We are three adrenaline enthusiasts, and our plan was to leave the city of Querétano towards Sierra Gorda and opt for some of the less-traveled roads. In this first journey, we visited Peña Miller, Peña Blanca, Bucareli, El Paraíso, Pinal de Amoles, and San Joaquín. With a smile on our faces and the convenience and comfort of the Fuel gear, the trip was a lot less heavy. Thanks to our friends of Lucky Lions who helped us in this trip! We had a firm idea: Leaving the Main Road.
"Crossing rivers is easy. Navigating them on a motorbike? Not so much"
Leaving was not easy with the usual delays at our meeting point. We loaded everything we had planned to, and it all fit well in the truck: various tools, tents, gas cans, water, power converters, a grill, spare tires, photo equipment, and more. Ruben (El Pollo) was in charge of driving the truck, while Francisco (El Foco) took care of the last adjustments on his bike (BMW-Gs) in Querétaro city center. With the Ford Ranger 4x4 packed, we took out the Yamaha XT500, which we loved dearly, but it didn't start as easy as we would like. From there, we took a detour to Cañón del Paraíso, where the Main Road ends, and the Off-Road begins: a lot of dust and a scare with the Ranger when it stopped without any reason whatsoever and wouldn't start again. After various attempts, we finally managed it. As my dad says: “chingaderas viejas”.
Our mouths were dry from adrenaline, thirst, and hunger. We still had more than 7 hours of downhill riding to do, and we looked at each other and asked: Are you doing ok? Do we want to continue? We had a beer and smoked a cigarette while each of us inspected their vehicle. We decided to continue.
As per usual, the KickStarterMadness began. For the trip, we changed the piston ring, we adjusted the valves, the carburetor, and platinos. A motorbike from 1978 requires endless care and tenderness, especially on a day like that one when the engine was charged with power. Kickstarting it with its strong compression is only for the brave because you might just end up with a broken ankle (this made it both thrilling and dangerous at the same time). Suddenly a rushing river appeared and to be able to continue we had to cross it. We would take another route until a local recommended that the best option was to traverse it. We accepted the challenge and prepared to cross and press the throttle to the fullest.
Rogelio, a person we ran into, gave us instructions from the river bank. He knows the river well and told us where to cross, while El Pollo (Ruben) decided to go for the 4x4 low on the pick-up truck. When you with old trucks like this turn off the engine, put the gear into neutral, get off the truck, unblock the front tires, get back on the truck and change the lever from 2 high to 4 low you are in a position where the four wheels are in full power and better pull.
And right there, the Ford came out plowing through the river at full force until it came on two large rocks, which it dodged beautifully without a single scratch. After the truck, it was time for the motorcycles. We got on the bikes to immerse ourselves (quite literally) in the adventure. We suggested to Foco (Francisco) that the XT would be the first one to cross. Going into the river in the most shallow point, in a matter of seconds, you found yourself in the deepest area, and we heard screams (they told us to get away from there). At that precise moment, you don't hear anything; it's just you and the river. Your breath and the sound of the engine that diminished every second when the exhaust pipe went underwater. In the next moment, the water was up to the hips, and without the power of additional tires, the first driver fell to one side and ended up quite pale.
Luckily, El Foco was ready with a rope to drag the driver and the bike to safety, and within minutes we had them out of the river. In the end, we weren't able to take the bikes over the river stream, and we had to leave them there in the middle of nowhere. Rogelio told us that he and his family owned the surrounding land area and assured us that it was safe to leave them there. The night brought along plenty of emotions. Falling asleep with so many sounds from nature is not easy: howling coyotes, the frogs making sounds, the river stream, the birds, and the whole ecosystem you're finding yourself in that takes a while to adjust to. But after the rough day, we fell asleep in just 20 minutes.
You and the river
We looked for a good place to leave the bikes, and we started walking, and found our truck there in the middle of the river. El Pollo began to make a campfire, and we had a big rock to lean on and a kind of a small island where we put up our tents.
Leaving early in the morning, we realized that the brakes were damaged due to the truck's effort the previous day. In fact, they broke because the metal went from piping hot from the friction and then went straight into the water.
The road got more and more complicated. There were a lot of rocks, and the river ran high. We closed ourselves in the truck to get through the river and saw how water came into the cabin. The truck shut down (water flooded the exhaust pipe, and we couldn't continue) while we slowly went down into the water. We didn't risk drowning because the water wasn't more than two meters deep, but it was pretty unpleasant. We got out of there crazy with adrenaline and tried to start the Xt again after draining out all the water, lowering the carburetor, and drying the spark plug. But as always, eventually, it started. After a while, we were able to get to the closest village, and we left the truck at a repair workshop where Rubén oversaw the change and assembly where some parts were adapted since they didn't have the original parts.
