Tuesday, March 4, 2014

El Trampolin de la Muerte!

For anyone cycling through southern Colombia, I just wanted to give my experience traversing the legendary "El Trampolin de la Muerte" (The Trampoline of Death).  This is the 77km (48 mile) unpaved road from Mocoa to San Francisco (Sibundoy Valley).  It is considered one of the most dangerous roads in Colombia, with over 500 deaths from drivers going over the edge.


If you look at Google Maps, like I did beforehand, you will see 2 roads going from Mocoa to San Francisco.  One has an insane amount of curves, which is El Trampolin, and the other is named SR10, which must be in the works because it does not exist (when I was finally coming down the mountain into San Francisco I did see construction of what appeared to be another road coming out of the mountains, which may be this SR10 in the future).  I asked the locals too and there is only one road you can take, El Trampolin.

Leaving Mocoa, you have roughly 10km of paved road until just after you cross Rio Pepino.  When you cross the bridge over the river, you take a right (there were police there at the intersection):


Maybe 75 meters after that right turn, the road turns to gravel and you begin El Trampolin de la Muerte...get ready to climb! (Mocoa is at about 600 m above sea level and you will get to 2300 m after the mirador)


From the point where the road changes to gravel, I climbed roughly 22km over about 6 1/2 hours (with stops for photos) before I reached the mirador.  There are some extraordinary views along the way:




And you will cross about 5 streams going over the road if your shoes aren't already soaked from the continuous downpour in Mocoa:


When you see a big cell tower (there is a bathroom here but bring your own tp, of course), you are a just few km from the mirador:


The police station & another tower when you finally reach the mirador:


Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see anything when I reached the mirador.  There are a few little restaurants and tiendas to get food or coffee and you can choose to camp here if you ask the locals,  I talked to one tienda owner and he said I could go about another hour and ask the owners of a little place called Restaurante Loreni to camp there.

You have to climb another 30 min (a few km) from the mirador, reaching approx. 2300 m before you start your descent.  Here are Jon & partner, the owners of Restaurante Loreni (Google map gps coords are 1.070641, -76.774027) - I ended up putting my air mat & sleeping bag down on the floor of the restaurant.  I had dinner (5,000 pesos) & breakfast (4,000 pesos) there.


And the incredible views at sunset from just below the restaurant.  Above the clouds:



After a not so good night's sleep, I thought I had an easier 2nd day...not true.  The 2nd day was much harder for me.  This is what happens when you have expectations, the worst thing to have when cycling.  I figured, well I climbed over 6 hours to reach the top, there must be a lot of downhill.  You do to downhill for a little bit to roughly 1850 m above sea level, then start climbing yet again and actually go higher then the 1st day, up to 2750 m above sea level.  So don't get lazy that 2nd day!

Enough altitude talk, here's some more pics of the road:




And some really cool moss growing on the side of the cliffs:


Lastly, when you are finally descending towards San Francisco & Sibundoy Valley and you think you're in the clear, you get one more fast-flowing stream to soak your shoes:


The beautiful Sibundoy Valley:


All in all, I would highly recommend cycling this "road of death".  It's tough, but the views are unmatchable.  At no time during the 2 days did I think I was going to fall off the edge or have any close calls with vehicles.  There are a fair amount of cars & trucks driving on this road, but almost all with caution.  Enjoy the adventure!

4 comments:

  1. Hi Damon, I stumbled upon your blog as I was searching the net. Amazingly, I live in St. Helena! I am currently in the process of selling my house, grabbing my car and dog and moving down to Central America to live. Your adventure sounds fascinating and I look forward to following your adventures. Good Luck and Be Safe, Lisa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Lisa, good for you, I'm excited for your big move! Crazily enough, I'm back in Napa right now. If you have any questions or want to meet up for coffee to talk, you can email me: damonmush@gmail.com. I don't have my phone activated yet here. Thanks for the message.

      Delete
    2. Hi Damon, A friend just asked me can you drive from California to Peru, I mean drive a Car all the way, do you know? I told her I didn't think so, I thought there might be swamps or water to cross.

      Delete
    3. Hi Angela, it is possible to drive from California to Peru though the vast majority of people are not able to drive through the Darien Gap, which is a dense jungle about 100 miles long in between Panama & Colombia. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dari%C3%A9n_Gap. The only people to ever drive a vehicle through the Darien Gap are "experts" who had to build bridges over rivers and have a small team of people to navigate their way through the jungle. So, all in all, it's possible to do but most people ship their car from Panama to Colombia to get by. Thanks.

      Delete