A String in a Maze: NYC to Patagonia solo

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by infinityjellyd, Oct 6, 2016.

  1. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    “The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning...Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way.” - Judge Holden, Blood Meridian

    ---------------------

    I have no interesting story, just a 38-yr old with no kids, no wife, no mortgage. Wanted to do something big, this is what I came up with. This will be a more spartan ride report than your typical day-to-day report; day-to-days are just too hard to maintain. So it will be pic-centric. Of course, feel free to ask me whatever and I will add color or fill in the blanks.

    And in case anyone is curious about my gear, I put some photos and a list of what I'm taking here on a planning thread here:

    http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/new-york-to-argentina-w-tat.1058075/#post-30390775


    The bike I'm riding is a DR650 with all the farkles. Once again, I'm indebted to the forum since I picked it up from a rider on here about 18 months ago. It came with a pelican case tail box, I added Mosko Moto panniers, and that's the luggage.

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    Shortcuts to postings:

    USA I - The South
    USA II - Texas Desert
    Mexico I - Chihuahua
    Mexico II - Las Barrancas
    Mexico III - Batopilas
    Mexico IV - Hidalgo de Parral
    Mexico V - Durango
    Mexico VI - Espinoza del Diablo
    Travel Tip #823 - How to remove a colony of ants from your Shoei DS Hornet helmet
    Mexico VII - Sayulita
    Mexico VIII - Tequila
    Mexico IX - Lucha Libre
    Mexico X - Guanajuato
    Mexico XI - Dia de Muertos
    Mexico XII - From desert to jungle
    Mexico XIII - Xilitla
    Mexico XIV - Monarch Butterflies
    Mexico XV - Teotihuacan
    Mexico XVI - Roadside Virgins
    Mexico XVII - Oaxaca
    Mexico XVIII - Chiapas
    Mexico XIX - Palenque
    Mexico XX - A Detour to Nirvana
    Guatemala I - Tikal
    Guatemala II - Lake Atitlan
    El Salvador
    Nicaragua I - León
    Nicaragua II - Ometepe
    Costa Rica
    Panama I - The Canal
    Panama II - Waiting to Ship
    Colombia I - Cartagena
    Colombia II - The Atlantic Coast
    Colombia III - Cabo de la Vela
    Colombia IV - Santander
    Colombia V - Barichara
    Colombia VI - Guatapé
    Colombia VII - The Coffee Region
    Colombia VIII - Desierto de la Tatacoa
    Colombia IX - San Agustín
    Colombia X - Las Lajas
    Ecuador I - Tulcan and Baños
    Ecuador II - Nariz del Diablo
    Ecuador III - Las Cajas
    Ecuador IV - Ecuadorian Andes
    Peru Peregrinations I - Chachapoyas to Celendín
    Peru Peregrinations II - Huamachuco to Pampas
    Peru Peregrinations III - Cañon del Pato
    Peru Peregrinations IV - The Central Andes to the Sea
    Peru's Southern Coast - Huacachina and Nasca
    Peru Peregrinations V - Back into the Mountains along 30A
    Peru - Cusco and Machu Picchu
    Bolivia I - Titicaca to Sucre
    Bolivia II - Salar de Uyuni
    Day Trip - Colonia (Uruguay)
    Border - Los Libertadores
    Patagonia I - Pucón
    Travel Tip #320: Things to consider when invited to act as a shaman
    Patagonia II - Rio Negro
    Patagonia III - Puyuhuapi
    Patagonia IV - The road to Coyhaique
    Patagonia V - Cerro Castillo
    Patagonia VI - Puerto Sanchez
    Interlude - To the Roads of South America
    Patagonia VII - Cochrane
    Patagonia VIII - Caleta Tortel
    Patagonia IX - RN40
    Patagonia X - El Chalten and Calafate
    Patagonia XI - The Caravan
    Patagonia XII - Wind Anecdotes
    Patagonia XIII - El Fin del Camino
    Un Postre Muy Dulce - Torres del Paine
    #1
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  2. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    USA I - The South

    Ok, so I didn't take many pictures since I was trying to get out of the USA pretty quickly, mainly due to expense management but also because I've been to most of the places through which I rode. But to get this thread started with some pics, here are a few things I saw between CT and TX:


    A church at night in northern VA. I've been trying to learn how to take decent night shots, so I've been a little trigger happy when the sun goes down. There will be a starry night photo sometime in the future on this thread once I figure out how to take them well:

