Pan-American Trails Part 4

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

Being the continuation of a tale of a motorcycle vagabond in Latin America

By the time I arrived in Tepic the inside of my thighs was nothing but a bleeding sore and the seat of my pants-well, anyway I had to stay in Tepic one week.

It was still raining when I left town and I had been warned not to go any further or to wait at least two or three months by which time the rainy season would be over. Besides I couldn’t cross the mountains on my motorcycle. It was simply impossible, it had never been done and it would never be done.

Still I had heard the word impossible before and I had learned not to pay any attention to it. The rainy season in this part of Mexico lasts from July until October and it was August now, and I couldn’t afford to stop for three months. Besides I was bound to meet more rain in other countries and if I had to stop whenever I found mud I might as well have turned around and gone back home. I would have been safer there.

The Sierra Madre separates Tepic from Guadalajara and, as I said before, the only way of communication between the two cities is the railroad. There are primitive roads that go part of the way but there are none that cross those mountains. During the dry season one can take a road from Tepic to Barrancas through Campustela, crossing a river twelve times, but during the rainy season this same river swells up and turns the adjoining country almost into a lake. Therefore the road to Campustela was out of the question for me at that time.

But there was another way to get to Barrancas through an old road used by the stage coach up to 1924, at which time the railroad had been built and after which nothing on wheels has ever gone through it. The road had been forgotten and completely abandoned ever since.

I had no choice in the matter as this seemed to be the only road left for me to follow. At least I couldn’t lose my way, and I started out with Barrancas as my next goal.

On my first day out I had nothing but mud and after passing a small village, San Gayetano, I reached a ranch, Mirador, where all passable roads were supposed to end. It was late in the afternoon and it was raining so hard that I decided to stop there for the night.

But then I was anxious to know what was ahead of me and after leaving the motorcycle at the ranch I followed the road on foot for a few miles, then I went back to the ranch to sleep, or rather I tried to sleep but couldn’t very well because what I had seen of the road had made me believe that the time had come for me to turn around and go back.

Next morning when I got up it wasn’t raining and that gave me more courage to go ahead. Besides from then on there would have been no more mud to cross, at least until I got through crossing those mountains.

There wasn’t a stretch of level road; it was all up and down hill. It was easy to see that road hadn’t been used for several years. It had been cut on hard rock where the foundation was solid, but where the ground was soft it had been covered by large cobblestones which were now eradicated and turned loose by the torrential downpours that had slashed and punished those mountains during those many years.

It was a hopeless task for me to tackle that road. The Pulpit Pass was childplay compared to this. There the road had been tough, here it was impassable.

By Jose Porta
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