South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure

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

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  1. Dracula

    Dracula Deus ex machina

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    Hi John,

    I believe your demeanor and attitude towards life has that ADV "Je ne sais quoi" that eludes many "normal people" whom either by choice or lack thereof find themselves rooted in complicated and oftentimes utterly unnecessary worrisome materialistic existence, without a passion for anything in particular. Sure there are extremes on both ends of the spectrum, as there are as many point of views and judgmental interpretations as seen through the eyes of one culture or another, you however have mastered a balance that works for you and I truly admire that. It takes courage and heart to simplify one's life, really find what it's worth living it for and then doing it. The "recipe" I suspect varies largely as no two human beings seek same goals. We happen to all be here on this forum with a common dream, and admiring your adventures. I think your last phrase above sums it all perfectly.

    Kindest regards,
    Vic
  2. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi KLRmonkey,

    As in the older Colonial historic cities in Mexico, the old work in historic towns in Colombia like San Gil that are a few hundred years old is quite good. Especially fine brickwork:

    [​IMG]

    A lot of brick cutting to make semi-circular windows in radiused corners. These guys have the chops. It's not their fault the parapet wall isn't two feet higher over the second story windows for aesthetic balance. They were just following the plans.

    Many of the curbs and sidewalks in this town are stone with hand chiseled diagonal grooves for traction. They look to be a couple hundred years old from the wear patterns. And the old stone church in the main square, although plainer in design is well done technically. No diamond saws back then. It is all hand hewn. Equal or better to anything I saw in Mexico.

    The new work around here is mostly reinforced concrete columns and girders infilled with large clay hollow tile instead of concrete blocks as in Mexico. Stuccoed over in many buildings with red tile roofs for the most part in this area of the mountains. Nothing to write home about, but a lot more quaint looking than the manufactured houses with vinyl siding that are popping up in rural Nebraska.

    Saludos,
    Juanito
  3. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Left San Gil late morning with a full gas tank, some snacks and enough water for the day looking forward to getting lost in the Tres Cordilleras mountains. It didn't take long. The first gravel road I took out of town looked promising but it dead ended shortly after here:

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    So I backtracked to the paved road and took the next available derecha (right) that wound up into the hills:

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    It turned out to be a wonderful road with very little traffic. Sort of paved:

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    Looking back at the road off in the distance winding up the mountain:

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    through coffee fields that were in full bloom:

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    The sweet scent of coffee flowers is something I remember from my time living in Kona Hawaii on the big island. Really nice day to start with. Here is the view out to the valleys below as the road climbed further:

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    It then rode along a ridgeline with steep drops down into a canyon. It's hard to tell distance without a reference, but that is a big river several hundred feet straight down:

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    The road dropped down into a river valley and turned to dirt shortly after these sugar cane bearing donkeys:

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    The next 100 kilometers were varying qualities of fairly decent to poor two track dirt and gravel:

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    Until I saw this transport truck bringing hay from somewhere I figured this road would dead end:

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    But that truck had to have come over the mountains so I kept climbing up and up. Here is the view back down the valley:

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    The road wash washed out in a lot of places with barely enough room for that transport truck to have gotten by:

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    The road just kept climbing up switchbacks higher and higher. Looking back:

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    And stopping in a wide spot to take in the views. It was totally silent up here except for some crickets chirping. Really peaceful and serene area:

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    And then the road crested a pass and started descending:

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    down to the town of San Juaquin I think it was down there in the valley:

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    and followed the river:

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    to another town of Onzaga:

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    Recent floods had wiped out the road and a few bridges. A path had been bulldozed through the river rock:

    [​IMG]

    as the road climbed up this riverbed:

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    At times the road started looking less like a major minor road and more like a minor jeep trail. It seemed impossible that it could possibly make it over the next incredibly steep set of mountains off in the distance. But around the bend it started climbing up switchbacks shortly after this picture:

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    Up, up and up it went. Here the Sherpa is cooling off after a tough climb:

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    It kept switchbacking up into the clouds:

