2/19/15 Fishing Hut to Caimanero
The morning was beautiful, but as usual we got a slower start than hoped. I’d wanted to do some pre-dawn riding, but it is nearly impossible for us to do anything before it gets light out so I have to accept that it simply will never happen.
We had more long rollers and boring highway on the approach to Mazatlán, and a solitary Oxxo gas station for some snacks and coffee. Google made it appear as if the toll road detoured around Mazatlán through some suburbs at the edge of town. I was a bit concerned about the traffic there, but we figured the OXXO stop would tide us over until we could grab some legit breakfast in the burbs. We did not fill up our water.
Today’s lesson: ALWAYS GET WATER, ass.
This is one of my cardinal rules of world travel*. It still astounds me that I would have failed to comply with such a simple and important edict.
Shortly after the Oxxo we came to the junction of the Libre and Cuota, with the Cuota peeling off on some beautiful brand new concrete straight up a less than beautiful hill.
Alarm bells started going off as we climbed to the summit in temperatures that felt at 10:30 to be matching yesterday’s scorching max and the fingers of hunger began sliding around our ribs. I started questioning my leadership choices in my head, ‘Hmm, this looks like a lot of barren hills, not at all like any sort of development.’
‘Maybe over this hill we’ll drop into… nope, more barren hills.’
‘Gee, this road looks really new. Maybe it’s a bypass that doesn’t go through anything. Being so new, it probably doesn’t have any services yet. I sure am hungry and this water is going down pretty fast. How far is it to Villa Union? Let’s see… this minus that… uh, ohh 20 miles. These hills sure are brutal in this heat!’
There was absolutely nothing, and very little traffic. The surface was great, but the terrain was challenging. The only form of life was a very odd man in long pants and a sweater walking down the side of the road carrying nothing. We stopped under a bridge to assess the situation. Water was down to less than one bottle per person and the heat was sucking it out our pores in rivers. We were very hungry so we ate the rest of our chips for a bit of energy and sodium. We ate a carrot for its water. The strange, bug-eyed man walked past us and did not return our greeting. We pushed on.
The highway threw the hills out of perspective. We would mount a rise and feel the motivation drain from our hearts as we gazed upon some heartless mountain in front of us, only to have it contract in front of our eyes as we approached until it was barely greater than flat. But then other gentle rises would creep on and on tilting slowly upward until we found ourselves inexplicably in our lowest cogs. I tipped up my water and a cactus and some dust came out instead.
Like a beacon of light, or perhaps a splash of ice water on parched flesh, we rounded a corner were back in civilization as we mounted the exit for Villa Union. We pushed into the first miserable roadside restaurant we saw, grabbed refreshments from the fridge and plopped into shaded chairs. Sugar water infused with artificial colors poured into our bodies like ambrosia while jewels of glistening condensation dripped from the bottles onto our bare legs.
We had met a British guy named Wayland at the hostel we stayed at for Carnaval in Mazatlan several days earlier. He was heading to Durango next and while exiting the highway, I thought how funny it would be if we met him here. This would be the logical place to thumb out of town. As we rode over to another restaurant, sure enough, there he was standing on the side of the road with a piece of cardboard lettered, ‘Durango’. It was an interesting coincidence. Seeing a surprise familiar face out on the road is a treat. Things like this make me feel as though I am living in some sort of story, in a very good way. I read a blog somewhere that said, ‘Sometimes I wonder if my life is a movie like The Truman Show. I travel because I want to see how big they can make the set.’ Ha! That is as good of a reason to travel as anyone should ever need.
After a mediocre and overpriced lunch we went into the Oxxo to enjoy the A/C and while away some of the hottest part of day. Before this trip I would have never thought how relaxing it could be to sit in a corporate convenience store, but here we were basking in the fluorescent glow of standardization.
This was a decision point. Our next known destination was Escuinapa, about 40 miles down the highway. We had plotted a route that would take us down along the beach, thus avoiding much of the highway doldrums. The added miles matter little to us. The problem was that the route on Google seemed to traverse a narrow isthmus of land between a giant lagoon and the ocean. However, the newly purchased Guia Roji showed this isthmus to actually be a peninsula, ending at the mouth of a large bay, with no crossing. It would be extremely frustrating to ride 20 miles only to find the road petering out into some body of water. I was worn out and on the verge of suggesting we just stay on the highway to crush this stretch as quickly as possible. We asked around and the consensus was that the road did exist, but several people said that it was “muy peligroso” because it is a lonely, unused road and therefore we would have a great chance of being robbed. We usually discard vague threats of danger out of hand, but in this case, many people were saying the same thing. We finally asked who I’ve come to believe is the utmost authority on rural roadway conditions – a traveling representative of a large agribusiness firm. Francisco laughed in his white, logoed polo when questioned about the supposed dangers and said that not only did it exist, but it was a VERY beautiful route.
We were beaten down from the lousy morning, but again, things would turn around completely. As soon as we got through town we were on quiet roads through colorful farmlands. The farmers were even more friendly than usual, if that is even possible, and we spent the next couple hours smiling and waving. Sometimes you roll into a town and can immediately feel negative vibes and know this is not the kind of place you want to stick around. On the other hand, some places just feel good and you know you’re in a happy place. It’s just a feeling, but palpable and real. The first village we passed through, Walong, was a “feel good” town – one of the best. Families were out relaxing and enjoying the evening. We stopped to ask some older folks for directions and they were so sweet, we wanted to adopt them as grandparents.
Passing trucks were stuffed with veggies from the fields and the overflowing produce spilled out as they rumbled past. Dinner was heavily influenced by the addition of copious groundscores.
The road finally came to within 500 feet of the beach before turning parallel through palm plantations and pepper fields. We could have ridden on, but were tired and sore and turned down an access path toward the water almost immediately. After wrestling the bikes down the long sandy track we really hoped it would lead to a decent spot to camp and not some worthless dead end. Sure enough, there was a huge palapa right there with a table and stump stools. Someone had been there during the day and we were able to revive their coals to cook dinner over one of the nicest fires yet!
The sand stretched out of sight in both directions and the only person we saw all evening as we watched the sun set over the Pacific was some guy digging a massive hole just down the beach, presumably our graves. The stars came out bright over the deserted beach and we fell asleep in our hammocks listening to the surf crashing 100 feet away.
*My cardinal rules of world travel apply to everyone, but especially backpackers and cycle tourists:
– Always fill your water whenever you get a chance, even if you don’t need it;
– Always eat when you can, even if you are not hungry;
– Always do laundry when you have a chance, even if most of your clothes are clean; and last, but certainly not least
– Always, for the love of god, always use the bathroom when one is available, even if you don’t feel the need, especially before getting on a bus. A caveat to this would be to not drink your usual four cups of morning joe when you have a ten hour bus ride in front of you.