There are some 860 hairpin turns on Mexico’s Highway 120 which snakes through the Sierra Gorda Mountains in the Northern Central Highlands. Looking down at the valleys while the bus driver navigated 180 degree turns with skill I couldn’t help but wonder what little a guard rail would do (where there were some) to stop a mammoth bus from rolling over the side if disaster struck. The mountains reach 7,545 feet at one point. But not once did I see a wreck below although there were many road side memorials with crosses and flowers for those who perished and occasionally loved ones tending to them.
The highway also traverses through the dramatic Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, the beauty of which can distract you from the potential perils of two lane mountain roads. We encountered a diversity of vegetation ranging from dry land with large cacti to pine forests. Ranches and farms growing maze whizzed by the windows.
We did not see any other foreign tourists in all the buses we took in the region. The second class buses from Jalpan to Xilitla and eventually a nine hour bus ride from Xilitla back to Mexico City reminded me of Greyhound but with a bit more leg room and on board entertainment. The sounds from overhead television screens of Hollywood B-movies dubbed in Spanish competed with what I assume were Mexican classics played by the bus driver up front. The latter consisted mainly of men belting out ballads some of which no doubt depicted broken hearts or missing home. Little children giggled at the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie while men in sombreros sat in the front seat and chatted with the bus driver. All passengers who departed thanked the bus driver (muchos gracias) before getting off at their stop. This is the custom in Mexico.