Wednesday, July 7, 2010

40 Casas, Batoplais, Mexico

I rode 2500km to get here and I think that my new friends Jesus and his son Diego made the whole trip worth it.

I wanted to get a picture of the beer can and in doing so accidentially dropped the beast again. Luckily a truck came along within minutes and the owner helped me lift the thing.

Looking into the abyss and tring not to fall in. I'm sure that it would be a few lung fulls of screaming before you'd settle down and enjoy the scenery

The road heading down into Batoplias was literally cut into the mountain side.

I found a great pull off to have a whiz at. Meanwhile I decided to take a picture of the kind of roads that I've been driving.

I was really looking forward to hiking into the 40 Casa's just out side of Madera. Arriving at the gate there was a small community of Cabins. I was flagged into someones yard just before the gates were opened into the site and invited to breakfast. Here I met Jesus and his son Diego. Jesus was a great outdoor cook and was up staying at the family cabin for a week with his son Diego.
After Breakfast I asked Jesus and Diego if they wanted to be my guide and they hoppe don their bicycles and lead me into the parking lot at the trail head. From here we descended into a deep gorge and then up the other side where we could have a first hand look at some of the restored 1300 yr old structures at the Curenta Casa's.

Jesus and Diego chillin in the shade after the 2km hike which was pretty much all down hill, across a small bridge, and then all up hill......repeat in reverse direction.

After the hike in Jesus offered me one last supper, and cooked up some Burritos that had mixed potato's, onion's, peppers, hamburger, and tomatoe's with authentic mexican spice and was deliciosos!

Lets look at that again...gettin hungry??

Just outside of Madera these log cabins were advertised as the Hostal on the lake. Stopped in and decided to stay the night and listen to the crickets.
As I was kinda in the middle of nowhere and overheard one of the two guys mentioning that my wallet was full of money after haggling over the price I slept with a knife open and ready this time.
I don't know if I'm paranoid now or just prepared?...Where is the fine line?

Kids at play in the valley leading into the town of Batoplias

The scenery and the mountain road into Batoplias was a dangerous a mix. Several times I looked down into the abyss below and noticed that my knees were litterally shaking enough to slap the tank.
The 60 km ride in was roughly 2 hours long and began with new asphalt which eventually became rough dirt road. I had to depressurize the tires to ensure adequate control along the road as there was alot of loose gravel and big rocks that were just waiting to take advantage of my spindly legs and arms in a struggle to take down the bike.

A Torro keeping a lazy eye on me as I photographed the valley, little did he know that he'd be the best shot of the bunch.

The last Bridge crossing before Batoplias. Along the road into this village there were numerous beer cans strewn all over the dirt road for about 30km. I had met the rowdy fellows at the top of the canyon and to say hello they decided that one of the ten guys piled into the back of the ford F 150 pick up would fire a couple of rounds off with his shot gun. Since the armed robbery I'm much more aware of my surroundings and upon entering the Canyon I was thinking to myself that this scene was unnervingly familiar. I read later that any traveller into this region should be weary as the military recently raized all the maurianna plants and thus crushed the economy in the valley. Subsequently kidnappings and hostage takings have been more common, however tourists are not commonly targeted.

Robert and Madalin from Sweden just starting out their ride south on a BMW GS 1200. Of all the places I'd meet someone it was here in Batoplias, in a gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon..... called the "Copper Canyon"

Old colorful buildings made up most of Batoplias' village.
As a matter of fact Batoplias was the second town after Mexico city to recieve electricity

Meandering the street at 7:00am. Due to a time change I could'nt figure out why all the places to eat were closed.

A Heron taking a rest in the mist just before night fall in a Mexican tourist town.

Ian (in Blue)and Alain with the bicycle. Ian is just starting out his ride south as well I met the both of them on ruta 200 heading north as they were heading south. Alain has been riding for a long time and once rode through NB which I was appauled to hear was the only place thus far in his travels that he was assulted by drivers who tossed garbage out windows at him. Come off it ... NB!

