Mexico, Part 1: Copper Canyon to Oaxaca

Mexico, Part 1: Copper Canyon to Oaxaca

Most people choose the southern ferry route to Mazatlán when moving from Baja California to mainland Mexico. But my partner Aidan and I have plans to explore the country’s northern regions, despite their notorious reputation.

We have done our research, though, and feel safe enough—so long as we don’t ride at night and opt for hotels rather than wild camping. The ferry drops us off in Topolobampo at sunset and we settle into our Airbnb in nearby Los Mochis just as darkness falls.

After the relaxed atmosphere of Baja California, the short ride to Choix the next day provides the perfect opportunity to acclimatize to the wonderfully messy Mexican street chaos. We are already used to the suddenly appearing topes (high Mexican speed bumps) and the random stop signs across the main highways to let traffic from the side streets in. But here, everything is amplified by sheer volume.

Bright wares spill from shops out onto the streets, tattered awnings hide road signs, and small bikes buzz everywhere. People, dogs, and chickens wander out into the road.

I always learned to ride defensively in the middle of my lane, but here everyone budges up to the side to let faster traffic pass. Whether it’s by law or local convention, it feels safer to do as the locals do, since that is what everyone expects (and they will overtake, relying on oncoming traffic to move over).

Once we learn to grow eyes in the back of our heads, managin the traffic actually becomes quite easy. Drivers may squeeze past with inches to spare, but there is a certain courtesy here—a sort of benevolent in-it-together vibe where they cut it close and wish you a safe and pleasant journey while they’re doing it.

Motorcycles & Gear

1991 Honda NX250
2004 BMW F 650 GS

Helmet: Shoei RF1200
Jacket & Pants: REV-IT! Horizon 2 Ladies, REV-IT! Afterburn H2O, Alpinestars Hyper Dry Star
Boots: TCX
Gloves: Eagle Rider
Luggage: DrySpec D20 saddle bags, Givi 30L Dolomiti Monokey, DrySpec roll-top dry bag
Camera: Canon Powershot G1X Mark 3, Nikon D90

Tough Challenges, Great Rewards

Most visitors take a train through the canyons from El Fuerte to Creel, Chihuahua, but we had heard that there is also a road through Copper Canyon. In reality, though, Copper Canyon is a series of six canyons that together are larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the U.S.

Soon after Choix, the blacktop ends and locals advise that the tricky 100 miles to Urique alone take six hours. Our off-road experience consists mostly of trying to find stealthy camping spots at the end of the day and we are more the slowly-bump-along type, rather than stand-up-and-fly riders. But our bikes can handle this, so we give it a go.