South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by JDowns, Oct 2, 2012.

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  1. perrogordo

    perrogordo Adventurer

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    I'm in..interesting trip..this is my dream trip..I did a couple trips into Mexico about 10 years back.Did it on a Honda Transalp.Always thought doing it on a smaller bike,less is more would be a good way to do it.Looks like you will test that theory. All the best to you.I will be following your trip.
  2. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Another excellent day of riding in Mexico!

    Have you ever heard of Baranca Tolantango? Neither had I.

    Twenty two tight hairpins down a steep dirt road to the bottom of a massively deep canyon with a hot water river blasting out of a cave/grotto along with towering cliffs covered in ferns weeping hot water surrounded by steep cliffs a couple thousand feet high at sunset.

    Stay tuned for your evening entertainment while I upload another metric ton of photos to smugmug.

    Back in a moment with more stories from the roads less traveled.....

    Suerte,
    Juanito
  3. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    But first lets start at the beginning of the day. Anyone who loves the zen of curves riding for hours on tight twisting two lane backroads needs to put Hwy. 120 from Xilitla to San Juan del Rio on their bucket list. I had heard it was a fun road and it didn't disappoint.

    There are some roads like Hwy 36 in Northern California from Red Bluff to the coast that bring a smile to your face just remembering. This is one of those roads.

    I love riding the twisty roads of backcountry Mexico. You forget when you're back home what it's like. And then you get down here and think to yourself, "oh yeah, now I remember!"

    120 is right up there with 16 from Hermosillo to Baseseachic, 37 libre from Playa Azul to Uruapan, 24 south from Creel to Hidalgo del Parral, 200 south from Puerto Vallarta to Lazaro Cardenas. The list goes on but you get the idea. If you like twisting two lane blacktop there is plenty of great riding down here to keep you occupied.

    And back country dirt roads could keep you busy exploring for a lifetime down here.
    Alas, I am on my way to South America so only have time to scratch the surface and report back on a few.

    Anyway, this morning started off overcast in Jalpan when I took off on rta. 120 towards San Juan del Rio:

    [​IMG]

    one thing I have noticed is when there is a deadly curve with decreasing radius it is marked with a curve sign that is a right angle instead of an arc. Like this:

    [​IMG]

    You will be downshifting once maybe twice depending on how many shrines and crosses you see in the apex of the curve on these right angle signed curves.

    After 50 miles of hairpins the road climbed up probably to 8000 feet or so judging by the people wearing jackets and sweatshirts up in the villages in the pine forests. Also by the way the bike wouldn't idle when I stopped to take this picture:

    [​IMG]

    As an aside, one thing I learned by accident today is that when a dog runs out to bite your leg all you have to do is put your leg out and cock your boot back and they back off. They are familiar with this move and know that pain ensues. Of course some of them are fast little devils that come straight out of nowhere from the side, but they have the wrong angle and a quick twist of the throttle leaves them yapping. There were a lot of moto chasers at the top of this pass for some reason.

    The sun broke out and it was clear sailing with beautiful blue skies over the pass. With wildflowers growing on the side of the road up in the high elevation pine forests:

    [​IMG]

    It was nippy up this high. But soon the vegetation changed as the road steeply descended curving lower into the warmth of the high desert:

    [​IMG]

    As the road dropped down into the high desert it finally started to straighten out and it was possible to shift into high gear. Past marble quarries and dump trucks loaded with marble chunks and slabs. Small villages with sculptors chiseling marble religious statuary and making items for the Mexican tourist trade. Maybe 50 miles before San Juan del Rio I cut south on a small road through the hills. At this point I wasn't sure where I was going and thought about getting gas. But no Pemex out in the sticks on this road. So I saw a lady cooking up gorditas by the side of the road and stopped to have a few and found gas down the way here:

    [​IMG]

    This turned out to be a wonderful backroad. Nobody out here. Just a road twisting along the spine of some low mountains going who knows where:

    [​IMG]

    It dropped down steeply on its twisting way down to that reservoir in the distance:

    [​IMG]

    through three incredibly long tunnels. This one was 1600 meters long. Nearly a mile according to the sign:

    [​IMG]

    Mind you this is in the middle of freaking nowhere along the side of a reservoir. And those tunnels were solid marble inside. You could stop and park inside because there was nobody else around. Like i'd entered the twilight zone:

    [​IMG]

    And then the road twisted straight up out of the canyon up over the next mountain range and ran along a ridge with views down into another canyon that had to be several hundred feet deep with this empty resort at the top. No people, no cars, nothing around. But with a beautiful view of this canyon. Maybe another one of those field of dreams projects:

    [​IMG]


    The road finally ended in Ixmiquilpan. I know. The X towns are hard for me to pronounce too. Iss-mih-KEEL-pon. I asked.