I've covered quite a bit of ground since my last post in Puerto Vallarta and I'm currently situated in Chihuahua.
Since Puerto Vallarta I began heading north and stopped into a once trendy tourist town that John Wayne and Jack Kerouac used to enjoy called Mazatlan. I strolled the historical old town and meandered my way through the deserted streets enjoying the colonial ambience, but alas, its rainy season and noone was out and everything was closed so I headed back to my hotel for a chilly nights sleep in the powerfully airconditioned room.

In the morning I headed inland for the first time in a long time and headed up ruta 45 to Durango which is touted to be Mexico's most scenic drive. Indeed it was scenic, with epic vista's and beautiful pine treed mountains. Today was the first time in ages that I smelled pine trees and it was a scent that let me know that I was getting closer to home and fly fishing.

The 300km ride to Durango was 6 hours in duration because of all the turns and twists that the road threw out. Intermittedly all day it was either sunny or raining so the going was slow and tough. The aird county side was experiencing rain for the first time in ages so I was happy to be there and yet again witness rain in the desert.
The road continued to be twisty after Durango heading through foothill like terrain among the prairies. At times the road dipped into deep rough and rocky valleys and then ascended into soft yellow glowing grasslands. I pulled over several times to get photographs and in doing so managed to pick up a nail in my rear tire. I noticed the bike was wobbling a bit in the corners and stopped to investigate. I have learned that if I think that there is a problem for some reason...there is a problem and I must stop and look. Alas, I spotted the leaking tire and the tiny bent nail embedded in the rubber. I pulled out a can of insta-flate and this got me to the next little town that had a hotel that had "Economical Hotel $100" painted on the side of the red brick building. I pulled in and asked the man with a moustache and cowboy hat about accomidations and indeed they had a room available. I checked in and confirmed the price. The guy blabbed on in bad english that, yes, the room was a hundred dollars. I corrected him that it was 100 pesos.....then he corrected me that it was 150 pesos...then I mentioned that there was a larger than life Picaso billboard on his building stating that it was 100 pesos. He repled that my room had two beds.....I repled that I was sleeping in one of the two beds. We quickly reached a stalemate. I was the only one who knew that I had a flat tire in the parking lot so I quickly pulled 120 pesos which he happily accepted and then offered his garage to me for bike parking so it worked out well for me in the end.
In the morning I rode over to a gas station to inflate the tire and managed to limp the bike over to a tire change place. It was 8:30am and I had to get some 60 year old man to help me. In the beginning he did'nt know what to do so I let him go at it for a little while before jumping in (30 seconds) and then just took over using all his tools and work place. I got him to help me! After watching all the other skilled tire changers in South America do their trade I feel that I'm getting good at it as well. The old fella had some tricks up his sleeve and together we had both my tires changed (the ones that I been carrying since Ushuaia and Buenas Aires) and a new tube in place to continue my journey to the Curenta Casa's in Madera.
I pulled into Hidlago del Parral and filled up with gas and decided to have some taco's at a local joint. Just then I saw a speeding 15 passenger Ford van with 7-8 masked men dressed in black with machine guns blast by with the doors open. Then another truck full of men and then another followed by a few police trucks. I finished up my meal and decided that I was heading outta town to the country after that.
I still had enough daylight to make it into Batoplias and I followed up a winding road that could have passed for some park in Alberta lined with pine tress and mountains. I began a descent down a hairy dirt road that just kept getting progressively more narrow and steep as the Km's clicked by. At some points I couldn't resist but to look down and in doing so I felt like I was gonna drive right over the edge and enjoy a solid 40 second free fall into the 1500meter deep canyon. The descent was so far, that the road was nearly 30km long using switchbacks and cutting along the mountain to descend 1.5 km vertically into the very warm river gorge.
I tried checking into the hotel that the guide book suggested called Monse's place in Batoplias but there was a Funeral going on in town and all the rooms were taken. The owner, Monse, suggested the next place over that was 150 pesos per night. I thought, "perfect this is going to be easy". I checked into the place next door and I was told that the room was 200 pesos. I informed the man that I was told by Monse that the rooms were 150 each. To that statement the owner simply repled that the price was increased as there was no more availabilty at Monses ..."take it or leave it"! These peope are so stupid because that comment confirmed that I was staying only one night and heading outta there in the morning rather than spending 2 days there to enjoy the town.....typical....." plan for today, not for the future".
