Barely had I rubbed the Sandman sand and literal Baja desert sand from my eyes and a quick movement of a critter caught my eye. I rolled over in the sleeping quilt to catch a glimpse of something the color of sand climbing from Ville's bicycle bag to just under me in the tent. Upon further inspection, I realized it was a small scorpion trying to find a comfy place to crash. Not only do most all desert plants; cacti, scrub brush, and such unknown plant material have thorns on, around, and strewn about the sand, but the animals are not the friendliest folks either. The wide open desert does, however, present some of the most epic star-gazing nights we have yet seen on this bike tour yet. Many wishes on stars should take us safely to the end of Argentina and beyond. And even if the plant and animal life keeps you on your toes, the Mexicans and people of Baja so far have been some of the happiest, kindest and generous folks we have met (of course, the Canadians are an even contender in that evaluation). The road, Mex 1 south, has been very hit or miss with a shoulder or even a decent pavement (we have heard the entire road was more recently paved in stages), the traffic on it seems to do their best to move over, give us room, honk, wave, cheer, and especially the big semi-trucks.
Our first big day off the bikes from the time we left San Diego and crossed over the Tecate border into Mexico, was spent splashing around in a giant downpour of rain in Guerrero Negro while K.G. and Ryan were trying to beat crappy colds in bed at the cheapest motel in town. After a day, we rolled back out of town splashing through the giaint puddles heading to Vizcaino pushed on by glorious tailwinds. The next day brought forth more zoning-out wide-open desert until we dropped into an oaisis of palm trees at San Ignacio. San Ignacio had a very endearing downtown built around a beautiful misssion built in 1728. Ville kindly volunteered to help build a roof on a patio of a casa de ciclista in town, and the next morning we were back on the road heading east to Santa Rosalia.
Heading out of San Ignacio, Ryan, Lydia, Ville and I had a slow steady climb into the mountains of sandy, cacti-littered desert near the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. After a very windy summit, we rocketed down the windy hills into the valley of the Reserve before a long hot climb into the sandy hills that border the coastline and Sea of Cortez. Dropping to the waterfront and south into Santa Rosalia, the city was a chaos of Christmas Eve partiers. We were able to find a tasty fish taco shop open and somehow managed on Christmas Eve to find a room at a very delapidated, over-priced inn to spend the night drinking Tequila, eating Peach-Os and celebrating the holiday together. Aparently Christmas is a huge drinking holiday in Santa Rosalia, for there was music and partygoers all night long and into the morning. We rose early into the quiet, abandoned streets and made the journey south to find a beach to camp on. Upon hitting the coast, the cacti landscape now included various grasses, flowers, and organic plantlife. With that brought an array of colorful butterflies, birds, and bugs. The road south was easy rolling hills with a slight tailwind and we flew through miles, passing Mulege and into the beaches of the Bahia Concepcion.
After just shy of 600 miles since crossing the Tecate border, we had finally arrived on a camping beach, Playa Santispac! With a slew of RVers (lots from the US and Canada), we pitched our tents on the sandy beach and borrowed some kayaks, snorkeling gear, and fishing gear from the incredibly generous RVers. Ville caught a decent sized Trigger Fish and he cooked it in our little pot for our Christmas feast. Was a pretty memorable Christmas I have to say. We decided to take a day off on the beach relaxing in the sand, watching dolphins feast, reading, and not biking before our next days long ride to Loreto. Since leaving Ensenada, Loreto was our first touristy town, chalked full of mini to full on resorts (they even have a Starbucks, folks). We stayed a couple of days in Loreto due to timing and weather issues, for us Loreto didn't seem that attractive but it might be because the weather was rainy and gray while we were there. However, they had some pretty tasty fish tacos.
Dec. 30th was my, K.G.'s, birthday and luckily the rain broke long enough for a breakfast place to open and I had french toast complete with candles on top! We packed up and cycled 20ish miles south to Playa Ligui where a local fisherman directed us to a deserted georgous beach where only the local fisherman seemed to come. It was one of the most beautiful places we have enjoyed on our trip yet. We decided to ring in the New Year on the beach far from any town or chaos and were joined by another cyclist, Helena from Florida. Climbing the giant rock at the end of the beach, Ville and I watched the sunset over the mountains and reflected on a pretty kick-ass full year of travel! New Years Resolution: keep right on traveling.
On a mission, we climbed back on our trusty steeds and began the long slow climb away from the coast and back up into the hills that took us to the top of the plateau and back southwest towards Ciudad Insurgentes. The long climb was cake compared to the side winds we hit once back out on the open desert. We had a nice roadside visit with Rick and Brenda (thanks a million you guys for taking our papers to mail in the US for us!!) whom we met through a friend in Bend and have a place in Los Barriles. We arrived in the tiny town pretty wiped out and the boys scored a really nice room for us at one of the only hotels in town. Once we hit Ciudad Constitucion, only 15 miles down the road the next day, Ryan had the stomach bug and I had a migraine and we decided to hit the market and another motel to rest. Poor Ryan was still sick by the next day and they scored a ride into La Paz, and Ville and I climbed back on the bikes for the last big push into town. Out of Constitucion we pushed through nearly 80 miles of some of the most dangerous and crappy road ride yet! Until now, the drivers in Mexico had been fantastic, but on this stretch we completely lost the shoulder and most drivers seemed in too much of a hurry to give us any room. I counted at least 6 near death experiences as did the other cyclists we talked to on this same stretch. I would not bike from Constitucion to La Paz again, unless I had a death wish.
At dark we found an open gate and piched our tent with Helena amid the cacti. The open desert made for some fantastic quiet sleep. Cool nights, no crowing roosters, sewage, barking dogs, loud music, jet brakes, or just the chaos of a city. At first light we ate our super tasty oatmeal and headed into the hills towards La Paz. The traffic was still unnerving and the winds maddening, but we had only 55ish miles to town and were on a mission. But a mere 15 miles out from town, Ville spotted one of the coolest things we have seen yet on the side of the road: a giant black dildo! And after stopping to kick it around and snap a couple pics, he kicked it up on the road in the hopes Helena would get the pleasure of seeing it too. The last 15 miles we cruised downhill in, finally, a big bike lane to town where we met up with Ryan and Lydia recouperating in a motel downtown. We spent a day together enjoying eachothers company and said our goodbyes the following morning as we headed south towards Todos Santos and they had a plane to catch out of Cabo back home to Pennsylvania. Thanks for the fun times in Baja you guys!! :)
Once on the outskirts of La Paz, a giant bike lane appeared complete with tailwinds to push us all the way into Todos Santos. It's what touring dreams are made of. Todos Santos was named a pueblo magico, and riding through it you could tell that they have put money into this small town: cobblestone roads, painted and cared for buildings, and lots of quaint touristy fashion, food, and hotspots. We stopped to grab some margaritas, but the menus were in dollars and about 6 times the price of any we had seen since coming to Baja Mexico. We got drinks at the OXXO (like a 7-11) instead and sat and people watched on the street. Just before dark, we rode the 8ish miles south to El Pescadero where our friend Jesse and his girlfriend Sherri live. We had chatted about this bike trip with Jesse way back in Bend while white water rafting and he said if we made it down the Baja alive, we should come for a visit. And, well, here we are!
K.G. & Ville
In Cuenca, Ecuador. Next stop, Loja.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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