Zacatecas became just a lovely memory as we headed towards the coast. Baja was beckoning but first, we simply needed to get down the mountain. Winter in Mexico’s highlands is cold. In spite of its reputation as a country of sunshine and beaches the colonial hill towns of Central Mexico drop to freezing during the winter months and we were craving needed sun and sand between our toes. But first, we needed to brave the Espinazo del Diablo.
The Devil’s Backbone is an infamous stretch of highway in Mexico. Ranging 140 miles from Durango to Mazatlan exists a new road. It features nicely paved lanes, 115 bridges, and 61 tunnels and is an engineering marvel. It also costs more than $50 USD one-way. We wouldn’t be taking the new toll road.
No, we cheap gluttons for punishment would be embracing and braving, the original highway frequently referred to as Espinazo del Diablo or the Devils’ Backbone. This treacherous mountain road winds its way through mountains famous for marijuana and poppies. This wild and rugged countryside has long been the stuff of legends. At times we seemed far removed from the new road, at other times, we literally ran right next to it, blocked from entry by cement barriers taunting our cheap ways.
We made our way along the spiny stretches of road, admiring the stunning scenery all while cringing at obvious signs of vehicles going over the side. Thinking this would be the time that a motorcycle would be a much more appropriate vehicle than a truck camper on a tundra! Even if a breakdown required looking for some Yamaha motorcycle parts it would certainly be a simpler option than dealing with truck issues on such a narrow passage.
Before the toll road was engineered the Devil’s Backbone was the only road heading west across the fabled Sierra Madre Mountains. Dropping over 6000 feet in elevation, the trip from Durango to Mazatlan is a short day as the crow flies. For cheap overlanders, the 2000 hairpin curves accented by dramatic drop-offs make for closer to a 7 or 8 hour travel day.
We worked our way to the coast, dropping thousands of feet in elevation around thousands of curves all while gaining nearly 60 degrees in temperature and thinking about our friends in Nepal who recently drove their motorcycles on even steeper terrain before a nasty accident rendered them stuck and injured. Luckily for them, they were actually able to find some Kawasaki parts in the area, injuries were minor, and they are back on the road.
And luckily for us, we experienced no such challenges arriving in steamy Mazatlan in time for a margarita sunset with our toes in the sand. There was time some other day to contemplate arranging the ferry to Baja. For now, this was enough. Just another day in a life lived on the road.