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    Had to put the camera away for a while in the fog and drizzle. Here the road is leveling out near the top of the pass. I checked the elevation and it was over 11,000 feet at this point according to Garmin:

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    Looking back at the clouds the road just descended out of:

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    It was otherworldly up here. Stark, cold and beautiful. Did I mention it was cold? I wish I had heated grips. But the road started descending and I hit a paved road eventually. Here a local fisherman is selling trout on the side of the road:

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    He just made a big sale to the guys in the truck and is running back to put the string of fish in a plastic bag. 3 bucks is a days wages for this guy. He was happy as the truck drove off. The road descended down the hill off in the distance:

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    and then it started to rain. I pulled off at a panderia (bakery) and had some hot coffee and cornbread hoping the rain would let up lest the Sherpa would have the same electrical shortout problem. But it just got worse. So I headed out and sure enough 5 or 10 miles down the road the bike cut out. So I coasted a few miles down the road to the next little pueblo and pulled under a tree. Dried out the spark plug cap and the bike started back up. I wasn't taking any chances and asked where the nearest hospedaje was and was directed up the hill. This place is deluxe:

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    A little casa with beautiful landscaping and all the comforts:

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    In the pueble of Susacan GPS waypoint:

    N 6º 13.699'
    W 72º 41.349'

    hot shower, cable TV and a full kitchen for 40,000 pesos (23.00). A little pricey but I'm not complaining. The gardener opened up the gates and I parked the bike and threw my tent rain fly over it to keep the rain off. The gardener Mauricio is really nice. He escorted me into town to see about finding some internet but it was down for the night. Here is Mauricio my guide around town:

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    and the local church in the main square:

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    Really nice town with friendly people. I came back up to the hospedaje resigned to uploading this tomorrow or whenever, but the owners son came up this evening and gave me a USB modem that is allowing me to upload this slowly. He speaks some English and is a really gentle young man.

    This is a blessing in disguise, since I was thinking I might have to skip seeing the El Cocuy area which is straight up from around here. If the weather clears it should be doable tomorrow. In the meantime I am in the lap of luxury in the Colombian mountains.

    I spent 64,900 pesos (37.30) today on food, gas and lodging.

    Hasta Mañana,
    Juanito
    johnthomasdowns.blogspot.com
  4. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones AdventureDeficitDisorder

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    Gret RR Juan!

    Enjoying the ride from my stateside armchair!

    I found that even in the states, on an extended ride, it was good to have a little "story", depending on the audience. For a hard working gas jockey or overworked waitress, telling them I had months to wander and no fixed destination was sometimes met with disbelief or even envy. Other travelers always like a good trip story, But some of the more provincial types just didn't get it. Sometimes the cultures are very different even within our own borders.

    I've also had very different assumptions made when I travel on my scruffy old enduro as opposed to my big, flash, touring bike.

    You keep riding, I'll keep reading!

    Bien Viaje Amigo!
  5. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hola Adios Pantalones,

    Isn't that the truth. When I stopped at the Panderia today for a break the owner just couldn't get his head around the idea that I had traveled south over the mountains but was heading north to the Carribean. He thought I was nuts.

    Well okay, maybe I am.

    Saludos,
    Juan SurNorte
  6. Tripletreat

    Tripletreat Been here awhile

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    Fantastic stuff. I just love reading about these adventures that seem to be out of my reach (for now). I've always wanted to see Columbia. Thanks John. :clap
  7. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Tripletreat,

    Glad to have you along!

    Just save some money or use plastic, get on your bike and twist your right wrist. It really is that easy. It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. If I can do it, anyone can.

    I like riding in Idaho May through September. February is a great time to be a few thousand miles south of Boise.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  8. Dracula

    Dracula Deus ex machina

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    Excellent update. The views and experience transpires from the monitor directly to my addicted brain. I can see myself wandering aimlessly for a long time in that beautiful country.
    Perhaps there is something to cover the spark plug and make Sherpa less dependent on weather,,,
  9. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Dracula,

    Some dielectric grease would probably do the trick. In the meantime, I'll just pull over in a covered area and let the rainstorms pass. I'm having a lot of fun coasting or pushing the bike into places and meeting nice folks, so it might be a feature instead of a bug.

