The classic version of a camino de montaña or mountain road in Mexico inevitably features a thousand-meter drop on one side and a sheer vertical wall on the other, all too often topped by delicately balanced rocks, each weighing tons and just daring you to pass beneath them.
The danger factor is then compounded a hundredfold if the road is only wide enough for one car to pass and another hundredfold if the surface of that road is not asfalto or empedrado (cobblestone), but brecha (dirt) or – God help you – mud.
I was introduced to one of these unforgettable roads some years ago when a friend suggested we go visit a tiny, once prosperous mining town called San Pedro Analco. As I had never heard of this place, I sought it out on a road map and found it smack in the middle of Jalisco, in what looked like the most desolate spot in the state. Its nearest neighbor was another isolated town with the nearly unpronounceable name of Hostotipaquillo.
Soon Pedro was at my door with two other friends. Off we drove to Hostotipaquillo, located 80 kilometers northwest of Guadalajara.
There we asked a local man how to get to San Pedro Analco.
“Tienes doble tracción?” (You have four-wheel drive?”) he asked, eyeing Pedro’s Cherokee.
“No, amigo,” replied Pedro, “but this vehicle, in the hands of a skillful driver …”
“You will never make it to San Pedro,” interrupted our informant, who went on to describe the impossibly steep slope, the slippery dirt road, the frequent landslides, etcetera.
Of course, this lugubrious description of things bolstered Pedro’s determination even more.