It has been quite some time since my last update. The last two weeks of my life have been spent in the Sierra Tarahumara mountains and the Barrancas Del Cobre. The region is remote and rugged. Modern amenities are few and far between; internet access, yea right.
The dirt track I followed out of Alamos is only accessible via four-wheel drive or via bicycle powered by a determined masochistic touring cyclist. The route to Alamos from Mazatlan is a toll road sporting a blissfully wide shoulder. The miles of tarmac passed quickly as I rushed to find the route less travelled.
I am currently in Creel and very short on time. I’ve been out of civilization for quite a while. As a result, my time here has consisted of chores long neglected and recuperating in the comfort of a dormitory complete with hot showers.
This post will provide a tiny glimpse into the blissful chaos of the last three or so weeks of this epic adventure. I am still trying to absorb all that has happened. The mountains here, and more so the people, have made this portion of my journey one I doubt will be topped. In the coming weeks, I hope to tell the individual stories in more detail. But, for now, this snapshot must suffice.
Climbing mountains is insanely difficult yet so much fun. I was often left exhausted though still smiling on the inside. Climbing mountains to the point of near collapse strips a person of past and future directly depositing them in the moment. Even the worst of crimes can be forgotten after a grueling six hour climb up the cliffs of a canyon. Like being led to believe you are camping for free only to be charged your maximum daily budget, usually reserved for food, after you have already been there for three days.
I experience my first cyclone. In this part of the world, cyclone is the name given to a hurricane. For days it stormed; rain, thunder, lightning, and hail. Most of the time it wasn’t problem. One storm however, was particularly severe. On the top of a mountain I sat eating lunch watching clouds the color of death approach from all sides. I was literally surrounded. Those ominous clouds finally let loose a volley of hail the size of quarters. Then, it turned to rain. In mere moments I was soaked through and freezing cold. This situation, alone atop a remote mountain in a lighting storm wet and at risk of hypothermia, could have had a horrible ending. Luckily, I found an adobe house belonging to a Tarahumara family. They invited me in, fed me, and allowed me to sleep on the floor.
One particularly rough night camped on a hillside along the road, the horrendous feeling of leaf cutter ants chowing down on my flesh woke me from my slumber. At first, I thought I was dreaming. How can ants, or any other insect, enter through the insect proof mesh of my tent? I went back to sleep. Then, with the ever-present sensation of searing skin it dawned on me what had happened. Their scissor-like mandibles cut through my tent like, well, scissors through mesh. Oh, well. Lessons learned in Mexico…
Now that I’ve covered the moments that were not so great at the time – though still amazing experiences and stories – I’ll get to the good stuff. Perhaps the best part of my experience on this entire trip has been the people. And the people of Mexico are some of the kindest most caring I have ever met.
Food, shelter, water, and companionship; all provided for in abundance by the people in the above photos and so many more that I was not able to photograph for whatever reason. This portion of my journey would have been MISERABLE had it not been for these wonderful individuals. I cannot thank them, and everyone else I’ve met along the way, enough. With future updates I’ll reveal the stories behind these encounters. They are remarkable.
The people behind the steering wheel of my gravest threat on this journey, the automobile, have treated me with nothing but kindness. They wave. They beep friendly hellos. And they often provide respite from my challenge with treats. In the above photo, a driver traveling in the opposite direction asks, over the screeching of his brakes as he comes to a sudden stop, “Tu quires platanos?” Why yes I would! He darts across four lanes of traffic gifting me this bunch of bananas.
Sometime later, the driver of a motor bike with a wooden box on back pulls over in front of me. He signals me to stop. Then, he unlatched the clasp of this odd container and raising its lid reveals a plethora of delectable sweet breads. He gives me my choice of three.
Moments like these happened over, and over, and over. People passed me bottles of water. They offered rides thinking this crazy guy riding a bike on the shoulder of a highway must need help! I was given a safety flag for the back of my bike to make me more visible to traffic. The people here go above and beyond to help those who seem like they could use it.
I turned over 4,000 miles!
And camped in some beautiful country. Crazy off the wall places too…
I swam in hot springs.
And bought sandals, famous to this region, made from truck tires. They are comfortable though need a lot of breaking in. My feet are a little raw at the moment…
I was often reduced to expressionless exhaustion. Even after only riding downhill! Then again, this was no ordinary downhill. The descent into Urique required hours of careful attention lest I careen off a cliff to my death. I also experienced depression as deep as the canyon I was in. Traveling for weeks through the mountains unable to speak the native language was particularly difficult. It was not until I reached Creel, where I now sit, after three weeks of riding that I was able to have a conversation in my native language with a native English-speaking person. For the two weeks I was in the mountains, I did not speak english at all.
For every low, there is a high. I experienced the highest of highs. I was as happy as I have ever been. It is only through the contrast of the loneliness and depression that the highs can be so sweet.
I very much enjoyed my time in this region. I am also glad to be back on pavement where my bike is truly at home. It was never designed for the rigors of the road I just traveled making my effort even greater.
I also long for the comforts and people of home as I have now been gone for over four months. I realize my far-fetched dreams of Canada to Argentina in one go are not realistic. My meager budget will barely see me even to Panama. Though, I am ok with this. I now spend more time dreaming of home than I do of Panama. Mainly because I am well past the half-way point of my journey. Momentum is now nearly enough to see me through to my long-awaited goal.