La Reina and Llano Carreta Overnighter

Short on distance but big on climbs... and white-knuckle thrills!

Last weekend, I snuck out on another overnighter with Alee. My computer’s hard drive is chock-a-block full and I need to free up some valuable MBs to edit pictures properly. In the meantime, here are some quick images from the trip, and a few hurried words too.

Oh, Sierra Norte!

You lush and green mountain range, you, looming so very high above the rooftops of Oaxaca! How wondrous you are, no matter what time of year it may be. Within your folds, you harbour lichens and mosses and bromeliads and orchids and pines and madrones and more! But yes, it does take some hard graft to reach you, at least by pedal power!

Predictably, moving as we are ever deeper into Oaxaca’s rainy season… this trip was all about proper poncho-wearing weather on the way up… giving way to a fine and refreshing mist at the top… and finally even some sunshine and short sleeve temperatures in the next morning.

Above: blue corn tlayudas, mushroom memelas, a horchata, hibiscus water, and a hot chocolate! A classic pre-climb lunch with Ron in Huayapam, before the crux of the route began. Ron headed back home, whilst we pushed (literally) on…and non…

As for the route itself, we met at Alee’s house, leaving town via the Huiyapam foothills, then plugging into the infamous La Reina. Llano Carreta and Tres Molinos were our singletrack conduits for returning to Huiyapam once more, from where it’s a rolling, dirt road medley back into town.

Infamous,? Because La Reina is indeed a monster climb – initially, it lays down the gauntlet by ascending 500m in less than 5km. And then it barely lets up on its ensuing spiral to 3150m. On the plus side, it gets you into the thick of the high country quickly!

The rainy season is upon us! (so don’t forget your waterproofs) A distance storm sweeps across the Mitla Valley before catching us up and drenching for the next couple of hours. No matter. We plod on!

Still, despite a late start, we made it to Pelado Chiquito by the afternoon. Camping up at the lookout was ethereal and sublime… No matter the weather, this remains my favourite spot to spend the night in the forest and every time I’ve done so, the vibe has been different. Yep, it’s well worth the effort, despite the last mini hike-a-bike. We even made it up for a 6am sunrise…

Image-wise, I didn’t get much of chance to record the descent… because Llano Carreta is quite the handful, especially on a rigid bike. It starts off along a stunning ridgeline ride, rife with plantlife – perhaps ridges are especially resplendent with ferns and giant blue agave, given how exposed they are on either side to moisture, as well as seeds that may well be carried by the wind. Then it plummets down on an increasingly rutted and tyre-grabbing enduro trail – out of cloud cover into sunshine once more. No wonder it’s a Black Diamond in its rating. It’s intense!

Anyway, here we are down in Estudiantes, the roadside settlement that marks the entrance to Ixtepeji from the other side. Excuse me a moment while I satisfy my fetish for photographing old vehicles and trucks. I’m in no way a fan of the combustion engine, yet somehow, the aesthetics of vehicles from yesteryear always intrigue me.

Onwards we descended, down Tres Molinos trail, rounding off this overnighter with some sunny, dirt road goodness in the Mitla Valley… and a set lunch for $3 on the edge of Reforma.

What a way to spend a weekend in Oaxaca…

Here’s the track from the ride. I forgot to turn on the Wahoo until we hit the trails to Huiyapam, so it starts a little late. And beware, there could be the odd cheeky against-the-traffic-riding on the way back through town.

All pictures are taken with my little Fuji x100V and processed in Lightroom.

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