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Dave and Jan's travels, day 164:
Los Mochis to Zacatecas

30th October
This is the story of three days of travel, interspersed with nights in two delightful towns. The route: Los Mochis-Mazatlán-Durango-Zacatecas. The distance: around 300 kms per day. This won't be a full description, instead just a few of the more entertaining sights and episodes.

First, three gems from the regulations of the hotel Plaza Cathedral in Durango:

6) The Hotel Management reserves the right to accept visits in the rooms.
8) It is foridden to make loud noises or scandals in the rooms or corridors of the hotel.
11) Under any cirmustance (sic) we will accept personal checks.

The drive from Los Mochis to Mazatlán is straightforward. Mazatlán comes in two pieces: 18 kms of beautiful sandy beach resort, and an old town of fishing boats. Even the old town has a now rather threadbared and gently decaying front, and that's where we stayed in the Hotel Belmar, which although it's seen better days, is still a fine place to be with some really nice staff. David had "vulcan fish" for dinner (anyone heard of that?) which was an unexceptional white fish. We also did the tough climb to the world's second highest lighthouse, and chatted to the keeper. In all this the calm relaxed town seemed so reminiscent of the Mediterranean, that one might as well have been in Corsica or Sardinia.

The next day we left Mazatlán early, and within a mile the battery charging warning light came on in Beluga the car. We pulled over, waggled all the leads near battery and alternator, and checked the fan belt. After 3 minutes David's mechanical knowledge was exhausted, so we dealt with the problem by driving on with fingers crossed. An hour later with the light still glowing, we stopped for petrol, and after a lengthy conversation during which we learnt the Spanish words "batteria" and "alternador", we went across to the shack which housed the local car electrician. A few minutes testing with a voltmeter, and the expert announced that everything was working perfectly. We turned the car back on, and indeed the light had gone off. He refused to accept payment, claiming the job hadn't taken long enough.

From Mazatlán to Durango the road rises from sea level to more than 7,000 feet as it crosses the Sierra Madre Occidental. This is wild and rugged country, and in places the road runs along the top of a ridge with precipitous drops on both sides of a narrow single lane road. To keep you on your toes, this is the only road through the mountains, and so contains plenty of juggernauts. See photo at the side for the proud commemoration of the road's opening.

Feeling generous, we picked up a hitch-hiker in the hills and drove him the 150 kilometres into Durango. His inability to speak slowly made this hard work. We used a map to show our man where we going, but he didn't seem too sure of his own destination, and showed no interest in getting out at any point. We eventually drove through standstill traffic to our target hotel in the centre of the town, and stopped: our passenger announced that this wasn't convenient for him and that we needed to drive on. Perhaps fortunately, our Spanish still doesn't extend to more idiomatic phrases than "the journey is finished", so that parted our relationship. Ungrateful toad, as Jan said.

As it turned out, the standstill traffic in Durango was caused by a gigantic fiesta. We squeezed into the park that evening to watch a series of acts by the local students. The most popular act consists of fifteen guitarists, one double bassist, and typical Mexican songs sung by all en masse. Everyone in the audience knows all the words to all the songs and sing along, then cheer and scream like Rock music fans for each song. The groups feature occasional vocal solos, and also occasional Barry White-style throaty spoken passages, which provoke more squeals from the audience. Everyone seems to have a vast amount of fun. We later discovered from a local that this fiesta was to celebrate the coming of the year 2000 - why have it on 29th October? - because we expect to be too busy with other parties at the year end!

And so to Zacatecas, another uneventful drive.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Mazatlán sea front

The cathedral, Mazatlán

Cathedral detail, Mazatlán

Between Mazatlán and Durango