By S. Ancín
Espinazo del Diablo (Devil’s Backbone) can be found at the western side of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Mexico and if it is to honour its name it must be one of the most dangerous stretches of road on earth. There are plenty of reasons why.
Crossing the western Sierra Madre Mountains we find road 40 that links Durango with Mazatlán at the coast. It runs for approximately 320 kilometres starting at 1.870 m altitude and ascending to 2.750m only to finish at just 40m above sea level. The road ascends and descends across spectacular landscapes, sharp bends and bottomless cliffs. It is advisable to start with a full tank as the road only crosses tiny villages made up of 10 to 12 houses (or some isolated houses in the surrounding mountains) and none of them has a petrol station. Only at the El Palmito settlement can you buy a petrol can but at a very high price.
At 2.400m high and flanked by two deep ravines
Espinazo del Diablo comprises just 10 km of road 40, at 168 kilometres from Durango. Its steep gradients and narrow sections have earned it the adjective of “bleak”. There is nowhere to set up camp alongside it and it suffers from recurrent fogs and roaming wild animals which cause frequent and fatal accidents. Espinazo del Diablo’s lookout point is an obligatory stop. At 2.400m high and flanked by two deep ravines it offers unparalleled panoramic views of the Sierra Madre mountain range that will leave you speechless. It is recommended to get there early as the fog is more likely to thicken through the day.
About six kilometres before this there is another lookout point called Buenos Aires which is at the highest point of the road. The views from here are also breath-taking. Looking at the silhouettes of the mountains under the different combinations of light and shade you can make out different figures; some say you can see three monks formed by three little mountains, others say to have seen the silhouette of the devil himself. Of course each person’s imagination does help.