I’m now heading to the city of Durango, the state capital. I’m still trying to keep to dirt roads where possible, with the rest of the dirtbag crew – Jeff, Jason and Anna. It’s some time since we’ve bumped into any other cyclists, let alone foreign travellers, as the route we’ve chosen is one that’s rarely travelled. Yet despite some security concerns in this narco riddled region, and its ferociously buckled topography, it’s one I’d recommed highly. If you really want to get into Mexico’s backcountry and escape its busy main roads, it’s well worth the effort to seek out ‘terraceria’, as dirt roads are called here.
Our fortuitous encounter with Abrahim had unearthed a new route heading south towards Durango. Not on the main road, as we’d feared, but following a disused old mining railway that ran parallel to it. We had it to ourselves. And it was flat! After weeks of toil, such relaxed riding was a novelty – and very welcome.
Abrahim, and his Australian blue heeler, joined us for the first part of the ride.
Camping out in a dry orillo. No need for tents, though I did ponder the fact that Durango’s state symbol is the scorpion. The sting of the Alacran, a deceptively small little critter found only in these parts, can be lethal.
The former train tracks passed by small, ramshackle pueblocitos, where old men leant up in the shade of trees and watched us ride by. ‘Buenas dias,’ we nodded cheerily. ‘Buenas dias touristas!’ came the reply. Clearly our somebreros hadn’t fooled them. Though they did manage to fool us. On one occasion Jason was pondering which way to turn at a junction. 'I’ll ask that Mexican guy on a bike up ahead,' he thought. It was me. And another time, while I was lying in the trail preparing to take a picture, Jeff wondered to himself, 'why’s that Mexican guy lying on the ground?!'
A very mellow ride indeed. We were stoked. Thanks Abrahim for your help.
No trucks – trocas. Just cowboys – vaqueros. Incidentally, my Mexican is coming on. In these parts at least, it's a cool mish-mash between Spanish and American. My current favourite word is Yunke: Junk. The Spanish would probably go crazy at this afront to Castellano...
Jason sports the latest in somebrero fashion, as he crosses one of the railroad bridges, a remnant of the days when the railway was used to transport deposits from the mines in the mountains.
Los Corrales – now a forlorn station along the tracks.
192 flat, quiet kilometres, right into the heart of Durango! Awesome. Or so we thought.
Unfortunately, after some time, the trail became increasingly overgrown.
Until it shrunk down to a thin, grassy band of singletrack. Which gave way to railway sleepers, which had yet to be removed. Eventually we were forced to retrace our steps, manhandling the bikes over the rails, to a path leading towards the river and down to a village.
Then we spotted some singletrack across a field, sending a herd of cows galloping off in confusion, kicking up clouds of dust.
Fording the river at a low point, we rejoined the main road to Santiago. The railway path had been amazing – such a shame it was over. Maybe one day the local goverment will pull up the rest of the sleepers (or, as tends to happen round here, locals will ‘recycle’ them). If it was cleared, it would make a fantastic, traffic and almost flat ride to Durango, that could really promote cycling in these parts.
More Mexican colour co-ordination from this yappy little pooch. Winding our way through one final labyrinth village, we emerged back onto the main road to Santiago Papasquiaro.
The Need to Know Section
Distance: just 55km or so.
Navigation: You have to cross the bridge in Tepehuanas to join the old railway line, which offers 35 kilometres of mellow riding to Los Corrales. Perhaps it’s possible to go further with more determination, as the sleepers might have been plundered further down the way.
Road conditions: Mainly flat and mellow, with a few stoney sections and later, one or two gates to clamber over. Watch out for thorns. Inner tube goo recommended. Some riders here make it out of local plants!
Cheap digs: abundant, quiet camping
Food: Nothing until you join the pavement, then there’s the opium den of Hereras shortly before the larger settlement of Santiago – a characterful town of some 25 000 people.