Wednesday, November 08, 2006

driving the devil's spine: from Mazatlan to Durango

After our chile harvesting trips in the Alamos area, we headed SW to the coast of Sinaloa - the land of big ag, and, not surprisingly for Mexico, big ag schools. We spent a wet very few days in the Capital city of Culiacan weathering Hurricane Paul (downgraded to a "tropical depression" while we were there) while Kraig exchanged information and wild chile population site specifics with reserchers at the U. Autonoma de Sinoloa. In addition to increasing his seed collection by almost 1/3, it was a successful stop on the great Mexican road trip for other reasons. We both found it really interesting to see for ourselves some of the effects of NAFTA - i.e. that "big" ag here looks like it's gringo twin - huge ares of land are being consolidated under large growers/companies and, instead of growing corn, are now being made to produce zillions and zillions of tomatoes and peppers for both national and international markets. Here is the Global Horticulture market at it's finest (eh hem GHA...!). The licence plates here have also been recently changed to reflect this...a giant (no micro- or heirloom varieties here!) tomato replaces the "o" in SinalOa.

Bueno, after Culiacan and the wet, we decided to head for the drier coast of Mazatlan before shooting inland to our awaiting apartment in Guanajuato. We found Mazatlan to be a janus of sorts.

Our hotel room in the old part of town

We streched H´s "wings" for an afternoon

One side of the coastal tourist mecca (the "zona dorada" or "gold zone") is home to zillions of
high-end jewelry and kitch stores selling "authentic" mexican goods to the thousands of cruise ship visitors that come through here each year.
From the malecon, or boardwalk

The other side is the old colonial downtown quarter that's full of bookstores, sidewalk cafes, plazeulas, bohemian art studios and stores, and even an Egyptian hooka shop/cafe. We saw very few tourists in the centro and loved the tasty street food and the icy Micheladas at a bar dedicated to the art of bullfighting.

After a good night's sleep in a room not 50 feet from the ocean, we headed inland on something of a blitz colonial city tour - Durango, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes - before finally making it to Guanajuato. The first part of this drive inland crossed "El Espinazo del Diablo" (the Devil's Spine), which is supposed to be a 2 lane highway that crosses the Sierra Madre del Occidente mountain range. Spectacular. Terrifying. Memorable. Suffice to say that we made it, the truck made it, and i only screamed outloud twice!
Don´t look down!

Views from the spine

Once across the spine, we descended to about 7500' as we entered Durango. Here we ate our first gorditas (think hybrid between pita sandwhich and a doublesided taco!), had some tasty elote loco from the vendors in the Plaza (young corn boiled and served hot with sour cream, farmer's cheese, chile flakes and lime). We also ran into our first street theatre performances celebrating the Dia de los Muertos...stay tuned for the next posting with more on that.