Pan-American Trails part 3

The story of a long solo travel tour through Mexico to Central America

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

I enjoyed this part of my trip the most. There was no rain there and my tanks were full of gas and oil and I had enough water to last me for a day or two. Therefore I didn’t worry. Yet I had no food and when I wanted to eat I had to kill a jack-rabbit broil it on an improvised fire and gobble it down with a sip of flat water from my canteen while sitting on the hot sand under a broiling noonday sun. Was it fun? To most people I don’t believe it would have been but to me it was.

I always did like the desert and I felt at home in it. From the saddle of my motor I could look around for miles and miles, as far as where the sky comes down to meet the earth, and could see nothing but the most complete barrenness, the most discouraging desolation. Not a tree to break the monotony of the scenery, not a sound to compete with the purring of the motor, not a house and not a trace of human life.

And I liked it! At such times one has a feeling of freedom impossible to describe, a feeling of awe and admiration for that endless open country, where a man is his own king, a world unto himself. One wants to shout, just to hear the sound of a human voice. Riding in those deserts is like paddling a row boat in the middle of the ocean, the scenery never changes and you never seem to be getting anywhere.

And then my mind would wander back to the town I had left but a month before, and wonder if such a place really did exist. It all seemed too impossible, too unreasonable to be grasped by the imagination. In one place so much human life, such thick crowds where breathing was hardly possible and here-absolute nothingness!

It was so droll! I used to talk to myself and laugh out loud.

It must have been the heat!

The Pulpit Canyon is the only pass that crosses the Sierra Madre Mountains in the northern part of Mexico. There was no reason in the world why I should cross those mountains, since I could have got to Mexico City very easily through the state of Durango which was all flat country with comparatively easy roads. Yet I wanted to cross those mountains. They fascinated me and they just stood there as a challenge to my motorcycle and to myself, and I took the dare.

The Pulpit Pass wasn’t exactly a road. It had started as a mule trail, then during one of the many Mexican revolutions the rebels had to carry their army across the Sierra Madre, and that being the only way through they smoothed it out in spots so as to be able to drag along their heavy artillery. And it hasn’t been retouched or repaired since.

Few are the machines that dare undertake the crossing of the canyon, although they have a regular truck service twice a week between Agua Prieta and Chihuahua. Some automobiles succeed in crossing it, others get stuck on the road and either leave the machine there, if too old, or wait until they are pulled out by horses or trucks. And still other drivers, with less luck, slide off those tricky roads and end tragically at the bottom of some steep banks.

I reached the top of some chain of mountains and there I paused to feast my eyes on the majestic beauty of the Sierra Madre.

An endless mass of rocky mountains, it extended as far as the eye could see, defiant to the intruder and apparently impossible to cross. The road was narrow, rough and steep, covered with loose rocks and gravel and with no protection whatsoever on the outside edge. I knew the task ahead of me and with a sigh of resignation I pushed on.

By Jose Porta
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