    Saludos,
    Juanito
  10. Dracula

    Dracula Deus ex machina

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    Hi John,

    I agree, was going to say that might just be the icing on the cake. I too love the way you see the glass always half full :clap
    The place you found looks outstanding. We got 32 inches of snow today.

    Cheers from the snowy NY!
  11. Salsa

    Salsa Been here awhile

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    I want the name rights to the way you sign off with Juan something. I would write the book and give you half the profits and you could ride forever.

    You even signed off once as John Downs !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Don
  12. yokesman

    yokesman Been here awhile

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    Sounds like the spark cap is just past its useful life.
  13. Haven't Ben There

    Haven't Ben There restless soul

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    Hi John, glad everything worked out with the Sherpa. Your new accomidiations are beautiful, along with the scenery. I think I could stay there for a few days :D. Enjoy you have earned it :clap
  14. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF Road, or off?

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    :jack

    I thought that one was particularly witty, Juanito el cómico... Frenos de mierda had me chuckling earlier. That's just a couple examples. Love how you come up with this sh.... :-)
  15. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF Road, or off?

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    I guess it's not so unusual any more o'days to experience people suddenly cracking up while otherwise intently glued to a computer screen. The times they are a'changin'. Thanks for the needed warmth and comedic relief to the winter doldrums. You've apparently mingled with lots of diverse crowds, including software engineers (and that's a feature, not a bug).

    This previous leg here of the journey is sublime. You found some killer roads and killer views. From the photos, I kept thinking I was in Ecuador. It's quite a feeling looking from the side of a ridge SO far down to a river and dots for houses, then looking equally SO far up to the top of the facing slope, and it feels like the stomach is trying to force its way into the thoracic cavity. Then you look at your photo later and it's like, meh, nice view. There's nothing like being there. Encima de su humor, thanks for your encouragement!
  16. NitroRoo

    NitroRoo Been here awhile

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    I had fallen way behind and last I had heard you were on a boat... then I saw the wheel mishap :eek1 I have been catching up every free moment I had since. Fantastic way to overcome and with such a great attitude. I truly believe this makes all the difference in life, no matter what obstacle you are facing. Way to go, and I can't wait to read more!

    I've been really enjoying the Columbia chapter - my dad was born in Bucaramanga and has told me many stories of growing up down there. I spent a few childhood years in Venezuela, which is where my wife is from - so I'm looking forward to that installment too.

    Loving all these roads you are exploring. Sure beats trying to plan out every single moment of every day (something I am prone to do). Sometimes you just have to go with the flow :) :clap
  17. Sahararover

    Sahararover n00b

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    Hi John, thank you for the RR it's a great and inspiring read.

    I put the coordinates form the hospederia in google earth and I saw that it matched a pin I had already saved in my account, was the name of the place "La Violeta"?
  18. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Sahararover,

    Yes, La Violeta Hospedaje. Very charming place. I had a hard time leaving. Small quaint cabin in the woods with a kitchen with propane stove for making breakfast and coffee, nice tankless hot water shower, great TV with hundreds of channels for 40,000 pesos ($23.00). And friendly staff. Highly recommended.

    Glad to have you along for the ride amigo.

    Saludos,
    Juan Violeta
  19. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi NitroRoo,

    Glad you are still following along. Pretty nice place that Bucaramanga for such a big city. And lots of great riding all around in the mountains. What a great place your Dad had to grow up in.

    Venezuela coming soon. There's nothing wrong with planning things and trips. I do it all the time. At least three times a day. I get distracted by a good road though. Plenty of those around the Colombian mountains.

    Saludos,
    Juan Pamplona
  20. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi ONandOFF,

    Glad you enjoy my unique sense of humor. And yes, the scenery in this part of the world is too big to photograph.

    Juan Panorama
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