Niko’s Kantina ride: Narcos, canyons and fiesta

To my surprise, nobody tried to stab me, rob me or hurt me in any way. Not only foreigners, also Mexicans tend to exaggerate when it comes to safety in Mexico.

After two days of depressing ride, cloudy, hazy weather, Dane being tired because of the crash and it’s consequences and relatively boring road, we got to the entrance of Barrancas del Cobre in Sierra Madre. First stop was Basaseachi waterfalls. The second highest waterfall in MX and at the time, probably the highest one, since the official highest, the nearby Piedra Volada, is a season waterfall and it stops flowing in autumn according to the locals.

Magic place, a kickass canyon and a breathtaking waterfall. Pictures don’t do it justice. We decided to cam there for the night, just so we can enjoy it a bit more. The night. That night we got the most overwhelming display of the night sky on this trip. Milky way and more stars that one could imagine. However, it was pretty fresh. The local guy that was taking care of the camp ground said that it will get town to minus… way below zero. And that we stay at 2600 meters above sea level. He was wrong in both cases, but nevertheless the night was cold, as we were sleeping at an altitude of 2000 meters.

Siesta time in Basaseachi

The day after, earlyish in the morning we packed and took off towards Creel. Fun little road leading through San Juanito and then Creel for lunch. It was early in the day, so we decided to do what I planned for two days in one day. Ride towards Bahuichivio and then Cerocahui, on the rim of the canyon. Awesome road, good pavement, good visual and ups and downs like a roller coaster. We didn’t see much of the canyon that day, so I was getting a bit suspicious.

The road to San Juanito
The town of Creel
Central Cerocahui

Coming to Cerocahui seemed like a small mistake at the time of our arrival. Tiny place, no prospect for a hotel. But in fact there were two. A really crappy looking one and one that seemed really out of place, because it looked so fancy. We ask in the fancy one, Cristina, the receptionist gives a very friendly price after a bit of persuading and we end up having a really pleasant night, meeting new people, sipping the local wine. Perfect place.

The back of the hotel was a vinyard

When do the local drug lords come in you ask? Well, the “narcos” as the locals call the people involved with the Cartel are everywhere around us at this point. We just didn’t know it yet. Exaggerate about safety? In fact yes. The first reaction when I asked the local tour guide about the road to Batopilas through Urique was: “NO, no, no, es muy peligroso!” The road to Batopilas through the Urique canyon is the most direct and one of the last dirt roads in the area. It is also one of the major hideouts for the Narcos, who grow tons of weed and do a lot of their drug stuff in those hills. I asked why and how. Many times since then. No definite answer so far.

The “Why?” should actually come after the how. There is no reason to hide, especially in places so remote, because it seems that the local authorities, including the army, have no intention to catch anyone. It is not uncommon to see a narcos truck pull by an army truck and nothing happens. You’d expect at least some tension. Nothing.

The “How?” is just how they do it. How can a criminal, violent and “bad” organization co-inhabit and prospect in a community of such nice people. I’m asking myself the same in the case of Yakuza in Japan as well. Everyone knows it’s there, everyone knows what they are doing is illegal, but it’s still there. I guess it’s just the way we, humans, do it. As long as it’s big stuff, like a government, coroporation or a criminal organization it’s ok. At individual level, we’ll stone you to death.

Back to the road. After I point out that it’s past harvest season, that our bikes can be fast if needed etc. We get the directions in and out of the canyon. And in again.

Next day, with a lot of expectations and a bit of nervousness we head on a 150kms long journey, that was about to take us 6 hours deep in the land of the Sinaloa cartel.

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