Turns out Mexico is one big mountain. Every Mexican city you´ve heard of, if not on the coast, is at least a mile high. This has a couple unfortunate consequences – first, riding in mountains generally entails a fair bit of climbing, and second, it is significantly colder than it is at sea level. During the day this actually results in very pleasant biking temperature, but we´ve had some chilly nights, prompting us to call it quits earlier in the day so as to be snug in our tents before the cold comes on.
We spent a day in Guachochi so we could ride out to a overlook of the Sinaforofa Canyon, definitely the best view of the Copper Canyon system (it´s a network of canyons, actually) that we had. We had to ride about 15 km on an extremely rough dirt road, and our wrists and bums were pretty sore by the time we got there. Well worth it though, and we were able to hitch a ride in the back of a pickup back to Guachochi. Not much more comfortable, but over a lot quicker.
Leaving Guachochi, disaster struck. Or almost struck. My shifter cable for my rear derailleur suddenly snapped, so I couldn´t change gears in back. Luckily, I had read what to do before leaving on the trip: pull on the cable until the chain is in one of the middle gears, then use the screw from your water bottle cages (or in my case the clamp for my seat post) to hold the cable taut. Quite a neat solution. Nevertheless, this limited me to 3 gears (the front gears), which made steep climbs hard and made pedalling pointless at any speed over 13 mph. Luckily we were just 25 miles from a small town that, as we learned in an even smaller, even closer town, had a shop that sold some bike parts. And luckily it was mostly downhill. Once we got to Balleza (the less small town), I started asking around for the store, but I asked 4 people before I got confirmation of its existence. Lucky I´d been told about it, or I would´ve probably trusted the first 3 people I asked.
Upon finding the store, my heart sank. It was just a little hardware store, with nothing in its outward appearance to suggest bikes. The cable I needed was quite a specific part, and not one that needs changing often. I asked if they had it, and the owner disappeared into the back. After 10 minutes, I was sure he wouldn´t find it, but he eventually emerged with a perfect match. I asked for a second cable, having been convinced that it would be wise to carry a spare, but another 10 minute search determined that there was exactly one. But one was enough, and we were going again without too much of a hiccup.
Besides that thrilling episode, our days have been pretty relaxed and pretty uneventful. We rode to Hidalgo del Parral, an old mining town in which Pancho Villa was killed, and spent a day wandering around, gorging on ice cream and pan dulces. Then to Durango, a 5 day ride through barren high plains and rugged mountains. Not a very exhilirating ride, but satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable. We´re in Durango now, taking another rest day. I spent the day wandering the city, or the historic center anyway, stopping frequently for delicious and absurdly cheap food. (Five tacos for a dollar? Please.) Durango is another old mining town, but much older than Parral. Whereas most of the interesting buildings in Parral were built at the turn of the 20th century, many of Durango´s churches date back three or four hundred years. Strange and unpleasant lack of panaderias, though.