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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mangahurco y los Guayacanes... en Bici

For several years we've been looking forward to visiting Mangahurco and hitting the blooming of the Guayacanes in this remote southern corner of Ecuador. A family bikepacking trip underneath the golden-yellow flowers seemed like a great way to see this beautiful event. Finally as 2018 unfolded in front of us, all the stars aligned and we made it on time to witness one of the most breathtaking shows mother nature has to offer.

After a nine-month dry season, the rains begin, and trees that have sported bare branches for most of the year dress up in bright yellow flowers. (usually mid January to beginning of February)
It takes the guayacán trees about 200 years to reach a height of 50 feet, but in less than a week, they flower and then drop their petals. This amazing display that lasts only a few days depends fully on the mood of the skies. No rain, no flowers. If the rain falls only on a small area, the show is small as well, but if you get a nice, even rain on the 35.000+ hectares of this unique dry forest, you get a show that is hard to match. Definitely worth taking the chances if you happen to be around...

Desde hace algún tiempo hemos estado persiguiendo el florecimiento de los Guayacanes en Mangahurco, un pueblito escondido en un rincón del Sur del Ecuador. La idea de hacer un viaje en bicis bajo la sombra de miles de guayacanes florecidos me hacia cosquillas y me  parecia la mejor manera de explorar este impresionante espectáculo. Finalmente se alinearon los astros y a comienzos de este 2018 finalmente llegamos justo a tiempo para bañarnos de amarillo bajo este bosque mágico.

Después de nueve meses de temporada seca, a mediados de Enero (aproximadamente) las lluvias comienzan y los Guayacanes que hasta ese momento estaban con sus ramas --lluchitas-- se visten de amarillo. Este árbol de crecimiento lento, se puede tomar hasta 200 años para llegar a los 15 metros de altura, pero en el lapso de una semana florece y deja caer sus pétalos. Este espectáculo maravilloso no solo que dura pocos días, sino que depende completamente del comportamiento de las lluvias. Sin aguas, no hay flores. Si las lluvias son muy focalizadas, la floración también es focalizada, pero si las lluvias se extienden sobre las mas de 35.000 hectáreas de este muy particular bosque seco, el resultado es un show natural difícil de igualar...

-- Where can we camp?, I asked one of the laid back dwellers of the tiny village of Mangahurco... "where ever you please", he kindly answered.     
--   Donde puedo acampar?, le pregunte a unos de los amigables habitantes de Mangahurco... "Donde usted buenamente quiera", me respondio con una sonrisa.

-- The above images are taken from the same place, the one on the right, the afternoon we arrived, the one on the left the next morning. Yes, this happens fast!!
-- Las dos imágenes de arriba son tomadas desde el campamento, la de la derecha la tarde que llegamos, la de la izquierda al amanecer del siguiente dia. Esto es rapido!

-- We woke up to a yellow dream. Breakfast and bike preparations followed...
-- Nos despertamos en un sueño amarillo. Desayuno y preparación de bicis para comenzar el día.

-- and off we went to explore "chivo-landia" (goat land) as Koru quickly called it after seeing the abundant presence of these animals.
-- y arrancamos a explorar "chivo-landia" como el Koru rapidito definió a estas tierras, despues de ver la cantidad de estos compañeritos.

-- The riding is great, the people are friendly, but is hot, really HOT!
-- Los caminos son hermosos, la gente maravillosa, pero es caliente, muy caliente!

-- After a few hours of riding, we joined the "chivos" and cooled down a bit.
-- Después de un par de horas de pedal nos unimos a los chivos a enfriarnos un poco.

-- She NEVER leaves her knife behind, another reason to love her!
-- Y ella NUNCA deja su cuchillo de lado, una razon mas pa' quererle tanto.

-- In our search for shade, we kindly accepted every invitation from the locals. Interesting conversations and abundant fresh fruit followed...
-- En la búsqueda constante de sombra,  sin titubear aceptamos todas las invitaciones de la gente local. Fruta fresca y divertidas conversaciones para enfriar las maquinas.

-- This was Marcela's first long ride on the Pugsley. She is sold to fat-bikes (at least when pulling a trailer)
-- Es la primera pedaleada larga de la Marce en la Pugsley. Creo que esta vendida a la llanta gordita (al menos para jalar el trailer)

-- Many wheels to move a biking family
-- Muchas ruedas para mover una ciclo-familia.

-- Lovely fences and YELLOW...
-- Hermosas cercas de madera y AMARILLO...

-- With only 10 months under his belt, Antú is already becoming a savvy explorer.
-- Con solo 10 mesesitos,  Antú se va convirtiendo en un gran aventurero.

