2016-09-17 – Day 6 – Linares, NL to Galeana, NL (70 km – 1:30 hrs)
2016-09-18 – Day 7 – Galeana, NL to Real de Catorce, SL (241 km – 6:30 hrs)
2016-09-19 – Day 8 – Real de Catorce, SL
It’s amazing how quickly I have to write down everything down as I want to make sure I share what I live and feel before I forget anything due to new adventures!
Sunday morning, I left Linares a little late, because I do not really have any plans to apart to get closer to Real de Catorce in order to visit this special village on Sunday.
So I took a little time to study my new GoPro (thanks again to all my friends for the great gift!) in order to take advantage of it and take photos and videos when I’m on the road.
I left around 11:00 am and took the road through the mountains instead of the highway.
What a great decision this was! The road is simply superb, full of curves and not crowded. I drove relatively slowly to fully soak up the scenery and practice using the GoPro in real situations.
Suddenly, I was overcome by 3 BMW’s! Nothing is more effective to wake the driver who was sleeping in me to wake up! I followed them fora few of kilometres without too many problems, but I still had to work a little in some places, because unlike these beautiful new motorcycles without luggage, I carry almost 40 kilos!
I stopped a few times to take photos and videos. The area is lovely, and as a bonus, the weather is perfect for motorcycle driving, that is, sunny and 25 to 30 degrees Celsius!
I reached the town of Galeana and that’s when my day motorcycle ends abruptly after only 2 hours and 75 km.
In fact, I just decided, for no other reason than I felt like it, to spend the rest of the day and night here!
I quickly find a small simple hotel, but comfortable, well located and where I could park my bike directly in front of the door. Two queen beds for the modest sum of $13!
I quickly leave to take a long walk in the village and realize that I am the only person who does not come from Mexico (for the second day in a row!). The “pueblo” is relatively poor, crowded, but the people I see, seem happier one after the other. After a few tries, I managed to find me a banana and an apple that are relatively decent and a very cold chocolate milk.
In fact, it just seems a trivial detail, but since I arrived in Mexico, I noted that the fridges are really effective. In fact, every time I bought a beer or, as for now, the milk, they were always perfectly cold. No half measures here! Muy fresca as people like to tell to me! A bizarre contrast to places like Barcelona and even New York, where it is common to buy a beer relatively warm!
OK, let’s get to serious stuff!
Sunday morning, I quietly made my luggage. There is no rush because Real de Catorce is only 300 KM and I plan to arrive around 14:00. I leave at 11:00.
The reality, however, will be totally different!
Since it appears that I have the luxury of having some time on my hands, I decided not to take the main road that quickly leads to the highway. Instead, I looked at the map and decided to go through the village of San Jose de Las Joyas …
This decision was the right one. I had the chance to see incredible scenery, but I definitely had to work hard for it!
The road is entirely gravel, sometimes severely run down. I have to work pretty hard to keep control of the bike, especially in curves and where the rain has damaged it.
As a payback, the scenery is beautiful. I’m slowly but surely gaining altitude and I end up on a plateau where there is a large farm with several cows. Strangely, this place reminded me of I place to which I forget the name, on the Chemin de la Compostela in France, where Nadine and I had to make our way between cows and bulls!
I drive going from 1st to 2nd gear, with some exceptions getting into 3rd.
I should mention here that despite my travels in the Canadian Arctic circle to Inuvik, or to Labrador, I do not consider myself a good motorcycle driver. The road I’m on is a real challenge and I’m alone so I try not to take unnecessary risks. All this to say that I took almost 3 hours to drive 75 kilometres!
After returning to a lower altitude, not without having had the chance to see incredible scenery, I finally join Highway 57 where I permit myself a bit of the pleasure of driving at 120 or 130 km/h, still being passed by cars and even trucks I must mention!
After refuelling in El Cedral, I head to the road of Real de Catorce. My Garmin GPS and Google Maps are in conflict, but I choose to rely on Google because it gives me 30 km less of driving. It was the right choice after all.
In the middle of a plain, I arrive at an intersection and, not too sure whether it is north or south, I make a left turn to go down the road of Real de Catorce, which is completely made of stone! Not gravel, but small stones in concrete or other material making it a solid road. Not too obvious for driving, but apart from a small massage you know where(…), I managed to get by relatively well.
I cannot imagine this road during a downpour. The stones are smooth and slippery, even in the dry! I double a few buses which run very slowly due to the road conditions and I start gaining altitude once again.
I go to Real de Catorce because I read the blog of a college motorcycle adventurer a few weeks ago. I do not have too much of an idea of the nature of the village, nor of the road. I quickly read the text and above all, looked at the superb photos.
I knew it was an isolated village and that there was a tunnel to go to it. But no blogs or pictures could prepare me for the next events!
