Monday, April 3, 2017

Saltillo to Durango

Our experience on this part of this trip clearly showed us that Toll roads are the better way to travel - the toll booths keep coming and range from between 50 and 180 pesos but we figured that we saved that much in gas and more if you count the nerves and wear and tear on the car.  When we were two or three hundred kilometers from Durango we thought we would try to take one of the alternate roads instead of one of the toll roads, just to see how much difference it made.  The road was not only longer but in terrible shape and we were so happy to find our way back to the next toll booth to continue on another toll road.  I would advise anyone who wants to travel through Mexico, take the toll roads !  They are really good roads and worth every peso which you spend, especially considering that gas is almost twice the price that it is in the USA.

The roll roads are also interesting in that there are a lot of signs that we were able to use to test and improve our language skills - you will also see that there are a lot of water run off points and gutters
that are painted bright white, it all looks so clean and well maintained.  There are also frequent emergency phone stations along the way, garbage bins and set out routinely (and signposted clearly on road signs) but what really fascinated us were the Agua points at a lot of the emergency phone stations.
Our curiosity finally got the better of us because we figured that they couldn't possibly be for drinking water, were they for radiator fills or something?  We pulled in to one area and took a look - we are still not completely sure what they are for but the square concrete containers are open and filled with water (a greasy film on top) so they must be filled from a truck or something regularly - we figured that maybe they are for horses or other livestock being hauled along those roads.  Whatever it is, it is important enough that the containers are well maintained and regularly filled - they are painted in a bright blue and the paintwork is in excellent condition.

We also saw several places where much larger than usual turnarounds (retornos) were created, apparently to cater for the many large semis that use these roads.

The bathroom situation was even more important on this trip because we were travelling hundreds of miles and they just don't have rest stops in Mexico the way that they do along highways - even on the rare (very rare) occasion that you may come across a fuel station along the road, you know that if they have a rest room, it is going to cost and it is not going to be a good experience.  Then a miracle happened, we decided to stop at a really nice looking place called the Pit Stop immediately after a toll booth.  We needed to stretch our legs for a while so decided to get out and take a look around - we were amazed to find that this place had immaculate rest rooms and that they were free.  There was a little convenience store and fast food place and a very nice area for sitting outside to each lunch etc.  In the parking area, we also noticed free air and again, free water - most of the time we can't even get free air in USA so this was very impressive.

Stopped by federal police on way into Durango - we worked through figuring out what he wanted and showed him our passports. He then asked for copies of our car papers/TIP and Visas.  It felt really good to have everything on hand ready to give to him and he did not keep our passports - he went off to check the papers and then brought them back, handed them to us and told us that we could go ahead.  There were three cars that were stopped by the police and they were all white sedans so it looks as though they were looking for someone specific in a white car.

We were really proud of ourselves and kind of glad that it happened because now we have experienced a police stop and were able to handle the conversation etc.

Durango sits in a valley surrounded by mountains, there is a lot of farming going on around here.
Here is a very interesting cross that we saw on top of a hill just outside Durango.

Address of our Airbnb stay was not found by Naggy and was not accurately found by Waze even though she ended up very close, we were led through what appeared to be ghettos, no paved roads no appearances of civilization, just hundreds of tiny little concrete box homes with kids and dogs and garbage all over the place.  We wondered what we were getting into and if this was a beginning to the future that we have chosen for ourselves.

When we arrived at the location of the address we had been given, it was obviously (at least I prayed it was) not the right place and we had no idea how to get out of this mess.  I phoned Jesus, the home owner, who does not speak a word of English - finally I figured out that he was telling me to ask someone on the street, which 'fraccionamente' we were in as he did not recognize the names of the cross streets that I had given to him.

Finally I found a lady (who of course did not speak English) and told her 'somos perdidos' (we are lost), was able to ask for her help and asked her to speak to Jesus who I still had on the phone.
She was able to tell him where we were and I understood the instruction to 'stay there' and that he would come and guide us to the house.  Within 5 minutes Jesus and Ismelda were there to rescue us - we were only 2 blocks from the house.

They spent a lot of time showing us how everything works, explaining the locks and the garage (so glad I booked a place with a garage especially when I see the neighborhood). They were also kind enough to drive us to the main street into town to show us how to get to the city center and which way to go to get to Mazatlan on Friday.
The wind was blowing hard causing issues with the TV and we did not have any internet connection but Jesus told us that it would be fixed 'manana' (we all know what that means down't we?).

Once we had unloaded the car and drawn a few breaths, we set out to find somewhere to eat - Waze is a really good app for us to use here in Mexico, Naggy (the Garmin GPS) is good on the long routes with the Mexico/Central America chip that we bought, but, in town she is lost and so are we with no street assist or anything.  So we are going to use Naggy for the long distance parts of our trip and Waze for more detail in town etc.

We ate at a place called Buena Suerte which was an interesting eating place mostly under a marquee - I had a potato with asada which was amazing and Gerald had cerdo al pastor (pork meat cooked like it is for geros, served in the style of quesadillas). The food was good, the place was interesting and the bill (including a beer and a mineral water) came to only 182 pesos including tip - that is only $10.

We needed to get some milk on the way home so started exploring for a supermercado but came across Walmart on the way back to base - we bought milk, yogurt, fruit, veggies, nuts, 2 big fish fillets, margarine, bread rolls etc. etc. - 4 bags of groceries cost us only 275 pesos (about $15).

After our successes of the evening, we decided to see if we could find our way back to base without using Waze and so save some of our data - yes, of course we got lost.  It seemed so easy, just follow the main road through all it kinks and curves but there are so many cross overs and forks and other weird things that we ended up deep in the middle of another very questionable area.  Waze finally brought us back to the correct 'fraccionamente' but we didn't recognize where we were at all - however, it only took us a few minutes to and a couple of blocks to get to a place that we recognized and to find our way 'home'.  Now that we have unpacked groceries, poured ourselves a drink and settled down on the couch to catch up on blogs and paperwork with Mexican TV running in the background for the immersion properties of the language, we are feeling much better again and looking forward to a good nights sleep and waking up to making coffee for ourselves and looking forward to a new adventure.

We slept surprisingly well and once the locals had settled down around 10 pm or so, everything was calm and peaceful.  Another miracle happened the next day when the internet actually did get fixed in the afternoon - Jesus and Ismelda came by to let us know that it was fixed now and that the cable TV would be connected manana?  Seems like it was a good idea to have a down day today and be here when the internet man came out.  Now we are online and catching up on blogs and emails etc., happily connected to the outside world again :)

We used our down time today to walk around the neighborhood, buy some home made tortillas from a house a couple of blocks away (1 Kg for 12 pesos - about 75c) and explore some of the many partly built houses in the area. It looks as though they just sit in various stages of un-built until such time as money is available for the next bit of building to take place.  Or maybe the builder went broke???  Theses places are really tiny and it is fascinating to see the way they are put up.


  1. Enjoying your travels through Mexico. Are you all going to take the Pacific coast on down to Sayulita, San Pancho. Lo Demarcos etc. We love the Pacific coast much more than the Atlantic coast. Safe travels

    1. Thank you.
      From Durango we are heading down to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and giving ourselves a week to drive up to Cancun. After that, who knows? We will see where the wind blows us until Christmas when we will go up to Progreso for a few weeks. We do know that we want to spend some time in Guanajuarto and Ajijic area.