September 19-24, 2003
Tropic of Cancer
We didn't spend long in Sinaloa. One day en route from Durango to Mazatlan and four days in Mazatlan. While winding down along the Devil's backbone from the heights of the Durango plateau to the Pacific coast at Mazatlan, we were pleased and surprised to drive by a sign marking the latitude of the Tropic of Cancer. We were so excited to think that finally we were beyond the desert that we had been criss- crossing for the past four months. For Gerry it brought on thoughts of relative progress and how far we had come since our northernmost points of New York and San Francisco and how far we still had to go to reach the next significant latitude, the equator.
But our more immediate concern was where to stop for the night. We could, of course, press on to Mazatlan, but we had read in Lonely Planet about Copola, a small village on the highway that tourists from Mazatlan visited as a day trip. We decided to take a look and perhaps break our journey there. We easily found the sign and turned left off the highway onto another one of those Mexican stone roads. Rather like a cobbled street, but with cobbles the size of melons rather than grapefruits. The road descended rather quickly to a small stream, which it forded and then climbed back up the hill on the other side to the village. The first large building and gateway was peppered with signs in English for Daniel's Restaurant and Hotel. We pulled in and found an ageing American ex-pat who had been lived here for 35 years. He explained that he had brought his mother here; that she had run the restaurant across the courtyard, but that now mother had died and the restaurant was leased to someone else.
With the help of his Mexican sister-in-law, we first looked at the bungalows he had for rent at the end of the garden. They were nice, but seemed prone to mosquitoes and were without screens and had only one small double bed. Next, we looked at the main hotel buiding which had a dozen rooms arranged on either side of a long corridor on the second floor of a very tall building. The rooms were very high-ceilinged just like the hallway. They were a generous size, with a king-sized bed and a large tiled bathroom. There was no air-conditioning but the room had a fan and the window was shaded by trees. Daniel had overseen the building of the motel and had built it to last. We were satisfied, negotiated a price, and moved in.
Our next job was to find something to eat and were happy to have to do nothing more than wander across the courtyard to Daniel's restaurant. The restaruant was surprisingly large and obviously built to accommodate large groups of tourists, probably from Mazatlan. We ordered fish and sat back to enjoy the view of lush tropical hillsides that brought to mind another tropical restaurant near Ban Sang in Thailand. We ordered shandies to wash down the food, which tasted just fine.
After a lingering lunch, we summoned up the energy to walk through the village to its lovely church, perched high-up on the wall of the canyon we had crossed to come into the village earlier. We walked the village streets trying to decide if we could see ourselves living here. In the end, we concluded probably not, although evidently other Americans had decided otherwise. For the first time in Mexico, we were approached directly and asked for money by an adult. The lady cleaning the church asked both Gerry and me for money. We told her gently that we would give a donation to the church instead.
The next morning, bright and early, we packed up once more, loaded the car, climbed down to the water and then up to the highway and were off again towards Mazatlan, which we reached shortly after noon having forded a river in the process. We were still excited to see lots of water in rivers after months of dry wadis, or better, arroyos secos.
Our four days in Mazatlan were mostly unremarkable, except for the close proximity of a hurricane that brought cooler temperatures than normal (good), higher surf than normal (good for Gerry), and a day of rain (not bad). We were quickly recruited for a time-share sales presentation and as a result earned some hard cash and free half-day outings on a small boat. Postponed a day because of the storm, the trip was pleasant, with time to play in the (now much smaller) waves with boogie boards, and a free T-shirt as well. We found a very nice room in a hotel one block from the beach that was under new management and undergoing renovation. They were happy to have some money and keep the staff occupied. We got a great deal.
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