I didn’t think this solo traveling business would be easy or always fun. This has proven correct. There have been a number of challenging situations. I guess this is “grist for the mill”.
Speaking of which, I am wondering if I am going to find any Mexican beer that suits my palette. You heard it here folks, I am missing American beer. That, however, is said with a wink. For those of you who don’t know me, or know me well. I enjoy artisan or craft beers. Through my travels I had the opportunity to try various “West Coast” pales ales and IPAs that you just don’t get at home — or if you do, they are ridiculously expensive. I digress.
I am in a very lovely town right now called Sombrerete. I am loving it here — well, in the short time that I have been here. I will venture out tomorrow with my camera on foot. I don’t know much about the town and don’t have much internet access at the moment (writing off-line) but will surely look it up my next chance. I sort of stubled on Sombrerete. And I am happy that I did. Its character, at least in the core or old town, is colonial, and while ammenities exist — pizza shop, internet cafe, convenience stores, and the like — largely it hasn’t been deface by too much commercialism. I have spent a little time in Trinidad, Cuba and Sombrerete reminds me a little of Trinidad with a little clean up. Trinidad, however, doesn’t need a clean up — it is nice the way it is.
There is lots of foot traffic as well as motor traffic here. I feel quite safe here. While cautious, I did not hesitate to venture out after dark for some Internet, pizza and take away cervacias. As mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised by what I stumbled upon. There is a dynamic at play here.
As mentioned in a previous post, I am roughtly taking Tyson and Ted’s route. I have read Tyson’s blogs in the past, and while I have tried to retain some of the highlights, it is by no means a Lonely Planet guide for me. So while my route is roughly planned (thanks for that night of route planning at Volo — but you probably won’t be reading this right now as you should be in South Africa or neighbouring countries right now) it really struck home tonight that I am constantly travelling into a void. Really, for the most part, I have very little idea about the places I am travelling to. There is a close balance between the here and now and what is up the road. This especially comes into play late in the day.
For example, yesterday I road through Copper Canyon from Creel to Parral. Parral sounded like a good days ride and so I just guessed that I might find somewhere to stay there. Parral was a little rough and it took me well over an hour to find somewere to stay. My Spanish wasn’t working, and Garmin GPS Maps for Mexico are not very good (actually that day, I hadn’t yet loaded that map set), and by the time I had started to figure things out, it was passed dark. Riding after dark here was something else. Mexico, like many Central and South America areas, is known for chaotic driving patterns. Riding around Parral, especially after dark (which I am deperately drying to avoid, by the way) relinguished any doubts I had about other people’s stories. OK, surely this does not apply to every Mexican driver, but as a generalism, urban Mexican drivers are rough around the edges. The traffic patterns are unpredictable. Sometimes signals are used. Sometimes not. Road lines mean little, and people just don’t seem to have any understanding of traffic flow — they will just pull in went they want, regardless of perceived turn. More than once, I signalled a turn with ample time and distance and the guy behind me made what seemed to be absolutly not attempt to slow down. I was really surprised that I wasn’t hit. I have probably had more close calls in a day or two in the cities than I would normally have in a whole year — yikes. I am trying to stay clear of big cities but it seems that at times you must actually go through the city to travel beyond it.
While on the subject of driving conditions, I will say more. As mentioned earlier, if you want drivers to obey a 30km in town limit, just put a couple of large speed bumps in town. They’ll know next time that even though you post 30km, you mean 15km, if you value the underside of your vehicle. Speed limits and road lines are generally arbitrary. For example, in a posted 80km, sometimes drivers have no problem with 150km in the opposing lane until they have cleared all forward traffic. Double (no passing) lines often are in vain. And some of the speed limits make no sense what so ever. 110km/hr, 25 metres later, down to 60, then 30 — which is it? Then back up to 90. Except of tailgaters on small countried roads, highway driving is pretty safe.
So leaving Parral today, I intended to make it beyond Durango. I knew Durango looked like a pretty big city and I didn’t want much to do with it. That said, cities like this — containing big box stores like Sam’s Club and most other store types — may become necessary if I need to purchase a specific item.
The ride up to that point was quit lovely and traverse quite a number of different terrains from boring a flat, to picturesque and flat, to winding mount roads and desolate black stone desert ranches. It seems that in Durango (state), instead of counting religious monuments at the side of the road, in Durango, you count expired livestock. It seems that there was something dead about everyone kilometre. Sometimes multiple dead things. I would imagine that it is because they get caught on the wrong side of the fence and don’t have access to water. I think the religious things more interesting. In Canada or the States, when there is a roadside death, sometimes you go out to Canadian Tire and buy a wreath for the side of the road. In Mexico, you buy some dynamite, blast a small hole in the rock face at the side of the road and construct and elabourate shrine. Or at least construct a small mini-church out of concrete and stucco. I still find this remarkable.
So I got stuck in rushhour traffic in Durango. If you think Toronto rushhour traffic is bad — I have some news for you. Plus, while I’m not sure at that time what the temperature was as it has been pretty variable, it was about 40 degrees earlier — this is tolerable when moving, but standing still in full riding gears is pretty painful at that temperature.
It turned out that the in-town highway junction I needed to pass through the city was under costruction. The GPS was largely useless, especially giving wrong directions to procede up one ways streets. In the end, I found the local November 20th street (popular street name) and got out of Durango. I certainly am missing camping, but it doesn’t seem to be a very prominent means of accomodations in Mexico. I really didn’t not want to stay in or near Durango. I saw one (assumed) thug, whom, I’m pretty sure was packing a piece on the front of his jeans. Not far from leaving town, there was also one of the army’s terrestrial gun ships (truck loaded to the hilt). Having passed a motel on the way out of town, the fact that there was a rather large military checkpoint on the way back in dissuaded any further possible interest in the motel.
Today I was happily “check point free”. That said, the army guys have been pretty nice and friendly so far. So while the check point searches are inconvenient, the fact that they only have been asking to look inside on piece of luggage per visit suggests that they are mainly going through the motions.
So…by this point the sun is on its way down and I have nowhere to stay yet. It is, again, taking one of those chances that the something up the road will be a little bit better. I really felt like I was traveling *into the void* by heading towards Sombrerete tonight. the highway took me up mountains again. My head gasket is weeping a little which is a minor cause for anxiety. This needs to be looked at. I was both a little bothered but maybe relieve that I might end up in one of those ATV towns again from a couple of nights ago. Upon close to arrival, the GPS made Sombrete look rather small. Too small. But upon getting closer, it looked like I struck it rich with another logging or mining town. Until I saw the colonial style church steeples and old stone roads. At this point I knew I was in a good place. It seems that Mexicans come here to visit, and while not overdone, it might well turn out out to be a bit of a tourist hub.
I will finish off this post here, finish my business at Ciber Ciber and go took for some grub. So far Mexican food has worked out well for me. I have sort of been “forced” to just find places in the middle of nowhere. Various places have been somewhat unremarkable from the outside — if not unappealing — but the food has always worked out. While I can generally handle spicy food, I have not actually found things too spicy. Bring it on 🙂