-- Cows, cowboys and colors.
-- Vacas, vaqueros y colores.

-- Soaking in one last bit of this magnificent landscape before we start our long journey back home.
-- Empapandonos un poquito más de este magnífico paisaje antes de empezar nuestro largo retorno a casa.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bikepacking the Colorado Trail. (Pt. 2)

After Paul's departure in Buena Vista, we took off to tackle the second half of the route. We still had a good chunk of riding in front of us. The character of the trail changes quickly as you start riding out of Buena Vista towards Monarch Pass. Steeper sections, looser more technical terrain and more mountains... big mountains. 

The Colorado Trail normally avoids Monarch Pass and a good section of the renown Monarch Crest Trail through Fooses Creek. We really wanted to ride the ridge, so we avoided the original route and instead did 8 miles of pavement to reach the pass. Our mini detour was well worth it; a clear morning welcomed us as we rode into the Monarch Crest trailhead... 

- No wonder why the Monarch Crest is popular, the riding is exceptional and the vistas are stunning in every direction.

-- Little by little the smoothness of the trail started melting under our tires and rocks and roots took over. First just short sections and then they just invaded it all... we hit the Sargents Mesa, probably the most challenging section of the ride. 

-- Most of the terrain is rideable, but it requires concentration, strength and skill to keep your wheels rolling on top of the big loose rocks. Once you master that, be prepared because it keeps coming at you relentlessly for many hours.

-- Above, one of the few sections where the Sargent gives in a bit and lets you enjoy smooth terrain and fine vistas ( that's if you don't get hit by the storms that like to chase riders)... 

-- Then you find yourself back in the woods and riding on top of those big, loose rocks again...

-- Appreciation for the Karate Monkey and its knobby fat tires grew even bigger in this section...

-- No matter how hard the ride or rocky the trail, good camping was always available.

... finally, after several hours we were out on double track and adding miles as we approached the last wilderness detour: La Garita.

-- Slumgullion Pass. Back into the high mountains and re-fueling for the long day towards Silverton...

-- With only a few snacks left and maybe an emergency dinner, we needed to decide whether to  go down to Lake City to resupply or commit to ride in one day to Silverton. After some deliberation we decided that the next day we would start very early and finish in Silverton. If it was going to be "Comandante's" last day on the trail it had to be a good one!

-- More food followed the discussion. The long lasting dehydrated vegetables and fruits I brought from the farm kept being our main ingredient for every meal, served here with miso and rice pasta.

-- We woke up to a clear sky and a bright full moon, who was still awake.

-- Soon we were back on the trail, gaining altitude as the sun came out...

-- ... many miles of delightful singletrack, open alpine ridges and high passes unfolded under our tires.  Legs were tired and food scarce, but the weather was on our side and storms avoided us all day long, that alone was enough motivation to keep rolling.

-- Little dwarfs on a sea of mountains...

-- Some short strenuous hikeabikes and then riding again this endless thin line of dirt.

-- High passes gave way to more mountains, it becomes hard to believe that you are actually riding it.

-- Eventually we dropped down and some miles of gravel took our tired bodies to Silverton.

-- With several beers and a good meal we said goodbye to "El Comandante".

-- That afternoon only two pairs of worn boots were left outside the tent. Cass and I would wrap up the ride from Silverton to Durango.
Note: Old and new model of Shimano MT91 boots (aka. XM9). This guys are hard to beat for a ride like the CT.


A refreshing morning off-the bikes in Silverton. 


--  Once more we loaded our bikes and hit the trail. 
(Photo: Cass's Revelate Designs Egress pocket proved to be a great option for carrying XT-2 camera and lenses)

-- Once more we were lucky with the weather, blue skies prevailed as we rode up from Molas Pass.

-- A wonderful display of colors and clouds as storms lurked around us.

-- Warming up the engine... 
Note: Ground Effect Robin Hood top has proven to be unbeatable as a merino base layer. Cass has been using this green one since I know him!

-- Wild flowers, patches of snow and great riding seemed to be theme of the day. We can't complain...

-- Our last camp. Blackhawk pass.

-- Some tricky connections (due to trail closures) eventually took us down Hermosa Creek trail and finally to Durango.  After 14 days of awesome riding, the CT came to an end. 

Special thanks to my partner Marcela who stayed behind with our two little ones (Koru 3 years, Antu 5 months) to let me fly. Also big appreciation for Paul and Surly Bikes for letting me ride such a nice bike, Cass for being my adventure -compadre- and my tribe back at Nahual who covered my back while I was gone.

Also Thanks to:

and the wild FLOWERS...