“It is fatal to know too much at the outcome: boredom comes as quickly to the traveler who knows his route as the novelist who is over certain of his plot.” – Paul Thoreau, To the Ends of the Earth
Days: 14h April – 25th April 2016
Kilometers until 25th April: 11.716
Wait, are we in already Mexico? But where is the border? We crossed a small gate where some Mexican waved us to continue and then… we were driving in Mexicali, the first city after the border. I knew there was something wrong. We had to get our visas and permits for the cars before driving south. Martin was happy we crossed so easily and wanted to continue but I had a bad feeling. We had to go back!
Crossing the border
I had to use my basic Spanish from the first minute in Mexico. As a result of me mixing up totally the verbs “want”, “can” and “must”, it took us around an hour to find our way to the other border 20 km east where we could get our permits. We arrived 15 minutes before closing time. The border officer turned out to be extremely kind to work 45 minutes after his official working time to finish the processing of our documents so that we didn´t need to wait until the next morning. The whole time, in the dark neighbourhood after the border, there was loud Mexican music playing from somewhere. As if the country was telling us “Welcome”.
First days in the middle of wild Mexico
The northern parts of Mexico in the state of Sonora are not recommended for travellers due to drug cartel problems. Obviously, everyone is taking this warning extremely serious because the first 3-4 days we didn´t encounter any other foreigners. More than that, it seemed that, other than the people who lived here, noone else really visited these areas. It was the wild Mexico. We drove along the Pacific coastline to be able to escape the desert heat at any moment by jumping in the ocean.
For the nights, we stopped in random small fisherman villages. There as the sun set, the music arose. The local fisherman fiestas were on the streets and the DJ was normally an old Mexican guy with a loud radio on his bike, just riding around and keeping the mood up. The looks the people threw at us said enough: “What the hell are you guys doing in these areas?”. At the same time, everyone was very polite to show us the way… or drag us out of the sand where we got stuck. Everything was extremely cheap here, especially the accommodation. I slept either in my car or in a tent on the beach. And despite all the warnings, I did not feel in danger in any minute of those first days.
The landscape did not change much during the 5-6 hours of driving every day. Sand and rocks. The view increased the feeling of being in an abounded part of the country. It took me three days before I got finally pulled over by the police and had to prove my bribing skills. It all ended with a smile and 10$ less in my pocket.
On the forth day, the adventure had to start.
The Mexican Nicola Tesla and a crazy day in Hermosillo
On the morning of the fourth day, as I was folding my tent on the beach an older guy started to talk to me. To my biggest surprise, his English was excellent. His name was David. He was carrying water from the ocean… but why? According to his words, it was for the scientific experiments he was performing. He was using ocean water to create nano-particle materials, with which he could capture the plasma energy in the air around us and use it to energize the plants in his organic farm. Probably you need to read the last sentence again because I had to hear his answer several times as well before believing my ears. He also invited us to stay at his place in Hermosillo and visit his organic farm on the next day. Obviously, we just found one of the strangest Mexicans around so… we agreed. In his house, he showed us his many “scientific” devices for the experiments. It´s amazing how much a person can build with a battery, copper wires, water and passion. And he had passion, that´s for sure. Martin, the Czech buddy I was travelling with, was a PhD student in theoretical physics so the discussion heated up soon as the crazy theories of David met with the physics knowledge of Martin… “You cannot produce Nano particles just like that!”. “Of course I can, how else can you explain how I capture the plasma energy and my plants grow faster?”. It was a comedy show to watch them discuss. Anyway, despite his strangeness David was very kind to us the whole time. Watching him passionately discussion his physical theories I was suddenly struck – he looked exactely like the Mexican version of Nicola Tesla!!! For me, the strangest physical phenomenon of the whole stay was the ability of me and Martin to swollow so much Mexican food in such a short time. It could be explained by some black hole in our stomach, or maybe by the unbelievable cooking skills of Tesla´s… sorry… David´s mother.
