OK, as I sit and write this update I am listening to the sounds of dogs barking, donkey hee-hawing and some mariachi off in the distance. Oh and let’s not forget the church bells chiming. But I digress, as my real thoughts are: OMG we survived day two!! Not really sure where to start with this one. Thursday Nov 29th was a very exciting day for Gaila and I. Glad we made it to this moment first of all. There were a few moments where our state of being was in jeopardy. Nothing too serious Mom or Dad (well, except for the cliffs) and riding barely cobble stone roads at a 45 degree angle in the dark. It really was a great day and we are safe and sound.
Our day started after a lovely night at the iStay Hotel in downtown Monterrey. A pleasant place with cool people and awesome motorcycle parking! Thank you Diego and crew. Hoping we will come back and see you again as while we enjoyed walking around etc., we did not really get a chance to see the mountainous beauty of the area up close. Navigating through Monterrey traffic is a test for both our skills. Navigating for me is a definite brain activity and this was a fun challenge to be sure. Construction and tons of smog/fog just added to the excitement. Turn signals, right of way – these are very foreign concepts in the heart of Mexico hustle and bustle.
While taking the “safe” toll road from the border to Monterrey we decided to take the less beaten and cheaper Libre (free) road towards our next destination Saltillo. This place sure turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I was just using it as a first navigational destination but it is a clean and pleasant city that looked inviting in many ways. I hope to come back some day. After a quick bio break at KFC – yes I know, too funny – but it was free, easy and clean – we got back on the trail to Real de Catorce. (Check it out via your favorite search engine or wiki.)
For those of you that have not been to Mexico topes are their version of a speed bump. And let me tell you they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are easy to see and some will surprise you. (Sure glad we have our BMW dualsport bikes – they handle the rough stuff very well.) Between dodging taxis, bus and topes we had an exciting exit from Saltillo. Once on the highway again traffic was a piece of cake. We did get stopped by the policia for a brief moment, but just a quick hello and way on. We got rained on just a touch an then got serious about turning to Real de Catorce. Thank goodness for Garmin GPS and proper maps or we might still be looking… road signs are touch and go / hit or miss! Now, multiple people in the riding community suggested Catorce to us – thank you Cindy, Lance and others. In doing so, they told us about this really cool “hand paved road of stones”. Kind of like cobble stone, but the the same as it is just selected local rocks of approximate sizes vs. uniform bricks. They also told us about the really cool tunnel – more about that in a minute. On one map it barely showed Catorce as it was an old ghost town just coming back to life and on the other it showed two. So I took the advise of my trusty Garmin Montana 600 and turned right for the shortest route.
Since we knew the road was rough getting in, we didn’t think too much about the rapidly changing conditions. However, when we started going past placed stones to jagged rocks and super ascending we gave the route an upturned eyebrow. However, being the troopers that we are we carried on. Some of the pictures will help tell the story, but will never do it justice. Interestingly, people from Catorce were coming down back towards their little no-name collections on donkey, bicycles and big trucks with workers done for the day. As we got about 4/5ths up and the road turned particularly difficult on a left hander Gaila dropped Sassy Pants. I heard her cry for help in the headset but was pretty committed to a line that proved to difficult for Lucille and I. I dropped her hard on the left side. My pannier and COEXIST sticker now have a big dent. Thankfully, there was a guy nearby her on a bicycle who assisted in getting Sassy Pants upright. Just in the nick of time too, as I had a big truck coming my way and was struggling to get out of their way myself. Sadly, no pics as we were in the moment… it was white knuckle for sure. As the road was super steep, with nothing to prevent us from going over the side, steep cliffs which we couldn’t see the bottom.
Even though we were so close to our final destination, it was too steep and we had zero room for ANY mistakes. We both decided for safety we better turn around and find another route. Not an easy decision as daylight was burning and I know darkness would be upon us soon. Indeed, it did come after an amazing sunset that we both wish we could have taken a picture of. BTW, I forgot to mention that Lucille my F800GS was misfiring the whole time we headed up the trail and then all the way to the Pemex station before Catorce. Bad gas me thinks as I had problem one other time…don’t buy premium gas in out of the way places. Apparently nobody does so it either sits or they just get crap. Now that it was full on dark, we were forced with some more decisions…struggle to find some accommodation in any of the nonexistent towns or head up the real brick road. We chose the later. Talk about a trip. We went about 16 miles up and up, passing donkeys and cars. Fortunately none running out in front of us. Then we were upon the famed tunnel. By my estimates it was 2 miles or more in length. I need to research for sure as it was amazing. One lane only and looked like an old mining shaft that had been dug out a bit more to accommodate modern vehicles. It was REALLY cool and it one of the symbols of Catorce. Now, we thought we might be home free once through, but that was not to be the case. Actually, the village streets got very rough and very vertical. Since we were getting too tired to stop and take measure of what we were doing, I just plugged ahead and G followed gracefully. And then we found it – our oasis known as Hotel Rincon Magico. And it was indeed. Everything was closed when we got there but they were so kind to fix us a fresh dinner of huevos & Frijoles with awesome tortillas and salsa. Cervesa ready and cold followed by an in-the-room fireplace with fresh mesquite – oh the pleasant smells. We were never so happy to reach a destination as we were yesterday!!!
Today has been much more chill as we simply worked on the bikes, tooled around town meeting people, taking in the sites and moving over to our more modern and less interesting hotel :-(.
It has been wonderful to see the children and there smiles, to observe the impressive Cathedral, what a wedding procession and the supporting band, drink coffee like the locals and just really take it all in. Today we are thankful for the experiences of joy, fear, white-knuckles and relief from yesterday. And we are happy to be fully alive in every meaning of the word.
Now on Saturday we will start the next phase south. Thank you Mexico for showing us some of your best so far!
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