Until Zacatecas we had to a lesser or greater degree been following someone else’s route. In Canada and the USA the Great Divide mountain bike route spoon-fed us with kilometre by kilometre directions. In the northern half of Mexico, Cass Gilbert and the Dirt Bags gave us a trail to follow through the Sierra Madre Occidental. Now we’re really on our own. We’ve got some broad themes – avoid Mexico City and stay high until a trip to the Oaxacan coast before heading back inland to San Cristobal and some much needed remedial Spanish tuition. That only left us with deciding which way to skirt round Cuidad Mexico. In the end my fingers were itchy for some rock climbing, and the Parque National de Mineral el Chico was north and east of the megapolis; making the decision.
The Guia Roji we bought in Durango provided the vast majority of our plan with some connections from googleearth. So far it’s been a success, especially the connections.
After a surprisingly fast day out of Zacatecas, the country flattened out, giving us easy cycling and the company of other bicycles for the first time since we got into Mexico.
After 30km fast downhill, but boring road riding we were back 'out there'. Lunch among the prickly things, and sheltered by a joshua tree.
The much farmed and very flat plains around Loreto are perfect for bicycles. There are lots of them, and the first time we'd seen other people on bikes in this quantity in Mexico.
That afternoon after this man moved his flock onto the road in front of us we indulged in a spot of intentional animal herding - sheep this time, rather than cows. We found them much less inclined to uncontrolled running.
We met this man in La Chiquilla shortly after we'd inadvertantly made an 8km shortcut across a network of criss-crossing tracks in the bush heading for San Martin. We particularly admired his machete holster - this was a particularly fine example - pretty much all the very friendly bicycle-pedalling men in this part of the world have them, mostly for cutting firewood.
Things got more undulating after San Francisco (not the famous one) with even more spiky aggressive vegetation. Zen navigation and the art of asking questions of the right sympathetic native Spanish speaker got us onto some very fine rocky dual-track through the hills to yet another Ojo Caliente.
Nice bike-jarring, trailer rattling down-hill. Believe it or not, our morning spent avoiding a section of autopista by bamboozling the locals with our strangled spanish actually landed us where we wanted to be.
After braving a busy, but thankfully nicely shouldered bit of autopista from Santa Maria del Rio we pulled off onto the road to Tierra Nueva. The next morning we were stocking up at a mini-super in TN. Having established that we really had made it through the Sierras this local sage judged us qualified to attempt the 'caminito' (very little road) to Jofre
Then after Tierra Nueva we found ourselves steadily climbing (and climbing) into some of the best riding we’ve done thus far – all the way to Jofre.
Nice rolling dirt road with no traffic and the sierras - bliss :-)
The only way is up! A bit of a contrast to recent riding, but nothing like the climb out of the Barranca de Urique, and with a nice mildy thought-provoking surface.
All is rewarded
Sarah cruising in magical places that feel even better for having stumbled upon them ourselves without any help from our friends :-)
We’ve also got less stressed about running into people. Previously we’d smile in a moronic fashion and utter the dreaded “no entiendo espanol” as they enthusiastically released a torrent of spanish at us. That is, unless we were buying food or saying where we were coming from or going to (yes, really all on bicycles). Part of the change has been some improvement in our spanish, but we’re still pretty focused in what we know how to say. This was illustrated when we attempted to play I-Spy in spanish along one particularly flat bit of road…
Me – “I spy something beginning with C”
Sarah – “Camino” (way/smaller road)
Sarah – “Carretera” (highway/bigger road)
Me – “No”
Sarah – “I don’t know any more words beginning with C in spanish except Peanuts!”
I discovered that the kickstand plate on my bike had partially broken away a few weeks ago, and in San Luis de la Paz I finally got it welded. I'm not sure Sarah would have tolerated any more cursing and complaining from me as I struggled to load and unload the Big Dummy, so the repair was in everyone's best interests.
Ignacio not only refused to accept any money for 2 spare trailer rods for Sarah, but helped me find a good local welder to fix my bike. Every customer he had that day, and probably for many more, heard that we had come all the way from Canada and even via the caminito from Tierra Nueva. Like many other Mexicans we meet he was also bemused that we aren't sponsored or having a TV program made about our little trip.