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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
It dropped down steeply on its twisting way down to that reservoir in the distance:
through three incredibly long tunnels. This one was 1600 meters long. Nearly a mile according to the sign:
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:
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:
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:
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:
This is down towards the river where the road flattens out right before an entrance gate with an admission fee of 120 pesos:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Here is the hot water stream as it flows down around the bend:
and into this surrealistic pale aqua blue river in the bottom of the canyon:
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.