September 19th: Las Cruces, USA to Chihuahua, Mexico – 450km
I was up early as I wanted to be at the border early in the day. I took the continental breakfast at 6h30 and got ready to leave. David dropped by as I was putting on my helmet. I was happy to offer him to sign the map as he has been really kind and helpful during my stay. Then we took a few pictures in front of the hotel with its enormous chili. I ended up leaving the parking lot around 8am. I filled up the tanks with cheap gas as I didn’t know what to expect on the other side of the border.
For the first time since I left my house 3 months before, I was feeling anxious. Mexico would definitely be different from Canada and United States. Other than being a Spanish country, people would have a completely different culture, habits, etc. Not to mention all the horror stories I heard about getting robbed, kidnapped, hijacked and even killed…
Around 9am, I arrived at the border crossing on the west side of El Paso: San Jerónimo-Santa Teresa. Soon, I was going pass the US customs and approaching the Mexican customs. There was a police truck with three armed guys standing next to it. They asked me to stop and they asked where I was from and where I was going. They let me go shortly after. I went through an opening in the wall delimitating the two countries and arrived at the customs building. I parked on my side of the gate and went inside with my file of official documents and copies. Fortunately, I was alone in the building with the Mexican authorities. I asked the lady behind the first counter what I needed in order to go across Mexico with my bike. She said I needed a permit for myself and that I needed to go to the other counter. There, they asked me my passport, driver’s licence and to fill out a form. After revising the form, the gentleman sent me back to the first counter with the lady. She took the form and papers and asked me to pay the fees for my personal permit (around $40). Then she told me that I needed a motorcycle permit. She took my registrations, driver licence and ask me a few questions before handing me a file that needed to be approved by the other gentleman at the other counter. After getting my file stamped, he sent me back to the lady. She told me that there was a $60 fee as well as a $400 deposit to pay in order to get the permit. She explained that the $400 would be reimbursed when I check out of Mexico at the next border. When I was done with payment, she handed me my permits and receipts. I still needed to go through the gate, so I kept all of my documents in hand while driving through. The officer raised the gate and let me go without checking anything! I was a bit pissed off as I thought that insurances were mandatory and Mexico and I already spent almost $200 on them for 15 days…
Anyways, there I was in Mexico! I was happy that my head did not get cut off in the first 2 minutes. I started driving south towards Chihuahua. I was impressed with the quality of the roads. Most were very well paved and some of them were even made out of concrete. Chihuahua was about 300km away and for some reason I wanted to get to my hotel quickly. I arrived there without incident by 3pm. It was quite a sight to see the housing complex they had there. Very small and very close to each other. Traffic and driving was also considerably different. If there is a driving code, many Mexicans are not aware of it. People drive at 120 km/h in 40 km/h work zones and pass whenever they feel like it. My hotel was nice and they had a secure parking at the back where I used my bike cover for the very first time.
There were many very nice restaurants around as it was the wealthy part of town. I had dinner in a Thai place and had a few beers at a nice pub. I met a few really cool people there and went to bed by 11h30pm.
September 20th: Chihuahua to Creel – 270km
I did not sleep well and woke up late as a result. After packing up my stuff on Olga, I hit the road around noon time. I had a little under 300km to do that day and was in no rush to get to my destination. I tried my cooling vest for the first time and was amazed by how well it worked. It kept me cool all day even though temperature reached 30C. The road was more scenic than the day before as it was curving around small hills and other natural features. I started seeing what the rural scene was in Mexico. Farmers were still using their horse as a powerhouse and some of them were even exhibiting traditional multi-colored clothing. People were also walking long distances along the road. In small villages, lots of them were hanging out outside their house to watch cars go by. Sitting in a truck bed seemed to be regular mode of transportation. I arrived in Creel at the end of the afternoon. My GPS took me along a train track until it became a walking trail. I turned around and found my hotel for the night. It was way too luxurious for me, but it had a secure parking lot and this is the reason way I chose it on the internet. I had dinner in town and grabbed some food and water at a local shop before heading back to my room. I watched a movie and went to sleep.
September 21st: Creel to Batopilas – 140km
I heard lots of things about the road I was about to ride that day. People said it took them over 7 hours to complete the 140km from Creel to Batopilas. They talked about the cartels that were present with machine guns and how difficult the dirt road was. I took off around 9am and I completed the first 100km within 1h30. To that point, the road had been in great condition with lots of curves and up and downs. Canyons were growing bigger as I went on and I was seeing more and more wild animals on the road. Many times over, I would come out of a corner and I would come face to face with horses, cows, donkeys, goats or even sheeps. “What are they doing there?” I thought.
Then another rider went by and we waived. A few minutes later he was behind me so I stopped. Stephen was another adventure rider. Well known on the ADV Rider website as “SR”, he was very helpful about answering various questions I had about Mexico. He had lived and ridden in Mexico for over 8 years and was originally from Colorado. After a few minutes of chatting about different things, he invited me to come to Durango instead of Torreon like I had planned to. He gave me his card and took off.
