Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 1 & 2 - Mazatlan!

First off - sorry but there are no pictures at this point. I´m using a computer in a hotel and I have to get permission to download to their system.
We made it to Mazatlan last night but it was a gruelling trip - 867 klm / 14 hours ! Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!
Do any of you remember the movie from the Eighties - An American Werewolf in London? It´s a classic. In one scene they´re told time and time again, don´t walk at night on the Moors. What do they do? Walk at the night on the Moors. And of course, what happens after that is a great movie.
Every guide book, web site and blog ALL say, DON´T drive in Mexico at night. What did we do? Over 200klm last night in the darkest, most desolate stretch of Mexican super highway you can imagine. I guess God favours the brave ( or the stupid in this case ) because we made it safe and sound but never EVER again.
Oh, and by the way, a Honda GL 500 can go 317 klm on a tank of gas. The last 25 of which are on reserve which makes the "pucker factor" even higher. According to my owners manual my bike has a 17 litre gas tank. When we finally made it to a gas station it took 17 litres to fill it so were all on fumes!

Day 1
We left Nogales Az early on Monday morning. OK, not as early as we´d have liked because two that shall remain nameless slept in. Crossing the border into Mexico was a breeze. We must have timed it right because there were no lineups to speak of at all. The whole process takes about 45min but you have to double it because only two of us could go at once so that we always had someone with the gear. After that it was the culture shock of going from Order to Chaos. Clean to Dirty. Organized to Disorganized. We loved it!
The road from the border is a two lane toll highway that´s pretty good. It´s divided highway but not a freeway and we made pretty good time after we finally finished all the paperwork. Our only set back was our first fuel stop. Again, someone who shall remain nameless, (not me, in case you´re wondering) filled their tank with diesel. Hmmmmm.... diesel is spelled the same in Spanish and English. Oh well, a half hour of siphoning later we were back on the road.
Our first night was spent in San Carlos.
One final note for day one - it started out really cold! We´re all wearing mesh hot-weather riding gear so we added every piece of clothing we have. Including our rain gear. We all look like the Michelin Man. By noon it warmed up enough that we could start peeling off layers but it was still chilly all day. Even at 20 degree´s it´s cold when you´re riding a bike at 90kph.
Day 2
Day two started on a better note. Everyone was up at the right time and we have the packing down to a science now. We thought it was cold when we started but as we travelled south we also climbed in altitude. By the time 9:00 rolled around it was absolutely freezing. I´m going to guess somewhere around zero because we could see frost in places!
We stopped for breakfast at a road side stand in the middle of nowhere and we were chilled to the bone. We joined some locals at their table and had a great meal of taco´s and cabbage soup. Hey, it wasn´t coffee but it was hot!
From there it was miles and miles of miles and miles. Northern Mexico is kinda like Montana but just more desert. It´s pretty desolate. The good news though, is although the tolls are fairly steep, the roads just got better and better as we continued south. We went through Obregon, Novajoa, and Los Mochis. All of it on great highways with gas stations every 50 klm.
Around 3:00 we arrived just outside a large city called Culliacan (sp?) and that´s where things fell off the rails. What we SHOULD have done, is simply called it a day and gone into the city for a hotel. But we didn´t like the idea of riding in a city and we had this vague notion that there must be something better just down the road. And just then, as we´re debating the issue over our maps a Mexican overhears us talking about a place on the map called El Dorado. On the map it looks just off the highway a little further south. He tells us, in very broken English that it´s a great place with lots of hotels. Lying bastard! He´s probably still laughing. We decided to give it a try but it turns out it was much further than we thought. We had just gassed up but we had go down the freeway a little further to the turn off, and then in on a secondary road for at least 25 klm. And as we went, it got worse and worse. The town it self was VERY dodgy, with a HUGE sense of lawlessness and NO hotels that we could see. Brad and I have both travelled a lot in Mexico and we both strenuously argued that it wasn´t the place to spend the night. I think the conversation went something like, Oh my God! Let´s get the f!!! out of here! Anyway, the problem of course is it´s now after 4:00 and dusk is just around the corner. We all felt though, that driving at dusk couldn´t be any worse than the current situation so we turned tail and ran.
Except now it´s dusk and the local factory has let out and all the workers are heading home in buses, carts, bikes, cars and donkey´s, none of which have working headlights. 25 minutes in turns into 45 out and it´s getting VERY dark when we finally hit the main road. And HERE is where we made our fatal error.
Do we backtrack 25 klm to Culliacan where we KNOW there will be a hotel or do we continue south hoping to see something? You guessed it - continue south.
Right around the corner we hit another toll booth but this time it was much more expensive and now they referred to the highway as the Autopista rather than just a highway. We paid the toll and continued on - now in full on dark. BIG MISTAKE.
As soon as we cleared the booth it became a full on freeway and the only stretch of road in Mexico with no FREAK´N gas stations!! On top of that, the temperature continued to drop but the were no pullouts that we could stop at to put on more clothes and stopping on the side of the road was too dangerous to even think about. It was a long, cold, dark, very scary drive! As the kilometers racked up the fuel levels dropped and as we neared what we hoped were the lights of Mazatlan, tow of us hit our reserve. When we finally emerged from this surreal hell of a ride we ended up in another toll booth where we could finally pull over and put on the rest of our cloths. At this point - all kidding aside - I´m sure we were approaching hypothermia. Except for Kavan of course, he has an electric vest!. They told us at the toll booth it was 28 klm to Mazatlan, which we finished at only 80kph to conserve fuel. The lights of the first Pemex gas station were a shining beacon of hope in an otherwise dark wasteland of fear and despair! OK, maybe an exaggeration but it would have been a long walk if we had run out of fuel.
The irony of course, is after gassing up we had to drive in city traffic at night to find our hotel - probably the most dangerous part of the whole day!
When we arrived at our hotel it was 14 hours and 867 klm later but all is well.
We picked something nice right downtown because we earned it
We´re going to spend a down day here in Mazatlan to recoup and then the journey will continue


  1. Wow, sounds adventurous already. Say hi to my buddy Steve and keep up the excellent written acount.

  2. Dale! Technology can sometimes be so incredible - it is amazing to be "feeling" all your experiences with you - almost as if we were there with you! I can relate to the driving on fumes experience - only when I have done that it was with the relative safety of a car that could be slept in with locked doors if needed! Great narrative Dale! Looking forward to seeing all the pictures!