From Desert to Mountain Forests: Santa Rosalia - Guaymas - Yacora - Creel

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North America » Mexico
August 31st 2009
Published: August 31st 2009
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We finished off our exploration of the Baja in Santa Rosalia, where we would catch the ferry over to Guaymas on the mainland. we picked what was probably the nicest hotel in town, el Hotel del Morro. it was just south of town on a cliff overlooking the ocean. all the rooms had a private patio overlooking the ocean, and secured by iron bars to keep out thieves I guess. We discovered that it also keeps guests in... The hotel had a wireless internet connection, and I found that the signal was weak inside the room, but was usable on the patio. I sat down outside with my laptop and was uploading some pictures to Flickr when Bruce joined me. He closed the sliding door behind him as the air conditioning was on. A short time later, I got up to go inside and discovered that the sliding door was locked! What now? We had checked in relatively early, about 3 pm, and the hotel was deserted. With the iron bars, we were prisoners on the deck. We sat for a half hour waiting to see if anyone would come around. Nobody. I tried to find an email for the hotel, but nothing was evident on Google. My cell phone was in the room. Now what?

A short time later, the sliding door opened two rooms down, and a boy of about 10 came outside. “Por favor” I said, “somos embloqueado, necesitamos ayuda”. he glanced sideways at me, then pretended that he didn't see me or hear me, then went back inside and closed the curtains, and peeked out at me. I waived my arms to try to get his attention to no avail.
Ok, now what? Bruce and I sat thinking. “What would Macgiver do?” I asked. We decided he'd take inventory of the things available and fashion some kind of solution. We had two chairs, a computer, and one plastic coat hangar, and whatever Bruce had in his wallet. We tried using a plastic card from Bruce's wallet, sliding it down to move the lever that locked the door. It didn't work, as we found later the locking mechanism didn't work that way. What next? The sliding doors ride on rails - could we take the door off? We lifted the door and did manage to get part of it off the rails, but the side with the lock wouldn't budge. I looked at the coat hangar. if we could get the one side of the door off the rail enough that I could get my arm in with the coat hangar, I might be able to flick the locking lever up. After some more lifting and grunting, we managed to get a space for me to get my arm in, and move the lever with the hangar. But now, the door was stuck off the rails. Good thing I learned how to swear in Spanish, I used lots of it before the door was back on and finally open. During all of this, the temperature outside was about 35 degrees and humid, time for a shower!

Friday we had the day to kill, the ferry didn't leave until 8 that night. We organized a late departure with the front desk (for half the daily rate), then we went off to a town about half an hour's ride south that apparently has the only river on the baja that runs year round. It was like an oasis in the desert, the whole valley a lush green with thousands of date palms growing. We followed the river to the mouth on the ocean where we found a small bar where we sat by the ocean for drink and a rest in the shade.

We arrived at the ferry at the requested time, 6 pm, two hours before sailing. Nobody was around. Gradually, people started arriving. It appears that the Baja is treated by Mexico as a bit of a different country as there was a customs and immigration check before we boarded. The miltary also came around with a dope-sniffing dog and checked everyone out. The ferry was small in terms of what I am used to for the Canadian gulf islands. it held perhaps a dozen vehicles, but was clearly very well maintained: fresh paint, and clean everywhere. I noticed the crew washing the vehicle deck floor before we boarded. As it is a small boat, every vehicle was strapped down on the deck before we set sail. They provided me with cinch straps for my motorcycle and I strapped it down too. The sea was fairly quiet that night, but the boat seems to get into this rock and roll rhythm anyway, so I could see why the tie-downs were necessary.

It remained pretty hot outside all night, and I was glad for the air conditioned passenger lounge on the boat. most of the seats were taken by passengers that stretched out over several to sleep, so I just found a piece of floor and spread out to sleep. Not being much of a sailor, I took a gravol pill and it helped me get to get a bit of sleep. We arrived in Guaymas about 7 the next morning to a brilliant sunrise and were greeted by the army with another dope-sniffing dog. All very friendly though, and we were soon on our way.

We had a great ride all day as the road slowly wound its way up into the mountains in central Mexico. the road was paved and in good condition, with lots of the curves that make riding a motorcycle fun. The temperature quickly climbed up into the mid-thirties, then slowly dropped back down to about 30 as we climbed.

We arrived in Yecora about 3 pm and decided that is was where we should spend the night (our travel plan is to ride early each day and try to find our accommodation by mid-afternoon). I figured a good strategy is to ask locals where the best place to stay is, so while gassing up the bikes, I asked the attendant and he gave me directions. The hotel he recommended turned out to be on the corner at the centre of this small town. As we unpacked, we started to see the start of the Saturday night life. I don't know what the population is in this town, perhaps a few thousand. The downtown area, if you could call it that, is about two blocks square. We couldn't figure out why the main street was so busy with traffic until we started seeing the same vehicles over and over again. It appears that everyone continually drives around the block on Saturday night, guns their engines, spray gravel a bit. All of this right out the front door of our motel room. we started to notice that this must be a cowboy town when people started showing up on horseback and cruising the streets as well. Bruce walked to the town square and saw a young man trying to impress a girl with his trained horse. The front porch of the hotel was right at the busiest corner of town. That evening, Bruce and I ordered supper at the restaurant inside, then asked if we could eat out at a table on the porch - we wanted to watch the show!

