Crossing the border into Mexico at Douglas/Aqua Prieta a small border crossing close to Bisbee. We arrived there at midday and spend 2 hours getting ourselves and our bikes checked in. You need to leave a deposit for the bike of 400 USD + the tourist visa cost 262 USD and Mexican insurance for 58 USD, so quite an expensive day.
The border patrol staff were polite and efficient. Double checked all our papers, and double checked again. We received a temporary import document for the bikes and they promised us that we will get the 400 USD back again, when we leave Mexico.
The difference between the US and Mexico was enormous. You immediately step into a different universe. The cars are older – lots of wrecks, the buildings colorful and in need maintenance. You see lots of people walking with heavy bags or bicycling. There are stray dogs everywhere and livestock on the roads.
From the border town we rode on some long straight roads and later some beautiful winding road through the desert landscape to Moctezuma in Sonorra. The road was in very good condition and there were hardly any cars. 20 miles after the border there was an additional border control, where our import papers were controlled and double checked with the VIN number on the bike. No pictures allowed. Further down the road, there was what looked as local militia with machine guns. They just waived us by.
Moctezuma was a nice little town with a few hotels. We couldn’t find a place to camp anywhere and went for a nice air conditioned hotel. The hotel owner (Jesus) was extremely nice and spoke very well English. He let us drive the bikes inside, the reception. He told us that there was a wedding in town, and everybody would attend, so restaurants would close early – and we should go to the wedding party. We never found the party, but there was an awesome atmosphere in the town. Music everywhere, a lot of people outside and we enjoyed strolling around town.
Bikes parked in a nice and safe place inside.
Cooking in the hotel room.
Every Mexican town has a nice plaza with a beautiful church.
The following day we headed for the beach at Bahia de Kino. From Moctezuma to Hermesillo we went through beautiful dry mountains with lots of bush and cactus. The road was awesome, but we had to take it easy due to the frequent donkeys, horses and cows. They stand right when you come round a tight corner. And there was fallen rocks everywhere, so we were just cruising nice and easy.
We stopped for a coffee break at this little cafe. There was a military post on the road, but they didn’t allow us to take pictures.
At lunch we stopped at one of the many taquerias
From Hermosillo we went 80 km on a long straight road to the beach. Not a lot to see except for these enormous cactus. The wind was dry and hot. Forget standing up – the wind burns.
As we got closer to the temperature dropped a bit which was lovely. In Denmark the sea is always close by so we couldn’t wait to see the ocean again after 4 months. Bahia de Kino is a beautiful quiet little beach town with white houses and an amazing beach on Mar De Cortez and we jumped right into the waves and stayed there the rest of the day.
Don’t need no other entertainment than this
The next morning we headed to San Carlos along small straight roads through a large agricultural area. We saw lots of people walking on the remote roads in the sun, carrying heavy luggage and pick-up trucks loaded with people on the back – probably heading for a vegetable field to work. We saw a guy with nothing but plastic bags on his body.
The Mexicans are very religious people and we see a lot of road side alters with fresh flowers and burning candles.
Livestock on the road is pretty scary and they are everywhere.
Finally in San Carlos. It’s stinking hot and we try to stay hydrated.
San Carlos was a mixed experience. The Totonaka RV park was very nice, but the beach was dirty and part of the town that we saw wasn’t very interesting. To us it seemed like a place catering for the less affluent American tourist. Lots of signs for dental practices and restaurants serving burgers.
Fresh picked grapefruit from the threes at the RV park is an awesome breakfast.
We headed for Creel in Copper Canyon. We chose the less traveled road and enjoyed the amazing ride in the mountains with very few cars and few trucks.
Lunch stop in Rosario was the best so far.
Spend the night in Yecora in a nice and clean hotel and were very pleased with our first vegetable shopping experience: 4 bananas, 1 cucumber, 2 tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 avocado, 2 limes for less than 2 bucks!
The road from Yecora to Creel was even more amazing. It was newly paved and one continuation of smooth curves op and down the green mountain. Still hardly any cars and the few trucks, were nice to let us pass. They use their left blinker when it’s safe to pass them, which is really cool.
We dared to burn a little bit more of rubber on the sides, but still had to be cautious of the livestock on the road.
