I’m back on the road again and have made it to the small mountain town of Tepehuanas, in the heart of the state of Durango. I’ve also met up with the dirt bag crew again – Jeff, Jason and Anna – who’ve been hiking in the Sinferosa Canyon for the last week. Together, we’re journeying off road through the mighty Sierra Madres to Zacatecas, before swiveling towards the coast for some much anticipated warmth.
It’s been a wild 9 days. Mountain after mountain, rough and remote tracks, killer headwinds… In haste, here’s a few pictures of the first part of the ride, a dirt track detour out of Guachochi to the Ejido Guazarachi hot springs. Incredible riding! I’m now about to head off once more, and we should be in Zacatecas within a week for a full update.
First things first though. Both Jeff and Jason have had to replace their rear wheels with new rims in Guachochi, so a wheel building session was in order.
Jason masters the fine art. Bike Nerd Alert: the replacement rims were a Rigida Andra with Rohloff drilling, and a Rigida Sputnik.
Cruising round Guachochi for some last minute shopping. With its the marajuana and opium trade infrastructure, a veil of drug mafiosi mystic shrouds the Sierra Madre. Sometimes it's hard to know where the truth ends and paranoia or sensationalist fiction begins. But it can't be denied there's a lot of dark goings on; Guachochi is a key point in the narco network, and killings do happen with alarming regularity. At the same time, it should also be said that for the most part people are incredibly warm, and as a tourist you inhabit a different world. So as long as you don't go poking around, don't let it scare you away.
Enjoying a last slap up meal at Pollo's amazing fish restaurant before taking to the road. Here's the crew tucking into a shrimp ceviche, a spicy cold seafood soup. This stuff made me weep it was so strong...
And the secret ingredient to make it so kick-ass potent? Ant poo! Really! Pollo gave us an extra shot for the road. It's valuable too - more than marajuana ounce for ounce. Not that that's saying much round here...
Love the maritime decor.
... and the artwork.
It's back on pavement for a bit; thankfully the climbs are a lot mellower than they were in the Copper Canyon.
Amongst my new year gifts, Jeff, Jason and Anna had given me this bottle of mascal, which at 20 pesos a bottle (that's a dollar and a half) is the ideal dirtbag alternative to tequila. Goes down nicely around the fire with some lime...
I also received these rather natty, neon bright orange socks, popular with the indigenous women of the area...
Then we hit dirt again, for a detour to the hot springs.
The maps are woefully inaccurate, so we paused in villages to check directions. Travelling as a four makes quite a sight and always draws a crowd.
The track turned out to be a lot steeper and rougher than expected.
Suspension forks come in handy on long descents like these, with everything ricocheting off the bikes or rattling loose.
One of the inevitably steep uphills that came in reply. Here's Jeff caught pushing his bike - a rare sight indeed.
Up down up down, it rolled relentlessly on.
Across a gamut of loose stones, sand and bedrock.
Backcountry touring at it's best...
Finally, the conditions eased out a little as we passed by the tiny village of Pinolejo. Progress was slow, and no one had any idea about how far it was to the springs, despite being local to the area.
Pinolejo. Not much going on in the villages round here...
Oh, and I've been tweaking my bike setup thanks to pannier makers Arkel, and Scott, a good friend from Banff who built me this very lovely custom framebag. More kit-talk later...
Passing a colony of Agave plants.
After pushing on into darkness, we gave up on the final, 10km descent down to the springs, and pulled over by the trail with the intention of backtracking and figuring things out the next day. The much anticipated soak would have to wait.
In the morning, this rancher finally gave us more concrete directions - it was back up the hill where we'd come from. Typical! Can't say it was the friendliest place. Everyone else in the village just stared at us and shook their heads, or ran indoors. Weird.
For the final few kimometres, the road dramatically corkscrewed ever downwards into the canyon. Our enjoyment was tempered only by the knowledge that it would make a steep, loose push back out the next day...
But let's not worry about that right now.. Finally, the fruits of our labour. Clear waters and a lovely temperature too.
Just ignore the trash... Despite how remote we were, rubbish clogged up some of the water channels. That's Mexico.
Still, a little further exploration downstream revealed this glorious spot, as warm as a bath. Perfect for a post ride soak...
The Need to Know Section
I’ll catch up on this when I get the chance!