the desert we arrive in the small town of Cataviña with the
realization that water availability will be short over the next few
days. We load up on everything we need and head out of town to camp.
The landscape reminds us of Hollywood images of Mexico. Enormous boulders
litter the ground and big spiny cactuses take up the rest of the free
space. We push our bikes down a track away from the road where the
rocks are covered with graffiti and set up the tent in front of a
spectacular deep red sunset that turns the rocky countryside into
a vast conglomeration of bulky silhouettes pierced by the regular
vertical lines of standing cacti.
Over the next
couple of days we do our best to adapt to the heat and the lack of
any proximity to civilization. When dehydration begins to affect us
we put small amounts of salt in our water keeping alert for the symptoms
of headaches and nausea. We do well over the first two days, making
good time and trading our lunchtime restaurant stops for whatever
shade we can find on the side of the road to cook our own. The desert
is filled with life much to my surprise. The varieties of cactus,
bird, and plant are much more than I had expected, thinking that we’d
be biking through a sea of sand. Of particular note are the endemic
“elephant trees”, big furry green trunks that stick out
of the rocky landscape in abundance.
We meet up with
a group of Americans who live in San Felipe and are traveling by off-road
buggy and jeep and camping in this “gnarly” peninsula.
We join them at their camp spot and enjoy some evening company in
this isolated place.
the flattest, most boring terrain on a strait road for most of the
day, we arrive in Guerrero Negro. We are dehydrated because the last
day on the road was windier and we felt less need to drink water because
we couldn’t feel the heat. Our dehydration is helped along by
ample doses of diarrhea and we are forced to stay five days in order
to recuperate. We get better while becoming hooked on Mexican soap
operas as well as fish tacos, which send us on our way with a full
leave Guerrero Negro in the early afternoon and meet our American
friends on the road again. We talk for a bit, graciously accept some
oranges and hear that we shall soon meet another cyclo-tourist. As
they said we meet with Steve not long after. We spend some time chatting
on the side of the road happy to share anecdotes with a fellow traveler.
Then just after lunch, we meet Rogelio, a guy from Tijuana who has
made his way down and up the Baja and is hoping to catch up with Steve.
He has some very inspiring things to say about this way of traveling
although he seems to be much more concerned than us with going faster
and farther. We all seem to agree that we have a wicked way to get
pass the town of Viscaino and meet up with a couple of kids who ride
with us until the sun is setting. We pull off the road onto a track
that cuts through heaps of garbage leaving Juan and Sergio to continue
on home. Once we have put a bit of distance between the trash and
ourselves we make our camp.
arrive in the oasis town of San Ignacio. A vibrant green forest of
date palms rises up out of the drab desert. We camp in the trees and
go for a walk in the morning. It’s nice to see a tree again.
Around eleven we head out of town fighting an enormous headwind. A
little ways out of town I realize I’ve left my pants at the
camp spot and we need to head back. An hour and one roadside sandwich
later we head out of town again. The headwind has us going at the
snails pace of 7km/h. This slowness continues until 30 kilometers
later after we’ve crossed a long plateau and passed a big volcano.
Until then we need to pedal hard to get down steep hills at 10km/h.
We pass the big reddish volcano, happy to be out of the wind and emerge
above a vast open plane. The three virgins, three massive mountains,
tower over the plane on our left and we coast down a long hill in
view of this awe-inspiring landscape. We make good time over the plane
and arrive at a sign proclaiming that we are now going to descend
the “hill of hell” cuesta del infierno. Very steep, very
long, and very beautiful between cream coloured cliffs and other jutting
mountainous forms, this hell hill was definitely named by those who
were on their way up. We coast into town in the dark, gorge ourselves
on a BBQ chicken and crash in a hotel room for the night in the Mar
de Cortez town of Santa Rosalia.
We spend a full day in town relaxing, getting some much-needed supplies,
and cooking on our doorstep with the camp stove. Santa Rosalia was
built by the a French mining company and has a distinctive look, all
the houses are made of wood in a style that echoes that of a colonial
head out of town still tired and looking for a good beach where we
can relax for a few days. We find one just after a small town called
Santo Tomas. To get to the water we need to ride down a long washed
out road, but our peaceful spot under some palm trees is well worth
it. Our subsequent naked sunbathing earns us some serious sunburns.
That evening after coming back from a shopping trip to town we realize
that Johanne can barely walk and I’m not much better off. She
spends three days on her stomach while I do my best to move my achy
ass around and take care of her. Once recuperated we extend our stay
to a week, finishing off the transcription of some taped interviews
from Tijuana, swimming, and spending a little time with some nice
locals who like to feed us. Every morning we are woken up bright and
early by the marching band of an army base that is just a kilometer
or two down the beach.
head off into the bright blue yonder along the stunning coastline
of Baia de Concepcion. We pass a beautiful little town called San
Bruno where children call out to us from the schoolyard when we stop
to replenish our dwindling supply of cheese. The road is flat and
we head towards Mulege, hoping that a shower might be in store.
arrive in Mulege in the afternoon and after stocking up on some necessaries
we look up some friends of the American off-roaders from San Felipe.
