It is peak breakfast time in El Shrimp Bucket and I do not have the time to wait for a table to free up, so I take a Pulmonia, a sort of souped-up golf cart serving as a taxi, to the bus station, an ugly affair a few kilometres down the boulevard. "Caliente?", the guy asks, pointing at the sandwich I want to buy. "Si", I say, "Caliente" and he puts it in a microwave for a minute or so. I am now very suspicious of anything I eat before I leave on a long distance bus trip and warming it up may help, but it is only lukewarm when I open the plastic box. Hesitatingly, I take a small bite from a corner and then look between the three slices of white bread at what's in there. A few pieces of salad, tomatoes, ham and yellowy cheese. Is it the cheese? I don't know, but suddenly I don't trust it anymore and dump the box in the bin. Maybe an "Orden de Pollo", grilled chicken, is a better plan, at least it has been properly cooked, and a bottle of apple juice; if I can get the girl to put aside her newspaper for a second.
The road out of Mazatlan leads straight East up into the mountains to the plateau where Durango lies at 1800 metres. Soon it becomes small and sinuous and the bus, pretty much full, often stops along the road and in small villages to let campesinos carrying big bundles get on or off. When we get higher, there are beautiful views over the mountain range and valleys alternating to the left and to the right, a few times even left and right when we cross a small ridge with plunging depths on both sides.
Durango looks a bit more prosperous, less broken pavement and fewer small stalls on the curbs and people selling chewing gum or other small stuff. The nights are below zero again at this altitude, but when I leave my hotel at the end of the morning it is nice and warm at 22 degrees. Had I ever heard of Durango before? Maybe, had I ever heard of Durango an important centre for American (and Mexican) film making, certainly not! But it was and to an extent still is. At the high point its studios had 58 production stages and many Hollywood westerns of the 50s and 60s, like "The Wild Bunch" by Sam Peckinpah in 1968 (release 1969) with William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, were filmed in the surrounding mountains. The Museo de Cine is a small affair but has many of the (Spanish) posters of films shot here, with hits as recent as 1997 (release 1998) "The Mask of Zorro", with Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas. John Wayne deserves his own room for all the films he shot here on location and there is a niche for Dolores del Rio, a Hollywood star of the 30s and a Mexican one for decades thereafter, who hailed from Durango.
The other sights of Durango are within walking distance and only a few hours later I have covered them all, including a stop at Subway, where I am happy to note they put on disposable plastic gloves before preparing a fresh sandwich. I take mine "tostada", quite tasty actually.