    Anyway I was heading through town and saw a sign to Baranca Tolantongo. Ever heard of it? Neither had I. But I know baranca means canyon. And I like canyon carving just as much as the next fellow. So I hung an izquierda and headed out into the countryside on a straightish road that headed out of town towards the mountains in the distance and soon came over a rise and saw the canyon:

    [​IMG]

    The pavement stopped and turned to packed dirt with a little washboard and ruts. This is looking straight down into the canyon. There were twenty two hairpins dropping straight down. I counted on the way out. It's very similar to the drop into Copper Canyon. You can see a few of them in this pic looking straight down. but you just cant capture a drop down a couple thousand vertical feet with a point and shoot camera. It was awesome! The road over on the far side winding back out and up over the next mountain range looked tempting. But I'm heading to South America and need to meet MikeMike for some killer Veracruz riding in a couple days:

    [​IMG]

    This is down towards the river where the road flattens out right before an entrance gate with an admission fee of 120 pesos:

    [​IMG]

    Ten bucks is a lot, but I remembered Tricepilot in the back of my mind and what he said about just paying up when you get to these magical places with steep admission. Especially when you've just dropped in to the bottom of a canyon down a couple thousand vertical feet. So I paid up like a good ride reporter. Anyway, I owe it to you, dear readers, who have been sending in gas money to show you the hidden Mexico and possible interesting areas you might like to ride next time you're down.

    I parked my bike at:

    N 20º 39.023'
    W 99º 00.198'

    And walked down this pathway with an interesting tropical tree growing over it:

    [​IMG]

    and up a few flights of stone stairs around a bend and looked down at a hot water springs flowing out of the mountain down below. That man across the way gives some scale:

    [​IMG]

    around the corner were some Mexicans who had just gotten out of the cave pool. That water streaming 50 feet down the cliff is hot! The cliffs stretched up hundreds of feet to the sky above this frame:

    [​IMG]

    Hot water was blasting out of this grotto with hot water streaming down from the cavern roof. If you squint you can see a lady's head bobbing at the end of the safety line. They said it is like a sauna way back inside. Pretty magical little place. My pictures don't do it justice. The cave goes back quite a ways:

    [​IMG]

    Here is the hot water stream as it flows down around the bend:

    [​IMG]

    and into this surrealistic pale aqua blue river in the bottom of the canyon:

    [​IMG]

    There is camping available for 100 pesos a night so definitely this is a must see if you are in the area. It is kind of off the beaten track, but well worth a look. Right now I felt like riding more than sitting around in hot water but I will be back for sure to relax and enjoy this place in my later years. I wandered around taking pictures and enjoying the peaceful natural beauty before heading out. It was late afternoon and it is my duty to find some wifi and keep you folks at home entertained. I found a cheap place in the X town for 110 pesos with a shower, so probably better than the tent for 100 down in the canyon for tonight.

    Tomorrow I head to Veracruz for riding with MikeMike on Sunday morning.

    It was dark by the time I uploaded photos and I didn't feel like riding at night. The hotel that quoted 110 raised it to 250 by the time I rode back from uploading this so I ended up staying in a nice Hotel Plaza Isabel downtown for 270 pesos. Total for today was 690 pesos or $55.20 for gas out in the boonies, food, internet, park fees and lodging. An all time high. Well worth it for a long fun day of riding. That's it for today.

    Suerte,
    Juan
  4. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Señor Wright,

    Muchas gracias. Especially coming from a fellow Sherpa rider. I'll be putting your name on the tank right under my buddy Dario from Naranjo.

    I am appointing you Chief Executive in charge of Canadian Operations. Feel free to put it on your resume. I will give you a glowing reference.

    Much appreciated,
    John Downs
  5. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Perrogordo,

    Glad to have you along for the ride. Transalp is a pretty nice bike. I am the guinea pig and will continue to test the hell out of that theory. Should be interesting to see how it ends up.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  6. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi BlazerRalph,

    Your time will come. I am just doing the research and development for your next long ride. I'm not doing anything you can't.

    Best,
    John Downs
  7. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I was curious to find out about that canyon I visited yesterday afternoon and why it isn't more well known. So I looked it up on wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolantongo

    Turns out it is privately owned and run by an ejido of locals which explains why it isn't a famous national park like it would be back in the U.S. And the canyon walls are 1500 feet tall that you drop down to the grottos and hot water pools. So less than half as deep as dropping from Creel to Batopilas in Copper Canyon. And yet standing at the bottom and looking up a sheer canyon face over a quarter mile tall covered with ferns and moss with hot waterfalls streaming down the base with the canyon walls glowing in the late afternoon golden hour is quite impressive.

