Monday, November 19, 2007

Cerro Chena

Originally posted to El Cantar de la Lluvia on Friday, April 06, 2007

Sometimes you discover you are curious about something, some activity you've never engaged in before, something you inadvertently passed up for some reason or another. And sometimes you decide to explore that which makes you curious, that which you failed to explore before.

And sometimes, said exploration reveals something new, entertaining, interesting; something that provides us with a net gain, and makes us happy for having discovered an activity which will surely provide us with much enjoyment in future.

This was not the case when I went to do enduro on Cerro Chena.

Yup, the first picture is of my bike on the ground. That was the general tone of the ride, which might be summed up in several chapters:

One, titled "Oh, this is fun, I guess this must be what enduro is like, though I must confess that my palms sweat whenever I ride on trails no more than 30 cm across, with dry grass on one side and a steep dropoff on the other; no, I'm in the clear now, seems like I'm doing fine–THUMP".

This chapter would encompass merely three or four dismountings, all of them at 0 km/h, nothing serious.

The second chapter in this series would be called "The nice guys on WRXs told me that the trail downhill was not hard, so I'll give it a try, though I seem to be gaining speed in a rather uncontrolled manner; yes, as a matter of fact, I have now lost all traction on my back wheel, and–Oh!, well look at that, I've come off the trail and I'm headed straight for a thorn bush, I'll try to force a lowside; yup, there we go, now I'm riding down the hill at the same speed but squatting on a bike that is sliding on the loose earth and dry grass, I wonder where I'll end up".

The end of this chapter would tell of the clump of dry grass that finally broke my downhill slide.

An addendum to this chapter would mention that after picking up the bike, I would drop it not a metre further on, again because of lost balance.

We would then continue on to an intermezzo, in which I rest, and watch others do what I did not dare to.

And the last chapter has no title. It does not deserve one.

I went downhill to the motocross track that lies at the foot of Cerro Chena, and rode around the easier bits. I met a couple of over-45 enduro riders, one on a two-stroke CR that smoked less than the other guy's XR. As we spoke, one of them offered me his Camelback tube. "Ya want some? I'm havin' whisky". Indeed.

They went on their way, and I continued to potter about on the easy bits. No jumps, not too fast.

There were several loops that went straight up the side of the hill. I went up one, and at the highest point, I tried turning around to come back down the way I came. I wasn't able to, so I went down the other side. It was steeper than where I came up.

The circuit continued with another loop up the hillside, too steep for my taste. I turned around, and started backtracking. This bit was steep, and the earth was loose. I eventually lost traction, speed, and everything else, and found myself pointing 20º off to the left of the trail's centerline.

The bike fell over to the left, downhill, and I fell from that height onto the same shoulder that broke my fall after the car crash.

In pain, I got up, and hurried to kill the engine and cut off the fuel.

I did not have time to catch my breath or wait for the pain to pass: I saw, to my horror, how the black oil started pouring out from under the bike. It dripped out into the upturned seat, air box, and then onto the dust below.

Having the bike fall with its wheels uphill was not a good thing: the oil had managed to leak out of the crank case through the breather tube. Either I turned the bike around right now, or I would be left with no oil in my engine, stuck on Cerro Chena, twenty minutes before sundown.

Wincing from the pain and the horrible sound it made, I grabbed the bike by the luggage rack and wrenched it around. Metal and plastic scraped against rock and dirt. This is the bike I said I'd take care of, I'd keep in good condition.

My shoulder still hurting, I raised the bike with difficulty, and walked it off the track, moving across the slope. The track was the only bare patch of earth on the whole hillside. The rest was covered in dry, slippery grass, and beneath, loose dry earth. I got on, started it, advanced 30 cm, and fell off again, once more downhill. This time no oil came out, and I didn't hurt myself.

I didn't have the strength to get it up. It was at the foot of an espino tree, the branches scratching my helmet and catching on my jacket; I was sweating, exhausted, and had no strength left.

The next 30 minutes were dedicated exclusively to pull and tug on the front wheel, scraping plastic and metal over rock and thorns, until I got it down to a flat bit. I think I dragged it some 7 metres like this, like an egyptian.

Another 20 minutes went by as I tried to get it up again. I simply did not have the strength or the traction.

When I finally did manage to right the bike, my mouth completely dry, I set off in the dark, to find the exit. Almost as a celebration of my idiocy, a band of trumpets, trombones and big thumping drums were playing in an empty lot beside the highway, as I searched for the hole in the fence.

Never again, gentlemen, never again.



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