Mexico 67, 13th August 2004

It rained all night and drizzled all morning. In Hidalgo del Parral I did the email stuff then decided to get the horn fixed. On the way I had a front tyre changed around, it was wearing down on the outside side. At the electricians I was told it was a small box causing the problem, they couldn't replace it until 3 pm when the parts shop opened. Then he sent me up the road with someone - all Mexican garages seem to have someone hanging around just waiting to do something. He took me to the parts shop but then went to a shack on the side. This turned out to be another electrician who checked around and said I had to wait until 4 pm when the parts shop opened. All along I had problems, I demonstrated the horn did not work, they seemed to say, so what? I WANT IT FIXED THAT'S ALL! I finally got the message through when electrician #2 rang a pal who spoke English. He took one of the horns off and said that's the problem. I tested it by shorting it out over the battery, it seemed to work fine. Consequent messages were not understood, by either side.

Soon after 4 pm the electrician returned, with 2 horns in a box. He fitted them and everything worked. It cost me 220 pesos. There is no moral to this story.

Just while he was finishing, the heavens opened, it poured down. I've used that expression before in Europe, but I didn't know what I was saying. Here it's like some above has a big heavenly jug and you are standing under the main flow. Only it's everywhere around like that the same. I drove around slowly, the wipers on flat out formula one speed, enjoying the sensation. One junction had water flowing deeper than the wheel of a parked car. The lady in front of me, a local, stopped, and turned around in the road to go back. It'll take more than that to make any problem to this tank of a motor home so I continued. Of course, the brakes didn't work after that much water, I know that.

So I followed the signs to a hypermarket, Mercado, wandered around, found a great deal on cat food, then parked on some waste ground just opposite Mercado, next to a truck that seemed settled in for the night, the driver had his two young daughters with him, age maybe 3 and 7. But no, around midnight he left, to be replaced by another truck, presumably early for a delivery to Mercado.

Super morning, I left early, spotted a propane supplier and filled up with propane. And I mean, filled up. Normally when I fill with propane the system cuts off automatically at full so I did not take a lot of notice when the attendant turned off the bleed valve. But while he was away I had a quick squint at the contents gauge. Aaargh! The gauge stops at 95%, it was reading way over that. I bled off as much as I dare then shot inside the van, after counting to about 20 for the propane cloud to disappear, and turned on the hot water and van central heating, to use up a bit of propane. As soon as I was free of built up area I stopped, turned off all gas appliances, and turned on the bleed valve. The little wind there was took the propane way from the van. Finally the gauge was OK, 85% full, I can live with that. Literally.

Fortunately I know a little bit about propane. Otherwise I might have continued happily on, tank 100% full, no room for expansion. I bought the gas at 8 am, relatively cold, at 8,000 ft level, and I plan to descent to the bottom of the Copper Canyon, a 2000 metre (6,000 ft) descent with huge increase in temperatures, up to the unbearable, with consequent expansion of the propane and huge increase in pressure. There is a pressure release safety valve on these tanks but I know they do not always work. Sometimes they stick..................Booom!

Once I'd got that worry out of my system I continued on. Beautiful scenery, with magnificent, huge views. Here's just a snippet of these distant views, which for much of the time were all around, in all directions, and are just too big to photograph. A super road, with super views.

When filling with propane I noticed the tank moving. When I got through the overfill problem I checked it out. Some 3 months ago I'd had 2 of the propane supports rewelded, now the other 2 supports had broken. At the next town I got them fixed. 50 pesos. $5. Heck, I could afford to live here.

Now the check motor light started coming on from time to time. I had that before, it was fixed, but it's obvious now it was not a permanent fix. The garage who checked it out this time, in Guachochi, had all the right equipment, could find no problem, but suggested I change the fuel filter. This we did, the old one needed changing, but as I drove around town the light flashed on again. I went back, they spent ages checking through again, and told me I needed a new diagnostic computer sender unit, which they did not have. They wouldn't let me pay for all the time they spent on their second try to find the problem (they only charged 100 pesos the first time including the new fuel filter) and I am allowed to stay in their garage overnight, without charge. That's nice. When I asked in a mobile phone shop about the internet, he said, here, use my connection, and then would not let me pay. But it's a strange town. People look at me wherever I go. Maybe there's not many visitors, or they have nothing better to do. I asked a couple of people directions, they asked for 20 pesos before they would tell me. One of them I know had never heard of the internet so even with 20 pesos could not have given directions for me to find an internet cafe! That's why I was pleased to stay in the garage over night, I just feel a trifle uneasy here. Probably just imagination, but best to follow instincts.

About 5 pm it rained. Like it did yesterday, water running down the street. It's the rainy season. It rains every day like this.

The garage did not open until 9 so I had to hang around in the morning. They were open until 8 pm so it is long hours, and right now they don't seem to have a lot to do.

The road carried on with superb views. This has to rank as one of the most scenic roads in Mexico, I don't know why the guide books don't make more of it.

And then starts the descent to La Bufa and then on to Batopilas, 65 km of unpaved road including a descent of around 2 Kms in 14 km of road. Looking at the photos I took almost makes me want to give up photography. This must rank as the most scenic road I have ever travelled along, and my photos do NOT do the trip justice.

Ah. I guess this is one of the ones that did not make it. Let's hope my luck holds out. The "check engine" light has been coming on from time to time, so I hope those fellows were right when they said everything is ok.

The start of the views.

Similar view, with the road descending.

Really, my photos do not do it justice. You get no idea of the scale of the thing from a photo. Those cliffs are approaching 2.000 metres (6,000 ft) high.

I've now passed La Bufa. Just after La Bufa I got stuck, a drop into a stream, a steep climb out, and my low back end dug in, leaving me balanced on the back end tow bar hitch and the front wheels, leaving the driving wheels spinning happily in thin air. While I was sizing up the situation a pickup with a couple of guys arrived. They had a jack and set to work clearing the back end, I set to work at the front, with screwdriver (to loosen the stones) and small saucepan, to drop the level of the front wheels. I managed to work hard enough to cause blisters on the palms of my hands, luckily my leather gloves were to hand, I'd dug them out for protection while bleeding off the excess propane yesterday. There are not many non balloonists reading this, but I'll mention that liquid propane can freeze your fingers, leather gloves help! I managed to drop the front wheels about 3 inches, and with a couple of goes we were out. Took about 30 minutes of hot effort all round. First things first. I dug out 3 beers from the refrigerator and we cooled down, boy was that beer good! Then I tried to give them some money but they wouldn't take it. They said they worked for the council. Seems part of their job was to help people who were stuck. So if you read this fellas, thanks again. And show it to your boss so he knows you're doing your job real good!

The donks weren't a hazard, and there were more of them when I stopped, but the others vamoosed.

Just to show I really reached the bottom of the canyon.

Part of the ongoing road. There was a bulldozer working the last 30 kms of road. Because it is now the rainy season I suspect there are many landslides. Because it is only a dirt road he doesn't clear to the original level, he just clears off, and there is a new road maybe five feet higher than the old!

I reached the town, it is one road along the river, about 1 km long, with houses etc either side, no room for cross roads in the canyon. Nowhere obvious for me to park either so I stopped at he far end of the town by the slaughterhouse. The neighbours said it was OK, so I let the kids play with the kitten, and gave them some beads! No big deal for anyone.

Best regards

David Barker

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