After a night of semi-restful sleep freezing my butt due to cold, we got up early and made our way south past El Divisidero to see some wonderful views of the canyon. The bikes had a nice coating of frost on them and my bike’s temperature gauge said it was 32 degrees! That’s the coldest weather I have ridden in yet and I did not expect it to be this cold in Mexico. However, we were at 8000 feet elevation so I guess that had a lot to do with it.
I’m not sure which canyon we actually ended up viewing but it was stunning anyway. I made friends with the local inhabitants and gave three indigenous kids a strawberry nutri-grain bar. They were very excited but didn’t open the packages. I guess they weren’t sure exactly what this tall, strange, white man was giving them. No matter, I’m sure they would enjoy them later. After taking pictures at two different spots, Alex and I headed back toward Creel and took a small dirt road off that lead to a set of caves. Here, indigenous people actually lived and sold their wares. It was a totally foreign concept and it made me appreciate how much I have and how lucky my kids are to live where they live.
After viewing some cool rock formations, we headed south and our rendezvous with Batopilas. Little did we know what challenges and beauty lay ahead. The first hour to Batopilas took us on paved roads that twisted, rose and fell in the high mountains. The scenery was very nice and we made it to the turn off for Batopilas in good time. I had purchased a GPS map for my Garmin so I knew where to turn onto “unpaved road” even though a portion of it had now been paved. We made the turn to Batopilas and after about 15 minutes the pavement turned into hard packed soil covered by loose gravel. That surface was especially interesting because you were never quite sure how deep the gravel was in spots. After another 15 mins, the gravel ended and the real fun began.
The road, if you can call it a road, went from two lanes wide to basically a sandy, bumpy, rock and gravel strewn track that was very tricky to navigate. It had one track for the right tires of a car and one for the left tires with the gravel and sand building up in the middle like a line of stone. Problem is that this gravel line is extremely soft and dangerous. Every time you would cross over it, the bike would get loose and you had to struggle to remain upright. We quickly learned to stay in our lane so basically we had about 3 feet to maneuver in. Now, that wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that the “road” was cut into the side of the mountain and you had anywhere from 100 to 4,000 feet of vertical drop. I’m serious!!!
I was very nervous about the whole thing. My BMW is a dual sport machine but I didn’t have it set up for off-road. My tires were Tourances and I was weighing in over 1000 pounds… not exactly off-road specs!! After about 10 mins of riding on this goat track, I was beginning to wonder if it was all worth it when I rounded the corner to one of the most breath-taking views I have ever seen. The entire canyon lay before us and the Batopilas river could be seen thousands of feet below. Our road could also be seen thousands of feet below and it gave me a shiver to think that was where we have to go. Alex and I took the opportunity to have lunch in one of the most beautiful places on earth before setting off down the mountain.
After about an hour and a half of off-road riding we got to the bottom of the canyon and slowly made our way toward the town. Alex was ahead of me because his KLR was much better suited for this terrain and he has more off-road experience than me so I was trailing behind. I exited a set of curves and motored downhill through a relative benign stretch of the track. I looked ahead to see if I could spot Alex and found out why they say don’t take your eyes off the road for a second. In the moment that I looked for Alex, I drifted into the center of the track and my front wheel lost its grip in the loose gravel and sand. The bike went down hard on its right side and ejected me forward at 30pmh my left shoulder taking out the wind-shield as I flew to the ground. I landed hard on my right shoulder but fortunately my right arm was tucked against my body so it absorbed the blow. The back side of my head hit the ground hard and I immediately grabbed my head with both hands as I slid to a stop in front of the bike.
The good things that happened were my Aerostich Darrien suit proved it was worth the cost. The huge shoulder pads and elbow pads absorbed most of the blow and the bulletproof vest I was wearing protected my ribs because I had my jacket unzipped due to the warmth at the bottom of the canyon. Another good thing was that I didn’t plunge to my death off the road! And one more good thing… I was filming at the time so you can share the accident with me!!! Check it out!!!!
Bad things, IT HURT. My shoulder was sore and my shin got a large bone contusion. Poor Juliette got a beating as well… windshield gone, crash bar bent, turn light broken, broken fog light, brake lever twisted, engine cover dented (again) and Micatech pannier really dented (again). Still, it could have been much worse and the biggest pain is having to replace the windshield. I have a spare in Boston so maybe I can get it shipped to a hotel in Cancun.
After dusting myself off, Alex helped me right the bike and make some repairs to my fog light. The rest of the repairs could wait until the next morning. I had borrowed Alex’s multi-tool to try to reposition my mirror and I tossed it back to him from some 20 feet away. Note to self, do not try to throw something to someone after you have taken a hard blow to the head. I was WAY off target and Alex’s tool went flying over the edge of the cliff!!! All I could do was laugh because I really wanted to cry. Alex took it well and we could see the tool had stopped about 30 feet down the cliff. SOOOooooo… out came the rope from my bike and we had our first rappelling adventure. See the video for all the action.
The sun was going down and we needed to get to Batopilas and find a room for the night. We rode into main square some 30 mins later to find a huge celebration going on. The police were out patrolling around with machine guns and the music was blaring as practically the whole town celebrated Mexico’s 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence. We found a room in a house off of the square that included a home cooked meal. Yummy. We paid $15 for the night. The price also included a huge number of unknown creatures that swarmed your pillow while sleeping and sucked the blood right out of you! I am not joking. The place was infested with bed bugs and I awoke the next morning to many blood spots on my pillow. Alex also found tons of dead bugs in his bed when he awoke. GROSS!!!!! We didn’t bother to shower or anything… we just wanted out of that house. We got the bikes packed and I made a few repairs from the previous day’s accident before setting off for the local “gas station” and the way out of the canyon.