I’ve now made it to the cobbled, higgledy, hilly city of Zacatecas. I’m planning to rest up for the next few days, and then push on to the coast. It’s been a fantastic ride here, almost all on dirt, and a perfect way to celebrate my birthday – a beguiling combination of mellow hills, empty backroads and scenic pueblecitos…
In Durango, we tracked down some excellent maps issued by the Secretaria de Transportes, which has opened up a whole new world of dirt and quiet backroads. In fact, this stretch between Durango and Zacatecas has been a real highlight, and a definite Mexican Hall of Fame contender. Here’s a few pictures…
Local route expert Miguelito guided out of Durango on dirt roads, and we only ended up on the main highway for a short stint.
Multi modal transport: car, bike and horse.
And scenic colonial towns, unlike concrete-clad Chihuahua - like Nombre de Dios.
Truly off the beaten track.
Early evening riding…
And sublime camping…
He's got the right idea. An afternoon snooze.
Not much but us and the mountains: the track out of Mesillas.
And corridors of prickly pear cacti. A real find - the cut through between Ermito de los Correos and La Ordena.
This cobbled climb came as something of a surprise out in the desert.
The dirt won't always be there... A new highway is in the making from Vincente Guerrero.
Orange houses, orange groves.
And for once, a tailwind! Cruisy.
Splashes of colour from a pueblocito mural.
Feed the belly. The inner working of a corn tortilla-making machine, a cyclist's best friend.
Old pickups frequent these dirt roads, their tired suspension sagging into every pothole.
As do fat tyre cruisers. And dogs who take chase as we ride by.
The local store at Santa Rosa.
Crazy coloured churches...
We camped the night in a field, to the bemusement of the cows.
Take five. Soaking up the views.
Quiet dirt road + gorgeous late afternoon light = happy riders
Hitting the high plains around Nueva Australia…
Before the descent towards Zacatecas.
The fascinating, finger-like branches of a yucca. There was a colony of these across the hillside.
The impressive dome of the church at El Maguey.
Our first night in Zacatecas was spent at Victor's, a member of a reggae band, through Couchsurfing. Four dusty, tired cyclists squeezed into his tiny student flat, bikes stacked up against the drum kit.
Time to rest up... The priceless view from my 7 dollar hostal where I settled in for a few days.
The Need to Know Section
Distance: 370km, via backroads.
Navigation: Roughly speaking, Durango-Nombre de Dios-Vincente Guerrero-Suchil-Mesillas-San Franciso-Guadelupe Trujilo-Santa Rosa-La Ordena-Nueva Australia-El Maguey-Zacatecas (finishing with a climb!)
Road conditions: a mix of quite paved backroads, lots of dirt, some cobbles, cacti and dust! Just 17km of highway, which had a good shoulder. Some climbs, but mostly pretty easy going compared to what we’ve experienced before.
Map: Durango and Zacatecas state maps, issued by the Secretaria de Communicaciones y Transportes. These are a pain to get, as you have to go to their office in a state capital city, collect a slip of paper, take it to the Banamex bank to pay, and return with a receipt to collect your map! But well worth it. The maps are laminated, and cost just 40 pesos each.
Cheap digs and food: plenty of great camping opportunities, and lots of pueblocitos with basic stores.