Ride South: Espinazo del Diablo to Durango

Mazatlan can at times treat you to a fantastic sunset.

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Sunsets like this can really ruin your plans of getting up early…

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In the morning, we found ourselves leaving somewhat later than expected after breakfast and hit the turnoff for the MEX-40 ‘Libre’ (free) around 11.

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México has an elaborate system of ‘Cuota’ and ‘Libre’ roads, often designated with a ‘-D’ suffix behind the route number. Cuota are well-paved, well-maintained but pricy toll roads. The Cuota to Mazatlan was said to be a true engineering marvel, as it has one of the highest suspension bridges in the world. Nevertheless, we stuck to the ‘Libre’.

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Not only is the road free, but it also is one of the most twisty (and dangerous) roads in México, with incredible hairpin turns at high altitude with sheer cliff drops.

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Somehow, this type of road just never gets old.

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We were absolutely gasping non-stop at the views and delighted with joy at the pleasure of riding such a curvy road on the bikes.

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Fun fact: we crossed the Tropic of Cancer while on this road, as we wound up going a bit North onto the backbone of the Sierra Madre Occidental. It would be our second time crossing it, and not the last time…

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I think the Devil’s Backbone is easily one of the best roads for motorcycling I have ever been on.

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From the Libre, the Cuota is at times visible, sometimes as a massive overpass…

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Or intersection.

But sometimes fairly far away. We caught a look at the incredibly impressive suspension bridge at one point:

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Around 4:30 we stopped for some food (delicious, tiny local burritos) and assessed the remaining light.

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Stuart also assessed the puppies of the area.

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While our pace was pretty high, with our plentiful photography stops we did not have enough time to make it to Durango before dark.

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We have agreed not to ride at night — far too dangerous with poorly lit vehicles, wildlife and possible local cartel activity — so we had to find a spot to camp.

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A short, beautiful ride later we found ourselves at a military checkpoint on the Sinaloa – Durango border and asked the soliders if there was a place to stay nearby. They recommended Mexicillo. As the last light slipped away we rolled into the town of La Cuidad.

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La Cuidad is nestled in a valley at the top of the massif of the Sierra Madre Occidental. At its high altitude it is encircled by thick pine forest and rocky outcroppings, trapping the wood fire smoke of the town. The entire town seemed to be in a blanket of blue smoke.

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We asked around and got conflicting information about a possible campground or hotel.

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… but eventually two boys hopped on a scooter and rode us into the forest to the local ‘Parco Turistco’.

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We thanked them with a few pesos. A gregarious old man waved us inside his cabin and we warmed up a bit next to his fireplace as we inquired about the prices for cabins.

The cabins were a bit out of our price range, so we opted to camp for the night, instead. Once we set up the tents we headed into town to find food and spent the entire evening at a fantastically kind family the invited us inside by the fire and cooked for us and brought us beers.

We retreated into our tent filled with delicious Mexican mountain food and passed right out after an exhausting day on the road.

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