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Old 04-29-2008, 11:03 AM   #1
SS in Vzla. OP
Totally Normal? I'm not!
 
Joined: Dec 2006
Location: Banana Republic of Black Gold
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A dozen drops in the Venezuelan Andes

In keeping in line with the title and to please those of you who (just like me), prefer to look at RRs without pavement, here is a teaser pic of what's to come:


We'll be back to the fun part soon enough, but to mantain some chronological order here, I'll have to start the story with some pavement...
Loooong, lonely and HOT stretches of pavement

Where one does anything to keep entertained, even take bad self portraits

Oh, did I mention it was HOT? 105F Hot... so hot as to look for some shade when the time came to stop and oil my chain...
And to think some of you guys had 9" of snow last week

BTW I'm pretty sure that speed sign is missing a 1 before that "40"
And so I kept going....

Finally, the plains gave way to some nice mountains with sweet twisties


My rear tire was almost gone, but knowing I had some 400+ miles of straight, dry & hot pavement to go, I decided to strap my new Teek as luggage and change it on the road as to save it some pavement miles.
I'm pretty sure I got my money's worth out of this Maxxis M6006

At 10.000 ft it started to be cold, so for the first time ever in Venezuela, I had to stop and put my jacket liner and a pair of warmer gloves on.

Next, a very important stop for anybody in Venezuela coming to the "paramo" (highland)


THE best strawberries & cream:

... clean hands and all
And the clouds even opened up a bit to make the snack better


The road was sweeeet The pavement was very good and there was very little traffic



Near the town of Apartaderos, there is an ongoing project for breeding Condors and setting them free in the wild in order to increase their (very) diminished population. It had been a while since the last time I was there, so I thought I'd go check it out and see how they where doing.
I started up the small road. Interesting as it was with all those rocks everywhere, it was not paved on my last visit. Neither did all those buildings exist...

I got to the place with the breeding program. They have this cages where there's a pair of Condors used for breeding purposes. Once the eggs are laid, they take them from the parents and hatch them artificially, raise the chicks and once they're old enough, release them in the wild.
The parents where both born and raised in captivity and would die if released into the wild. The cages, even though huge, look awfully small when one of the birds decides to extend it's wings and show all of it's 8 feet wingspan... Although I know the program is succesfull with the release of young Condors in the wild, to me the caged animals where really depressing... I got out of there ASAP.... Didn't feel like taking any pictures either
Next in the agenda was a climb to "Pico El Aguila"... (Eagle Summit)... At 13.513 ft, the highest pass on any Venezuelan road.

and a great road to be riding a bike it is

Every time I came to the Andes, I'd look at the observatory towers up on the mountain, but I'd never had the chance to see what was there, so this time I decided to take a look....
Not much to write home about though


Retracing my steps to the main road, Apartaderos was once again in sight

It was starting to get late and although I knew the road well, I didn't feel like riding in the dark, so I set course directly to the Micarache Valley and one of the coolest posadas, which I normally stay at when visiting the area with my family.
My efforts where futile and night fell upon me on the road, but once at the posada, I was greeted by this beautiful full moon.

By this time, at 12.300 ft, the temperature dropped to the low 30s, which without any prior acclimatation from my part, was starting to feel pretty cold (I'm sure some of you are laughing now...) so I had a great garlic trout for dinner (sorry, no food-porn pictures) and after taking a hot shower, with no TV or other people to chat with (the posada was desserted) went straight to bed....
I know the area well, I've been here plenty of times (only not with the bike) and I sure knew where I wanted to go when the sun rose
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:12 AM   #2
SS in Vzla. OP
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Next morning, the sun rose to a clear day... It wasn't even cold, actually the temps where just right at around 60F.
The view from outside my room:


And a general view of the "Posada Llano del Trigo"


After a hefty country breakfast I aired down my tires and headed deep into the valley.
Last December I hiked to a nice lagoon called "Laguna de la Canoa".... and since I remembered the "donkey track" to be wide enough, I thought to myself: "...mmm getting there on the bike should be fun..."
So I went...
and it was fun...
in a sorta twisted kind of way I don't have to explain here


What I didn't remeber (or it didn't register when walking) where the big, loose rocks and the steep hills, but once commited I kept going...

