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Visiting the Sierra Madres

Important Note! Without a special permit it is against Mexican Law to import clothing, even for charitable purposes. All clothing brought into Mexico must be declared. Please Contact Us for further details.

Driving in the Sierra Madres alone could be extremely difficult and should not be attempted except in a high-clearance vehicle preferably a four-wheel drive, with paint you don't mind scratching. Before going into the mountains make sure you have food, at least three gallons of potable water and a full tank of gas plus five gallons extra. Maps, compass, altimeter, binoculars, and GPS systems will all come in handy, but bear in mind You Will Get Lost. There's practically no way around it. Almost all roads, forks and intersections are entirely unmarked, and generally speaking, it's safe to assume you will not be able to find your way back the way you came, whatever trail of mental breadcrumbs you leave behind. On a more positive note, most communities have a small store and many have someone who sells gas, but clean drinking water must be brought with you. 

Most mountain driving takes place in first gear at speeds of fifteen miles per hour or less on bone-jarring, rock-studded roads for hours and hours at a stretch. A padded steering wheel or gloves help prevent blisters; bicycle gloves being cheaper and more effective than the fancy driving kind. On the plus side, gasoline consumption goes way down at low speeds and a single tank can last for twelve hours or more, even in four wheel drive. 

One crucial element to have on your side is time. A road covering five miles as the crow flies can take hours to drive. Be prepared to spend at least one night in the mountains and expect to get lost. Bring a pair of hiking boots and a canteen in case you have to walk for help. Between the border, customs checkpoints, the roads and the otherwise unexpected, there are all kinds of potential setbacks, pitfalls and dead ends, and attempting to do this under a tight time limit will drive you insane. 

Generally speaking, the greatest obstacles come from within. After five or six hours of driving you'll find yourself in places so isolated and remote you cannot help feeling extremely vulnerable and wondering if it's the stupidest thing you've ever done. This is not entirely a bad thing. Provided, of course, that you do make it back to civilization, you should find yourself better prepared to deal with things like parking tickets, office politics and waiting around for the cable guy to show up. 

To get a permission to bring a vehicle into Mexico you need to have a driver's license, registration and title to the vehicle and a credit card IN YOUR NAME. You'll also need a passport and a Mexican visa, which is available with a small charge at the border Immigration office. Count on at least an hour to get your car and self registered properly with the authorities. Once you're done, your papers will be good for six months. (You also get a neat holographic sticker for your windshield!) Mexican auto insurance, available on this US side, is fairly cheap and particularly useful if you get in an accident while in Mexico.