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    In Chattanooga I ran into a nasty summer storm. Saw the dark clouds forming and they even had a tornado twist to them, which made me a little more cautious. Once the rain hit it hit hard: limited visibility and tightly packed cars on the highway. Not fun, not safe. I pulled over under the next overpass. This guy came up behind me maybe one minute later. He was a local who has lived in various towns in the region over the years but also in Alaska. Ridden his bike all around the US. It was funny to see me an my thumper with all the ADV bells and whistles, my Gortex riding gear, my full-face helmet with shield, etc. next to this guy that was harley all the way: jeans, t-shirt, leather vest full of patches, brain bucket helmet, and a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses he bought on deep discount at Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, AL. He said the deal was so good he bought four pairs! Sunglasses in torrential rain seem more a hinderance than advantage, but I guess I'm just a riding wuss. ;D

    In the end, I was reminded that if you ride two wheels you really don't have trouble finding friendly conversation anywhere, a fact confirmed at nearly every gas station I stopped out in the south.

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    Rainbow over downtown Asheville, NC. In Asheville I stayed with a rider I met via Tent Space He (and to an extent, his wife) has done a lot of riding in the SE USA and in Mexico, so after dinner and a few drinks at Asheville's fine microbreweries (over 20 in town!) we broke out my Mexico road map and he gave me some great advice and suggestions. I continue to be amazed at the hospitality that strangers on the road provide without any expectations of anything in return---maybe I've spent too much time in New York. Many thanks, Kenny!

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    Light hitting a fallen tree in the forest along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. The Trace was recommended to me as a route by other ADV riders, so again I am in the forum's debt. The Trace was an old colonial-era trail that ran from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. Sections of the sunken road remain, though most of it has been consumed by the forests. The ride is largely a seamless stretch of clean asphalt that runs between dark alleys of southern pine forests and open fields comprised of grass, rail fences, lone trees, and the occasional cotton field.

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    In Dallas I stayed with a friend and we went to the Texas State Fair. The highlight was watching a bunch of young kids get instructions on how to show their goats for the following day's livestock judging. The goats weren't cooperating and the kids were growing tired but to their credit they stayed 'til the end and pulled and poked and adjusted the stance of those poor goats until they were blue in the face:

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    I stopped in Austin for two nights to visit friends and we went to Austin City Limits, a music festival. Weather was perfect and both nights saw spectacular sunsets:

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    West Texas is as flat and windy as they say. Nothing but empty fields, pump jacks, and wind farms. The wind was particularly bad in certain areas and was throwing me and my bike around like a rag doll. Not good. I spent 340 miles in a MotoGP tuck, which is particularly uncomfortable on a thumper with 90/120mm front/rear tires and a set of panniers and tail case that acted as a parachute:

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    #2
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  3. HisMajesty400

    HisMajesty400 Adventurer

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    Maybe I missed it, but what bike are you travelling with? And safe journeys. :)
    #3
  4. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    Oops, forget the most important part. It's a DR650. (I updated the first post above and added a pic. Thanks for pointing that out. :thumb)
    #4
  5. poolman

    poolman Gnarly Poolside Adv.

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    Great start, all the best for a safe and unforgettable journey!
    #5
  6. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    USA II - Texas Desert

    After racing through west Texas like I was trying to escape hell, I ended up in Big Bend National Park. West Texas is the northern extension of the Chihuahua desert, one of four deserts in North America (others: Mojave, Sonora, Great Basin). It is what I will technically call "shitty desert": vast emptiness, flat landscapes with nothing to see but plants that are crying out to be euthanized, dust seemingly everywhere, hot temperatures and a constant penetrating sun that makes everything scorching to touch. Scenery consists solely of pump jacks and pickup trucks and the occasional roadside grass fire.

    But approaching Big Bend you enter a more lush and active desert, what I will technically call "awesome desert". Still hot, still dusty. But wildlife comes alive around Marathon, a town ~60 miles from the north entrance to the park. Hawks and eagles perch atop cacti, jackrabbits lope across the road, lizards, snakes, and other crawly things enter the road and retreat at the sound of approaching engines, and butterflies are everywhere, including smashed on my helmet. At the same time, the flat landscape that defines west Texas disappears and is replaced by small and then big mountains. This is the view of the Chisos Mountains in the center of the park, taken from the north entrance road:

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    Big Bend National Park butts up against the Rio Grande, covers 1,250 square miles, and is the only US National Park to contain an entire mountain range. Needless to say, there were a lot of camping options. For comfort reasons, I elected to head up to the Chisos Mountain Basin at over 5000' in order to find cooler sleeping conditions. The centerpiece of the basin is a peaked called Casa Grande:

