Rockslides and Fog – El Palmito to La Ciudad
As it often is, our intention was to get an early start from El Palmito, to try to repeat the previous day’s success and knock off some decent mileage. We had checked the weather forecast and noted that thunderstorms were, once again, predicted for the afternoon. Unfortunately, we ended up with a slight hurdle to an on-time departure: the gate at the property where we were staying was locked and we couldn’t find anyone to let us out. After ultimately sorting out that dilemma, we set off on the road, immediately climbing once again.
For the first time since leaving California, Rebecca and I were forced to layer our clothing for warmth. Even with the climbing, it took a fair amount of time to get heated up. At one point, I seriously considered breaking out the winter mitts that I’ve been carrying in my handlebar roll. As the sun rose above the mountains though, the temperature increased, making for some excellent riding weather.
Our goal for the day was La Ciudad.
High rock walls would border the left side of the road for much of the day.
Where this horse came from, we have no idea. We could see no nearby ranch.
It seemed to us that each day we have been riding on the Espinazo del Diablo, the scenery has improved. For most of the day, we had high rock walls on our left side, and steep cliffs to our right. Waterfalls flowed with vigor at almost every turn in the road, letting us know that it was probably unnecessary to be carrying as much water as we were (we had refilled our water bottles at the purificadora in El Palmito).
Pine trees are still dominant in this area.
We had deep valleys and more mountains to our right.
One of the things that I enjoy doing while riding in Mexico is trying to decipher the meaning of the road signs. In some cases, the signs have words that we are new to us, and at other times, they include unfamiliar symbols. Even though the sign that said, “Precaution – Zona de Derrubes” was new to us, it wasn’t hard to guess its meaning: Beware of Landslides! And as often as I have seen signs like that in other parts of the world, I have never come across a landslide that had just happened. Until then.
Rounding a corner, we found two tractor trailers stopped on the road, head to head. Given the lack of traffic, this was unusual in its own right. As we approached the vehicles, we could soon see why they were stopped: the road was partially blocked by a landslide. As we waited a good distance back, the first truck crossed over into our lane and slowly bounced its way over the rocks before continuing on past us. The driver of the second truck was working to clear the path a bit more as we rode up to him. It was not obvious when the landslide occurred but my guess is that it happened just shortly before we arrived on the scene. For quite some time after that, we made it a point to stay as far from the rock wall as possible, and kept a good listen for any rocks which might be tumbling their way towards us.
Beware – Area of Landslides!
This doesn’t look good!
It’s not just the perspective of the pic… that’s a huge rock!
The driver made it past with no damage to his rig.
We were traveling in logging territory.
It’s difficult to get a sense of scale. Can you see Rebecca in this pic?
Happiness is finding an open restaurant for coffee and breakfast!
Water flows freely at many spots along the road.
Can you guess what this sign means?
We had the road virtually to ourselves. When cars did approach, we could hear them coming a long way off.
Unlike the day prior, we had plenty of downhill stretches. Unfortunately, that meant that we had even more climbing to complete before arriving at our destination.
It’s a big drop in front of me. Good thing my brakes work well.
Rock wall to the right, cliff to the left, and no ranch in sight. Why are there cows here?
Another short break from climbing.
The mountains seemingly go on forever!
Another challenging-to-access roadside shrine.
Can you see the road that we’ll be traveling on?
Another closed restaurant. Sad.
Running those hydro lines across the valley must have been quite the job!
As the weather man had forecast, clouds started to roll in just before noon, and rain began to fall just after 1:00 PM. We had climbed a lot since the early part of the day and before long, were riding in thick fog. Unfortunately, we had still not yet reached our goal of La Ciudad when the rain started bucketing down. We took refuge in a small roadside diner, ordering hot coffee and food to try to warm ourselves up. Although we were able to maintain a decent temperature while exerting ourselves riding, as soon as we stopped our wet clothes gave us the chills and started us shivering.
Here come the dark clouds that were promised.
We had the road to ourselves.
Evidence of this road’s dangerous history. We passed many such marks.
We’re thousands of meters up at this point.
Evidence that the weather will soon turn.
We had been waiting to find this spot.
This view went on forever!
Quite the project.
Ruta 666: The Devil’s Backbone.
And here comes the rain.
I like how the sunshine lights up the distant village.
We’re just about into the clouds now.
There goes our visibility.
Fog. Not fun riding in these conditions.
We were able to stay reasonably warm as long as we were riding.
I’m not sure who was more chilly at this point, me or this shivering pup.
We waited until 6:00 PM before deciding that unless we were going to sleep under the table at the restaurant, we’d have to get back out into the rain to knock off the remaining 15 miles to La Ciudad. It was chilly, without a doubt, especially as most of the ride was downhill. Fortunately though, because it was downhill, the ride was fast and we made good time in getting there.
It’s actually quite rare to see pigs. This guy was coming to check me out.
As soon as we made it to La Ciudad, we pulled up to the first gordita stand (tacos are pasé – the street food of choice in this area is the gordita) and asked the lady running the place if there was a spot in town that we could stay. As it turns out, there were rooms for rent immediately behind where we were standing, and she made a couple of phone calls to locate someone who could come and let us in.
One thing I find interesting is how different people can have radically different experiences when visiting a place. We had friends who said that they felt La Ciudad was less than welcoming. We experienced the exact opposite. In fact, we had such a pleasant experience that first night, after we got out of our wet clothes and warmed up a bit, that we decided to take a day off and remain there the following day. As always, if you want to know what something is really like, you need to find out for yourselves. The experiences that we detail on this blog may or may not be the same for you if you were to follow in our exact footsteps. And that’s a good thing.