It has been six days since I have arrived Chihuahua, the capital city of the Mexican state of the same name, and here I’m now “gathering strength” to continue. After days in the desert it feel so nice to rest for a while and besides I had some errands to attend to. In US my tooth has cracked and since the dental services in US are something that a modest traveller on a bicycle can barely afford, I have delayed a visit to the dentist until I reach Mexico. Apart from that there are some standard things I have to do like laundry, writing this post, planning my next steps,…
Before entering Mexico I had to leave the US first. Mostly routine procedure with Border patrol officer checking my passport and allowing me to continue. But it would be out of my character if I would not go and complicate the situation. My passport has a stamp that allows me to stay in the US only for 3 days and this has already been the source of some complications. Since I have not seen the border patrol officer to register in the computer my departure from the States I have returned to him and pointed out that I have this stamp that only allows me 3 days. Before I have managed to ask him for an exit stamp (I do not trust the computers) the situation became somewhat complicated. I was almost registered as illegal immigrant (overstaying my visa) but for sure I was a special case. So my departure from the States was delayed for about 45 minutes. First I had to wait then I had to explain my story in a long and detailed manner and then I had to wait again. After about 45 minutes another Border patrol officer came with my passport and she said I’m free to leave the country (amazing). I think they have rather given up on me than really dug into my case and check all the facts with all the necessary parties involved. But I’m not complaining, as long as I’m free the leave the country! But before I go, I still politely ask for an exit stamp. As one might say “You never know!”
Entry into Mexico was different. Some small talk with the police using little Spanish that I know, paying 25 USD for a tourist permit and a stamp in my passport that allows me to stay up to 180 days in Mexico. At least I think so. After all my knowledge of Spanish is limited.
Quite quickly I have left the border town of Ojinaga. All border towns tend to be places that I do not want to linger around since they tend to be dirty and have their share of dodgy characters. In front of me there is again an empty road, the desert and soon enough mountains. Climbing these mountains unravel views into the distance and from the height I have the opportunity to watch the softness of the landscape below. Distance transforms all those roughly cut dry creek beds and rocks, bitten off by the winds, which I have not long ago cycled past, into gentle, soft wrinkles of the land below.
Luckily for me the day was cloudy so the temperatures were completely bearable and also the climbs, which were not that rare, have not been too hard. Still I have not managed to reach some sort of a settlement where I would be able to find a place to sleep. Before reaching Mexico, I have been advised not to rough/stealth camp since it would not be such a smart thing to do. And since I have not reached any populated settlement, I resorted to improvisation. At a military check-point I found out that my broken Spanish actually is not so bad that I would not be able to ask for permission to camp. It was a good thing since none of the soldiers spoke any English. Still we managed to communicate and so my first night in Mexico I was camping next to a military check point.
The next day promised lots of emptiness and a great deal of sun. After the soldiers stocked me up with water, coffee and food for the road, I have hit the road (uphill) and cycled all day. Most of the time we did not get along well with the wind since according to a well-known, old rule it was headwind. Also the fact that it was sunny with no shade by the roadside did not really help. Nevertheless I manage to cover more than 90 km on this day.
As the end of the day was approaching I started to look for the village which, according to my map, should be just next to the main highway. Boy, was I in for an unpleasant surprise when the road workers, which were probably there just to help me, told me that the village is quite some km over the horizon away with only a small, barely distinguishable dirt road leading there. Instead of taking this dirt road in hope that there actually is a house at the end, I took the offer from the road workers to give me a lift to the next town. The ride on the back of a pick-up where with one hand I managed to hold Lou upright while with the other hand I held down all the stuff so the wind doesn’t blow it away (partially successful since I have ended up without one already torn glove) seemed surreal. Empty road through an empty landscape, wind blowing through my hair, dark, black clouds that have soon produced heavy raindrops, which have, due to the speed I was traveling with, felt like tiny needles penetrating my skin. And at the same time there was this this warm feeling of a long, hard day of cycling is coming to an end. I only had to find myself a place to sleep. And since I have ended up in a small city finding a place to pitch a tent becomes a bit larger challenge. But there are alternatives so I have headed towards the fire station where I have once again tested my Spanish skills. Apparently I can communicate since that evening I managed to sleep in a proper bed after taking a nice, relaxing and refreshing shower that washed away the dirt and tiredness of the day. And I have also managed to cook myself a dinner in their kitchen.
Without a doubt, in Mexico I have received a warm welcome by very friendly people!
Traffic has been light so far (on the road from the border to Chihuahua only about 4-5 cars hourly on average passed me by) so this challenge still awaits me somewhere down the road.
With a Smile on my face, until next time!
For a while I’m saying goodbye since I’m about to go what one could say masochistic exploration of the Copper Canyon which is larger and in some cases deeper than the very much known Grand Canyon in the US.