Earlier in the evening, we walked to a grocery store to buy some stuff for breakfast, and on our way back to the room, we met some of our neighbours at the motel. Angel is a middle-aged man who works in the construction business. He told me that business is booming in Mexico right now. He lives on the coast north of Guaymas, but is doing lots of work in the Yecora area. He said that lots of people from the hot coastal area are building homes in the mountains when they retire. It is a lot cooler up there. He specializes in floors and walls, and had a small crew of men with him, who I met as well. Some had their wives with them. We stood around outside for an hour talking about life in Canada and Mexico, our motorcycle trip, and the economy, and even how the free trade agreement was changing business in each of our countries.

The noise shut down mostly by 11 pm, which was about when we went to bed. I slept pretty well after the poor night's sleep on the ferry.

The next morning while packing, I discovered that a sun screen bottle had leaked in my top case all over my maps for South America and a few clothes. After a delay to clean up the mess, we were on out way to Creel. Creel is at the northern end of the “Barranca del Cobre” or Copper Canyon. Many comparisons are made to the Grand Canyon in the United States. During our ride that day, we continually climbed up and down mountainous areas, gradually getting higher as we went. The land started to look like a linked series of canyons, apparently what we expect to see in the Copper Canyon. The road was in very good condition, and like the roads from the day before, relentless curves and switchbacks with jaw-dropping vistas around every corner. With the twisty roads and all the stops for pictures, we were not making very good time. The distance we had to drive that day was not great, only 230 kilometers or so, but we only managed about 35 kilometers in the first hour. We turned off the road we were on to the more direct route to Creel. Again, another great road with fresh pavement. This continued on for a while, then we hit a patch of gravel. I worried a bit that we had gravel for the rest of the way, but the road returned to pavement a short time later. Then another gravel patch. Not to worry, back to pavement again. The next time the pavement ran out, it didn't want to come back. The road continually got worse as we picked our way through it, making 20 or 30 kilometers an hour. At this pace, we wouldn't make Creel before dark. The road continued to climb. There were a few wet spots, one in particular worried me. I had to dog-paddle my bike along a single-track with a drop-off on one side and a lake on the other. That was the worst part of the day, but only a hundred feet long or so. After an hour and a half on the gravel we ran into a construction crew working on the road. I stopped to ask how far it was to Creel: it was another 80 kilometers! My heart dropped. Then I asked how far until the road improved: 4 more kilometers of gravel until the pavement started. Relief! Once the pavement started, the road also straightened out, and we got our speed back up to 80 or 90 kph. Over the day, the climate change continued as we went further east and climbed higher. From the desert on the coast to the low-brush range lands around Yacora, to now pine forests. We started to see signs of forest industries. Our altitude got to a maximum of about 8800 feet over the final pass before we descended, and Creel sits at about 7800 feet. The climate change also gave us a significant drop in temperature and some rain, the first rain I had seen in about a month! After checking in to a motel, we got back on the bikes to ride into town for supper. On the way into Creel, we saw some other moto travelers on the road. We saw a few in town walking around, so we stopped and talked to them. They were mostly a British group who had their bikes shipped to Anchorage and were heading to Argentina on an organized tour. They aren't wasting time, and will get to Argentina about two months before I do. While we were talking to them, a fellow in a truck passed by, saw our Canadian plates, and stopped to talk to us. A very talkative guy who didn't seem to mind that it had started raining hard while we stood talking. I had seen the dark clouds forming before we left for supper, so I wore my rain jacket. I put my helmet back on to keep the rain off my head... I asked him about the road we took over, how it had such a great start and end, but such bad road in between. He said that the government in Mexico does not demand a performance bond from the road construction companies, so they finish all the easy sections and then go out of business before the tough sections get done. The roads that were finished were, I thought, very high quality. They all had cement curbs and gutters to prevent erosion and to take off rain water. Things just fell apart when the going got tough... Anyway, we did get a name of a good restaurant from him before we parted. The restaurant was on the main street, which was plugged with cars. It seems the driving pattern we saw in Yacora the night before was happening here too. I guess the thing to do in Mexico in the evening is to drive your car up and down the main streets. The thermometer on my bike said 13 degrees when I rode back to the motel. Quite a change from the 42 degrees in the desert!

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 28


Cascada de BasaseachiCascada de Basaseachi
Cascada de Basaseachi

about 1000 feet
San JuanitoSan Juanito
San Juanito


1st September 2009

You look cool Dad. What a magnificent canyon. But I LOVE your adventure stories. Especially the part where you ask "What would Macgiver do?" Hilarious!
1st September 2009

Right behind you!
I'll be parting Los Angeles October 3rd. See you on the road!
2nd September 2009

Glad you got out of "jail"
Hey John, enjoyed your first blog in Mexico - glad you got off the patio tho, wow, that must have been something. Loved the pix...keep them coming! Love Sue

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