Inuvik to Ushuaia

Luis Alfonso Valencia - Bicycle commuter near Navojoa

Near Navojoa, Sonora, we ended up riding with a very interesting local person, Luís Alfonso Valencia. He's a true Mexican bicycle commuter. He rides 25 kilometers (15 miles) each way every day to his job as a heavy equipment operator for the state of Sonora. All this on a single-speed bike. We were impressed. And he gave Randy a real run for his money in a little race. Only when Randy had (many) more gears to speed up with did he pull away.

Do you notice the wonderful reflectors he has for safety on the back of the bike? They're discarded CDs. So why do we use anything else? We're going to try to get some for our bikes.

In the flat agricultural region from Navojoa to the sea we saw many, many cyclists, mostly on bikes like Luís's. In one small city we saw three bike shops in one small region of the downtown. And we've seen bike shops in several towns we've been in. We're just hoping they have some of the parts we need when the time comes.

Candelario Viniegra Chavez in his 6th grade classroom

I met Candelario on my 2003 trip down the Great Divide to Copper Canyon. He was a schoolteacher in a remote canyon town unreachable by car and I happened by his open-air classroom. We chatted a bit, and I talked with his class a bit. He then walked up the canyon with me for a delightful afternoon, showing me his favorite swimming hole and telling me all about his life. At that time he had to live several hours from his family in a tiny place where he was the only teacher, had no running water or electricity, and no walls on the school. But his delightful attitude and happy smile were my real memory.

Exhacienda Minera near Batopilas

DSC03373 exhacienda minera
Originally uploaded by refay.
Exhacienda Minera: Here is the ruins of an old mining building in Batopilas, one of the oldest silver mining towns in Northern Mexico.

Even today there are mining activities in the far mountains in Copper Canyon where new roads have been built giving people access to areas of this region where before only foot access was possible.

View La Bufa in the bottom of Copper Canyon, Mexico

DSC03346 view of the canyon
Originally uploaded by refay.

Here is a photo overlooking the road to La Bufa and eventually to Batopilas.

This area is the home to the famous Indians Traumara (Raramuri). One of the oldest people in North America, migrated to this area to avoid conflict with the Spanish Missionary. This shy group of people who live a subsistence life style can be recognized by their unique clothing and dark skin. The men wear a white loincloth, sandals, and an array of shirts and the women wear colorful layered blouses and skirts and large scarfs of multi designs.

It does appear the Traumara (Raramuri) have huge struggles with health, farming in this harsh climate though they have some of the most efficient farming methods known, and preservation of a culture that is in conflict with a monetary society.

The death rate for women giving birth is one in ten. The death rate amoungst children under 5 is 50 percent. Poverty amongst these people in this area is so rampant it touches everyone.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Batopilas aquaduct

DSC03391 batopilas aquaduct
Originally uploaded by refay.
This trail follows the aquaduct in the bottom of Copper Canyon in the town of Batopilas. Nancy hiked up around 5 miles toward Cerro Colorado.

Along the way she swam in the Rio Batopilas river, panned for silver, meet a goat herder, and also a guide on a horse returning from a 3 day trip to Urique and back to Batopolis. Most stunning were the flowering cactus and trees found in this deep desert canyon.

Road down to batopilas

DSC03339 road down to batopilas
Originally uploaded by refay.
The ribbon road down to Batopolis is one of the most amazing road engineering projects. The road twists its way down 5000 feet (1800 meters) through 5 ecosystems and millions of years of rock formations.

If you look very closely at this photo you may see the foot paths and used by the Tarahumara (Raramuri) Indians to access the resources of this canyon and the way the people of this region travel to and from the outback.

We hitched a ride down to the bottom with four Canadians driving this dusty, teeth rattling, back jarring road. It took around 5 hours to drive this 65k (40 mile) road. Around every corner was a new photo opportunity. We also hitched back with a kind couple from Mexico City who had hired a guide to bring them down and back up to creel.
(Thank you folks for the ride and the time we had to share).

The road was only really wide enough for one car so if another vehicle came around the corner, one of the drivers had to back up or down the road to a spot wide enough for both to squeeze by.

Randy at breakfast

DSC03403 randy at breakfast
Originally uploaded by refay.
Randy enjoying a typical Mexicana breakfast: Instant coffee, Huevos Rancho a la Mexicana (Eggs with tomatoe, onion, peppers (the color of the Mexican flag is Red, white and Green) with tortillas and beans.

We have decided this dish is an excellent meal to power us on our bike ride. (Protein, Fat, and carbohydrates). Tamales are another food we have discovered is an excellent biking food.

Update: New Pictures and a Podcast (Audio)

It's been a while since we updated you with our location and route and everything, so we have a number of things for you:
  • Our location: We're in Parral, about 200 miles south of Chihuahua, having exited the southeast end of the Copper Canyon region. Nancy did up a wonderful new map of our route (below) so you can see our route.
  • New pictures: There are a lot of new pictures on the photos page.
  • Podcast: We have started an experimental podcast (audio listen) for you. Click the Podcast button on the top of the page.

Parral to Durango and then Zacatecas

Originally uploaded by refay.
March 21, 2007 to April 7th Parral to Zacatecas Riding the high plains of northern Mexico was peaceful enough with arid high plains, scattered stunted dark colored trees like scrub oaks and what I thought was nut trees. The was little traffic and what traffic there was gave us lots of space and many waves and friendly beeps from their cars. The high plains were broken up with a few river valleys which we descended to find the area blooming with the newness of spring and planted with apple orchids, corn fields, and other cultivated fields. It turned out that the month of March is the windy season and we were greeted with varying strengths of winds through out this stretch in northern Mexico.

About 56 kilometers (35 miles) south Parral as we rode into the town of Las Nieves, the wind blew sheets of dust across the town, the roads and us. It was so impressive to see the wind blowing sideways full of the dust and particles of the arid landscape. We bought a few things to eat from the local Pemex gas station and continued on our way to find Poncho Villa’s Villa in Canutillo. The villa was a run-down complex with a handful of building with large photos and a bit of history about this Mexican who both was a local hero, a famous general of the Mexican revolution, and renegade (from the perspective of the U.S.). After the visit to the museum we decided to find a hotel because we both were sick with a cold and did not have the energy to continue. We found a clean economical room next to the bus stop which we laid low for two days recovering from our ailments.

We headed out two days later feeling somewhat better. The winds where more gentle and the landscape was the same.

Riding from Parral
Several nights we camped in the desert along this stretch along with what Randy calls the Mexican brown bears (cows). It was so nice to have such quietness in the vast dry landscape. It gives me a well needed break from the cities, the little pueblo with dogs that bark at us in the nights, the cars booming with music that have to pound the sense out of the youth that drive around in these moving music jukeboxes and the constant attempts to speak a new language I know so little of. The nights we camp I have come to treasure more then I knew.

(You may want to click the "read more" below to continue - this is a long one.)

Where we are: Early April 2007

Here's the map of our route into Mexico so far. Today we're in Zacatecas (leaving Monday going south). The red sections are the parts we biked, and the blue are other forms of transportation (the train into Copper Canyon, a truck to the bottom of the canyon at Batopilas, and the bus from Durango to Zacatecas).
There are new pictures on the photos page...

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