After three weeks we finally escaped the holiday squeeze and hit the road on January 4th. During our time in Ensenada, Lorrie came in from Juneau, Alaska to spend a quiet out of the way Mexican Christmas with a tree decorated with bubble gum and smiles. Augustine got some good nerborily Alaskan grandma time and we got to catch up on the slow passing of time in rainy Juneau.
Following the Christmas festivities, we meet up with two good friends of the family – David and Chelsea – for a 5 day mad dash with a Land Cruiser and an off road hankering by David that lead us deep into the hills and deserts of Baja.
We met up with them at a little place in La Fonda called Poco Cielo (A little bit of heaven) and spent the night bar-b-qing and hanging out with the Leggitt family for the evening. We then trucked out the next morning to Ensenada and beyond.
We took rocky, bumpy and slightly insane roads all the way to the Sea of Cortez side and are none the worse for it. We did wake one particularly cold morning to a band of camouflaged military guys wondering what the hell we were doing in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, our hero David speaks pretty good Spanish and got us out of any mustard.
Getting into San Felipe for New Years eve, we were dirty and tired after the tossing roads and a fair bit of Tecate rattling around with us. We all, like senior citizens retiring to Florida, passed out at 7:30PM, making a deal that we’d wake at 11:45PM and set off some fireworks. Surprisingly we did and went directly to bed. It was mellow and memorable in its own grandma/grandpa sorta way.
After bidding our fond farewells to Dave and Chels in Mexicali, we caught a bus back to Ensenada where we stayed another day and finally hit the road. The 600 km (372 miles) from Ensenada to Guerrero Negro have been filled with epic scenery, great people and our own meandering adventures with Spanish or the lack there of.
We hope you enjoy the photos and I hope you get a little sense of our journey thus far into Mexico from my little jots of journaling.
January 4th 2015 (Ensenada to Valle Santo Tomas)
Jesse (our Warmshowers.org host) road out with us to Reforma street and said his goodbyes. Smog, dust and traffic mixed with Bar-B-Q Pollos towards the tail end of town with Alto signs strewn about with a fleeting gesture of actually stopping at them.
Around lunch meet a fellow cyclist (albeit with a Penny Farthing ride) from the UK named Joff. He’s ridden around the world once already on his great wheeled bike and is an amiable fellow with stories to fill all the catacombs around the world. You can find him over at www.pennyfarthingworldtour.com.
Good steady climb past Los Malcarrado before dropping into Valle Santo Tomas. Big ominous beautiful and steep spanish speaking mountains crowd the road. Just at 3000ft, the nearby Sierra Encino Solo looks wild, craggy and alive after the rolling smog and trash of Ensenada.
Found a little ledge off the road to crash for the evening, Penny wheel joined in as well.
January 5th 2015 (Valle Santo Tomas to South of San Vicente)
Big climb starting right off in the morning. 55 mins of climbing, if we are going to be exact about it. Happy honkers all day long. Big trucks giving us a wide berth as well. Hot in comparison to the last couple of weeks. After heading out of San Vicente, a couple pulled off the to the side of the road.
At a clipped pace and a huge smile on his face the driver came to us: “Hola! My name is Gabino and this if my wife Lupita. You can come stay at our house in San Quintin. It is about 100km from here. I am on warmshowers.” In short order Gabino shared his number and email address and said he’d see us in a couple of days and off he went.
With evening approaching, we’ve pulled off into what looks like a deserted Olive orchard. Looming mountains in the distance. Stars burn brightly and the big dipper is upside down. So good to be back sweating and into the routine of riding again.
Lunch in a park today in San Vicente. Augustine being wild and slightly scared of the Spanish speaking children. Perhaps the fact that there are kids that speak a different language than both her mom and dad is bewildering. She’ll come around.
January 6th 2015 (South of San Vincinte to North of Camalu)
Beautiful warm morning in olive field. I can see why so many of the human flocks truck off into the southern regions of the world to stay in these warmer climates. Waking early and soon basking in a glorious amber light of dawn warming your face and bones makes everyday your birth.
Still frog hopping with Joff (the penny wheeler). Stopped in at Punta Colonet for water, internet and lunch – in that order. Tons of happy honkers and ecstatic wavers continue. After the pass climb, flattened out to slow rolling hills in what look like lush grass lands with mounds of trash strewn here and there.
