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mexican mountain roads

Leaving Nueves Casas Grandes we ride towards the mountains again – trying to flee the traffic on the busy highways linking the major towns. We pass Paquime, the site of the ruins of an ancient settlement and spend an hour wandering around before setting off again in the dusk to find a camp site.

Paquime - 800 year old ruins.

Paquime - 800 year old ruins just outside Nueves Casas Grandes.

Our next firm destination is Creel, the centre for tourism in the Copper Canyon area.  We have three maps between us and they all provide slightly different information but none of it particularly accurate. Roads that are marked don’t exist and others appear before us of which there is no cartographic trace.

Unexpectedly, and somewhat uncertainly, we find ourselves on a brand new flawless tarmac road heading more or less in the direction we want to go. However, the road starts to climb and then, without warning, reveals itself to be still under construction. We dodge giant machines and trucks on the steep rough surface as the wind whips up dust driving grit into our eyes, mouths and lungs. The climb goes on and on for 20 miles. Eventually we pass the road works and find ourselves on a rough un-surfaced road winding through valleys of crazy rock formations, crossed by streams and dotted with tiny villages that don’t appear on any of our maps.

Dubious clues to supplement our dubious maps.

Dubious clues to supplement our dubious maps.

Mountain roads far from trucks and traffic.

Mountain roads far from trucks and traffic.

Crazy rock formations line the road.

Crazy rock formations line the road...

... and more...

... and more...

...and more.

...and more.

When darkness falls, we camp on the edge of one of these villages by a cold stream, toasting blue corn tortillas on the lids of our cooking pots over the camp fire. A village dog mounts a successful raid on Jeff’s food supply, stealing a variety of treats, much to Jeff’s chagrin.

A fully loaded wood truck in one of the villages.

A fully loaded wood truck in one of the villages.

The morning brings more climbing on rough roads and it is late in the afternoon that we ride into Ejido el Largo, a settlement of around 10 000 people that also doesn’t appear on any of our maps.

Our sudden appearance in town causes something of a sensation. We enter the main grocery store where the other customers openly stare, children with mouths agape, as we forage for food among the selection. However, in the end the town welcomes us with open arms – a visit to a smaller grocery store sees us plied with snacks, coffee, water, almost all free of charge. Carlos, a construction worker who struck up a conversation with us in the first store reappears to reiterate an invitation go with him to his work headquarters where there is a cook who can provide us with cooked food.

Cass, Jason and I follow Carlos, pursuing his truck in the darkening streets, while Jeff strikes up a conversation with Jesus, a local mountain bike enthusiast who organises a annual race over the roads we have just traversed in order to raise money to contribute to the road improvements which will, ironically, eventually destroy the race. Eventually, Jeff and his new friend join us at Carlos’ where we are eating a range of tasty home-made treats. Jesus invites us to his house for tamales and to view photos of the race later in the evening while Carlos assures us that we are very welcome to bed down on the floor at his headquarters for the night.

The headquaters of Carlos' construction team, where they all live during the working week.

The headquarters of Carlos' construction team, where they all stay during the working week.

The wood stove is the heart of this establisment.

The wood stove is the heart of this establishment.

Green peppers roasting next to the constant pot of coffee.

Green peppers roasting next to the constant pot of coffee.

My bike leans up again a pile of wheels in the corner of the room where, as a single woman, I am generously and chivirously given a bed and relative privacy.

My bike leans up again a pile of wheels in the corner of the room where, as a single woman, I am generously and chivalrously given a bed and relative privacy.

The guys stay up late drinking tequila with the crew but I retreat to a bed in my relatively private room and sleep. In the morning we breakfast on scrambled egg and bean burritos before setting off on our way.

Jason, on the other hand, beds down on the kitchen floor.

Jason, on the other hand, beds down on the kitchen floor.

The crew getting ready to set off to work in the morning.

The crew getting ready to set off to work in the morning. Soco, the cook, is preparing stuffed roast peppers.

Morning rush.

Morning rush.

Carlos, over the breakfast table.

Carlos, over the breakfast table.

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