So let the "party" begin, First drop: (can you see the bike up there?)


Heck! I almost made it.... almost... the incline was about 200 yards long but just before the top a big rock made me loose my balance. Lifting the bike at 12.500 ft elevation is hard work!
Once on the top, the valley road flattened out and I enjoyed the scenery... for a while


This was a great spot for a break...

I could have kept going deeper into the valley, on the "good" road, but noooo... I wanted ("needed"?) to take a picture of "La Burrita" next to the lagoon, so I climbed those hills on the right of the picture and...




Yeah, you guessed it: Almost made it .... again

My right foot was twisted backwards between a rock and the bike... nothing happened... just a little warning from "above"?
Lifted the bike, regained my breath and BRAAAAAp... I kept going...
I managed to drop the bike only twice more before getting to this rock fence


I kept going, through a water crossing that was not too deep and some flatter more open terrain until I got to the last hill.... the one I didn't remember...

Can you see the bike up there in the brush? The picture hardly shows the incline, but the main problem was that the track at this point was very narrow. I barely managed to fit the bike in... with big rocks in the way.


The lighter colored plants are called "Frailejon"... and although very common in this area they are an endangered species, so I didn't feel like stomping cross country in serach of a better line (there where many)... instead, I stuck to the donkey track.... and it kicked my butt!

After two more drops, the last one trapped my right foot between a rock and the bike... It was painful enough as to make me stop and think if this was a smart thing to do... Let me see: I was alone, at 13k feet + elevation, on a track a couple of kilometeres from the nearest person and probably way over my head on the riding department... After some thinking, my only available braincell decided to turn back before I broke something and be well to ride another day.
Turning the bike back on the tight track was no easy task.... I sweated all the "hefty" breakfast...

I'll cheat a little now and post a picture I took of the Laguna de la Canoa last December when I hiked up there



So, I headed back to the posada, packed my things and got on my way.
Destination: the Town of Los Nevados.
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:14 AM   #3
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Do you have any wild-condor photos?
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:22 AM   #4
SS in Vzla. OP
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On my way out from the Micarache Valley...
I wonder who lives in that tiny shack in the middle of the mountain ???



I love this spot...the scenery is great....only this time the clouds where not cooperating, you normally get a nice blue sky... The valley is still nice


That's the small town of Mucuchies as seen from the road.


From Mucuchies it is a 45 minute ride through great twisties but with lot's of oncoming traffic to the city of Merida.
Merida is a nice, clean, safe and tranquil student city, seated at an altitued of aprox. 6.500 ft which gives her a very nice climate, but I'm not into cities, so I just went in because the road passes through it and the only picture you're gonna get of Merida is this one: (taken on my way out the next day...thus the blue sky)


From Merida, I was headed to the mountain town of Los Nevados... Can you see the road in the distance? That's where I'm headed


Once out of the city, the road turns to a very narrow two lane going up the mountain... The last time I went to Los Nevados was 5 years ago.... When I hit the part when the pavement ended (as I remembered it from my last visit) I was surprised to find more pavement.... At first I was dissapointed, but the delicious twisties soon changed my mind... Although the road was narrow the pavement was in extremly good shape and I might have crossed paths with only two vehicles in 25 miles.
I was beginning to think the road would be paved all the way, but it ended... So I got my "dirt fix"....
Can you see the car? You wouldn't want to slip over the edge here!!!



As I was saying, I got my taste of dirt soon enough. In fact, I mean that litterally because to continue with the saga, I was going up a very steep uphill of powder style dirt when I hit a big rock (unseen under the powder) and decided to take a nap...

