Mexico 68, 15th August 2004

The books said there was a cathedral 8 km further down the valley so I set of to walk down to it. A touch less than half way I managed to hitch a lift in the back of a pickup. By the speed he was driving I think the driver was trying to scare me. I stood up hanging on the bar behind the cab, it was great fun! I got to see the cathedral, apparently no one knows why it was built here, there are only about 15 houses in the little village.

I didn't manage to get a lift back so I walked. I'd been wondering whether to take a walk around Batopila in the afternoon, then in the morning look at one of the mines and head back to La Bufa ready for the climb out the following morning. The van boils rather easily and I was concerned about the steep climb out. 2 km to climb in 14 km of road averages out at a pretty steep climb. I decided to miss out on the walk around Batopila, it is really nothing really special as a place, it's the situation that is amazing. I could only walk a few hundred metres into the mine, it was partially flooded, but it was interesting to see a mine in close to it's original state.

I climbed out of Batopila, that was quite a steep climb, I thought it would be a good test for the van in the heat of the afternoon. It was. It stopped and when I switched on the ignition the battery meter showed a massive discharge, there was a short somewhere. By chance about the third car that passed was the local mechanic, making a test on a car. He said he be back in about half an hour. I used the time to take a stone out between the dual rear wheels - jack the back up, slacken off the wheel nuts, remove stone, retighten nuts, remove jack. The mechanic worked for the best part of an hour, and finally located a wire that had flopped about and touched one of the very hot engine pipes, and melted the insulation. He re insulated the wire, using some second hand insulation tape I had used to reinforce a connection on my computer charger, and tied the wire out of the way using some cable ties I'd picked up in Mexico City. You never know when things might come in handy!

I drove on, passed the bulldozer making the road, and got stuck in some material at the side of the road he had just dozed. He didn't have a chain, the rope I'd picked up somewhere kept breaking, finally I had to drive it out. Back a bit, forward a bit, scoop out the loose sand built up in front and back of the wheels, repeat the process. Eventually it worked.

Back at the spot where I had stuck on the way out I approached the hump very carefully, positioned the van best I could with the help of a couple of guys in a pickup just behind me, then moved to stage two, the brute force bit. I floored the accelerator, the van shot forward, the back end scraped the ground for about 5 feet, but the momentum kept me going.

I parked in La Bufa, the man who had helped me had the hotel there and we pleasantly swapped a couple of beers in the evening. Turns out la Bufa is not much more than his hotel, his carpenters shop, a small bar run by his Dad, and a school. His 2 children go there, but there about 50 pupils in total, from Indian families who live round about in the hills.

In the morning I started off at daybreak, around 6.30 am. I held the van in 1st gear and just climbed slowly. The sun didn't actually come up until I was close to the top of the climb, the air temperature stayed coolish, and the water temperature in the radiator stayed normal all the way, it didn't even get near the worrying level. Wow! I didn't expect to get off so easily.

This is part of the climb.

The climb is more or less finished, I'd picked up a family hitching to the next village.

I'm back on the main road now, and I've bought gas (petrol). Fortunately I've stopped checking gas consumption, 130 km (85 miles) in 1st gear would have rather messed up the figures.

This main road route is really quite spectacular, lots of photos don't look good because a big distant span of distant hazy mountains just looks like nothing on a photo, it has to be seen.

Along the way is a short diversion to a waterfall, not a lot of water in the river

but it makes for an attractive waterfall.

I hitched a lift back to the van with a bunch of kids in the back of a pickup, holidaying in the area, they'd found the road route to the falls. They spoke passable English between them, they were stopped by the Lago de Arereco, I stopped to chat again. Then in Creel they drove past me, all waving madly!

I backtracked a few kilometres to a campsite bordering the lake, 15 pesos per person (!!). Beautiful situation, with hot showers even. I saw another RV parked, and stopped to say hello. Giles from Quebec, who spoke French, and his fairly recent Mexican wife, they live in Chihuahua, some 200 km to the North east, we passed a very pleasant couple of hours, me trying to remember my French, He trying to remember his English.

Little cat loved it, I was outside the van so he was happy playing around and exploring.

Jerry asked what camera I was using. It's an Olympus, 3 times optical zoom, 3.2 Megapixel, I picked it because it's small enough to go in my pocket. I put the AA battery alongside just to show the size, it actually uses a rechargeable battery

Best regards

David Barker

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