North Mexico Travelogue

Aleta Fimbres 14/07/2010

Abandoned car in Baja California

Buenos dias muchachos Y muchachas, once again, I’m back from tequila and nachos country…

This year we decided to go all the way to the North, touching the US border. North in Mexico is a lot different from the south. It may be more of the Mexico as people imagine the Mexico to be like – Desperado country.

So same as the last year, we landed in Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico). This giant agglomeration of nearly 30 millions people is always amazing. As you watch it from the plane, it seems to be never ending. And surprisingly it is actually not that bad. Full of parks, great museums, cool people. But it’s the only place I really do notice the smog. After several hours one gets sore throat and the eyes burn.

But we didn’t hesitate too long, rented the car, and left at night. Driving, especially at night, can sometimes get into horrifying dimensions. Easy going Mexicans don’t give a damn about their roads and cars. The roads very often resemble dirt roads with huge potholes, and unlit vehicles and cattle can be quite unpleasant surprise when driving 160 km/h. At late night we arrived to Quareterra (I think), where we got a place to stay, and in the morning we were back on the road, heading towards Zacatecas.


On the way we stopped in one town, where we tried to find some Internet cafe, which eventually shown not to exist. But at least we met some American who made us to change the plans. Instead of going to Zacatecas, we decided to stop in one "ghost town" called Real de Catorze. It was up in the mountains, basically in the middle of nowhere. There was only a poor dirt road (our car quite suffered), and in the evening after almost loosing a faith in getting there, we finally entered a dark spooky town through a 2 km long tunnel literally cut in the rock.

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The town used to be a mining town, and 100 years ago there were almost 30.000 people living. Then most of the people left, and so today 3/4 of the town are basically ruins, creating a somehow strange atmosphere. One very important fact about this area – the Indian tribe called Huichi based around the state of Sinaloa comes here every year to do their peyote cacti ceremonies.

So the next day we decided to do the same. Met 2 Mexicans who took us to the desert where the peyote grows, picked up a pile of cacti, and headed back to the town. As it is a bit dangerous to carry something like peyote in Mexico, all of us in the car were pretty nervous.

At one point, after the police car was passing by, the 2 Mexicans freaked out and so we stopped, and spent 15 minutes by hiding the cacti in the least accessible parts of the car engine. Later on, we found a nice place in the desert where we wanted to eat and experience. As I was trying to have a first bite of the cactus, I almost threw up. I’ve never eaten something so disgusting. Indian’s dose is 20 peyotes; I was able to consume only seven. After that I simply couldn’t eat any more. All of us eventually gave up.

I felt a little peyote effect but not strong enough though. After few days we found ourselves near to the Copper Canyon – a huge canyon (4 times bigger than the Grand Canyon) in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. We took a sleep in some little town and went for further canyon explorations. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Virgin country habituated by Indians, awesome waterfalls, challenging zigzag roads copying the edge of the canyon. Everything was all right up to the point, where the quite good road turned into a heavy terrain.

We tried to continue, but after few hundred meters we had to turn back, because our car could never make this. I was quite mad at Lonely Planet, because they didn’t indicate anything like that only a four-wheel drive vehicle should be used. So we had to return all the way back, arriving to the town of Creel, where we stayed over night.

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Next day we decided to take a little break at the Basaseachic Falls. Giant waterfall about 150 meters high situated in the Indians reservation. Beautiful.

We had a great day wondering around the waterfall, swimming and hiking. After several days of passing through a great Sonora desert, where the temperature climbed up to 50° C and where there was only sand, rocks and huge cactuses, we arrived to the famous city of Tijuana. Well, famous – rather cheesy town right on the US border, full of Americans, pretty expensive, dirty and hot. But since we were there, we decided to stop in the USA. Crossing the borders was pain as always.

US customs officers were bastards as always, making us to pay 6 USD each – I don’t know why and what for. But OK, we came to San Diego, having a lunch at Taco Bell; I asked 2 guys where there is some large discount store to buy some traveling supplies.

We got into a conversation (they liked Milan Kundera’s books), which ended up by going to their home. There they started to roll one joint after another. They couldn’t believe that we came to San Diego only for a day, making us to stay longer. But the time wasn’t in our favor and so we had to leave back to Mexico in the evening.

Back in Mexico we went to see a bit of Baja California. Desert, mountains, beautiful sea, high prices due to Americans. We stayed in some of the crappiest hotel full of cockroaches in San Felipe. Next day we rather rented a trailer house right at the beaches, which was better and cleaner. But the mosquitoes…I didn’t get much sleep that night. Baja California just proved to be a vacation resort for Americans, and so we left quite soon, taking the same way back to Mexicali, and copying down the seashore.

Spent a night in Guayamas – cool, cheap, chilled-out town right at the sea. Liked it. Just one thing that happened when driving around the town – I didn’t realize that the Mexican driving/drinking law is similar to the American, and so even as a passenger you can’t drink in the car. We got pulled over because I was having a beer can in my hand. The cop came out and started to speak in Spanish, something like: "senor y cerveza – es problem, ticket, officina". We pretended we didn’t understand a word, speaking in Czech to him. It may have taken 10 minutes until he gave up, and left.

And so we were rushing down the cost, towards the Guadalajara and Mexico City. Stopped at the beaches, slept in Mazatlan, went to few cantinas – genuine Mexican drinking place only for males, pretty hard-core style. We also stopped in one town in Sinaloa called Santiago Xil… There was an Indian center, where we met one Indian girl who spoke a good English. For the first time, someone was able to clearly explain what is the Indian culture about. It was very, very interesting, but it would be too long to describe it here.

Next day we were going along the largest swamp I’ve ever seen. It was several hundreds square kilometers, amazing, huge. And we were already counting our days. So the other day we went to Guadalajara – Mexico’s second largest and supposedly most Mexican city of about 5 million people. Quite interesting place, but half a day is not enough. The other day we basically spent on the road, and on the last day we arrived to Mexico City, chilled out in the park, went back to the airport, returned the car, and three of us got on the plain. Two of us stayed another 14 days, coming back home now.

Photography of Mexico by Jeffree Benet

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