September 26 – October 9th

Durango must be the Scorpion capital of Mexico. Walking the markets, everything is about the Scorpion wether it’s printed on a t-shirt, encased in a belt buckle or fermenting in a bottle of Mezcal the nasty looking arachnid is everywhere. Some stall owners keep live ones in fish bowls or glass jars, the kids were fascinated & loved it! Scorpions hung on keychains, decorated wall clocks and were even encased in candy!! In the Equine department we watched men hand cut and stitch and sew leather saddles. I thought this to be really cool to see, but the kids were far more interested in finding different types of scorpion souvenirs.

We camped on the outskirts of the city, at a natural hot water Balneario, an outdoor swimming pool / leisure park kind of place. We spent a few nights here catching up on school work, admin, blog writing, friends & family and of course, laundry. During the weekends it’s busy here, but weekdays, we pretty much have the place to ourselves, including the hot tub for a soak before bed. After a couple of hours of school work, the kids can go off swimming unsupervised as there are lifeguards on duty at each pool. Gives us some peace & without them. The only down side to this place, apart from the cold showers, are the mosquitoes. I’ve never experienced such aggressive mozzies, and there are millions of them! We’re covered up, bug spray on and coils burning to keep them from sucking us dry!

From Durango city, we’re thinking of making our way back to the coast to Mazatlan, then up to catch the ferry over to Baja. Stopping first at Mexiquillo Natural Park.

This is our kinda place, and ended up spending five days here. We found ourselves a cosy camp spot and got comfortable. Kids loved exploring and climbing the rocks and hunting for lizards. The rock formations are millions of years old, Igneous, formed by lava or magma, possibly underwater at the time because of the shapes.

Charley & Jaxon built a Lizard Hotel from cereal boxes, filled them with dirt & sticks to keep them in, releasing them each night and finding them again in the morning. The Thorny Devil lizards seemed quite happy with the kids, I don’t know if they were in shock or just slow moving little guys, but they happily sat in their hands and on their shoulders without trying to make a get away. They also spent hours riding the rocks & wearing themselves out.

The park is at 8,300 ft, which means that when the sun goes down it gets seriously cold. Puffy jackets & hats are out and the kids are now sleeping in our down bags. Tim & the kids gather wood, dinner is cooked over the fire with roasted marshmallows for dessert. Far from a town or city, the night sky was dark, no light pollution, the Milky Way was ablaze with stars. Both Tim and Charley, at different parts of the camp, swear they saw a UFO, or something flash brightly a few times then disappear. One morning while hunting for bugs to feed the lizards, Jaxon found a young Rattle Snake sleeping beneath a rotten log. Keeping a safe distance we were able to observe this little guy as he warned us with his rattling rattle.

Some time ago, there was an idea of putting in a tourist railway from Durango to Mazatlan. Routes were cleared, tunnels built, sleepers laid, but not tracks put down. That was as far as that project went, in true Mexican construction style, it was never finished. We rode our bikes for 15km along the 3% grade, winding around the edge of the canyon with stunning views and waterfalls. It would have been great for tourism and the local economy, but would have also brought the masses of people, altering the way of life lived here for generations. Being the only ones here, we got to enjoy it all to ourselves.

Rolling West along Routa 666, the Devil’s Backbone, another stunning days drive treating us to even more jaw dropping scenery.

Descending 3,000 ft we could feel the mercury rising. While sitting at a roadside ‘restaurant’ eating delicious Gorditas, we changed our minds about continuing to the coast. Not ready for the heat, we decided to turn back via the toll road and drive the famed Baluarte Bridge & tunnels winding back up through the mountains and back once more to Durango. The Baluarte Bridge is the worlds tallest and longest, cable span bridge, connecting a main route from Mazatlan to Durango more directly. Threading through at least a dozen tunnels, the road climbs nearly 4,000 feet from the coast. In spite of a few engineering mishaps, where by soon after opening, some of the tunnels experienced partial collapse and cave in’s. We took our chances and braved the road without incident. Following what others did, we even stopped in the middle of the bridge for some photos!

Back in Durango for a couple more days, back to the balenario, while we planned our route North into Copper Canyon.