Sunday, May 3, 2009


February 19th to 22nd

Finally we arrive in Durango...
And immediately leave. 

Plans change when you hear the word Carnival!

People are talking about the Carnival happening in Mazatlan - it's one of the biggest of the year - Nationwide! We'd be fools to miss it.

Slight snag, Mazatlan is 400kms away on the coast and we've got 2 days and the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range is in the way. The road from here to there is called "The Spine of the Devil" and is supposed to be one of the most spectacular in Mexico though, and that settles it. We're Going!

Mazatlan is also a beach resort and that sounds like a couple of days off to me! So we bounce off Durango and hit the road again. It's a big beautiful flat road with vistas for eyes set to wide angle...

Of course that all changes and we soon realise we're going to need a bit more than 2 days to tackle this road....

And soon the land narrows, until there's just a thin ribbon left, steep cliffs above, loooong drops below best not thought about.

Our first night we get lucky and find a small town with cabins to rent 80kms out of Durango. After that it's down to pot luck - there are no towns and very few spaces at the road side big enough even for a tent.  Set gear to low and grind it out, visibility drops to 10 metres as there is no room for straight bits now and the road curves and twists, desperately seeking manageable angles of inclines. We reach altitudes of 2500 metres (8300 feet) and finally come to "The Devil's Spine",
and see nothing. The clouds are low and it's hugely disappointing to see valleys shrouded in mist.

Luckily 6kms later we come across a space on the outside of a hairpin bend big enough to take the tent. I never feel comfortable on the outside of bends, especially when the gradients are like this and lorries are fighting for grip, but that's the tent bottom right corner....


Engine brakes are both a good and a bad things. 

On the plus side they stop 34 wheelers plunging into the abyss off the side of steep gradients....that's the good thing. 

The bad is that they are LOUD! Very, very LOUD!!

Imagine Satan's jack hammer when he gets that maniacal gleam in his eye and sets the dial to 11 on the thump-ometer. Against the silent backdrop of the dead of night they are terrifying, the ground literally shakes beneath the tent, and it's a broken nights sleep as we lie in the dark and feel these bohemoths thundering closer.... then past - 6 feet away.

They all manage to stick to the narrow line of black stuff and the day dawns for us clear and bright. We ride back to the Spine to see whether the macho name departs from reality.

Devil's Spine. So named for where the land narrows, between two massifs of the Sierra Occidental range to the width of just a single lane road. A saddle point between 2 huge rock outcrops, with jaw-dropping chasms to either side.

Looking forward....

Looking left....

Looking right...

I'm blown away. Stand in the middle of the road and you are at the centre of these 2 gargantuan vistas stretching way off in to the distance in both directions, I don't know, maybe 120kms (75miles) and more. Front and back are walls of rock with the road scything away across your line of view. It's more than worth coming back for after last nights blow out - that's certain. An hour passes in awe before we realise we have a carnival to make.

Yes a carnival! Starts in about 5 hours and we're late!

But progress is slow. Only 2 gears are needed - top and bottom. That's 25 wasted gears! After tickling his spine, the devil is in a playful mood and the road surface looks like a bull whip sine curve. A grinning Satan at one end gives it a crack and the road alternates between sheer up and headlong down.

Time to stop again and goggle...

After that the road engineers had to find a way of fitting 200kms (125 miles) of road in to a straight line distance of just 80kms. That's how far we are from the coast as the crow flies, but now the road twists and contorts like a drunk walking a white line on a Saturday night. 

Finally we start the main descent from 2100 metres down to the coast. Thats like dropping over a mile and a quarter...... I've parachuted from a plane lower than that. 30kms without toughing the pedals once... Wagons slow to a crawl, or risk setting fire to overheated brakes. They're spoiling my ride and the temtation to overtake is too much.... Adrenaline pumping stuff on these bends...

See ya!

We cross the Tropic of Cancer, the imaginary line round the Earth that marks the furthest North at which the sun can appear directly overhead at noon as the land finally begins to level off. We roll in to town on Sunday - the highlight of Carnival. 

Right - cheap hotel, shower, quick snooze, bottle of Tequila and then we are hitting the town!

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