Having spent the better part of the day learning about, and tasting
tequila distilled agave spirits, exploring the little towns of La Noria and El Quelite and eating our fill of molcajete, about all we had left to do was find our way home. Although not exactly on a straight line to Maz, we decided we had plenty of daylight left to try to find the beach at Las Labradas which is said to have some 400 year old cave paintings. So, off we went.
The guidebook we were using said to take Hwy 15 north out of Mazatlán to kilometer post 103 and then turn west on Hwy 2 to Dimas Station. Easy enough. Of course, since we were currently at about km marker 30-something, we had a little ways to go. But, traffic was light and the weather was perfect so no worries.
Long about km marker 73 we saw a sign pointing to Dimas in one direction and San Ignacio in the other. The highway number wasn't evident but it sure looked like where we should turn. However, since we were still 30 km shy of where the guide told us to turn, we figured this was just one of a couple possible routes and probably not the most direct. I mean, why else would Captain George's guide say to turn at Km 103? So, we pressed on.
We did eventually reach km marker 103 but there wasn't a turn right there. There was one just a little ways down the road however and we turned west. Things seemed a bit weird to me because we turned near a town called Elote and the road we turned onto said we were going to La Cruz. La Cruz is north of Dimas. I had a tiny little road map of the entire state of Sinaloa and took a look. Sure enough, there is a road crossing the Hwy 15 that connects La Cruz and Elote. And, guess what, the map didn't show any road from Elote down to Dimas. We should have taken the turn back at km 73. Thanks, Capt. George!
Oh well, no biggie. We'll just drive to La Cruz and then head south from there along the coast. Simple, right?
Having grown up on the west coast of the US, I knew that navigating coastal towns was pretty much a breeze. I mean, there are only ultimately 3 directions you can go without getting wet. Armed with this confidence, we entered La Cruz.
Obviously, the thing to do is continue west until you find the main north-south road and take a left. Unless, of course, you happen to see signs directing you where you want to go. Well, helpful signs didn't seem to be an option, so we just continue heading west. We went through one major intersection with a traffic light but there were no signs so we just continued west. Naturally, the road turned and made us turn with it a few times but we still maintained a generally westerly direction. I could see from my Sinaloa road map that the highway continued all the way to the northern border of Sinaloa at least, so there was no chance we could miss it. No chance at all.
Pretty soon the road turned to dirt and shortly afterwards, it ceased to be recognizable as a road at all. How could that be? We were absolutely certain that we didn't cross over or under any major thoroughfares and yet, if we continued on, we'd be getting wet very soon. Oh well. We turned around to try again.
Now, La Cruz doesn't seem to be a very big town but I'm convinced that it has some sort of voodoo spell on it. Why? Because we could never seem to find the same street twice. We would wander around the town on dirt roads and, in places where we had to cross a paved road, and indeed had crossed the paved road a few minutes before, no paved road would now exist. Intersections moved or disappeared altogether, and still, the elusive north-south highway refused to be found. Finally, frustrated, we decided to start our own way south. As with coastal towns everywhere (uh-huh!), each one would have access to the highway and we figured maybe we could find it if we went to a smaller town.
We headed south-ish out of La Cruz. At least the road was paved, if not signed. We did come to an intersection that, if I remember right, showed Salado to the left (east) and Saladito straight ahead (south). Saladito (if that's truly what it was) was a tiny little town. The paved road ran through it, at least most of the way. Everything off to the right or left was dirt. Oh, there was one paved cross road but, before we took it, we thought we'd ask for directions. Traffic was extremely light so it was no problem just to stop in the middle of the road. We saw a young lady, probably a teenager, and waved her down. I asked, in my iffy Spanish, where the road to Mazatlán was. She looked sort of surprised and hollered over at an older lady, probably her mother. I asked mamá, ¿Donde es el camino a Mazatlán? ¡MAZÁTLAN! She cried out and then started laughing. We laughed along with her although we weren't sure why this was so funny. Well, she came out and gave us a bunch of directions, nearly none of which any of us understood. However, we let on like we did so as not to offend and then went where she pointed. She and her daughter walked back to the house chuckling.
Well, her directions didn't help us at all. We just ended up wandering around the dirt back streets of Saladito. We decided to try the direction thing again and this time we'd make a more concerted effort to understand what we were being told. We spied a nicely dressed gentleman of about our vintage getting out of a car.
"Hola señor. ¿Puede ayudanos?" (Hello, sir. Can you help us?)
"Sí. ¿Qué necesitan?" (Yes. What do you need?)
"¿Donde es el camino a Mazatlán?" (Where is the road to Mazatlán?)
Laughing, "¡MAZATLÁN!" (Mazatlán! What the hell do you mean, Mazatlán? Wait'll I tell the wife about this!) He didn't actually say any of that stuff but you could tell by the smile on his face that it wasn't often that he ran into gringos looking for Mazatlán.
He proceeded to give us directions and we made a conscious effort to understand them. Had him repeat things several times until I was pretty sure we got the gist of what he was saying. Basically, it sounded like we were supposed to go back to the next street (turns out he meant the next paved street) and turn left. Follow the street until it crossed the canal. Then something about a corner (rincón) and a bridge (puenta). We thanked him and gave it a shot.
Well, we found the canal but, shortly after crossing it, we ran out of pavement and then the road got really bad. Like 4-wheel drive bad. We decided, screw this. Let's head back to La Cruz and try again.
We got back into La Cruz okay but quickly decided that our only real option was to ask someone. Maybe it wouldn't be quite so funny here as it was in Saladito. We pulled into a Pemex gas station. Marj and I walked inside and talked to the young woman at the counter.
"Hola. Estamos perdido." (Hello. We're lost.)
I knew we were in good hands when she good-naturedly leaned on the counter and essentially said, "How can I help? Tell me all about it."
Again I asked how to get to the road to Mazatlán. She asked whether we wanted the inland route or the coastal route. Since we'd just come from the inland route, I asked for the coastal route. She then started giving us directions. Whenever we got somewhere that we didn't understand, I asked her to clarify and she was always happy to do so. Keep in mind that she spoke NO English. The gist of it was that we were to go up to an intersection with a big sign (I'm pretty sure she was pointing at the particular sign (for John Deere implements), and then go right. Follow the road around a very long curve. Then, at another Pemex station, take a right. Cross some railroad tracks and then we should see the sign directing us either north or south. We thanked her, she wished us luck and said that if we have any problems, just stop at another Pemex station and ask again. She waved us goodbye and smilingly sent us on our way.
We followed her directions as best we understood them and, lo and behold, we found the highway and managed to get on it headed south.
As we proceeded to Mazatlán (all thoughts of cave drawings now forgotten) we realized that, even if we had been able to figure out how to reach the road from Saladito, or even from Dimas if we'd come that way, there was no way to get on it. This was a VERY limited access/egress highway. I don't believe there was a single on or off ramp the entire way until the highway (toll road as it turns out - and not cheap, either; just under $100 pesos) ended on the northern outskirts of Mazatlán.
But, all's well that ends well and at least we brightened the day of a couple of citizens of Saladitos (and gave them a story to tell and laugh over) but we also had our day brightened by a sweet young lady at a Pemex station.
Knowing what we now know about access to the highway, I really wonder where the folks in Saladito were sending us. At least now I know why they had to stop and think about directions that, to the uninformed, would seem to be obvious. Try asking anyone in Newport, Oregon how to get to Highway 101, for instance, and they won't hesitate for a second. Of course, one can get on and off 101 from Newport so it's much easier. Saladito to Mazatlán? Sort of a classic case of "you can't get there from here".