Ance had a small crash coming into town today. We’ve crashed more in Mexico than in the whole trip combined. Augustine got a pink, totally unnatural looking, juice that she was parading around and nursing for a good part of the afternoon.
Found a great spot off dirt road heading easterly. Got away from the road and its incessant rumblings of human existence. Remember that if you set up your tent in the early evening sun and lay your sleeping pad and bag down quickly, you can catch some sun and its residual heat. When you climb into your bag, you climb into the womb of the earth avoiding the mild winter of the Baja nights.
January 7th 2015 (North of Camalu to San Quentin)
Stayed with Gabino and Lupita. Great open couple full of warm smiles and encouragement for our abysmal Spanish. Had a great morning on a hillside overlooking cactuses and a luscious looking blanket of green on a nearby hill.
Great big straight stretches with slow rolling hills all day. Pulled off into Negro Guerrero for some snacks at Calimax (The Safeway of Baja or the Maxima of B.C.). A great park with lots of kids for Augustine to run around with.
Gabino and Lupita met us, by chance, at an Oxxo while we tried to gesticulate quite humorously that we were looking for Bentio Juarez road to get to Gabino’s house. It’s a good thing they found us otherwise we would have been quite lost.
Cooked pasta and apple crumble for dinner. Some of Gabino and Lupita’s friends came over with their little boy. Augustine chased him around for most the evening, while they spoke to each other in a language neither one of them understood. I washed dishes with Lupita at an industrious pace in a friendly silence, her English and my Spanish driving us to quiet smiles and the clinking of glasses, forks and spoons.
January 8th 2015 (San Quentin to North of Rosario de Arriba)
Woke slow. Quesadilla for breakfast. Gabino has a sheet of all the places cyclists can stay all along the Baja Peninsula. Super awesome.
Gabino spent the morning cleaning out his van for his bed into America. He explained he was heading into Santa Anna to do some kind of business for his second hand/antique shop. Lots of interesting knick knacks throughout his whole house and garden. One item I was particularly interested is a framed piece with a burlap sack canvas with a broken saucer, a Confederate states 1 dollar bill and an old nail glued to the surface.
Stopped in at the hospital on our way out of town to take a picture with Lupita – where she works. Rumbling through the dusty congested town, stopped just outside at a farm of some sort for early lunch of popcorn. Penny wheel past us up again!
Stopped off onto a road with a blue sign reading “La Labora” which I think means “The Works.” It seems to just go off into nowhere land. Called it in early today at 3PM. Sat in the fading light reading and waving to the rickety trucks heading home for the evening.
It is 7:30PM and I am sleepy and am not 75 years old.
January 9th 2015 (North of Rosario Arriba to Mesa la Pitahaya)
Woke early to chilly cloudy morning sky. Left by 10:10AM due to flat tire discovered just before packing up. 11KM into town. Bought some supplies, ran into Joff again. He is apparently have a holiday today at a cheap motel with a real bed and Spanish speaking pillow cases.
We took lunch at a deserted park. It seems in all these town the park is directly adjacent to the Police station. Everyone waves. Potatoes/Eggs/Cheese combo for dinner. BOOM!
January 10th 2015 (Mesa la Pitahaya to south of Mison San Fernardo Rey)
Concerns for water today. Ran into caravan of RVs while summiting a good sized hill. All retiring folks. The ladies cooing over Augustine and the fellas cracking old man jokes in the desert. A guy from Australia, who immediately commented: “sorry to disturb your peace and quiet,” gave Augustine and small Koala bear hold the Australian flag.
Worked our butts off dropping and climbing, making 20km in about 2 hours. Things got easier the 2nd half of the day. Made much better time. Joff came up on us as we were filling water. He’s also worked his Penny Farthing pants off. He doesn’t really have gears, so bombing hills includes a hefty amount of pushing.
Found sweet spot among thorny bushes just beyond an abandoned mission that seems to have been a bustling tourist attraction at one time during its centuries of kicking around after all the Christians left.
January 11th 2015 (Mision San Fernado Rey to South of Catavina)
Rain began around 2AM and continued in light misting until 6:30AM. Sun broke over the nearby peak, struggling with the fog and thick lumbering clouds. Augustine woke around 5:30AM and climbed into our sleeping bag immediately. We laid dozing listening to the sloppy sounds of blankets of mists wiping the walls of our tent.
