The morning we approach Mazatlán with with ferry we can spot some whales. The others also tell me about some dolphins which were accompanying the ship for a few minutes but unfortunately I was busy packing my bike at that moment. Around 10:30 am we finally reach the harbor and shortly after disembark. We spend some time in the town organizing some spare parts for Simona’s bike and stocking up our food supplies. Somehow there is not much in Mazatlán which attracts us to spend more time there and we ride further south towards Villa Union. Thomas has suggested to stay at the fire department (bomberos). It’s only a short ride of approx. 30 km from Mazatlán but since it’s already past noon on-one in our group wants to pedal further today. After the long Christmas and New Year break in La Paz we all seem to prefer a gentle restart. Only a few km before we arrive Villa Union I have another flat on my rear tire. I definitely collect too many punctures and and I will put on different tires – at latest in Mexico City. Based on the suggestions from most bikers I’ve talked to, I will try out the Schwalbe Marathon Mondial or Schwalbe Marathon GT Tour.
At the bomberos we can setup our tents on their balcony on the first floor. Unfortunately I don’t have a free standing tent, so I have to improvise a little bit. I use my bike as one wall and build my “tent” around it and tighten it with my panniers. Well, it’s not really tight but since there is no rain or storm coming up I feel confident for one night and actually it works quite well.
The next day we ride separate ways. I have decided to go back into the mountains and climb the MEX40 up to Durango. The others will cycle south along the coast. From Villa Union it’s roughly 300 km till I reach there. My plan, was to do this in three to four days, but I quickly have to realize, that I have to slow down a little bit. On the first day climbing I don’t feel really well and suffer from serious headaches towards middle of the day. I fear it’s due to the very high temperatures which go beyond 30 degrees and since there is no shadow it’s actually way hotter. I stop my bike after a bit more than 40 km that day when I approach a little village. Three men are sitting close to the road and I ask whether I can camp somewhere here in the village. They basically tell me, I can put up my tent where ever I want to. I don’t want to do it right now and so I join the three guys and try to train my Spanish a little bit. We sit and talk together for more than an hour and I get also invited to taste some of the food which is prepared as part of the festivities of the 6th of January (epiphany). As it gets dark, one of the men (Jorge) invites me to setup my bed in his house. I thankfully accept this offer.
I leave early the next morning to tackle the remaining 260 km. While I climb the landscape transforms more and more into jungle with parrots and other colored birds flying past me. The views behind almost every turn of the road are spectacular and I’m convinced I took the right decision to ride up this road despite the suffering it definitely means. Also on the second and third day on the MEX40 I make only little progress. Well, in terms of altitude gains it’s more than 1500m each day but the distance covered is below my own expectations. I still don’t feel 100% fit but maybe this is also due to drastic altitude change. I’ve basically gone from see level to more than 2000m within three days.
On day four I reach the city of El Salto after riding 80 km that day. On the way to El Salto I’ve passed peaks of 2800m or more and the final km into town are downhill and I’m approaching the town with a speed of more than 40km/h. I’m too fast to hit the brakes when I discover the speed bumps right in front of me. They are called “topes” and normally there are signs to warn you, but before El Salto you neither see a warning sign nor did they paint them in a flashing color so you could actually spot them before it’s too late. And it’s not only one, but they put three or four in a row too ensure the devastating effect. I’m happy I didn’t end up doing a “salto mortale” because of this. I stop to check the damage and luckily only some hooks of the panniers got loose and I continue my journey into town with reduced speed.
After having spent the night at the bomberos in El Salto I have a windy but fast ride to Durango. Again I have to climb around 1000m but in total I go downhill for more than 1700m and with the support of the wind I reach Durango already early in the afternoon. It’s an absolutely beautiful city with a lot of colonial style buildings. I find a cute little hostel close to the city center where I also meet Carmen, another cyclist from Germany. She is already traveling around the world for three years and we both seem to enjoy talking in our native languages again. After I placed all my stuff in my room and took a shower it’s still bright outside and I take a little walk to discover the historic center and find some Tacos.