In the evening David invited us to visit some friends of his. The night started slow by chatting with the guys, having a tortilla soup and playing guitar. After a certain amount of alcohol and other “stuff”, the band leader started talking openly about his life. As an ex-drug-cartel member, he had been deported from USA and was not allowed to enter most of the western world countries. “No, don´t go there! The cartels are active there now” he said as he saw our planned route. Following his advices, we changed our plan to drive along the coast and decided to enter deeper into the country and drive through the state of Chihuahua to avoid the cartel active Sinaloa. His stories and the way he was telling them were extremely funny but at the same time slightly discouraging. Then it was time to drive back to David´s house. Just as I thought the crazy day was coming to an end, the police stopped us because of the huge barrel with ocean water on the back of David´s car. When they found out that David had drunk and used some opiates, we all had to go out of the car and the big questioning started. I had to switch on my Spanish fast and any grammer mistake could be costy. After the police searched us through (and fortunately did not find anything illegal in us or the car), David had to bribe them so they let us go. An hour later I was in the bed, not believing how much happened since I woke up in the tent this morning. Mexico was showing its crazy side.
On the next day Martin fell sick, so we stayed at David´s organic farm around 100 km from Hermosillo. It was truly beautiful place. There, together with his parents, I learnt how to prepare fresh cactus as a snack. Until Martin got better, I relaxed at the farm, enjoying the hospitality of David and his parents and helping them with the farm activities. One morning, we decided it´s time to go.
Copper canyon and the dangers of Chihuahua
Our next goal was Copper canyon. The way up to the mountain areas of the Chihuahua state would take us 12 hours of driving. As the winding roads were leading us deeper into the mountain, the surroundings felt more extreme. We saw “civilians” with guns and covered faces to pull out vehicles on the road. Sometimes they just walked on the streets with their weapons. The owners of a small restaurant on the road allowed us to stay in front of the restaurant overnight for more safety. After we entered the state of Chihuahua, the police presence was stronger and we felt safer. The landscape changed from desert to… mountain desert. Still, the mountain offered us some cool views. My beloved car, Rocinante, was running as new and never complained about the quite bad road conditions. It just jumped over the bumps which were hitting his bottom and kept driving further even more motivated than before.
Creel was our base point for exploring the Copper canyon. Its size is comparable with the Grand Canyon, and I must say – its beauty too. The extraordinary views were intensified by the remoteness of this place. Before the criminal issues, it had been the most famous place for trekking in Mexico. Now, the most people in this place were the local communities and tribes which lived in the Canyon.
The lake nearby where we camped overnight, offered us some astonishing views in the morning.
Martin and I decided to devote some time to climbing. In the canyon itself there weren´t any established sports climbing routes but we could repel from one tree and climb one of the nice looking and challenging walls.
For more extended climbing, we headed again north close to Basaseachi – the second-highest waterfall in Mexico. The view from the waterfall was impressive but the most amazing surprise was the small pool that the water was building just before its suicidal jump from 246m height. Due to the low water level, we could actually climb down to the pull and refresh there. One by one, we decided to express our nudity and impress the local chichas (none of which were there at that point).
The climbing in the area of Basaseachi was challenging and a lot of fun. Martin, a climber with 12 years of experience, could teach me something and definitely brought me to my limits.
Soon, I felt like continuing south. The last night in Creel, we met with an Austrian backpacker, who spends half of every year travelling and the other half doing research in Biochemistry as a major assistant in the university of Vienna. He agreed on travelling with us further south, sharing on the way his years of travelling experience which covered more than 100 countries in the world. The 16 hours of driving passed so fast in the interesting conversation. Soon, the desert landscape was replaces by the almost forgotten green colour of fresh plants. One morning, we saw a palm tree in the distance. We were entering different Mexico.
Thanks for the great edits to my editor: Natali Kancheva
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