    With all the dirt roads zig-zagging in and out, it is a place I will surely come back and camp and explore later when I'm in the area again.

    It is easy to remember. Sounds like tall and tango. Tall like the walls of the canyon. And tango like a couple of Buenos Aires tango street dancers with arms outstretched dancing cheek to cheek back and forth down the switchbacks. Probably best to ride down with tango music in the ear buds. da-dun-DUN-dun-dun, da-duh-da-duh-da-dun-DUN-dun-dun.

    Its early morning and I'm waiting for the sunrise and the hotel to unlock the front gate so I can jet out of Iss-mih-KEEL-pon here in the state of Hildalgo and head over to the state of Veracruz next door and meet up with MikeMike.

    Was hoping to visit El Tajin ruins which is where I was headed before I got sidetracked down a canyon, but that may be a bit much for today. Time will tell.

    Adios amigos,
    Juanito
  8. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

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    Good morning and good info Juanito. :*sip*

    Veracruz, the home of Son Jarocho musica. Peasant/farmer music that can even include a harp.
    Add an O to my last name(Sir name) and I am Jarocho.
    Used to have fun with this when working with my Mexican amigos in "the oil patch." :nod

    Somehow I get the feeling you too enjoyed The Red Green Show as much as most of us did. You be Red, I'll be Harold. :lol3



    Best Regards,
    OldPete
  9. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi OldPete.

    Ah yes. Red Green. And men remember, If the women riders don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy. Words to live by.

    One interesting cave man navigation tool I have discovered this morning is maps.google.com will give you riding directions in Mexico. You can take screen shots of the directions and save them to your laptop to check later in the day when you're lost. So I entered the towns of Ixmiquilpan and Coatepec and found it is only 4 hours on the main roads. Of course, the roads they give don't look very interesting but this might be something to try if you're in a hurry and need a quick route from A to B down here. What this means for me this morning is that I can wander around all day on the backroads no problem and still get there by tonight.

    But right now it is cold in the high desert and I think I'll wander around town and do some coffee drinking and people watching.

    Suerte,
    Juan
    Red Green quote of the day: "I thought cheese-whiz was made from urine."
  10. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    One of my favorite Latin America past times. :freaky

    Saludos desde Berlin!

    Vin
  11. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Berlin? Mit Fräulein Fredericke? Hallo sagen für mich!

    [​IMG]

    Aufrichtig,
    Johann
  12. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Another shot of Tolantongo Canyon riding out late yesterday afternoon looking back as the shadows lengthened:

    [​IMG]

    Spent the morning wandering around Ixmiquilpan, One thing I have found is that the national chain of convenience stores named OXXO (oh-so) have passable coffee although you have to buy a small milk if your like cafe con leche since the packets of creamer won't do:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Its better than the nescafe mixed with hot water that used to be the main coffee beverage on offer in Mexico in years past. Went across the street and sat in the early morning sun on a park bench in the main square and watched the people going to work. Bundled up in jackets some with gloves. Probably in the 40s or 50s so a bit nippy out this morning.

    The pigeons were frolicking on a bronze statue of Diana in the main fountain:

    [​IMG]

    This pied piper pigeon was disappointed I didn't have anything to feed him like some obvious regular mark that sits on this bench. He waddled away in disgust:

    [​IMG]

    One nice thing about these rural towns off the gringo trail is that you can sit for hours and not be hassled by people wanting to sell you something or panhandle from the gringo. I haven't seen a gringo since the Euro backpacker I met on the Las Pozas stairway to heaven back in Xilitla.

    Came back to the Hotel Plaza Izabel down the main tunnel that leads to the courtyard in back where the bike is parked:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    to the upstairs main desk:

    [​IMG]

    and lounge area that is my current office:

    [​IMG]

    Very clean place with nice rooms for the equivalent of $21.60:

    [​IMG]

    Better than average job on the custom marble sink and shower tile in the bathroom:

    [​IMG]

    I would have used satin polyurethane on the custom doors and cabinets instead of gloss but thats just me. Anyway if you're passing through this is a nice place conveniently located a block off the main square at:

    N 20º 29.121'
    W 99º 13.111'

    Its warmed up and I'm packed and out of here. More later….

    Best,
    John Downs
  13. Eagletalon

    Eagletalon Been here awhile

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    I am just curious as to how many miles have you put on the Sherpa since leaving for SA? Also is the lower quality of fuel is hurting your mpg?

