Loreto to Hildago del Parral. 22.12.2000 - 6,800 miles.

Internet access in Loreto was the most expensive yet - 70 pesos an hour (7 dollars). This was because the town was full of American tourists staying at an expensive hotel.

We stayed in a cheaper one at 180 pesos. As the next place to stay was about 90 miles away, we opted for a short day of 25 miles to camp on a beach. This would give us a shorter next day.

Quote from a teenage American girl after hearing what we were doing "gee, whad'yer do about refrigeration?"

80 mile trek over mountains to next town Ciudad Constitution. First 50 miles over mountains with no cafe or anything - good job we filled up with water when we started. As the hotel was only 60 pesos we opted for two nights. This was the local agricultural area - dead flat and if it weren't for the cactus we would swear we were in East Anglia. Another tiring ride across desert with a 30 mile dead straight road. After 70 miles there was still no decent place to camp and we set up our tent on the terrace of a deserted house. Also in residence were two local men and two dogs, who slept in some rooms on the floor. After sweeping all the broken tiles and clearing the rubbish from the floor, it wasn't too bad!

Punctures are getting more frequent due to cactus thorns, which get stuck in everywhere especially when we go off road. Some of the problem is due to our tyres, which are now getting a bit short on rubber. Two of them, the front ones, have been with us since the start. Perhaps we need to replace them!

La Paz at last, 170 pesos for hotel. In the evening, by the local church, we watched the priest blessing all the dustcarts (garbage collection trucks for our US readers) about 30 of them. I suppose this made them feel important. Just had a thought. Dustcarts in Mexico? I wonder what they use them for?

Another strange happening. Joan had to complain in the hotel that the water was too HOT. What actually happened was that there was no cold to mix it with. Even the toilet cistern was full of hot water.

Decision time. Do we take the ferry to Mazatlan or Topolobampo as we would like to visit Copper Canyon. Nobody seems to know where this is, but we know it is around the northern part of the mainland and apparently bigger than the Grand Canyon in the US. The Mexicans don't seem to publicise it much.

There was no hurry to leave and we changed hotel for the second night to a more basic one but much more friendly. It had a courtyard with kitchen and tables and chairs. Although the first hotel had TV and air conditioning it was by a busy road and cars came and went all day (and night). Met an American woman who spent most of her time travelling around earning money with a fire-eating act. David asked if she needed a juggler on a double act, but Joan wasn't too happy to oblige.

At the ferry booking office we found an English couple Paul and Lisa from Devon. They were staying at an even better hotel (and cheaper) We moved again for the third night. The ferry tickets to Topolobampo were 230 pesos (17 pounds) each and the ferry leaves at midnight. At the ferry we waited by the loading bay for 2 hours while all the cars and lorries were loaded. Only then would the man in charge let our bikes on. They were put in a bay at the side and would never have interfered with the loading anyway. David thinks the man in charge had something against cyclists or was waiting for a few dollars. The overnight trip was smooth and non-eventful.

Landed at Topolobampo for the 15-mile ride to Los Mochis, the biggest Mexican town yet. A cheap hotel chosen at random turned out to have Paul and Lisa, Mike also from England, Marvin from Newfoundland and Florence from Singapore - all sharing one room for 240 pesos. Being fed up with the curses when trying to make pancakes in our aluminum pan lid we finally treated ourselves to a non-stick frying pan. It worked a treat. No more sticking. No more curses.

Looking at the map and asking at information centres revealed that there was no road across the mountains to Copper Canyon. Travel by rail was the only option. The seats cost 20 pounds each and 12 pounds each for the bikes. At 4.30am we were awoken by a newly purchased alarm clock and caught the train at 7am. It traveled through mountainous country along a huge steep sided valley, gaining altitude all the time. We started in cactus desert at sea level and ended up at 7,600ft 12 hours later in Creel. The train was several hours later than scheduled, as it had to go very slowly over sections of track where landslides had undermined it. We passed many derailed carriages that had tumbled down ravines on the way.

At this altitude it is below freezing at night and warm and sunny in the daytime. In the Town Square, we again met the crowd we said goodbye to in Los Mochis. It's a waste of time saying goodbye to travelers like ourselves as we always seem to meet again. A small shop in the plaza had a decent book map of Mexico - or so it looks. We have found that most foreign maps can be fiction, and we will find out how good it is when we try to use it. Apart from going hundreds of miles north out of our way, the only way south out of Creel is across the mountain on minor roads. A map is essential. The map is called the Guia Roji and cost us 7.50 pounds.

About 20 miles south of Creel we started to see the real Copper Canyon. The scenery was stunning and the cycling was hard. We cycled through 40 miles of canyon with 2000ft climbs and descents each time we crossed the river. Huge rock formations towered above us and the river seemed like a small stream thousands of feet below. Eventually we camped wild with a view across miles of canyon. Although we were at 9000 ft it was not too cold and we lit a campfire under the stars.

The villages along the route were very small, consisting of a few scattered shacks. Our water bottles were filled from the occasional tap and boiled before use. Food supplies were scant but adequate. Guachochi was the only reasonable sized town with a motel on the 300-mile road between Creel and Hildago del Parral.