Roger and Helen overcome their stress over a quite traumatic week
just enough to succumb to our insistence and invite us to spend the
night. We feel bad, but we need a shower like cookies need milk. We
are almost out of cash and food as we head on because contrary to
our expectations Mulege was bankless. A couple days later we arrive
in Loreto. We had to ask for some charity at a small truck stop because
the town of Rosarito (amongst 50 similarly named places on the Baja)
turns out to be a deserted ranch with no available food. We arrive
in Loreto pretty broke but the bank machine sooths our aching pockets.
We spend a couple nights in a little hotel writing an article. We
meet up with a Quebecois couple staying one room over and spend a
couple hours talking in our doorways. When I communicate with my uncle
from Mexico City he tells me that he’s leaving the next day
for the Baja California and we make tentative plans to be in the same
place at the same time.
We leave Loreto
and climb through some serious switchbacks, doing a long day of riding
in an effort to make the rendezvous point with “tio Lalo”.
We camp on top of a plateau after night has fallen, the only available
spot being the entrance road for a microwave tower.
next day we wake up in front of a long slow descent. On the right
and off in front of us we can see extremely far as we book it downwards
towards the city of Insurgentes. The lower spots in the rolling plains
and mountains that stretch out below us are cloaked in early morning
fog. After a roadside lunch in this empty wilderness I notice that
my rear panniers seem to be unbalanced. The whole back of my bike
shakes with a regular back and forth swing as I ride. A cursory analyses
says that everything is fine, but when I stand up on my pedals to
relieve my aching behind my rear rack gives way and stops me by rubbing
on the wheel. We examine the situation and realize that the screw
holding the rack on has sheared off in the hole. The only thing we
can do is attach the rack with a tie-wrap. We put some extra weight
on Johanne’s bike, making her load look unusually huge and I
switch my rear bags for my light front ones. We teeter on down the
road in no good equilibrium until we get to a farm. Some guys who
have a drill that attaches to the car battery do more harm than good
in fixing the problem and finally stick a screw in an alternate hole
as an intermediate solution for lack of a better equipped repairperson.
We succeed in
making contact with my cousin Samanta, uncle Eduardo, and Tia Mari-Elena.
They are just a short distance away and come to see us in the town
of Insurgentes where we have been having lunch. It’s a joyful
reunion, we’re all hugs and kisses. We go and have coffee at
a nearby restaurant. While Johanne makes better aquaintance of my
family, I translate the menu for a few gringos who are sitting a couple
of tables over. We spend some time catching up and then Samanta makes
the fatale suggestion.
We make the wrong decision and accept a ride to La Paz. Fortunately
we hereby miss some seriously boring countryside. But more importantly
we go against our own principles to do the distance ourselves unless
there are extenuating circumstances. Nonetheless we enjoy the company
of family as well as some succulent shrimp cocktails once we arrive
in La Paz.
We spend five days in a hotel, writing articles and relaxing. We go
frequently to the market to eat in the food court, which consists
of eight restaurants that serve pretty much the same thing with some
variety in price and quality. We meet a man who works on the maintenance
of the hotel, he introduces himself as Jesus, and invites us to his
home for dinner.
In the meantime we meet a guy from Wales who rode the last 200 and
some kilometers in one day. He’s not carrying as much weight
as us on his bike but he is way more insane than we are and can barely
walk. We decide to have a beer shortly after he arrives, and he chugs
four beers to our two while continually accusing us of being alcoholics.
accompany Jesus to his house were we hang out and have dinner with
his family. His wife and kids are very sweet, and we are touched to
be accepted into their humble home. The residence consists of several
small buildings made of recuperated wood and tin roofs. A few years
ago Jesus planted a large variety of fruit trees around the different
rooms and many of them are already producing mangos, limes, oranges,
mandarins, and guava. He tells us the story of his life with an emphasis
on the emotions he was feeling in all the stages of his existence
that many people are not able to express. At one point he fell from
a construction site and broke his back. He still wears a brace around
his lower back and tells us about how he spent four years without
being able to walk.
Jesus has a son about our age who just recently came back from his
service in the Marines where he chased drug runners. He shows us his
pictures, which are primarily of him and his friends in the Marines
in full uniform with their guns. The cream of the crop of course:
four marines looking tough with their big guns on either side of a
young American girl in a bikini. We try not to laugh.
We are given half price by the ferry company as encouragement for
IPACS and make the fifteen-kilometer ride from La Paz to the docks.
There we meet Nathaniel who has done a bike and bus tour from Sacramento
to here. We spend the ferry ride with him, it seems that we are on
the same wavelength. Early on in the crossing I become sick to my
stomach and spend most of the night either vomiting or wanting to.
Nathaniel has insomnia and disappears to the upper deck.
We arrive in Mazatlan
early in the morning. We can feel and see the difference in humidity
compared to the Baja as we role into town in a hot foggy morning.
I am out of it, and spend the entire day sleeping. In the afternoon
we go out to eat, my digestion must be better because I down an enormous
meal before falling asleep with my head on the table. We get along
well with Nathaniel, but he has some serious issues on his mind and
is struck with insomnia again in the hotel.