Copala to Durango – 4 days, 163 miles

January 19th, 2006 by David

   I spent two days in Copala, a picturesque town of about 1,500 people in the steep foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidente, a massive mountain range that hugs the west coast of Mexico. Copala, a former mining town, now appears to have an economy based on tourism and livestock that make noise early in the morning (mostly donkeys and chickens).

Copala, a town in the foothills
Dr. Carlos
Dora and Luis

   In Copala I befriended a doctor and former cyclist who raced in the 1961-3 Tour de France, an artist who spends one month a year in a vow of silence (not this month), and a young hotel manager who is married to a man more than twice her age (something that I’ve seen more than once here). In addition to companionship, these people provided me with food, medicine, highly discounted lodging, bicycling advice, and organic, herbal remedies.

   Departing Copala, the road climbs to over 6,000 feet in 30 miles, and then continues to climb while hugging an impressive cliff-lined ridgeline literally called ‘the spine of the devil.’ It is the only paved road through the Sierra Madre Ocidente for hundreds of miles to the north and south. Eventually, the terrain becomes less steep, entering pine forests, but the road continues to climb to over 9,000 feet.

Climbing into the Sierra Madre Ocidente
Cliffs overlooking El Palmito
El Espinazo del Diablo

   The second night out of Copala, while camping in the forest at below freezing temperatures, I awoke to find a forest fire (slowly) approaching my tent. I decided to move camp.

This fire was getting close to my tent.
I stayed in the first house on the left

   The third night out, I stayed with the family of the doctor’s mother-in-law, who lived in the village of Llano Grande high in the mountains. All employment in the village is based on harvesting wood from the forests. About eight members of the extended family shared a lot. Dinner was cooked on a wood stove, and I turned on and off the light in the extra room they had by unscrewing the bulb from the socket. I was the first or second gringo that anyone in the family had ever talked to. (When asked, they said not to put their photos on the internet for the world to see).

Cathedral in Durango
Durango Hotel: We don't have to share a bed tonight!

   I am now in the city of Durango, staying for free at a hotel because I have befriended a man who runs an excellent bicycle touring company and has connections to the tourism industry. If you want to do an economic supported bicycle tour near Durango, check out their website! Durango, with a scenic colonial downtown, sits at about 6,000 ft and is filled with about half a million people.

4 Responses to “Copala to Durango – 4 days, 163 miles”

  1. nick says:

    Glad you are back on two sturdy wheels, after a shaky few days. What did you have to eat on that boat?

    And the ongoing saga of South and Central America tilting to the left continues:
    ~a populist leads the presidential race (election in July)
    ~Chile elected a female former political prisoner as their new president

  2. Brian says:


    I have never seen or heard of a long tour being undertaken with the saddle you are using. Is it working out OK for you?

    I will stick to my leather Brooks B 17.

    Wish you well.

    Apprentice bike mechanic and sometime tourer

  3. David says:

    REPLY TO BRIAN: Well, I’m not going to say it is the perfect seat, but it has been comfortable for me. It does not work if you are leaned over in a racing position, but that is ok, as I ride very upright.

    The idea behind the seat is to allow blood to flow to certain important organs of the male body…now, having looked through the research I can find online, I’m not sure it really makes a big difference. There was a big New York Times article on this a few months back, saying that this was a seriuos problem. I decided to try a seat online, and then found out that scientist that was being cited for the studies also sells the seat…making me wonder about conflict of interests. But, if you’re going to be on a seat 6 days a week for 5 hours every day, it probably does make a difference. (It is the easty seat by Hobson.)

    But the real reason for the seat, if you must know, and I may regret posting this on the internet, is hemorroid prevention. Other seats have been a problem, and this seat performs beautifully.

  4. Brian says:

    Comfort! riding a bike? Sounds like you need a recumbent, armchair comfort and aerodynamic as well. And you are very upright, no neck or back pains.


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