Thursday, May 31, 2007

Creel- it seemed like a good idea at the time

(...and how I wet my pants)

I arrived in Hidalgo del Parral at nightfall, always the best time to arrive in a city and eventually found an expensive hotel for $18. It would have been $14 but I opted for the telly option. I watched a fairly trashy movie where the happless high school kids get chased around the countryside by a psycho in a Kenworth Freightliner, the main truck you see here. I couldn`t help wondering how it even caught up with them in the first place, these things are usually doing 15mph crawling down hills.
Anyway, I digress. There didn`t seem to be too much happening in Creel and as I`d splashed out on watching that rubbish movie the previous night, I need to save some cash so its off to the camp site for me. The site is split into two, on one side the cabaƱas and on the other, the RV parkground. I can only see two groups, an Icelandic couple in a German registered truck and some Americans in the biggest RV I`ve ever seen, actually a bit more like a rock stars tourbus. While I was attenpting to set up my tent on the concrete-like soil, a couple of American kids came over and offer to help. They asked me if I was a `survival guy`, a strange question but I replied, not really, I`m more of a hotel guy. I declined their offer of help as that would have just been embarassing and a couple of minutes later, a woman with the rock star tourbus invited me to join them round their campfire later.

When I do join them, there are about 12 Americans from New Mexico including one guy in a hi-tec wheelchair. It turned out that Richard had been in a bus accident 5 years ago and the driver went under a low bridge taking the roof off. He wasn`t actually injured but the whiplash paralysed him from the neck down. He`s an incredibly astute guy though and has a house building business back home. Their families used to do a lot of camping and touring so they bought the huge bus with part of their settlement. The other couple were from Iceland and have been going for over a year and were heading south in their German reg overland vehicle, complete with sand ladders, now that would be handy! I`m sometimes pretty envious of these guys as they can more or less stop anywhere and sleep for free. I had thankfully managed to source some beers in town so I enjoyed an evening round the campfire listening to stories of UFO`s (they`d all seen some), Mexico and travelling in general.

The next morning I set off to do the road to Batopilas from Creel. The first 48 miles are tarmac, then you take the turn off onto the dirt road. From the turn off, its maybe about an hour till you get to the edge of the canyon and the road starts to zig-zag downwards at an alarming rate. The views are just stunning though, hopefuly some of my photos might do it justice. I tried filming again but it was so bumpy, you`d probably be sick watching it. At the bottom, the road then runs along by the river, cutting in and out following the canyon sidewalls. At one point I lost it on a bend, coming round too fast the rear decided it was going to carry on and went over the edge of the sharp camber. Thankfully it was the wall edge and not the ´edge´ edge and I ended up with slightly wonky handlebars and a bit of a pain where I landed on my keys.

Finally I made it to Batopilas at around 2.30pm and it had only taken me 4 hours to go 90 miles. Now I just had to turn around and do all it again as I`d left all my stuff back at the campsite. I did bring some supplies like water, spare underware and toothbrush etc just incase it took longer. I say I brought water, but the 4L bottle cracked when I`d tightend the straps to fix my rucksack to the bike and about 3.5L of it had leaked out, all over my spare pants!

On the way back, I bumped into an American guy who I`d met on the tarmac road earlier with a brand new Dakar GS650 with Al Jesse luggage that he`d just bought in the states and was bring back to Mexico where he now lived. He`d said he didn`t have time to do this road but must have changed his mind and decided to do it. I think he might have regretted it though as when I saw him again, he was now carrying one of his panniers on the back seat. Apparently he`d also had a spill and had wrenched off one of the panniers. Oops!

It was a good job I booked ahead

The next day, I decided to leave, first visiting the canyon mirador at Divisadero and then taking the long way round to Los Mochis via the Basaseachic Falls but while at the mirador, I find out that there actually is a dirt road going all the way to Choix, with tarmac from there till Los Mochis. They say it will take 10hours and its already 11.30am so best get a move on. I haven`t a clue where I`ll end up tonight but I`m always up for a wee adventure so grab a few essentials like water (making sure not to burst the bottle) and chili chips and I`m set.


The road follows the railroad for a while and I even stand and watch as the famous scenic train passes below me. I also see a group of about 10 quad bikers out a tour having their lunch by a tree lined river. Its all good and the scenery is just fantastic.

The dirt road decides to change all that and as hairpin after hairpin come up, I`m quickly thinking that maybe the other road might have been a better choice. I should point out that the road surface is not actually dirt or a nice compacted gravel. Nope, its more like someone has poured several inches of plaster dust all over the road which gives the front wheel absolutely nothing to grip in bends, of which there are a lot. I reach a small town by around 4pm where the locals advise it will be another 4-5 hours just to Choix. I`m determined to make it there tonight despite getting a little lost now and then. As my map of Mexico is next to useless at this scale and my GPS is no longer powering up, I can now only use it for short periods to save the remaining battery to double check I`m not going miles off course. The road is a seemingly endless succesion of hairpins, on nearly everly one the bike feels like its going to go its own way. The surface is pretty horrendous too with potholes appearing every time I glance away from it, resulting in two blown fork seals. Its incredibly tiring although everytime I stop to look at my mountainous suroundings, it takes my breath away which makes up for all the pain.

I see the next small town is only 10kms away as the crow flies on the GPS, its 5pm so I time how long it takes to get there. An hour. I`m covered in dust and sweat when I am stopped at a military checkpoint who want to have a rummage in my panniers. While there, a guy in a 4x4 is also stopped and gives me a cold beer, he must have read my bloody mind! I stow it away to consume shortly down the road but before I do that, something is making a bit of a noise at the rear end of the bike. I stop to find one of my panniers half off. No, no! Don`t tell me one of the screw mounts has disappeared! I check to see and find its nearly off but still there- time for a cold beer and a look at the mountains I`d say!
I finally roll into Choix at around 8pm having covered approximately 140miles that day. I have some water thats now too warm to drink and the tosser of a hotel owner won`t let me put it in his fridge. Theres a tv in the room which doesn`t work and the wash hand basin has been nailed to the wall but I don`t really care. Theres a cold shower and a bed but not before another cold beer!

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