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I ♥ Las Sierra Gordas/Lost in the Fat Mountains

4533 Views 15 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  miguelito
I ♥ Las Sierras Gordas/Lost in the Fat Mountains

I took a ride out East of here into the beautiful Sierra Gordas two days ago. This is one of my favorite rides: about 150 miles each way of the most beautiful roads that twist and turn through Mexican high desert, alpine forest, and generally not much traffic. Then an attempted return on dirt roads. I enlisted my friends Marc, and Peter to join me.
Peter, (on the right), & I, (Marc was the only one who brought a camera on this ride).

Peter would accompany us on the ride out and then return to San Miguel. Marc and I would continue on another 76 kilometers over one of the most breath-taking sinuous mountain roads in all Mexico to the town of Jalpan, where we would spend the night, then plot a return route for the following day.

Our route would take us from San Miguel de Allende, to the Town of Dr. Mora, a pretty, but uninspiring ride. Shortly past Dr. Mora, the road to Victoria, seems to have the bottom drop out of it and begins a series of twists and turns descending a couple of thousand feet to the town of Victoria.
The road to Jalpan from Pinal de Amoles

From Victoria we continue East, and the road is in excellent condition as it snakes along the valley floor then over a ridge before dropping into the town of Santa Catarina. We stopped for a breakfast, (huevos con chorizo para mi), and continued on to the desert town of Peñamiller, where Peter headed west toward Bernal, and Marc & I turned north toward Jalpan. The temperature, to our pleasure, drops as we ascend the mountains thousands of feet to the mountain town of Pinal de Amoles.

After our arrival in Jalpan, we headed north toward the Santa Maria River, but stopped at a tiendita for a couple of beers on the way. Had a nice little soiré there with Margarito and his dad, who were fixing a flat, and drinking their own cervezas, before continuing on to the rio, (which is beautiful).

We returned to Jalpan before dark and checked into El Hotel Economico, on the south end of town, where we negotiated a lower rate for two rooms, (both with 2 queen size beds), for 220 pesos per room, or about $19 US. The rooms were clean, and pleasant. We’d asked Margarito where he liked to eat, and went there, (Karinas right by the BIG Mexican flag at the town crossroads). We both had enchiladas and a thin cut steak served with grilled onions and jalapenos, (cost = 50 pesos, or $4.35 US). Then back to the hotel for nightcaps on the balcony, and a good nights rest.
The plaza at Jalpan

That night we had decided to make our way back home via dirt roads. Using the Guia Roji, we’d spotted some roads out toward Rio Verde, which would take us in the general direction we wanted to go. The Mexican Atlas is pretty limited once you get off the state and Federally maintained roads, and we knew this before starting. So we weren’t surprised when we jumped off the paved road where the map indicated, and later ascertained from the locals that we should have jumped off back the main road about 10 miles. They then told us that the farm track we were on continued on to the village where we could pick up the other dirt road we were looking for. So off we went on a pretty rugged 4-wheel drive road.

When we re-connected with the road we wanted, the quality and grading improved dramatically. There is a mining operation out this way toward the Presa Realito, and we stopped to talk to some of the parked mine truck operators for further directions, (the trucks were stopped in order to allow only one-way traffic on a narrow series of switchbacks in the road, which would have resulted in an impasse were two trucks to meet head-on in that section). They told us to take the road to the left before we arrived at the Presa, (lake).

We did so and the road maintainance deteriorated almost immediately.

We continued on and made several guesses when confronted with forks in the road. We tended to choose the left fork each time. This would prove to be our undoing in terms of reaching our intended destination.

We had to cross a couple of these log bridges,

and had to get out to open and close one cattle gate along the way.

After we made the second left fork, the road quality deteriorated even more, becoming little more than a glorified cattle track. Eventually we were getting deep into the mountains, when we spied a small village, (about 5 buildings), in a valley deep below us. These are some of the most rugged mountains I’ve seen, so there are few signs of civilization on the mountaintops, and just a few smatterings of houses, and corrals in the valleys.