Indeed, at the end of the road, I find myself more at more than 2500 metres, and I learn that, as I get closer to the tunnel entrance because, crowded with people, several cars and … Horses and metal carriages, that it won’t be an easy thing!
When I arrive at the entrance, two people approach me in panic and tell me that the tunnel is closed to motor vehicles for the day!!!
They tell me it’s the end of the long holiday weekend and that all tourists (Mexican) are leaving the village and, as they do not have vehicles, evacuation is made by horses and carriages! And as the horse apparently does not like too much the noise and from bikes and cars, well, vehicles are not allowed.
Well, I find myself a bit in a stalemate. I drove six hours to get here, I’m exhausted and more importantly, I have no plan B !!! (You’ll have to start thinking about this concept soon I think!).
Officials ask me to park my motorcycle beside the others who could not get in. But frankly, I have to find a way to get into the damn tunnel or find another way to enter the village.
Well, first observation, it seems clear, considering the reaction of all the people I ask that there is no alternative route.
Second observation, I have a few pesos in my pocket and I’m pretty sure there’s a Mexican who would like to see in them in his instead of mine!
I look at the horses and carts. They carry an average of 25 and 30 people.
Quick calculation: 30 people multiplied by 75 kg = 2000 kg. My bike weighs 300 kg plus my bags, 40 kg and your humble driver, 70 kg (ok, 72 !!!), and we are still far from 2000!
Why doesn’t a horse pull me through the tunnel!
I present the argument but no chance, everyone tells me that it is impossible, especially because the crossing takes 25 minutes and the road (!!!) is in a very bad state.
I show my 200 pesos and suddenly, magically, this is possible an option!
People try to get me to pay 500 pesos, then 300, and finally, I find a Mexican boy full of ambition accepting 200 ($13).
We attach the bike by the frame with an old yellow rope and then move to the super horse, a huge and powerful beast. OK, I retract myself, a puny and unimpressive mule, and tie everything on to the cart.
After a few minutes of waiting, we finally get started. My 1 horsepower has a bit of difficulty to start, but the motorcycle driver is worse because he forgot to retract his side stand! I have to stop the convoy, as I almost fall!
We finally rush into the tunnel, light is very low! I have to fight to avoid dropping the bike, because we are not going fast enough for me tonight balanced and comfortable.
The tunnel is relatively small, but also very long!!! We have to stop a few times (read: make considerable efforts from the poor driver of the motorcycle that works hard not to plunge to the ground because of the road imperfections!).
There is a very comforting thing that suddenly appears after a relatively tight curve, the sun! The end of the tunnel approaches and I finally feel relaxed, anticipating the end of my problems for the day!
It was not entirely the case! Coming out of the tunnel, there is a crowd and I see the village streets are not only bursting with people, but they are also made of these smooth stones placed in a totally random manner, either horizontally or vertically. In addition, these streets are steep, and in some cases very steep!
Everything to make your humble pilot must still work hard not to fall, which in this case, would probably have meant a motorcycle on the side, along with 2 or 3 Mexicans caught underneath, because obviously, they do not move on centimetres to let me pass!
The biggest hotel in town, which is one to appear on my GPS, is located on a street that is very steep. Not daring to venture the on an ascent mode, I decided to go to the end of town, make a right turn on the road that will take me over to the hotel, so I can access it going down.
I somehow succeeded in getting the beast parked and asked for prices. A little too expensive for my taste, so get to the other side of the street and find a super large room, very clean, for half the price!
I take a quick shower to help me get over the day’s emotions and go for a walk around town with a (read: few) cold beer in hand!
The evening ends in a small restaurant just around the corner of my street.
It was an incredible day. I went through a range of emotions and found myself in a small pueblo that reminded me exactly why I’m doing this trip.
Monday morning was much quieter in the village. I went hiking on a path that crosses the mountain range and offered, as a reward after nearly a 10 km walk, a view of a plateau that stretches out in the horizon miles and miles away.
I also take the opportunity to clean up my photos and write these lines.
It was a very relaxed day, perfect to recover from the adventures of the day before, soak in the local culture and prepare for tomorrow.
For those interested in learning a bit more about Real de Catorce: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_de_Catorce
2016-09-20 - Day 9 - Real de Catorce, SL to Zacatecas, ZA (314 km - 4:00 hrs) 2016-09-21 - Day 10 - Zacatecas, ZA to Durango, DU (292 km - 2:30 hrs) Tuesday morning, I left Real de Catorce slowly, but surely, in an atmosphere much quieter than when I arrived. I had to ... Read more
2016-09-15 - Day 4 - Austin, TX to Santiago, NL (690 km - 9:00 hrs) 2016-09-16 - Day 5 - Santiago, NL to Linares, NL (130 km - 2:45 hrs) Can you believe that I'm riding my motorcycle in Mexico! I left Austin around 6:00 AM Tuesday morning to avoid traffic. ... Read more