DAY 1 – Santa Barbara to Tucson (11/5/11)
Took about 11 hours with about and hour looking for an aluminum roll up table at 2 REI’s. This was a waste of time since we never found one and never needed one…
Met up with my brother.
DAY 2 – Tucson to Nuevo Casas Grande (11/6/11)
We had some last minute business to take care of and some supplies to buy. So, we didn’t get out of Tucson until around 11am.
We had lunch in Bisbee, AZ. I wish we had more time to check out the town – it seemed to have real character. Chickadee thought it was cute…
The border crossing at Agua Prieta was reached around 2pm. As was to be the case with every checkpoint (border, military, or otherwise), we were searched. This delay, coupled with the usual amount of time it takes for the temporary vehicle import paperwork, meant we did not get back on the road until around 4pm. This meant night driving in Mexico was to ensure since Nuevo Casas Grande was still about 150 miles away. Not ideal, but not our first time doing this.
The all paved road drive from Augua Prieta on MEX10 was much prettier than we expected. Low, rocky, yet vegetated hills comprised most of the route. Kind of northern Arizona-esque. I would definitely recommend this route versus MEX15 if you are only going one way down.
Our destination was an RV park in the northern part of Nuevo Casas Grande that was made mention of by someone during our initial research of talking to a few parties who have made the trip at different times during the 2000’s. Well, it didn’t exist. We made three passes of the town searching for it to no avail. Asking locals yielded no help either.
The following six paragraphs are an aside but this seems like a natural point to discuss…
This first experience trying to find a specific place that WAS confirmed to exist will bring up two recurring themes for this trip: 1) Local Mexicans that we talk to don’t typically know their own town’s tourist offerings that well or how to explain how to get in/out of their town well either. 2) Tourism seems to have been hit so hard due to the internal “Drug War” that many tourist related businesses have folded.
Point one above was not a surprise to us since we’ve done anywhere from three to eight weeks of driving in Mexico. I am making this point so that less experienced overlanders in Mexico have the right expectation going in. It is not meant to be a harsh judgement on the locals knowledge either. Americans not knowing where the local RV Park or campgrounds in their own town is not surprising. How often do you camp in your hometown? I don’t.
Navigating and driving from city to city within a region is not usually carried out by most Mexicans as far as I can tell. (When we visited our relatively affluent Mexican friends in their hometown, they did not drive city to city within their region even though they did this without thinking in the US. They would have a family friend who was a part-time taxi driver take them around…)
The ability to read maps is also a skill most locals do not posses. I read somewhere that this is due to the historical lack of good maps that have been available for Mexico. This lack of maps is getting much better as far as I can tell. So, I recommend not even pulling out your maps when asking for directions since it seems to confuse things even more…
We were recently made aware of a cultural specific issue by another Mexican we know who lives in the US now. She told us that locals like to be “helpful” and give directions even if they are unsure or simply don’t know. This was insight I did not have previously!
Again, I am not trying to be judgmental or controversial here. I just want to share our experiences to make it easier for others. We could discuss the above five paragraphs in another thread since it is off topic…
Moving right along, we stayed at Hotel Piñon (430MXN or ~30USD) since it was late and dark and we still needed to get dinner. It was a pleasant, newer looking hotel with a gated, monitored courtyard that afforded decently secure parking. The desk clerk spoke English well. The reason for pointing this out is that this would be our last communications with any Mexicans in English for almost the entire time we were in the canyons.