I'd like to ask you guys what are the odds of the bar end landing square on your toes... because if they are as slim as I think they are, I guess I'd better start buying some lottery tickets

My Gaerne Explorer boots are not cutting it for me anymore so I guess MX boots it is... I think I prefer wet feet, that broken feet.
To top it off, the bike fell down in a spot where it was almost imposible to lift up, so I had to drag it a couple of feet to reposition it...
Sorry, no pics... I was pissed with myself for droping the bike and hurting my foot.

You know you are high up and the cliffs are steep when you can see the vultures flying below you...


Or then again... maybe they where waiting for me :lol:

Well, not this time... so I kept going.

That's the "Subida de Mosnandá or Mosnanda Uphill Stretch" you see there in the distance.


Mosnandá is a little settlement of about 8 homes in the middle of the road where you can stop to rest and have a cold beer


Once on my way, I'm not ashamed to say that even though surprised, I was relieved to see the Mosnandá Uphill Stretch had been paved... phew... It is so steep, I even managed to drop the bike in the 3rd right hand turn... I was standing on the pegs leaned way over the handlebars... slowly going up and very glad I have a 15t C/S (a 14T would have been GREAT here!) there was some loose gravel on the cement floor and I did not choose the best line... my front wheel slipped from under me and down I went... The bike was upright in less than a couple of seconds... the adrenaline rush from falling too close to the edge worked wonders

Once the steep incline was over, the pavement ended again... And the views of the valley got better...


I've always been drawn towards small streams or waterfalls so here goes a picture of one one the road...


The uphill dirt road I so much wished for was hard work! But in the end, I got to the town of Los Nevados.
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:24 AM   #5
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That's rugged riding alright!! Gorgeous

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Old 04-29-2008, 11:26 AM   #6
SS in Vzla. OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bananaman
Do you have any wild-condor photos?
I wish....only vultures waiting for me to drop over the edge of the road

Seriously, since the natural habitat for these birds is very diminished here, most of the Condors they breed in Apartaderos are set free in the Colombian Andes, it is very difficult to spot a wild Condor in Venezuela and besides, the Mifafi Valley (where the Condor Breeding Program is) has restricted access to vehicles, especially motorcycles.
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:32 AM   #7
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Once I got into town I got settled into Posada Bellavista (Belle View Posada... $20 for the room including, private bathroom with hot water, dinner and breakfast).... My parking spot was indeed awsome!


Took a shower, changed clothes and tended to my crushed toes... (remember the bar end weight landing on them?).... Mmmmm.. they say duct tape holds the world together...


At the moment I thought at least one of them was fractured, but today after some time has passed I'm walking a lot better and they appear not to be fractured woohoo!

After properly taping the toes and taking a painkiller, I went to take a look at the town. It's a small town of around 2.000 people that live mostly from their crops.

Main Street on a Sunday afternoon.


Town Center


Some random shots of the place (some taken in the afternoon, and some taken early the next morning with a clear sky)





In a country where most doors and windows are guarded by steel bars, you just gotta love a place where a wooden door is closed with a flimsy paddlock








Check out the paddlock on this door....it must have come with the founders of the town about 100 years back...




So, after my stroll (more of a wobble ) through town, it was time for some serious winding down




Interestingly enough, aside from the locals I was the only Venezuelan traveller in town, but there where a couple of foreighn tourists... Europeans... some Swiss, some German (it's always the Swiss and the German you find at these far away places ) and a very cool French family. It was the parents and their 3 kids aged (aprox) 12-16.... They had been travelling the world for 8 months now in their sailboat very nice people.
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:36 AM   #8
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Next morning it was clear and sunny


So with the better light I just had to go and take some more pics of the place





Breakfast was delicious. Everything made from local produce. Eggs, smoked cheese, raspberry marmalade, home-made bread, cream & passion fruit juice with coffee... I stuffed myself.