    Later
    John
  14. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi John,

    Since leaving Nebraska I've ridden about 4400 miles. Now has around 25,300 miles on the odo. Had 20,900 when I left.

    Gas seems to be fine around here in Mexico even the gas I bought out of a jug in the high desert yesterday. Lower quality fuel down here is pretty much a thing of the past I think. The gas stations are all state run Pemex and the price is pretty much the same all over the country. So no need to search for a good price.

    As far as fuel economy it seems to be about the same I think. I remember the last gas stop today buying 5.2 liters of gas at 99 miles on the trip meter for 55 pesos. If anyone knows how many miles per gallon that is I would like to know too. I'm not good at math and when you are buying liters of gas for pesos it is hard to know exactly, especially if you are used to dollars and miles per gallon.

    But the gas in Guatemala is another story. We'll see what happens to fuel economy when I get there. And I hear Bolivia isn't much better if I make it that far. I will report back what I find.

    Best,
    John Downs
  15. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

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    Just found your ride report, look forward to meeting you tomorrow AM.
    Saludos
  16. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Mike,

    I'll be at the cafe near the church in downtown Coatepec at 8ish watching the world go by and drinking coffee as usual. Should be a nice day for riding around Estado de Veracruz tomorrow. Look forward to meeting you!

    Suerte,
    Juan
  17. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I left Ixmiquilpan this morning and headed towards Veracruz. A lot of straight roads up on the altiplano. It was a challenge not getting directed into Mexico City. All roads seem to lead there when you get within 100 miles. Its like a death star black hole sucking all the cars in. It was all I could do to stay on the free roads. Several times it seemed like the only way forward was to jump on the cuota toll road. But I just kept wandering around on the minor roads until I saw a sign pointing to the next big town on the map.

    It is smoggy up on the plateaus close to Mexico City. So a hazy day of straight roads stretching off in the distance means no pictures this afternoon. The closest I got to taking a picture was filtering through traffic behind a nice family in a large city along the way. Pop in front on the scooter with a 12 pack of toilet paper between his legs junior in between and his beautiful wife on the back with waist length dark hair flowing in the wind. That guy could ride. Really fun following such a handsome family flying through traffic. Twice I got my camera out at a stoplight to take their picture just as the light turned green and I had to quick stuff it in my pocket and whack the throttle to keep up with him. And then they turned off.

    Oh wait, I also took one picture of a huge snow covered mountain but the snow was in the haze and the mountain is unseeable in the picture. It was dark by the time I dropped off the plateau into Veracruz State through the fog and clouds and light drizzle so no pics after sunset. Ah well. I made my way to Coatepec by turning at a likely looking road with no sign that just instinctively felt right. Stopped at a Pemex station to fill up for tomorrow and miraculously I was headed in the right general direction. Eventually saw an empty taxi with Coatepec on the trunk lid and following him to town. Stopped and paid a taxi driver 10 pesos to take me to a hotel with wifi which is where I am at now. Its a 300 peso room at the Hotel Monroy in the Centro district of Coatepec. Nice place. Sometimes when its raining and dark out you have to pay the big bucks. Anyway I'm meeting MikeMike tomorrow morning at 8 down the street at a cafe. I should have some interesting pics of backcountry Veracruz. It looked nice in the headlights coming down the mountain this evening.

    I couldn't tell you how I got here or all the roads I took if my life depended on it. But it was nice to get here. It was cold up on the plateau. Pine trees and everyone wearing jackets meant I had to stop and take a GPS altitude reading to see if I was close yesterday when I thought that felt like 8000 feet. It takes the GPS quite a while to register elevation but it finally read 8700 feet. The road was that high or higher for quite a while. I had to stop and put my down jacket and long underwear on.

    Today I spent 480 pesos or $38.40 on gas, food, and lodging.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  18. imeny

    imeny Been here awhile

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    Hi John,

    I am reading your post, and I enjoy from your posts. I am planing to take a 5 month trip to South America, and planing to visit the Tolatongla thanks to you.
    I want to donate you some cash , can you give me pls your paypal account ?

    Meny
  19. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Meny,

    I think you will really like Tolantonga. It is a magical place.

    There is a paypal donate button over on:

    http://johnthomasdowns.blogspot.com/

    If you are traveling through the U.S. as well as Mexico you are welcome to stay at my home. Glad you are enjoying the ride.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  20. imeny

    imeny Been here awhile

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    If you are traveling through the U.S. as well as Mexico you are welcome to stay at my home. Glad you are enjoying the ride.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs


    Thanks mate, :freaky
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