The sun glittered brilliantly off of the millions of tiny droplets of water clinging to the thorns of the bushes happily springing forth in a thicket of defenses. Those silly looking birds with the two lobed prongs flopping back and forth on their heads peck at a root wad nearby.
We climbed a 7 min hill and dropped into largely flats for the rest of the day. With a cool side wind in the gray light until we stopped off into a cafe/tienda/living room/kitchen where we spent an hour. Augustine played with their 3 year old daughter, other kids watched TV in the adjacent room, one woman rocked her baby in a dim corner, speaking rapidly. The owner of the business, chatted with us brokenly and with much gusto.
While preparing to leave, our penny wheel rolled in. Joff apparently slept under a bridge and got a good shellacking from the rain last night. Continued on into the desolate looking expanse of desert. Glorious and sad in its seeming emptiness.
Rolled into Catavina. Went to store for water and supplies. We had a stolen plan from Joff that didn’t pan out in the end to stay in a deserted medical dispensary. The cops didn’t approve of the plan. We continued out of town for a few kilometers and camped in a beautiful rocky, cactus ridden epic sun setting spot of glory.
Took stock of the stars. Augustine says she saw a shooting star. I hope so. It is good to be moving and living slow. Soaking in the simplicity of moving, breathing, sweating and staring up into the expanse of the universe with nothing in particular in mind except for beauty and nearby sleep.
January 12th 2015 (South of Catavina to South of Chapala)
Slow lumbering climbs. Breakout into flats with steep impressive pissers. Draining day. Stopped in at San Ignacitio Ranchero. Augustine got some more kid time and up close and personal with some chickens.
Stopped at a glorious valley for lunch with Mesa de Gato towering in its table top glory just beyond. Thick cumulus clouds lingered sleepily in the windy valley. Spectacular sites and peaks. Meant to catch up with our Penny Farthing today to camp with – did not happen.
Before camping for the night, stepped into a shack of a cafe with no lights. If I’d been brave, I’d have a picture of a woman in a faded flower dress and frilly apron sitting next to a cast iron stove, smoking a cigarette with tufts of swirling smoke panning out through her kitchen in the blue light of evening. But I wasn’t, so words will have to suffice.
We clumsily ordered our chips and salsa, a coffee and some cookies for Augustine. Sat in silence looking at the horse figurines and photos of babies we knew nothing of. Silence kept our counsel.
January 13th 2015 (South of Chapala to Juarez)
Big 70km day. Little climbing and great long stretches of flatness and slow drops. Wind blown ears, beats and rhythms of freedom booming and rolling through my head.
First portion of the day in the looming vista of Sierra De Asamble, the tallest of the peaks sitting at 5000+ft. The flats we road below, laid down in a humble worship of the huge rocky outcroppings, littered with unshaven cactuses and thorny bushes shaking in the desert alpine breeze, only pausing to change directions.
Last couple of mornings have been sloppy wet. This morning a low thick soup danced around, leaving tiny floating droplets racing through the air.
Stopped into Parador Punta Prieta. A scar of a place that apparently boasted the only tiled pillars adorning gas station stalls I’ve ever seen. On every open face of the building there was written in paint “No Tire basura,” or “No tire basura esta lugar por favor.” Still, a good bit of trash piled everywhere. Should have put up some English notifications to prevent those Americans from throwing their Stone IPA six packs and bottles all over the place.
January 14th 2015 (North of Juarez to South of Villa Jesus Maria)
After slow lumbering steep hills made good distance today. 75km – which for us is like crossing the whole of Africa in a day. Stopped into El Rosirito for water and some supplies. Also stopped into restaurant for papas fritas and Huevos Rancheros. Delicioso! Trucked on through this giant flat blanket of brown. Great old man in Jesus Maria illegally sold us some Tequila communicating to us that we heard nothing, saw nothing and no nothing about nada Tequila here.
Rolled just a little ways out of town and slipped into a desert coma of sleep filled with the sounds of wild coyotes making love to the moon.
January 15th 2015 (South of Villa Jesus Maria to Guerrero Negro)
Short day into nearest town. Flat all the way. Pulled into G.N. and met up with Joff and a couple of other cyclists. We’ve pretty much taken over the Ballenas Hotel in an international friendly annexation.
We’ll be heading out tomorrow into an expanse of more desert before crossing over onto the Sea of Cortez side. We hope everyone is doing well, has had a great holiday break and is finishing up winter with a bang in preparation for the spring to come!