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leaving guachochi (finally)

We are not overjoyed to be back in Guachochi; it is a charmless town that most tourists probably don’t spend more that half an hour in, if that. However, we are waiting for Cass to return from the UK and the state of Jeff and Jason’s wheels means that there is no possibility of leaving town and meeting up with Cass further down the road.

We while away time restocking our food panniers and eating at our favourite Guachochi eateries. Pollo provides us with seafood treats at his restaurant and amuses us with intriguing anecdotes about life in Guachochi. He points out members of mafiosa and explains that the police and the mafiosa have to take it in turns to have lunch in his establishment. Incredibly, he informs us that one of his choice dishes, a spicy prawn soup, is flavoured with ant poo.

A soup with fresh raw and dried prawns in which one of the principal flavouring is, apparently, ant excrement. I thought it was pretty good.

A soup with fresh raw and dried prawns in which one of the principal flavouring ingredients is, apparently, ant excrement. I thought it was pretty good, myself, although Jason and Cass were a little squeamish about it.

Pollo gives a bag of the ant poo seasoning for the road. A quick internet search reveals little information about this unexpected food ingredient. P

Pollo gives a bag of the ant poo seasoning for the road. A quick internet search reveals little information about this unexpected food ingredient but Pollo said the Tarahuama harvest the substance from the trees which a certain species of ants travel over. He insisted it was ant poo.

The local tortilleria’s machinery for turning out thousands of corn tortillas daily fascinates us.

The noise and smell in this place was incredible - a rattling, squeaking carcophany producing aromatic fresh corn tortillas. Yummy!

The noise and smell in this place was incredible - a rattling, squeaking carcophany producing aromatic fresh corn tortillas. Yummy!

Piles of tortillas churning out of the machine.

Piles of tortillas come churning out of the machine.

The staff at the tortilleria seemed as entertained by us as we were by their hardware.

The staff at the tortilleria seemed as entertained by and as curious about us as we were by their tortilla hardware.

We find a burrito stand that has an excellent array of salsas and topping to add to burritos hot off an in-house tortilla press.

Burritos are excellent food for hungry cyclists and this place made top notch fresh tortillas stuffed full of tasty fillings with an array of delicious salsas and toppings.

Jason waiting for his burrito. Burritos are excellent food for hungry cyclists and this place was stand out with top notch fresh tortillas hot off the tortilla press, stuffed full of tasty fillings, with an array of delicious salsas and toppings to add at will.

Salsa heaven.

Salsa heaven.

When Cass finally arrives, the guys lose no time at all in starting to rebuilt their wheels. Our already crowded hotel room is transformed into a bike workshop. Cass, who knows almost everything there is to know about bikes, ingeniously recommends taping the new rim to the old one and moving the spokes across one by one, after gradually loosening the tension on them – a method that seems to work very well.

Wheel building workshop in the hotel room.

Wheel building workshop in the hotel room.

Putting the bikes back together in the cold windy car park.

Putting the bikes back together in the cold windy hotel car park.

We finally set off from Guachochi, without many regrets, late in the afternoon, with all bikes in reasonable order. Our next major destination is Zacatecas, where our plans start to diverge. The boys, optimistically, in my opinion, think we might reach Zacatecas in a couple of weeks. However, Jeff, Jason and I have been dreaming about a hot spring near Guachochi we have heard rumors of and which has grown more and more fantastic in our imagination during our enforced stay in the town. The information we have been able to gain from local informants about the place has been vague, confusing and contradictory but we are determined to visit it, even though we believe it to be around 20 to 25 kilometres off route.

We camp by the highway the evening we leave Guachochi and hope to reach the hot spring the following day but, as often happens in Mexico, things turn out a little more complicated.

Thirty-five kilometres from our campsite, we turn off the highway onto an unmarked gravel road which we are told will take us to the springs but we still have no idea exactly how far away they are. The road turns out to be somewhat more difficult than expected and each person we stop to talk to, as we ride, tells us a greater distance when we enquire how much further we have to go. It starts to seem rather Alice in Wonderlandish, in that the more energy we expend trying to get there the further away we end up being.

Tarahumara family on the road.

A Tarahumara family on the road. The road leads through a series of small Tarahumara settlements. The indigenous Tarahumarans are extremely camera shy and very wary and uncommunicative with outsiders.

Back on dirt.

We appreciate being back on dirt...

More steep rough surfaces to deal with.

...but there are lots more steep rough surfaces to deal with...

...which even have Jeff pushing, a rare sight.

...which even has Jeff pushing in places - a rare sight.

A cowboy trains his horse in the field.

A cowboy trains his horse in the field.

We ride and ride and ride and as darkness falls we are still uncertain of exactly where the springs are and of when we might expect to arrive. We get lost in the dark amongst a confusing tangle of unmarked tracks connecting small settlements. The Tarahumara villagers stare at us but provide us with no coherent information, even where we manage to get them to respond to our inquiries at all.

Eventually we give up and camp in a field on top of a hill long after dark. The next morning we back-track slightly to confirm we are on the right track. We ask a cowboy, who seems convincing, and he assures us that we are only 4 or 5 kilometres away from our goal and so we continue, returning past last night’s campsite, and ride down a steep rugged gorge. After about 12 kilometres, we finally reach our destination.

The road goes on and on...

The road goes on and on...

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