After brakfast I got on my way towards home.

"Nevados" means "snow capped mountains".... These here are the mountains that gave the town it's name....


Up until 15 years ago, they had perpetual snow on them.... Not anymore....global warming and all...
Now, sometimes there's a little snow in August or September.


Local traffic...

When you see the ox comming or maybe a horseman or a pack of mules, you have to shut the engine, otherwise they'll get spooked and run like crazy... Locals don't appreciate that one bit

The valley, the road and the river below


Loose rocks & steep climbs are the norm on this road.


Check out this other side road that leads to some farm on top of the hill

The descents of the return trip cannot be made in 1st gear putting down slowly, there's not enough traction so they are more of a controlled slide than anything else. Stand up on your pegs, lean as far back as possible and let go!

Once on the pavement, I had the great twisties to enjoy again before a long and hot ride through the plains in order to get home.

Before descending to the plains I stopped in San Rafael de Mucuchies to take a photo of this chapel.... I'm not into photographing churches too much, but I think this one deserves a shot...


Once on the plains, I rode till darkness fell on the road. It was 160 miles from home. I stopped at a gas station, topped the tank, lubbed my chain and adjusted my (brand new) Hella lights and got on my way...

I went all of 5km (3 miles) and saw a sign for a motel on the side of a road... "Yes...better not to ride at night in Latin America" (even when you are a local).... so I stopped there for the night and arrived at work at 9:30 the next morning...

It was a great trip!
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:54 AM   #9
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Looks like a great ride. I was eyeing those mountains from the Colombian side a couple months ago. Then spent some time looking at them on Google Earth. Fantastic country and great photos! Thanks!
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Old 04-29-2008, 12:20 PM   #10
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Very nice report! Thank you.
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Old 04-29-2008, 01:29 PM   #11
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Awesome! This is the first I've seen of Venezuela!

I know how you feel about the foot. I fell the same way in Baja and broke my leg. I just got it out of the cast. Now I too own some better boots - Sidi FlexForce. Pretty good and stiff, but has an articulated ankle joint so you can still walk like a normal person in them.
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Old 04-29-2008, 03:49 PM   #12
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Great report!!!!
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Old 04-29-2008, 03:51 PM   #13
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Beautiful country....thanks for the report.
sin zapatos
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Old 04-30-2008, 08:40 AM   #14
SS in Vzla. OP
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Thanks for your comments guys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by drrags
Awesome! This is the first I've seen of Venezuela!

I know how you feel about the foot. I fell the same way in Baja and broke my leg. I just got it out of the cast. Now I too own some better boots - Sidi FlexForce. Pretty good and stiff, but has an articulated ankle joint so you can still walk like a normal person in them.
Shit! Sorry to hear about your leg... That's some expensive and painful way to learn we need better boots.

I wear a pair of Gaerne Explorers, which are pretty good in the sense that they are a proper m/c boot, vibram outsole, they are waterproof (after some silcone treatment on my part), the are very comfortable to walk in and they close with buckles and velcro. BUT.... they are not really stiff for real off road riding.

My main concern about wearing MX boots, was that they are not waterproof and here in the tropics, rain is common and "jungle rot" or "trenchfoot" is more common, so I don't like having wet feet for prolonged periods.

But I figure wet feet are better than broken feet, so I just purchased myself a pair of Gaerne SG-10s + Seal Skins socks which should help in the "wet" department. I'll just have to take better care of my feet (foot powder) on long trips.

Here are a couple more ride reports in Venezuela you might have missed.... enjoy...

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=284639

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=284936

And another I had posted only on www.f650.com

http://www.f650.com/phpBB2/viewtopic...4840&highlight=
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Old 05-01-2008, 08:28 PM   #15
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Espectacular!

Love to see people's "backyards" from far-away places.

Hoping to make it down south the end of this year.

Muchisima gracias para la photos
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