Late afternoon we arrived in Creel, where we waived down a guy on a KLR. It was a young guy Chris from Kansas City who was traveling solo through the 35 UN countries in North and South America. Chris gladly showed us the way to the main street and helped us find a cheap hotel.
Chris with his KLR.
Went for dinner with Chris who’s an extremely intelligent young man, who likes to talk about the world we live in, the universe, our future, our past, free will, destiny, religion and much more. He was from an ultra-religious and conservative family but as a kid, he couldn’t accept that a lot of the information he got in school didn’t fit in with the story he got from the bible. Like how can you explain the existence of dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago if god created the world 6000 years ago. And his experience from traveling, confirmed his skepticism against the rigid beliefs he grew up with. Chris works as a photographer and does portraits of people he meet in all 35 countries. Check out his website and amazing pictures.
Chris joined us for a trip to Batopilas at the bottom of the Copper Canyon. So we headed out for an amazing ride on roads with endless curves and hairpins first on pavement and later on a long windy dirt road. The road was so scary at points that simply I couldn’t stop and make photos. It made me dizzy and scared to look down at the switchbacks below me. I had to keep focusing on the piece of dirt in front of me.
Enjoying the view. We met a group of Mexicans who were working on the road construction. The road to Batopilas will be paved in a few years.
One of the guys spoke really good English. He had been living in Denver for 16 years, working there, marrying and raising his kids. One day he got a ticket for speeding, and since he didn’t have a permit for living in the US he was deported. He was now working here for $150 a week. He was gonna go back over the border in December though. We wished him good luck and cross our fingers that he makes it back to his family. I wonder what would happen if all illegal Mexican were deported. Who would work in the hotels and restaurants. Who would work in the American vegetable and fruit fields for low wages. And a huge market would disappear. These people are also customers in the US economy. They just have no rights and can expect to be deported any day.
On a distance this looks like a nice long flat road. It’s not really.
Crossing Batopilas river on a beautiful old bridge.
Having a break in the shade.
30 km before Batopilas we stopped at a small village La Bufa. Here we met Cherry from Iowa who had lived there the last 20 years. She was running a beautiful little store and served us ice cold cokes and gave us avocado from her garden. The town had only 8 people and she loved it. A Tarahumara indian was watching her shop, and we think it was her boyfriend.
When we finally arrived in Batopilas we were very surprised to find that it was a relatively large village with lots of people and cars – especially since the only way in and out of the village was the long and windy dirt road we came down on.
Batopilas is an old silver mining town dating back to 1802. The area has generated more silver than Kongsberg in Norway. It is now a lively town with cool abarrotes ( grocery stores) and a lovely local museum.
We met a nice dutch couple in Batopilas. They have lived in Mexico for several years and gave us really good advise about places to go. They also told us about another possible other way out of the canyon, rather than going back the same way we came in. We were gonna visit the local museum and get more info on that road.
Every year there’s a ritual of riding the old silver mining trails from Batopilas to Chiuahuahua on horses and mules. It takes them 13 days through rugged terrain.
Barranca de Cobre is the homeland of the Tarahumara Indians, one of the oldest indigenous indian tribes in North America. When the Spanish conquistadors invaded their territory the Indians moved further into the wilderness of Barranca de Cobre and they still live here. The women wear beautiful colorful long cotton skirts and shirts. The men wear something that looks like a pair of white shorts, but is more a folded piece of fabric and a green shirt. We saw the beautiful Indians walking on the remote roads or sitting in groups in the shade under a tree.
Chis, the photographer, had to stretch to get a picture of the tall viking 🙂
We decided to camp by the river and found a little spot outside of Batopilas. It seems like there’s children everywhere in Mexico and sure enough within a few minutes, we had a little crowd around us. We cooked a nice tortilla dinner and enjoyed the campfire and Chris’ company.
After dark the stony riversides got a bit to lively for me. Every stone was a house and the house owner was a spider. Small stone, small spider – large stone , large spider. When you put your headlight on, you would see thousands of small spider eyes shine – eeeeeew! I had weird arachnophobia dreams that night.
Next day we did some bike maintenance and got fuel.
The place for fuel in Batopilas.