We continued on, and began a series of steep switchbacks down to the valley below. After a half hour or so we arrived in the village, (Corral Quemada or a rough translation of “burnt corral”), where I talked with an aged rancher and his son to see if this was the route to San Luis de la Paz. Marc and I were crestfallen when he told us that the town was back the way we had come, and that it was about 5 hours from us. We’d been trekking around the Sierra Gordas all ready for about 5 hours, and knew we would not likely have enough gas to make it there. I was also becoming dehydrated, as it had been a few hours since our last signs of civilization and a tienda to sell us a bottle of water or a beer. Fortunately Marc had two bottles of agua, and we were maintaining.

Our rancher friend told us that if we continued on an hour or so we would be in the bigger town of Acero, and the roads were paved there. Not recognizing the town’s name I asked him what the next big town was called, and he told me “Jalpan”. At this point I just had to laugh, and he smiled along with me. We had left Jalpan about 6 hours earlier, and in another three hours we would be grateful to be back again, and no closer to our final destination then when we’d started. If you let your mind go at moments like these you will see the humor in it, and we did just that. There was no place to buy a bottle of water, so we continued on through another series of switchbacks up the next mountain, and over the top. Along the way we started to run into signs of road work, and eventually work crews and earth-moving equipment. Then the road became graded gravel, and eventually a beautifully paved twisting and turning descent to a broader valley than we had seen since leaving the pavement that morning. It’s kinda weird to think of building that road back to Corral Quebrada, since the population of the valley could not have been more than 20 persons, and there was little else between the town below and the village. Maybe it’s Mexico’s version of putting people back to work during the global financial crisis. Either way, it will be a beautiful ride when finished.

So we make our way into the town below, and upon entering recognize it’s name as one we had passed through about 6-1/2 hours before, San Ciro de Acosta, (not "Acero"),on the highway toward Rio Verde. Grabbed a quick cerveza from a tienda in the town plaza, then on back to Jalpan where we gassed up, and decided to make a run for home leaving town at around 6 PM.

The drive over the mountain toward Penamiller and then on to Victoria was spectacularly beautiful as the sun waned, and the desert pastels came out in full bloom. By the time we reached Victoria the sun was well and truly down. It was at this point I realized my low beam was burnt out. On top of that, I had last adjusted the headlamp carriage months ago, but had not ridden after dark since doing so. Now I realized, I had adjusted it to high. I was barely illuminated the ground in front of the bike, and in turn was blinding oncoming drivers as they approached. When they flashed me I at first tried turning to my low beam, to show them I had no low beam, and then switching back to my bright. Which in turn caused them to turn on their brights, and I was guaranteed not to see anything through my dusty visor.

We made it home about 9 PM and I was never happier to dismount after that ending to a really great day of riding, exploring, and getting lost in the Sierra Gordas in Central Mexico. Cheers!
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Thanks for sharing.

Absolutely beautiful.

I would like to hear more about the log bridge crossing.:eek:

Thanks for sharing.

Absolutely beautiful.

I would like to hear more about the log bridge crossing.:eek:
Thanks man. I thought the bridge crossings were pretty straight-forward tinner. On the first crossing, one of the logs was a tad lower than the ones on either side. I just lined up and rode across. The second, I opted to place my wheels in the groove between two logs. My buddy Marc was a little more freaked by those crossings, but then his KLR tires were a bit skinnier, and might have been thrown off a little more easily than my Versys's fat tires.
The rides that go through Jalpan (be it on 120 through Pinal de Amoles, on 69 from Rio Verde or coming the other way, from Xilitla) are some of the best in Mexico (and for those who haven't followed Miguelito on his different rides, believe me there are plenty of fantastic rides in Mexico).

Thanks for taking us along for the ride. :thumb:

<Hi Miguelito. Im from Jalpan!!! Im glad you enjoy your travel to this beautiful place:D If any time you of someone else need something when are in Jalpan please let me know. :welcome:
Great ride report, and tell Marc we enjoyed his pictures!

And yes its a wonderful place to ride.
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The rides that go through Jalpan (be it on 120 through Pinal de Amoles, on 69 from Rio Verde or coming the other way, from Xilitla) are some of the best in Mexico (and for those who haven't followed Miguelito on his different rides, believe me there are plenty of fantastic rides in Mexico).

