Fences, gates, locks, and razor wire do not say Welcome
The road out of Parral takes no time at all to become a motorcyclist’s dream road. The curves, oh the curves! Perfect pavement, only a few other vehicles, and plenty of straightaways for safely taking in the amazing views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The temperature also decidedly drops as my altitude climbs.
And then, a motorcycle appears! And another. And another! None in a week and then three adventure riders all at once! Of course it’s absolutely necessary to stop and talk to these riders. I pull to the side of the road as they turn around to join me.
We introduce ourselves with excitement. I’m the first American they’ve seen in weeks. Dave, Jim, and Duncan are their names, and we talk several minutes about Mexico. They say great things about the town at the bottom of Copper Canyon called Batopilas. It’s a must see if I can manage the road. From the look of their bikes, everything I’ve read about the road could be true. I’m nervous about my ability to keep this monster of a bike of mine upright. Falling over in sand is one thing. Falling over on a steep grade sounds dreadful no matter the beauty of the destination.
They circle a few places on my map, we exchange cards, and it’s time to move along. I hope they consider staying the at the Hotel Acosta in Parral. I certainly left them with high compliments of the hospitality.
As I ride closer to Barranca del Cobre, the terrain changes from that of arid desert to high-altitude forest. Tall pines and lakes appear. And with these things, so also appears the reason for this wonderful road. Logging. For what other reason would such expensive infrastructure be necessary than if it drives commerce? On one hand, I’m happy for the road that quite literally paves my way to beautiful places as this. On the other hand, it saddens me to see entire mountainsides swept clear of the nature that has lived here for so long before man.
Higher and higher I climb. The temperature continues to fall. So does the sun. By sunset, I’m feeling tired, cold, sore, and ready for bed. Finding a campsite for the evening has proven more difficult that I expected. This is the remotest part of Mexico one can drive to and yet every inch of the place is surrounded by some kind of fence or brick wall. And every gate wears a lock! When a dirt side road looks promising, it lets me down with just more fence and locked gates.
I ride into Guachochic after sundown and am now considering a room for the night. At the fuel station, a young man fills my tank. I must be too preoccupied to offer pleasantries. I’m sure I seem curt and unfriendly because for the first time, I’ve met a Mexican who seems this way to me. Every other person has quite sincerely returned my happiness.
My mood is a shame, because my interaction at the fuel station sets a sour mood for all of Guachochic. This is a town of timber workers. It’s dirty and has no other purpose in this area than to sustain an unsustainable pillage of natural resources. Sideways-looking people roam the streets. Every window and door is barred shut. The tall walls people have built around their properties are topped with broken glass shards, pointy spikes, and sometimes razor wire.
Guachochic is not the town for me. I turn around, and decide riding in the dark is safer than staying here. Only later do I learn that Guachochic made headlines six years ago for drug-related killings. Somehow, my intuition knew that something of that mess is still present there.
Many minutes and kilometers pass. What was twilight has turned into darkness. And to my dismay, the fences and locked gates continue to thwart me. Atop one pass, I finally find a large enough area with some seclusion. It’s only slightly hidden from the road, and the ground is covered with broken glass. As for a place to sleep, it’s the most ideal yet, and yet it’s nothing like what I expected to find in the wilderness of Mexico.
Still unsure of the intentions of the locals, I find myself dousing my headlamp every time a vehicle drives past. This makes sweeping the area clean of glass a task of patience. Once inside my tent, I feel a comforting sense of security. This is my home, and I at least know that I have a place to sleep tonight. If all goes well, I’ll even wake up in the morning still breathing and with all my things.