1964-1972 > Mexico by Sailboat > Mazatlan Hike: El Salto to La Ciudad
El Salto to La Ciudad: Escaping the Heat
|Waiting Out the Heat in Mazatlan Harbor|
July weather in Mazatlan can be unbearable, even if you live on a sailboat as I did with my husband. The humidity was eighty per cent and the air temperature was eighty degrees Fahrenheit or more night and day. Robert and I floated on eighty degree water inside the harbor jetty where we were waiting out the hurricane season. Swimming was not refreshing and we joked that if you fell in you wouldn't know it, except for a certain breathing problem. Some evenings we dragged ourselves to the malacon, the seaside walkway, where we strolled with the locals hoping for the all-too-rare sea breeze.
From the harbor we could see the Sierra Madre Range and imagined cool nights and crisp air. Toward the end of July we were desperate. I studied our AAA roadmap of Mexico, hoping to find a mountain park. On the main highway east from Mazatlan, a dashed line indicating an abandoned railroad wound around a mountain town named El Salto. On the chance that the railroad bed might still be accessible to the public, we dug our backpacks out of the hold, stuffed them with our tent, sleeping bags and clothes. Then we grabbed packaged dry soups, nuts, raisins and packs of Lifesavers. We didn’t want to take the time to shop. We could buy food along the way – we thought.
The following morning was hot and muggy as always. We climbed on the Durango bus and reveled in the cooled air; that is until we began to climb into the mountains and the driver switched off the air conditioning to prevent the motor from overheating. We opened the windows for the tepid breeze as did the other passengers.
We were riding a first class bus, a seat for everyone and only one person to a seat but the irratic driver must have learned to drive on a chicken bus, the dilapidated ones packed with people, chickens, goats and produce for which speed and numbers win over comfort.
At the first rest stop we grabbed a warm Fanta for breakfast. On the next leg, the Mexican family seated around us broke open their baskets of breakfast and solicited our help to pass juice, tomatoes, buns and salt back forth for them. We smiled and our mouths watered at the delicacies passing under our noses.
In the foothills, the road began to twist around tiny fields planted on every possible inch of flatish ground. Occasionally, the bus stopped next to a lone sign that read something like "Los Cocos 4km.” Below the sign an arrow pointed into thin air. Passengers disembarked, gathered bundles and boxes and dropped out of sight.
The winding mountain roads were a special challenge to the driver, and if three of his four wheels were on the pavement at one time, it seemed adequate for him. The view was breathtaking, until I had to close my eyes as the bus pulled out to pass a truck grinding its way upward.
For distraction, we chatted about the corn fields.
“If this is the corn they are selling in the market, they need some upgrading. It is pretty poor stuff.” Robert said. I figured he must know, having been a dairy farmer for years. “These hills are so steep, the farmers must put a teeny drop of glue on each kernel when it is planted to keep it from falling down into the valley.”
The landscape melded into forests of pines but a warm drizzle kept the humidity as thick as on the coast.
After four hours, the second driver plopped himself into the driver’s seat. We thought the first driver was bad, but the new one seemed to wait for a curve before passing, preferably on a blind hill. Robert fell silent, unable to distract himself any more.
After a while he said, “My leg is sore.” I looked quizzically. “I can’t help it. It wants to push on the brake since that guy at the wheel doesn’t seem to know what it’s for.”
At last the land leveled off. It was raining again. The numbers of fences and small fields increased and we approached the mountain town of El Salto. The bus turned down a street lined with small shops and tiny restaurants, some with the logos of bus lines next to their doors.
We had arrived.
Go the the next chapter: El Salto