(January 8 – written by Nancy)
We actually had a pretty good night in the Hotel Villa Blanco. We were the only guests and the accommodation was a bit rough (we are into ‘no toilet seat’ territory) but the bed was pretty comfortable and we slept okay. It may have been that we were both just exhausted, I was anyway!
The restaurant down on the roadway was closed yesterday and today so last night we used up some of the food we have been carrying (well, okay, that Dave has been carrying). So we ended up having one of our precious instant mashed potatoes and heated up our last madras lentils packet to pour over the top. It probably doesn’t sound too tasty but it was pretty good.
We were up early and had everything packed and breakfast eaten in time to hit the road about 8am. Climbing started right away so there was no chance to get chilled in the mountain air. Today was tough again – lots of climbing (about 4000ft) over 37k. The scenery is beautiful and the traffic is light to non-existent but it is a little hard to appreciate when you feel every pedal stroke! Actually, it was nice and I think not quite as hard as yesterday as we did have a couple of downhills thrown in for a break now and then. We tried to stop a bit more to take breaks and enjoy the views. It was a little bit disconcerting sometimes to see a road way across a valley and realise that that was probably our road.
We are riding mostly through pine forests and today even saw a cedar tree by the roadside. Interesting though, that we still see cactuses growing as well – I am not sure there are many places where you would see cedar trees and cactuses growing together.
Dave says the most important thing about today is that we passed the Tropic of Cancer, heading north, which probably seems like the wrong direction. We crossed the Tropic of Cancer going south on the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. We’ll go back across sometime after Durango, so this is just a momentary blip out of the tropics. Then we’ll be in the tropics until we cross the Tropic of Capricorn somewhere in Peru (Dave thinks).
We passed several little villages today, though many wouldn’t really qualify as a village but just a group of houses, some abandoned, with no stores or anything. We did see one little spot that advertised a hotel and a restaurant – they looked open but we didn’t stop to ask. Many places had people out in their ‘yards’ or driveways working hard. Almost everyone is very friendly and returns our greetings. Occasionally people start talking to us but we don’t get very far with that – very fast Spanish while climbing 6%+ grades isn’t very easy for us to understand.
We rolled into El Palmito about 1:30 or so and stopped at a local place for lunch. There was a fellow there on a long motorcycle trip (from Brazil to California) so we sat and chatted with him for a bit while having lunch. It was interesting to hear about his trip, what he thought of various countries, and good places to see. He has made that trip 8 times or something, so has lots of experience and has also ridden his bicycle from Brazil up to New York. He was riding the full Durango to Mazatlan section today – it will take us 5 days. He confirmed that the scenery up ahead is spectacular – it was actually pretty good today…
After lunch we headed up to the Hotel Samantha and waited for the owner to return to show us a room. While eating lunch, he had ridden up past our restaurant on his horse – coming back, he was again on his horse. We are on the back roads now. The room is okay and with a little cleaning done it will be okay. We did break out our sleeping bag, as there seems to be no top sheets on the beds. There is hot water in the shower, so that’s a big plus. And it does have a TV, with one channel so we are practicing our Spanish as we prepare dinner. And really exciting news, there is a toilet seat.
Tomorrow is a longer day (about 55k) but I think there is less climbing so hopefully we can make it to the next town. We pass into the state of Durango tomorrow and go into Central time zone so that also mean we need to keep moving to make it before dark as we lose an hour.