After much discussion and deliberation as we awaited the release of the troopy from the confines of the container port, we decided our priority was to get to the border and into the US. One of things we had hoped we would be able to do as part of this trip was to drive the length of the Rockies from the South in New Mexico to the North in British Columbia. Along the way we would visit Stewart’s sister and her family in Colorado Springs. Given that we are due to meet our fellow travellers in Banff, Canada on the 14th July, we needed to cover the 2000 plus kms to the border as quickly as possible to give ourselves the maximum time to enjoy the Rockies. We headed off on Thursday morning exactly a week after arriving in Veracruz. The delays with the car were expected, but we were still relieved and happy as we headed out of Veracruz.
The fastest route was to stick to the Cuota or Toll roads which are generally dual lane and in good condition. We had a good driving day and arrived in San Miguel de Allende late in the afternoon after covering 640 km’s. Did I mention the tolls? This was an expensive day on the road – $83 – that’s Australian dollars! Yep, we were paying for the good roads! Diesel in Mexico is also more expensive than the South American countries we have travelled through at over $1.50 per litre.
It was a good drive though, at first climbing 2,600 meters onto the central highlands to the east of Mexico City, passing mountain ranges and Mexico’s highest mountain which was shrouded in smoke and smog. The countryside was predominantly dry with some areas of irrigated crops, goat and sheep herders and arid land covered in a variety of cactus.
San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful colonial city and the following day we planned to spend having a look around. After organizing an oil change for the troopy which had now covered just over 30,000 km’s, we jumped on a local bus and headed into town where we walked for hours over the cobble stone streets, enjoying the interesting and spectacular buildings and plazas, with lots of other (mostly Mexican) tourists.
Now a long way from the coast and at a higher altitude, the weather was mild and enjoyable after the heat and humidity of Veracruz.
Our second day on the road was to be a long one as we headed for Torreon, 740 km’s North. The most memorable thing this day were the number of semi trailers and trucks, thankfully going the other way. Never before in our travels have we seen so many semis on the road over such a long period of time. These were all heading south towards Mexico City. The crops where now broad acre and more varied with maize, cabbage and broccoli, rockmelon, alfalfa and lucerne indicating an improvement in the soil over the previous day’s drive and lots of irrigation. The traffic thinned out and the roads were good and as a bonus we changed time zones, picking up an hour along the way. As there are no campgrounds along this route, we rolled into a very nice motel in Torreon about 6.00pm after negotiating the 4 lane boulevards, overpasses and underpasses. Tolls today totaled just AUD$41.
Leaving Torreon fresh and breakfasted, directions duly double checked, we headed off towards Chiuhuahua. This morning our GPS yet again gave us plenty of ‘special memories’, taking us on a guided tour of yet to be completed freeways, and non-existent intersections. These little challenges took an extra 45 minutes of back tracking, and as we finally left the city of Torreon we whistfully lamented the days when we just had a book of street maps!
Sunday’s drive took us through a fairly flat landscape with kilometres of irrigated walnuts, pistachio and pecan nuts trees plus acres of (more)alfalfa, maize & strawberries. Just to make the mid-afternoon arrival in Chiuhuahua a bit more interesting, we arrived at the same time as a massive thunderstorm which had the streets running with water and traffic driving at snail’s pace. Actually the speed was great but visibility was somewhat hampered. No exciting GPS dramas here thank goodness! After the rain drained away, we took a stroll around the block to visit the nearby mall, cathedral and 18th-century Palacio de Gobierno, a government building where massive murals depict major Mexican historical events. Being Sunday evening, people were out in the Plaza de Armas in front of the cathedral dancing, sitting, strolling or just people watching like us.
Our last day on the road in Mexico, Monday 3rd June was just a short 356km drive from Chiuhuahua to Ciudad Juarez. Flat dry landscape with few towns made this feel like a drive through many parts of outback Australia. The toll roads by-pass many villages. Occassionally a rugged monolith emerges from the dust haze, and appears to sit on the flat landscape like a cut out.
Muted tones reminded us of dusty, hazy Central Australian days with the similar landscapes – although here occasionally the land is a bright green irrigated pasture. We passed more alphalpha, maize, some cattle, more pistachio trees, white sand dunes, a few army troops patrolling the roads and some whirly-whirlys – in no particular order.
Juarez is a big border town with over a million people, but it’s not the biggest! It gave us a bit of an idea of the extent of traffic and trade that passes through the border!
In order to be fresh for the border formalities entering the USA, with Temporary Vehicle Import to complete as well as migration, we had an overnight stay in Ciudad Juarez.
So we complete our last border crossing in Spanish and just like that, our 7 months in Latin America has ended – so much more quickly than we could have imagined and with many, many amazing memories. Next the Rockies….