We took the motorcycle to a welding workshop to weld a damaged piece. It was painful to watch, so we looked away for a second, and the mechanic dropped the bike, which hit the ground and broke the left rearview mirror, bent the clutch, and pierced the gas tank. We drained the gas from the tank, and Juan Carlos held back his fury, wanting to give up. The mechanic finished welding, and we got out of there. We found a place to stay for the night after another long and hard day. Lacking any energy, we went to look for something to eat, for the first time that day, at 19:00h (we hadn't had anything to eat for 9 hours) and found some excellent tacos (you'll always find good tacos anywhere in Mexico). We devoured them, had a few beers, and shared some laughs on everything that had happened.
"Whistling in the hammock"
We continued fairly early. Both the XT and the Ranger worked like a charm after the repairs the day before, and the Gs didn't stop until we came to the convent and mission of Bucareli, where we started to descend.
We decided not to stop and enjoy the views since we didn't have much time. The surrounding hills, the dust, and hearing the rush of the river make us feel free during our ride. We had a few challenges picking the correct route since there weren't many road signs, but we continued descending and stopping where we felt like to take some photos and fill up the gas tank of the Xt on various occasions. Sometimes there were so many small rocks and stones that the bikes would skid, and it was impossible to go very fast, which meant more focus and technique. To see the road descending below us was a beautiful view. Eventually, we would see the first people and houses on our journey, kids playing on a small basketball court filled with dust, greeting us as we passed, other ones hiding, and dogs following us. We realized that finally we were on the right path, and we went down to the river to freshen up.
Finding a place to sleep was easy, and hammocks were the best option because the heat was unbearable. We settled down in a mango grove, where Mr. Roberto Ramírez and Mr. Benito Garcia would let us pass for the route of Day Four. We chatted with them for a while, and they told us how bad the situation was. During the rainy season, a couple of state dams were opened without any notice, their lands were completely flooded, and they lost plenty of construction material and tools. We also talked about Huapango (a musical style from the region) and a party they would have in the village the next day, as a birthday celebration for a gringo from the US. We had some laughs together and prepared dinner, and after this, we headed to the hammocks to watch the moon while whistling to a tune in the night.
"Not all is suffering"
Getting up after a night of sleeping in a hammock was complicated. We thought it would be hot all night, but the early mornings can be very cold. Even though we had sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, and the hammock, it was not enough.
We prepared everything to continue our journey. Since we were already familiar with crossing the rivers, it wasn't difficult, but once we came to the road we were going to use to get to the plateau, we were told that our truck couldn't make it to the top, and if it did, it would be quite a challenge. It was no match for the motorbikes. We started cleaning out the path with a machete and a stick. The cacti, the thorns everywhere, and sharp stones made it all challenging. Everything there was sharp, and the heat and the steep grade of the path added to the obstacles. We started the uphill journey; we didn't give up and continued until we reached the highest point of the route and noticed so many thorns in our boots and that some of them had already punctured through the skin. The arms and legs were burning. The spikes go in very easily, but to get them out again, you literally need tweezers. We decided to go back. Going downhill was terrific, with speed and without having to push the bike at any moment as we did going uphill. We could fully enjoy the experience. We came back to Mangal (where we slept the night before), we chatted with the men we met about the road conditions, the challenges, and what could be improved. They told us that they would clean out the road for the next visit, or at least most of it since they want to give it more publicity and that more people would visit it just like we did, on bikes, walking, or similar.
It is their way of making a living, and they are conscientious and respectful of their surroundings. They are the owners of the lands, and who would be better to take care of them. At that moment, we decided to come back and help them with photos and videos of the areas they are improving because of the flooding in order to promote the area and collaborate with them.
Next up on our agenda was walking to our hammocks, getting rid of all the thorns that keep on irritating us, breathing in the humid air, breathing out, taking our clothes off and going down to the river for a swim, becoming kids again for a while, get out of the water and take a well-deserved siesta.
And then, fiesta time! While we had our siesta, we could hear music from the village. We got up, took our last bottle of tequila, and headed towards the village. There was a band playing, and the locals were arriving. We joined the party, sat on a bench and drank beer with the other guests, danced with them, enjoyed some mole with chicken, barbecue, more beer, and more dancing.
"Let's get lost"
This time our hammocks were reinforced against the wind, and we could relax and sleep very well. We were tired, though, and had little fuel left, so we decided to head back, even though we wanted to continue and never return to our daily lives.
We went over everything and said goodbye to our hosts (and now friends) and the beautiful landscape. There was a scenic road in the area that would take us back to the village and the city, just as we had planned.
We took our backpacks, our gear, and left. We felt how the tires buried themselves in the dirt and gave us all the friction we needed. There were neither rocks or loose gravel, so we enjoyed the ride enormously. We barely took any breaks until we came to a fork in the road and had to decide which direction we were heading. Without a GPS, it's more complicated and somewhat frustrating, but also exciting (we have to admit that nobody wanted to return, and we all felt like we wished to lose ourselves for a while).
Unfortunately, we chose the right path… Little by little, we started to realize that the adventure was coming to an end. We weren't talking as much as usual, but our tiredness also played a part in it. After a few more issues with the Ranger, we arrived in the city. We offloaded everything and went inside the house of one of the riders to relax and have a chat. Eventually, we said goodbye until the next adventure.