Published: December 7th 2010November 28th 2010
We woke early again, well, at 8am anyway. Another travel day, but not too far. As far as Durango
, the capital of Durango state, official name Victoria de Durango, population roughly 460,000. A lot of Hollywood westerns were filmed in Durango back in the day, so it's also known as Tierra del Cinema.
Not a bad place, really. We found a cheap place with a hard bed, but it had a private bathroom, and the building was the best so far. A 200 year old mansion, gracefully crumbling at the edges, with a hodgepodge of architectural influences (Arabic, Spanish, Mexican), converted into a hotel in the early part of last century.
Disappointingly, the Oxxos in Durango don't sell beer, and we were unable to find a bottle shop, but the search for a grog shop meant we went for a nice walk around the centre of Durango, and it's not at all a bad place.
Failing in our quest for the first time, we decided to make do with a few beers at dinner. Happily, in this country, beers at a bar/restaurant are only marginally more expensive than those from a bottle shop.
The place we picked for dinner
was pretty special, too. The huge artwork on the wall gave the initial indication – it contained elements of Japanese art, Thai writing, a bit of Taj Mahal, Chinese characters, and a vaquero with a big sombrero.
But still classy.
The waiter seemed ecstatic to see us, and pointed out the special of the day – two for one sushi – which we duly ordered.
The condiments arrived first, as is usual. The standout was the jalapeño-infused soya sauce. To say I was happy is an understatement.
Through the course of the evening every person working there stopped by our table to make sure we were happy – the waiters, the manager, some guy that I think was the owner but may have been a random businessman in a bad suit. We felt a little famous.
We stayed only the one night in Durango and continued our journey north.
Another travel day. And a long one, which, for some reason, we were unprepared for. Few stops and a bus through the desert meant we were a tad hungry, even with a couple of packets of chips hastily procured from a dusty roadside stop.
We were now into real
desert country, American style. Beautiful, dusty, tough.
I did notice, however, that Mexico has its own weed problems. The obvious woody weed is eucalyptus – I felt both proud of the connection and disappointed in its spread. I couldn't tell what the others were. The mesquite here is not a weed, so I was all confused. I decided I needed to do a bit of googling to find out what sort of weeds problems Mexico had....then my holiday brain took back over, kicking work brain's sorry arse back to the kerb.
Hungry and tired we arrived at Hidalgo del Parrral
. The cab driver from the bus station assured us that it was a nice town. He had been to Kansas and Colorado so spoke excellent English, which was a strangely unwelcome thing, sort of felt like cheating.
Another great hotel - the Hotel Acosta.
Stepping out of the street into the foyer I felt the colour drain from the scene as we stepped into a film noir classic. After ringing up the bill on the old register, next to the black rotary dial telephone, the night auditor led us over to the rickety elevator.
Manually opening both doors
– the solid metal one and the grate, he accompanied us up to the third floor, and showed us to our room. A big room, it had 50s furniture, another phone, and an artfully placed ashtray. The only thing missing was the ceiling fan, slicing the dank air as it turned in languid circles... so, briefly checking the room for Bogart, I flicked on the switch to complete the scene.
The rest of Parral, though, nothing to write home about. The cab driver had talked it up, but it was a little drab; although, to be fair, we probably weren't there long enough to really get a feel for it.
The following day was a relatively short hop to Chihuahua. Picked the cheapest hotel from the LP once again. It was above a bar – the Hotel San Juan.
The taxi driver didn't exactly inspire confidence.
“Hotel San Juan? Es....(insert long pause)...barato.¨
We pulled up out the front, complete with two dodgy looking characters just sort of hanging about.
I said hello in my best north-Mexican Spanish and they brightened. The trick to north-mexican Spanish appears to be to remove all pauses and slur as much as possible, like
The ancient fella behind the desk gave us our key, and booked us in. It was 165 pesos, which is even cheaper than LP said it would be, and pretty basic. It had wifi (although it took a while to explain to the old bloke at the front desk what I wanted when I asked for the password), hot water if you waited a half hour, and a certain...something.
Character, our real estate friend would call it.
Cute, my sister would probably say, like West End.
Many, many code problems, the Architect would say. (An aside – everytime I spell that word I recall Betty from Hey Dad and have no problems).
But the room is fine, and ESPN on the telly. Managed to watch a Champions League game at the far more civilised time of mid afternoon, rather than the 4 am they're on in Brisbane.
We had a walk around the town, and planned our boot shopping attack. We had an extra day here as we wanted to catch the cheap train to Barranca Del Cobre (Copper Canyon) and it only goes on certain days.
The place had a good feel to it, even
with the drug violence reputation. We found a supermarket and bought some stuff, biscuits, etc, for breakfast the next day. We also picked up a litre of El Jimador tequila for around 10 bucks, and it came came with a dinky little hip flask.
Next morning we found our way to the train station, a few blocks down, next to the prison, maybe a 15 minute walk from the centre of town.
El Chepe – the Copper Canyon train. The bloke behind the counter was friendly, an old dude in a hat. He watched us walk in, and gauged that we wanted the tickets for the cheap train tomorrow. Not sure if I should be insulted I looked down at our clothes. They seemed fine so I chose to instead be impressed.
It was time for a bit of touristing, so we found Pancho Villa's house which is now a museum. Only 10 pesos entry and it's a pretty good museum. There were bucketloads of kids there, we were the only ones not in a school group. Good stuff there though, guns, cannons, uniforms, sewing machines, pianos and the car Pancho Villa was killed in, complete with bullet holes.
After sending a few postcards, we went boot shopping. There are dozens of boot shops in Chihuahua and they all seem to be connected – whenever you want to try a different size there is much running up and down the streets to find a suitable pair form the different shops.
An incredible range of boots too; ostrich, snakeskin, pig, crocodile, alligator, all colours. And if boots aren't your thing you can pick yourself up some snakeskin running shoes.
You can get steel capped work boots which look normal under jeans, but with a highly decorative upper halfway up your calf. Like a mullet for you feet – business on your feet, party up your pants.
We remained focused, though, and bought standard animal skin boots; cow for me and pig for Klaire. Nice though, really nice. Glad I brought a big packpack.
Feeling skint and well shopped, we picked up some beer, had a cheap late lunch at a local cafeteria, and went back to the San Juan.
6.30 start tomorrow.
There are more photos below