostel with roof-top kitchen.

The rooftop kitchen in our Zacatecas hostel. We missed watching the New Years Eve fireworks from here by a day.

A night-scape across the roof-tops of Zacatecas - from here we have to decide our route further down Mexico.

In amongst the colonial architecture of the Zacatecas Centro Historico is a fantastic restaurant that does an all-you-can-eat buffet. They reckoned without the cycle tourist appetite!

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