Soon, I arrived at the top of the canyon I would follow down to Batopilas. Views were breathtaking and the road was twisting down from that point. I had to slalom between fallen rocks at some point. Then I entered a construction zone that tested my off-road abilities. The bridge at the bottom if this canyon was in good condition. I did not feel the need to walk on it before crossing. About mid-way one of the board was loose and lifted up in front of me as my font tire went over it. Luckily, I was carrying enough momentum and it went right back down. I might walk over the next bridge before attempting to cross next time… The road from that point was… different. Huge piles of fallen rocks were blocking the roads in many places. Most of the time, it was right on the edge of a “fall only once” type of cliff. Mud holes were also frequent and it was very hot and humid. All that to say that after another 1h30 and 40km of that, I was in Batopilas.
By this point, I hope I do not need to mention that it is a very remote location. There was one main street running parallel to the river. It was narrow and irregular. People were sitting outside and did not look very welcoming. Building were not well maintained and I got intimidated by the 6 guys I came across who carried an AK-47. Stephen warned me about them and told me not to care too much. I guess I could not help myself… I them came across a very nice building with a beautiful Hotel sign on it. I stopped to speak with the lady who lived in front and she happened to be the owner. I parked in a gated parking lot and she showed me my room. I changed clothes and headed to the main plaza. There, a few men were sitting outside and I entered some place with music. In the backyard, they had tables with a few local drinking tall beers. In my desire to fit in, I ordered the same thing. When I paid for the beer, the locals invited me to join them. Their English was just as good as my Spanish, but it was enough to have fun and laugh for a couple hours. I left that place around 5h30pm and felt hungry as I had not eaten since breakfast. I stopped at the local grocery store to buy fruits, bread and peanut butter before walking back to my room. I ate my delicious dinner while watching “Unstoppable” in Spanish. It was raining hard at night and locals would enter the hotel lobby to get cover. The door was very loud as they left the building and I was hoping for it to stop soon being alone in the building…
September 22nd: Batopilas to Parral – 340km
I did not feel like spending a full day there so I left early in the morning towards Parral. The road seemed a little harder with all the rain we got overnight. At some point, I entered a construction zone and it was really hard to ride in the soft soil. I had to stop before reaching the end of the construction zone because rocks were blocking the road. The guy in the bulldozer saw me and started clearing a way for me to pass. Soon enough, I paddled my way out of there and thanked the worker. The canyon looked even better than the day before with clouds and shades. After 1h30, I was back on pavement. From that point, I had another 300km to ride. For some reason, Google estimated the whole trip to take more than 7 hours, so I did not know what to expect next. Roads turned out to be very twisty and fun. Pavement was in great condition all the way. I arrived in Parral before dinner time and found my Hotel quickly. My room was small but nice and I was happy to get dinner in their restaurant. I chatted a little with Alexandro, my server, before going back to my room. I went to sleep early that night.
September 23rd, 24th: Parral
I stayed in that place another two days. I had already booked the last two nights. I took time to rest, write my last blog and research some things I needed to. I made friends with the restaurant crews. The main cook even brought me some home-made tortillas on the second day. They were all great people and I had a good time with them. I spoke with Marco and Alexandro the most as they spoke better English and my Spanish is still limited.
September 25th: Parral to Durango – 415km
It was supposed to rain during the day, so I dressed accordingly. There were lots of work zones in the first 100km or so. It was very muddy and that mud was exceptionally slippery. At some point, I came across a group of other riders on road bikes. They had bikes on the side and they were pushing on a big BMW. I slowed down and ask if they were alright. They all looked at me and waved saying “yeah yeah yeah”, not looking impressed! I guessed they did not need help… Soon work zones were over and I could go faster. Out of a curve, I saw my first tarantula. I affectionately named her: “Spida”. I arrived in Durango around 5pm in rush hour. I went to my hotel to find out that I made a mistake over the internet and booked it for the next day. Unfortunately they did not have any rooms left, but kindly helped me by calling other places. Ten minutes later, I was in the other hotel lobby and it was all for the best. I took my gear upstairs in my room and covered the bike. I checked my e-mails and saw Stephen’s answer to go out for dinner. He picked me up an hour later and took me to a new place he wanted to try. It was a fancy Italian place and I ate very well. It was interesting chatting with him about Mexican politics, drug cartels and revolution history. I really enjoyed my evening. He very kindly paid for dinner and dropped me at my Hotel. I thanked him and went to sleep after watching the last 300 movie.
September 26th: Durango to Zacatecas – 290km
I ate my leftover pizza for breakfast and hit the road shortly after. I stayed on highways that day and it took less than 3h to get to my hotel. Zacatecas looked much better than any other cities I had been to in Mexico before. There was a lot of people in front of the hotel as I pulled in. While checking-in, they told me it was an activity to provide glasses prescriptions to locals. I had lunch at the restaurant and then spent some time working in my stuff. I had a great dinner at the same place before heading to the bar next to it. A bunch of girls (mostly very young) were sitting there. They stopped talking as I looked at the group and I introduced myself in my magnificent Spanish. They were in town for a horse show competition. We chatted for about an hour before going to bed.