It rained hard for about 2 hours that night and while eating dinner I met a couple named Robert and Madalin from Sweden who also arrived in this little village by motorcycle. They were just starting out on their trip so over a few beers we chatted late into the evening sharing stories and enjoying the company of similar minded individuals.
The road out of Batoplias in the morning was no problem at all and although I had to back track up the rough road it seemed like a new road in the opposite direction. Twice I nearly lost control but thanks to the knobby tire I put on the day before it gripped well and saved my bacon.
I was on my way to the Curenta Casas and pulled into Madera stopping briefly at a hotel that advertised tourist information. Upon entering the hotel I asked about the 40 casas and was given a pamphlet. I asked about a few minor details including hours and parking etc. The girl working the desk informed me that she'd never been and had no idea. I was astonished because I just rode 2500km to get there and only 43km down the road from her town were the ruins and she'd never been?
Anyhow I kept everying low profile and began seaching out accomidation for the night and happened upon some log cabins at a lake that were advertised as a "hostal" on a highway sign. The guy wanted 400 pesos a night and I got chatting and got him down to 350 and for the tranquillity of the place and the ambience of the log cabin it was well worth the price after sleeping in mosquito infested, cigarette burned pillow cases and plastic beds etc. It was so quiet that the silence was making me nervous. For 8 months I have had loud music, loud people, cars, motorcycles, slamming doors, A/C, Fans, birds, roosters, barking dogs, crying babies.....the list is endless which has been in my surroundings. Now there was silence and only my own thoughts to hear. As I was alone in a log cabin that was creeking in the wind and with the occasional bump in the night my mind started wandering. I began repeating the conversation between the men at the cabin office where by one of the fellows stated that my wallet was full of dinero. (Its unbelieveable how nosy...curious some of the people are that they'll peer right into your wallet so that you're looking at their scalp while you're pulling out a few bills to pay, or if I need to open up my motorcycle boxes how I get swarmed my curious onlookers positioning for a better vantage point) I actually prepared a open knife beside my bed for the night just so that I'd be ready for my midnight visitor. Call it paranoid or what ever but having a gun in your face and a machette touted at you for 5 minutes of your life and you'll look at things differently from then on.
In the morning I awoke and had the bike packed early. I rode up to the gate entrance to the 40 Casa's and noticed that it wasn't open yet....should have known better it was 5 minutes before 9:00 am silly me! It was then that I head someone whistling I looked around and finally saw a fellow in a red shirt motioning me to enter his yard. I decided to pull in and see what all the fuss was about and I was soon sitting at an outdoors table having an egg buritto and coffee as a kind gesture from Jesus and his son Diego. I told them about my plan to hike into the 40 Casas and asked if they would like to join me for the walk. After a short pause the father and son changed their clothes and hopped on their mountain bikes to lead me down a 2km dirt road to the trail head.
I parked the bike and followed the guys on a 2 km walk that was essentially 1km down and 1 km up to the Casas. The casas are dated to be roughly 1300yrs old. One piece of information I read was that the site had been in use from pre-ceramic to about 1340 when it was ramsacked and destroyed by a neighboring tribe as this spot was a great vantage point along an important trade route.
Anyhow the site was beautiful and I mentioned to Jesus that I'd love to live at that site today overlooking the green mountains and breathing the fresh pine scented air. He agreed and the three of us rested at the ruins for the better part of 45 minutes just taking it in.
After hiking back along the same route we finally made it back to Jesus' and Diegos summer cabin and had a feed of beef burrito's that Jesus prepared over the outdoor stove. The meal was delicious and a great meal to replenish some energy. Jesus offered me a place to stay for the night but I for some reason declined making up some excuse that I needed to get to Chihuahua. Looking back at the photos later that day I was saddened that I did'nt get to know these wonderful people better and that I opted to head off into a city and to a more impersonal environment.
Tomorrow I will push for the US border and hopefully enter with out too many problems.

1 comment:

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