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    The park itself offers excellent riding: clean, smooth pavement curves around and over the mountains and hill sides. As the park is rather inaccessible compared to its peers Yellowstone, Rainier, Yosemite, etc., the roads are nearly empty. I went a good 5 to as much as 20 minutes between seeing another vehicle. It's just you, your bike, and more stunning views of nature than an Ansel Adams monograph. One typical road:

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    Because of the variety of mountains and their patchy groupings, sunrise and sunset are particularly good times for site seeing. Additionally, the weather is cooler and makes for comfortable riding in the morning until about 9-10am. Sunrise in the desert:

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    And sunset in the mountains:

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    I don't have any animal photographs, mainly because my camera is fixed lens and any living thing more than 10 feet away is the size of an ant in my photos. However, the wildlife really is abundant. I've been to a dozen or more National Parks and none compares to the variety and activity I saw at Big Bend. Granted, most was at dusk and dawn, since these creatures want to escape the midday heat as much as you or I. Crossing the road ahead of me on the morning I departed were: a roadrunner, numerous jackrabbits, various snakes (Western Diamondback Rattler are common, though I was going too fast to identify), red tailed hawks, a gray hawk, and of course turkey and black vultures picking at roadkill. There were hikers that saw Mexican black bears near the trail when I arrived. We heard javelinas near the camp at dusk. And I also saw a tarantula try to crawl under the bathroom door at the campsite before someone opened it and inadvertently swept him away into the grass. Grasshoppers and butterflies were so abundant it seemed like some Old Testament plague had fallen upon the park.

    The plant life is equally diverse and active, but I don't know how to identify much beyond prickly pear and ocotillo. Here is some ocotillo; sadly, though they were green none in the park were blooming right now:

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    Some Mexican gold poppy and Havard's Nama (I'm not a botanist, just a googler, so I could be off on the names). That's Santa Elena Canyon in the background, through which the Rio Grande runs.

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    And of course, some prickly pear along Texas Highway 170.

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    Which leads me to Highway 170, a beautifully paved and empty road that takes you from Big Bend's SW entrance along the Rio Grande, in my case leading me to the Presidio/Ojinaga border crossing. As you can see above, the road is twisty and smooth. Here's another typical stretch:

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    Though barren, the few sites and small towns that populate 170 are a throwback to the bare life of the old west. For example, here is the cemetery in Lajitas:

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    And then I left Texas and crossed into Mexico. More to come...
    #6
  7. bananaboy

    bananaboy aHappyMoron

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    Great pics, keep posting!
    Was just in Big Bend - may have passed you (or a different DR ... I saw two).
    #7
  8. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    Mexico I - Chihuahua

    After experiencing some of the best riding and scenery I ever had on two wheels, I ended up in Ojinaga rather than spend the night Presidio and have to deal with crossing in the morning. Getting my visa and aduana was surprisingly easy and I was in and out of customs in under 30 minutes. Ojinaga is a rather forgettable place, but a night in a hotel allowed me to get settled and plan my route for the next few days.

    When I got up the following day, I decided to check my chain, which was installed new in Dallas. After 600 miles of riding, it probably needed a tightening. It did. But I also noticed this:

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    Actually, my first clue that something was wrong was when I saw that the fuel line from the petcock to the carb was disconnected. I was baffled, but then I saw the indentations on both sides of the tank and it all came together. At first I worried that someone had done something to my bike, but then I realized that it must have been the effect of the intense desert heat. Note to other riders: don't buy black plastic tanks, and try to park in the shade when possible.

    The odd this is that the tank was nearly full, so I was a bit confused why the indentations occurred. Maybe it expanded during the afternoon and then over-contracted during the night...? In any case, I was left with a dented tank that has spread so wide that I needed a new fuel line. Lucky for me, an AutoZone was literally one block from my hotel. New fuel line installed and chain adjusted & lubed and tire pressure set, and then I was off.

    I took the old road to Chihuahua rather than the new toll road, per advice from ADVriders. :thumb It was a bunch of twisties over and around desert mountains for the first hour or two. Nice riding, but I realized how remote it was and given my bike problems in the morning it would have been nicer to take the more trafficked path in case something when wrong. Oh well, luckily everything was fine.

    After the mountains the desert becomes more lush and the roads straighten and pass through wide open valleys.

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    There are a lot of butterflies. As I write this, a week-and-a-half and hundreds of miles later, I can't believe how many butterflies there are around the Mexican highways. They paint my bike and helmet each day with yellows and oranges and greens and blacks that look like a Pollock canvas. Here is one that died in some other manner than a high speed impact.

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    I stopped in a town called Juan Aldama for lunch, but couldn't find any hotels and with a big storm chasing me I decided to book it to Chihuahua City, where I knew I'd find something. As it turned out, there was an arts and culture festival that started the day I arrived, so most of my time was spent wandering the old city at night and seeing the street performers, listening to musicians, and engaging in general people watching.