Thanks for taking us along for the ride. :thumb:

Yep, Gustavo, this country's filled with great motorcycling either on-road or off. I'm lucky to live within 3 hours of this particularly great area, with a ride that's mostly fantastic on the way. If you haven't traveled the road through Penamiller/Santa Catarina/Victoria, I highly recommend it at your next opportunity. :cheers:
<Hi Miguelito. Im from Jalpan!!! Im glad you enjoy your travel to this beautiful place:D If any time you of someone else need something when are in Jalpan please let me know. :welcome:
Cool Rotor... A Versys rider in Jalpan... pm me with your phone # and let's hook up next time I'm out your way. :cheers:
Great ride report, and tell Marc we enjoyed his pictures!
Done! :thumb:
What a great ride report, what awesome scenery and the log bridges just to keep you honest. :thumb:
Great report and photos Michael....enchiladas and a thin cut steak served with grilled onions and jalapenos, wow, I really miss the restaurants in Mexico

Thanks Kiwi & Gary. And yumm... Mexican food! I'm flying back to the US in June, and always miss the food here, (among other things), while away.
Cool Rotor... A Versys rider in Jalpan... pm me with your phone # and let's hook up next time I'm out your way.
Marc and I took another ride into the Sierras Gordas this week. This time we rode out to Victoria and had a breakfast of tacos de bistek, then rode on to Santa Catarina,
The plaza in Victoria

where we diverted toward the mountain town of Artajea. Our friend Jorge had told us the ride out that way was beautiful, and he wasn’t kidding. The road out of Santa Catarina starts a series of sharp twists and turns up into the mountains, and then into the next valley.

The views are so spectacular here, we didn’t bother trying to ride too hard, as our vision was continually shifting from the twisting road surface toward the panoramas unfolding before us as we rounded each bend.

We started on the dirt section to Artajea, but after checking the map, saw a way to reach the mountain town of Xichu on another dirt road.

After asking some of the locals, we headed on a dirt section toward La Joya. This later hooked up with a brief section of pavement where we talked to some more locals and were told how to find the road to Xichu.

The road was dirt, but fairly well maintained with just a few short stretches that were 4-wheel-drivish.

We stopped at the one little town we passed through on this section, and had a couple of beers at the local tiendita, surrounded by about 15 of the local kids watching a soccer match on the store's TV.

About 50-60 miles later we arrived in Xichu, which is a cute little mountain town. Marc asked the local constabulary whether we could drink a beer in the town plaza, and he said not really, “but if we limited ourselves to 4 beers or less, it would be OK”. We smiled and told him that one would probably be enough for us. ☺

We left Xichu and started another great series of paved twisties back toward Victoria before heading off on another dirt section Marc had rode previously with some other buddies of ours. We again faced an instance where we had to make a judgment call on which fork in the road to take, and this time we chose the right, which turned out to be correct.

We arrived in Victoria within a half hour or so and continued on to home. Total travel time this trip was about 10 hours, and we made it home well before dark. Another great day's ride in the Sierras Gordas.
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Santa Rosa to San Felipe to La Erre to San Miguel

I think I’ll use this “Sierra Gorda” thread to add write-ups of some of my local trip reports of my rides in, and around San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. So this thread will include the Sierras Gordas, but won’t be limited to them henceforth.

Once again this week, it was just Marc and I who managed to take some time to ride out from our home base of San Miguel de Allende. We decided to take the “back road” into the neighboring town of Dolores Hidalgo before turning west toward Guanajuato on one of my favorite stretches of road in Mexico. This paved 2-lane begins to sweep from the altiplano into the foothills, then snakes up into the mountains in an ever decreasing series of radiuses till you find yourself in a satisfying rhythm of throwing the bike from one side to the other as the panoramas unfold before you. Don’t get too comfortable though, as the turns throw some unusual arcs your way as they tighten up and the road engineers become more constrained by the rugged topography.

We eventually reach the mountain town of Santa Rosa, where we stop for breakfast. We opt for a comida economica, (an inexpensive meal), in the little comida casera across the street from the larger Restaurante de la Sierra, (which is more expensive than our choice of eateries, but offers a lovely view out to the surrounding mountains). I chose a torta de chorizo for 17 pesos, and marc had Huevos Mexicana for about 40 pesos before heading off to explore some dirt roads in the neighborhood.

After leaving Santa Rosa we took the first right on a dirt road at La Esperanza, and began working our way down and to the north, out of the mountains. The road’s well maintained, and we keep a pretty steady pace of 20 mph or so, soon finding ourselves out of the oak forest and back into the low-lying desert scrub.

