The Road of 3000 Curves.
When we met Phil and Jayne at the ferry dock in La Paz a week earlier, they mentioned that they were planning on riding this road when they crossed into the mainland. 3000 curves? How could we pass this up?
Rick had to leave Mazatlan earlier than us, something about getting back to Mexico City and going back to wo... going back to wor... nope, can't say it. Anyway, that left us by ourselves again, heading towards the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental. This meant that we were going to leave our sun-drenched beach haven for colder climates, so we had to mentally prepare ourselves for this. The Alaskan winter had scarred Neda deeply and she curses bitterly anytime she's forced to put on her jacket liner: "I thought I was done with this stupid thing!"
Stuck behind a couple of trucks, time to snap a picture!
I found out that another thing Neda curses at are the Cuota (toll) roads in Mexico. They are really expensive. Everytime we see a sign saying "Cuota", I hear a string of expletives over the intercom. So we go looking for the sign for the "Libres" roads. In this case, Carretera 40 Libres leaving Mazatlan *is* the Road of 3000 Curves, and the villainous Cuota road threatens to spoil all motorcyclists fun by smoothing the twists and turns by all manner of technology: bridges and holes through mountains.
The pavement is smooth, but the air gets colder as we slowly ascend the mountains. Every once in a while, the bushes along the side clear and we're treated to a magnificent view of the green valleys below us. Traffic is light in the middle of this weekday, but we still manage to get stuck behind a couple of trucks and have to wait for a straightaway to pass them. I'm amazed at how brazenly these large vehicles cross the median when apexing blind turns. Surprised there aren't more accidents!
There is a sign about 1/2 way through the road reading, "Espinoza Del Diablo": the "Devil's Backbone", a very apt nickname for this piece of asphalt!
A different kind of hazard on the Road of 3000 Curves
Along the way, soldiers and army vehicles have occupied all of the tiny villages. Part of the reason they are building the high-speed Cuota road through the mountains is to make it easier to mobilize troops to combat the drug traffickers who have a stronghold in this region. The soldiers barely take notice of us, and those that do give us a thumbs up on our rides.
We're told it takes between 6-8 hours to make the journey between Mazatlan and Durango. We do it in 5, with an hour break for lunch... :)
Riding through the streets of Durango
The city of Durango is the capital of the state of Durango, and is the most modern city we've visited in Mexico so far. We've opted to stay here for a few days because we don't want to travel during the holidays. Also, we've planned an entire Christmas day of Skype sessions with our family and friends back home, and we take the time to scope out a hotel with fast Internet.
Being on the road for this long is a curious affair. In some ways, we are closer to our family and friends, because we are making more of an effort to keep in touch, without the excuses of work. So far TelCel's mobile Internet infrastructure has been quite extensive and impressive, outclassing any provider in the US and Canada. Not sure what we're going to do once we've travelled past this luxury.
Our favorite place just around the corner from our hotel for cheap eats
Chilaquiles for me and a gordita for Neda
We find a nice hotel right downtown and for the next few days venture out enough into the strip to become very familiar with all the local eateries. On Christmas Day, we treat ourselves to a Chinese buffet, which is I think our first non-Mexican meal in Mexico. The restaurant is staffed by two Chinese women, I think the three of us represented the entire Asian population in the state of Durango! They seemed just as amused as I was to see a brotha! :)
Frolicking in the fountain. During the day, temperatures were beautiful,
but dropped quickly in the evenings and early mornings
Fountains and churches - two mainstays in Mexico architecture
There's always someone carrying around some musical instrument in Mexico!
Neda wrestles the camera away from me...
Catedral Basilica de Durango at night
There is a markedly increased police presence in Durango compared to all other places we've been to thus far. I'm not sure if it's because this is a larger city or because it's the holiday season, but police cars and uniformed officers vigilantly patrol the downtown streets. The plaza at night is continuously lit by the Christmas ornamentation and the flashing blue and red lights of the police car permanently parked in front of the Basilica.
Feliz Navidad from Durango!