Originally we thought that we also had to turn back and ride the same way out of Copper Canyon, until we heard that you could ride out through the canyon in a south-west direction – even if there’s no road on any map. We talked to a man at the local museum in Batopilas and he assured us that even if the road was not on the GPS or any map, it was not a problem. 2 hours of road similar to what we did the day before, 2 hours easy dirt and 4 hours paved road to the coast.
Chris was going back the same way we came in, so we said goodbye to him in Batopilas.
Our way out of the canyon turned out to be quite a challenge! The first 8 km to the mission in Saveto was easy.
The mysterious cathedral in Saveto. Nobody knows who built it, or why.
The following 4 hours was extremely difficult. Worse than any of the riding we ever did. Very steep, tight turns and loose rock and a long stretch was in a riverbed with deep sand. My rear tire had very little pattern left and the weight our luggage didn’t help of course – and we were probably heavier loaded than ever. There were no signs, so several times we had to guess if we should take a right or a left. I had a very hard time that first day.
Here we had to decide to turn left or right. No sign or any indications of where to go. After a little break in the shade Lars decided for left.
Every time we met someone or went past a house, we stopped and asked for directions for Tubares, and how long it would take us to go there, and every time we got the same answer “Todo directo una hora y media”. Just go straight for 1,5 hours.
Crash #4 (forgot to get a picture of crash #3)
Surrounded by amazing scenery.
A local farmer told us (we think) that we had to make a right turn when we got to the river and ride in the river bed. When we reached the river, we did just that, even if there was a road crossing the river. We really wasn’t sure if this was right, but we thought that as long as we were by the river we couldn’t be too way of. Just when we thought loose rocks were our worst enemy, a new one appeared: Sand!
I was a beautiful ride on the riverbed, but a little hard to enjoy it in the burning heat and the deep sand. We were getting pretty exhausted from picking up the heavy bike.
Finally Lars showed me a little sympathy and went down with the KLR. I made me feel just a tiny bit better.
Crash #8 (Sorry! No picture of #7)
After crashing 8 times I was so exhausted and both bike and I were boiling from going first gear in the sun. Besides we had no idea how long we had to continue in the sand, so we decided to put our tent up on the riverbed and camp for the night.
Of course there’s people, donkeys and dogs everywhere in Mexico, and suddenly we hear a “Hola”. From the top of the little canyon a man looks down at us. We ask if we can camp there and he says “si, si”. He sends his 2 kids down with a bag of peanuts for us. It’s Friday evening and I think we were pretty good entertainment for them. 2 weird looking bikers in their river! The kids stayed and played with us. They hunted a iguana with their slingshot, and catched tiny fish and eventually they invited us up for dinner.
They were such a sweet and smiling family with cute little puppies. They lived in a simple farmers house – more like a shed actually. But mom kept it clean and very nice. They had 40 cows and a vegetable field and fruit trees. They got their water from the river where we camped. (And where a lot of cows were grassing). They were so loving to each other and curious and seemed very intelligent. The boys made me take a lot of photos of them and movies where they tried to count to ten in English. And they laughed so hard, because they never got it right. So a rough day ended in a fantastic way visiting this little family whom we would never have met otherwise.
We later found out that this was our location when we camped in the canyon.
The riding the following day started equally hard as the day before. Already within the first half hour I went down twice and eventually broke my clutch lever.
Day 2 – crash #1
Day 2 – crash #2
Luckily I carried a spare clutch lever. We fixed it in a small pueblo with a lot of young people with machine guns – a bit weird! They were all nice to us though.
Fixing the damage: bend gear lever, broken clutch lever and windscreen was coming of.
After 4 hours the road got wider and less steep. But it was sandy and we could only go in second gear for what seemed like forever. We met several military platoons on the way, but they weren’t interested in us. Just smiled and waived. Every time we climbed up a canyon, we thought it was the last one, but then it just went down and down again into a new canyon and then up and up again.
Finally at 5 pm when we finally hit pavement again we were so relieved. It had been 3 days of tiring dirt roads and for sure the hottest and toughest ride we have ever done, but also an incredible experience.
More or less every person we have meet on our trip so far has warned us about Mexico, but we quickly realized that the people who warned us had never been to Mexico – or they had done short trips to have their teeth fixed. The media portrays the same image. Every person we have met who had traveled in Mexico all spoke very warmly of the country. And we are pleased to say they the later are right. So far Mexico is very good to us.