Thirst overcame us, ☺, and we stopped at a little tiendita for a beer in the village of Santagiullio before heading on.

We reached the pavement about 5 km later. Total for this dirt section was only about 20 miles.

Then we detoured up the road to Vergel de las Sierras on our way toward the town of San Felipe, but after negotiating a fine series of sweepers through some foothills we found ourselves on a flat, straight, boring section of road, and decided to head back in the direction of San Felipe.

Neither of us had been to San Felipe before, so we rode into the plaza where we enjoyed another meal, this time a bowl of cream of broccoli soup, pork, new potatoes, and rice for 40 pesos.

Then we hit the slab back to Dolores Hidalgo, then back toward San Miguel the way we’d come this morning, which is actually one of the two roads from Dolores to Guanajuato. If you’re not familiar with the roads, Mexican road signage can be confusing. For example on our ride out on this section, you approach one major intersection where the first sign says “Dolores Hidalgo” with an arrow pointing to the right. When you get to the intersection, another sign indicates that Dolores Hidalgo is straight ahead. Both signs are correct, but the roads will take you to opposite ends of the town. The same issues are true when heading the opposite direction, with regard to signage for the town of Guanajuato. One road will take you up through the mountains into Guanajuato from the East, while the other routes you out around the mountains to the north through a lovely desert drive. Until you know that these routes are different, the signs indicating only the final destination can be very confusing.

Ok. Mexican sign digression over. We come to the turn off to the little town of La Erre. This is supposedly the village in which the Mexican revolution really began. Our national heroes gathered here under Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, before launching the war for independence from Spain.

Ok. Mexican history lesson over. We stopped in La Erre for a beer. I’d been in this town a few weeks ago and met a couple of Mexican moto-crossers and they’d told me that the road out of town, (dirt), could be ridden to San Miguel in about 20 minutes. I had been intrigued since hearing this so marc and I had decided to investigate.

We headed out and were faced with a fork in the road within the first mile. We chose the left and soon found ourselves in another tiny rural village. We wended our way through and found ourselves on a dusty farm track, which continued more of less eastward. One uphill section of road turned to a rutted surface covered with 2-3 inches of fine white powdery dust. I lead the way, and in the bright afternoon sun, it was hard to discern the road surface through the blanket of powder on the uneven road. About ¾ of the way through the section, I rode up on the side of one of the ruts, and promptly found myself and the Versys taking a nap in said dust. I probably could have predicted this would happen. Know why? I’ll tell you: Because I had just washed my mesh jacket last night for the first time in almost two years. :D

There was no damage to me or the bike, other than my wounded pride. I always wish I would have taken a picture before lifting my bike when I drop it like this, but once again, this time I got the bike back up before considering the photographic opportunities. Not caring sufficiently for a complete photo documentation of our trip, I kept the bike vertical, deciding to leave well enough alone. Marc waited for the dust to clear so he could see what he was doing before riding up, taking a couple of “after-the-fall” pics. And then we were on our way.

Notice the new white coating of dust on my freshly laundered jacket.

We soon found ourselves in another rural village and asked more directions. We headed out of the pueblo on a different road, but back in the general direction we’d come from. We had a few more sections of the thick powdery dust to negotiate as we wended our way through the hills in the general direction of San Miguel.

We passed a couple of houses in the middle of nowhere, that had some stunning stonework, and couple of hundred yards later spied a small stone quarry with a couple of men chipping stone out of the ground with hand tools. It was a rocky section of trail here, with gravel just a little too large to be comfortable bouncing over.

We were both getting tired now, and began to wonder as the sun descended toward the horizon if we should have filled our tanks in Dolores before heading out into the deep campo like this. Then we crested a hill, and began to see signs of civilization approaching. First a plowed field, then a water tower in the distance. Then houses. The road improved, and we found ourselves traveling at 30 mph. Woo-hoo!

We’d been wondering where this road would bring us into San Miguel, and soon found ourselves riding right past Marc’s house out on the far reaches of town. Happy days! I stopped in for a beer, (or two), with him and his awesome Irish wolfhound, Suki. It was another great day of riding here in the heart of Mexico.

Marc's place, a refurbished granary..

And his spectacular Irish Wolfhound, Suki.
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