    The baroque gazebo in the central square:

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    A man window shopping for boots. The cowboy look is more common in Chihuahua even than Texas:

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    The central cathedral in the old city. Water spits out in colorful patterns in the open space in front of the church:

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    The statue of the city's founder, Antonio Deza y Ulloa, stands opposite the cathedral like a conjurer calling forth the liquid light:

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    Of course, what would the Chihuahua City, the capital of the state of Chihuahua, be without a giant mural of a Chihuahua:

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    A jazz series was performed in a nearby park on saturday, so I headed over there for the evening. First group (pictured), a trio, was very good. The second was a little too jazz fusion for my tastes. When they started covering Jeff Beck, that's when I left to see what was going on back in the old city.

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    Quintas Gameros, the mansion of a wealthy family that is tied up with Mexican and regional history, is lit up like a haunted house at night.

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    Chihuahua city is populated with all manner of statues celebrating a diverse set of ideals: indigenous rights, fallen police, Aztec warriors, renowned writers, and of course, politicians. There is an even a statue to emigrants that left their homeland and family in search of a dream (quien dejó patria y familia buscando un sueño"). This one is of writer José Fuentes Mares:

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    After two days in Chihuahua enjoying the culture fest, I headed out to Ciudad Cuauhtémoc. Unfortunately, it was a sunday and so the city's most unique attribute, its large enclave of Mennonites, was inaccessible. I did see some on and about the town, their blonde hair and blue eyes sticking out even more than me. Dinner included a papa relleno with Mennonite cheese, something for which they are known. It was delicious.

    The church in Cuauhtémoc:

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    #8
  9. Erinaceous

    Erinaceous ...................O#O

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    wow...great post. I have got to try night photography. Just got a Canon 80D
    and have been watching lots of videos on YouTube to learn.

    Thanks for posting.
    #9
  10. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    Yeah, I tried to read up on night photo stuff, but I never really followed through with what they say. I'm sure I can do better, but for now I just turn the aperture all the way open, lower the f-stop to whatever I think I can safely hold still (generally 1/60 is safe, but if I'm steady I can do up to 1/20), and fire away. I also try to make use of anything around that I can rest the camera on. Even then, I take 25 very bad ones for every good one I get. :D
    #10
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  11. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    Mexico II - Las Barrancas
    Ok, so the Barrancas are well-discussed here on ADVrider and there is no shortage of guidance and suggestions for visiting them. For those that maybe don't know, barranca means "canyon" and the Sierra Madre Oriental are full of them. Copper Canyon is probably the most well-known one as it covers a larger area and is deeper at is maximum depth than the Grand Canyon. It is also easily accessible from the northeast via Mex 16. The canyons are home to small towns separated by dozens of kilometers with nothing in between but rocky hillsides and pine forests. This offers a great level of solitude to a rider, who can peg dance from switchback to sweeper to chicane. Though main roads are paved, they are usually in disrepair. Often, the worst sections are right in the apex of the curve. Nevertheless, the riding is world class.

    A typical section will look like this:

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    Or this:

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    Or even this:

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    And the few flat and relatively straight sections offer a moment to relax and just take in the scenery:

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    This was taken from an overlook at Barranca Sinforosa, near Guachochi. It requires a 12km (8mi) ride on an undeveloped dirt road, but it's 30km (20mi) if you, like me, take the wrong road at the fork and have to backtrack. Took my first spill on this road, right in front of a group of school children. Anyway, was worth it, given the view at the end. Not too shabby:

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    The area is a big logging region, so you get a fair share of large trucks that you need to ride around. They rarely do more than 10-20 mph uphill, and frankly, that's okay since the few that do exceed that speed do so by another 30-40 mph, which is a little scary when you encounter one coming in the opposite direction around a blind corner.

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    Mexico's two tallest waterfalls are located in the region: Piedra Volanda (453m) and Basaseachi Falls (246m). Basaseachi is the more accessible of the two and (I believe) more developed in terms of access. A paved footpath leads to the top of the falls, where a bridge crosses the river and allows access to the edge of the cliff, protected by metal bars. Even still, gaps and the overall low bar level provided little sense of comfort or safety. I bet the Mexican Parks Department did not have the same team of lawyers advising the US Parks Dept. Anyway, on to the pics:

    A rope bridge (technically, it's braided steel cables) along the path to the falls:

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    Here you can see the metal fencing that provides inadequate fall prevention:

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    The view looking out over the valley:

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    Looking down the 246m (807ft) drop from the top of the falls:

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    The bridge over the river (the falls and valley are to my back here):

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    There is a 300m rocky trail of switchbacks down to the base, which few visitors took while I was there. It was definitely worth it: at the bottom was an elysium of solitude protected by towering cliffs to the north and dense forests to the south. Looking up at the falls on the trail down to the base:

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    Viewed from the distant overlooks positioned around the park, the falls appear peaceful and hypnotic, the water like spilled flour floating down the towering rock face. Standing at the base near the edge of the collection pool is a wholly different experience: the noise is deafening, the winds a constant bluster. The force of the impact is so strong that it atomizes the water into a thick mist that sweeps across the valley floor.

