December 17, 2004
Our last days in Sayulita were wonderful. We soaked up as much sun as we could and got in a few last surfing sessions. For our final dinner Bob, Sherry, Dan and I went over to Lorenzo and Estella’s house for family day. Tuesdays they close up the restaurant and have friends and family over for a potluck of sorts. It was a fantastic way to end our stay. Adrian drew us a Feliz Navidad card which we will treasure and we exchanged gifts with their family. Once again we are overwhelmed by the generosity shown to us by others.
Dan's last wave of the year.
It was with very heavy hearts that we left Sayulita Wednesday morning and headed north. Fortunately for us we spent the night in Teacapan which helped to ease the blow. Once again we were showered with fresh shrimp, fish and this time lobster, as well as copious amounts of cervezas. Unfortunately we couldn’t join in their fiesta for too long because we had a long day ahead of us and needed rest.
We had been hearing tales of the treacherous road through the mountains to Ciudad Durango. We had hemmed and hawed over driving it for weeks before settling on tackling the Calle de Espinoza del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone).We awoke bright and early Thursday morning and hit the road. Nine hours later we had traveled roughly 230 miles. You read that right it took us nine hours! The Devil’s Backbone was all that we had heard and so much more.
Right off the bat we got to take this little detour, through the river.
It is the most beautiful and terrifying road I have ever driven. And when I say I have driven, I mean Dan. Often people ask me what Dan does for the blog. Originally we had agreed to split writing duties 50/50, somewhere in the first weeks of the blog this was forgotten and Dan has never typed a single word of the text you read in hear. However, here is what Dan does. First he helps me remember details, names and times. He allows me to read the postings to him and we make corrections as a result. On occasion has been known to take a picture of me so I can prove to you all that I really exist. Most importantly however, Dan drives.
The "straight" part of the road.
I think I have mentioned before that we joke that Dan’s five years as a paramedic was practice for driving this rig. In the US we shared driving, although Dan still drove more than me. Since we hit Mexico I have not driven once. I would not have been able to drive El Espinoza because I had to close my eyes and pray as we navigated every blind switchback and met a semi barreling towards us in our lane. Next time you are complaining about paying taxes stop, and thank your lucky stars that we have shoulders on our roads in the US. Mexico does not believe in shoulders or guard rails.
Somewhere in the past few years I picked up a fear of mountain passes. This is a bit problematic seeing as how everywhere I want to go requires driving over them. None the less I am usually able to contain my panic. This was not one of those times. I honestly covered my eyes at every turn. I gasped a minimum of 50 times and seriously considered walking the rest of the road on at least two occasions. That said, and from the safety of this level parking spot, I am really glad we drove this way.
Daniel Lawrence Goddard, you are an excellent driver. Thank you.
The mountains, creeks and especially the tiny mountain pueblos were phenomenal. From the western turn off you immediately begin climbing. There are only 185 miles from the turn to Durango, but in those miles you cross every climate and ecological region of Mexico, all while going from sea level to 9200’. We climbed through cactus, Joshua Trees, conifer forests and even wild poinsettia fields. After you complete The Spine the road levels out and you enter a high desert plateau, and the temperature drops considerably. Just before you get to Durango you go through an area that for all intents and purposes could be Southwestern Colorado. Approaching Durango, Mexico from the west, looks almost exactly like driving into Durango, Colorado from the south. Dan and I were amazed by the similarities. Adding to this were the places we passed with familiar names like San Juan, Mesa Verde, Piedra and Santa Rita. It was a very strange sense of déjà vous.
This part looks just like the road between Cortez and Durango.
Here are a few signs I could stand to never see again after today's drive.
Our guide book talks only of the campground in Durango. We passed another one before getting to Durango, probably about 30 miles west. It was a park (I am not sure if it is state or national). From the road it looked like there were at least ten spots available. The entrance has a large white gate and there is a ropes course next to the campground. We passed many restaurants that I would guess would allow you to camp overnight if you ate there. Also there are many boondocking opportunities along the way.
Mary's Cocina, the restaurant we stopped in for lunch.
Dan enjoying a hot cup of Nescafe- I really didn't know they still made this stuff.
El Salto, a milling town on the west side of the pass.
We opted to head into Durango for the night. The Campo Mexico Hotel is a fine enough place. For 150 pesos ($15) a night we got a level spot with electricity and the key to a neighboring room for a bathroom and shower. The motel is located east of the city center by I’d guess 2 miles. A taxi to the plaza is only $15 pesos ($1.50). For the first time in months we had to use our sleeping bags last night, it was that cold.
Today we ventured into the city. We did a walking tour of the plaza and surrounding area. The entire day we did not see a single other gringo. It seems the tourist community has not found Durango yet. Even though this is not a tourist city we were treated very well and felt safe everywhere we went. I’ll stop jibber jabbering now and let the pictures tell the rest of the tale.
Plaza de Armas.
The Cathedral Basilica Menor built from 1695 1750.
A light sconce on the Teatro Victoria.
The Palacio de Gobierno is filled with murals depicting Mexico's history.
Merchant in el mercado.
Our rig at the campground in Durango.
Someone tell Sandra Mapel that I took this picture for her.