Across The Tropic Into A Different World

For the full photo diary for this part of the tour please click here

A couple of days ago I entered Zacatecas, my seventh Mexican state, then yesterday I crossed the Tropic of Cancer and arrived in the beautiful colonial city of Zacatecas. Before I left Parral seven days previously I had cycled in Sonora, Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Chihuahua, since then I’ve pedaled through Durango and into Zacatecas. This fact surprised me when I first thought about it yet helps explain the feeling I get that this country is big and getting bigger. As the miles start to flow again I’m noticing huge social and economic differences; in Sonora I passed through settlements passing for little more than shanties, while in Zacatecas I have entered a different world entirely, a UNESCO world heritage site of obvious class and affluence.

DSCN4759

Looking back on Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua

The 435 miles from Parral to Zacatecas were interesting if slightly unremarkable. It felt great to get back into the familiar old routine of making miles, a delight that is reflected in the 62 mile daily average. I encountered a fair few miles of long straight humping roads as I dove and then steadily climbed back to around 8,000 feet. I witnessed the incredible scale of Mexican agriculture, passed through some charming little towns and villages and some not so appealing  rawer little settlements. I had good roads, bad roads, lots of traffic as I guiltily decided to save my failing  rim by taking the fast track from Vicente Guerrero into Zacatecas. I passed through countless odour clouds of rotting flesh; horses, dogs, cows, I have seen many and most animals in varied states of decay by the side of the road. A byproduct of this carnage is that virtually the entire route was bordered by robust and extremely well maintained barbed wire fencing. Most of the fencing is new and all of it makes finding a camp spot all the more interesting. Gaggles of giggling females of all ages have served to highlight the  apparent wonder of a dirty bearded gringo in cycling shorts. And although temperatures generally hovered around 33 degrees celsius, I did feel four drops of rain, my first for quite sometime.

But this time I think I’ll do better to spare you my usual overblown ramblings and let the photographs do the talking:

On my way out of Hidalgo del Parral I ran into Phil and Isla, two British tourists going the other way. They’d come up from Argentina, Isla on a Surely LHT and Phil on a Thorn Sherpa…

DSCN4757It wasn’t long before I was leaving the state of Chihuahua and entering Durango…

DSCN4761Where I was treated to the first of a series of beautiful and dramatic sunrises…

DSCN4777On my second day the road (Mexico 45) straightened out, but kept vaguely interesting by constantly humping up and down…

DSCN4782Day three and things got more spectacular with a speedy descent down from El Casco…

DSCN4789Taking me quickly down into hot, fertile and greener agricultural pastures around Abasolo…

DSCN4795After some hot riding through Rodeo and a 1,000 foot climb out of El Palmito there was another cooling descent down towards Fco. Primo Verdad…

DSCN4814After Atotonilco the road started a steady climb which continued after turning onto Durango 137. A cooling headwind and fantastic road surface made these 20 or so miles pleasant if not a bit wearing…

DSCN4828The next day and after a section on Mexico 40 up to Guadalupe Victoria`and then south on Durango 500, I was through the dubious delights of Antonio Amaro and treated to more straight slogging into a slight headwind, this time on a bad road…

DSCN4843I was now riding through increasingly large-scale commercial farmland…

DSCN4844Camped up the night before turning onto Mexico 45 to Zacatecas I was treated to another dramatic sunset…

DSCN4886Then the next morning I soon found myself leaving the State of Durango and entering Zacatecas, where the highway shoulder disappeared and road started to climb…

DSCN4913The shoulder would only reappear about 44 miles into the day when a fantastic new and slick surface bought some relaxed cycling…

DSCN49194 miles into my seventh day out of Parral and about 60 miles from the centre of Zacatecas I crossed the Tropic of Cancer…

DSCN4939Then on my morning coffee break made friends with the Targhee Dance Club from Delicias, Chihuahua on their way to compete in the International Hip Hop dance championships in Mexico City…

DSCN4943A few hours later and some nerve jangling battles with traffic, 3:30pm I rolled up to Hostel Villa Colonial in the old centre of Zacatecas. Concluding my move from Northern Mexico into the heartland and the opening of new perspectives on a diverse and fascinating land.

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