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    And a video that shows the power of the falls:




    And to end it, one of the falls from across the canyon:

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    #11
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  12. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Great start to your journey! you have a good eye and are taking some great photos. Ride safe.
    #12
  13. ScottTenere

    ScottTenere Just want to ride

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    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to seeing your experiences.
    Safe travels.
    #13
  14. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    Mexico III - Batopilas

    One last stop in the Barrancas was Batopilas, a town much recommended by fellow ADVers, mainly due to the spaghetti of hairpins down the mountain:

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    Not only is it a constant series of switchbacks and blind corners, but there are surprises around those blind corners: landslides, cattle, herds of goats, construction vehicles, and so on. Sometimes, the road was so damaged they just built an ad hoc route around the rubble. So you really have to ride focused. Downhill is a bitch, especially with a small single front rotor and 250 lbs of man and panniers on the back. Uphill, leaving town, was a lot more fun. A typical patch of rubble lurking around a corner:

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    Batopilas is one of Mexico's Pueblos Magicos, a series of villages dubbed culturally important by the government. All day long residents orbit the central plaza, speaking to neighbors and tourists with equal ease. Its buildings, none more than three stories high, are painted every hue of unearthly color---neon pinks, toxic greens, celestial blues, candied yellows---as if to offset the drab umbers and ochres of the surrounding mountains. Aging trees create a canopy over the village, providing plentiful shade in the heat trapped valley.

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    The local hotel owners are well versed in the needs and pampering of motorcyclists, permitting them to lug their muddy machines through the delicate foyers and into the courtyards, the bulk and excess of those modern monstrosities standing in direct offense to a villa's old world charm. But the owners take all this in good stride. My bike in the courtyard of my hotel. Can't get much better for $16/night:

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    Met a couple riding Yammy 250s there. They, like me, are headed to Patagonia (the guy in the couple is continuing on to Africa!), so I expect we will meet again on the road.

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    #14
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  15. joenuclear

    joenuclear Long timer

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    Well done. Thank you.
    #15
  16. ADV_Pilot

    ADV_Pilot Adventurer

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    Following along. Great report so far.
    #16
  17. kenbob

    kenbob Gnarly GnOOb

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    @infinityjellyd Following with great interest sir . Loving the photos


    tiny hijack here - I have been to Batopilas and had found this photo on the web and kept it -

    This is the hill you came down to the river , before the massive rebuild , a few years back .

    For perspective only ...
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    #17
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  18. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    Yeah, a fellow ADVer I met in North Carolina on my way here offered me some great advice and travel suggestions for Mexico. When he told me about Batopilas, that was the picture he showed me. Crazy!
    #18
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  19. pista

    pista Been here awhile

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    This looks good...I'm in!
    #19
  20. infinityjellyd

    infinityjellyd Been here awhile

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    Mexico IV - Hidalgo del Parral

    After the Barrancas, I headed to Hidalgo del Parral. The landscape---still high desert---becomes softer and more lush. The hills roll rather than jut out of the earth. And all along the highway are endless rows of yellow wildflowers form a river of gold flowing next to you as you ride.

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    Parral is a city of a hundred thousand people spread across the serpentine Parral River: there are seven bridges that cross the river as it twists and winds its way through the city. Like many cities in northern Mexico, Parral developed on a wealth on mineral deposits extracted under Spanish colonialism; in Parral's case, it was silver.

    The city's other claim to fame is that is where Pancho Villa spent the later years of his life, after the revolution, and on the streets of Parral was where he was murdered in 1921. Appropriately, they have a museum and an annual celebration on the anniversary of his death. They are currently building a 30m high statue of him that sits in an abandoned warehouse while debate over its final location is settled.

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    Pancho's death mask:

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    This city itself had a mix of colonial architecture and gothic churches that is common in nothern mexico. Doors and window frames show a level of craftsman long forgotten in the modern world. The metalwork with the churches is equally impressive.

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    #20
    KneeDrachen, Ruud109, Seba1 and 4 others like this.