Baja Bike Tour 3
Words by: Ross Ramage
Hoback Sports Cycling Ambassador
20 Days in. After the big resupply in the little highway town we were off into the backcountry. This is a 126mile stretch with no resupply which meant lots of sugary things as well as a full loaf of water, ~12 liters. After hitting the coast and camping out we were off early the next morning with intent on reaching the next town that day. The route snaked along the remote coastline and then into the barren desert valleys before repeating this cycle for dozens of miles on end. We eventually reached a popular surf spot/camp, El Cardon, for lunch and found some helpful humans with chainlube and bike cleaning supplies which were greatly appreciated. From there a violent washboard road took us into the welcoming coastal town of Santa Rosiliila. After beach beers, snacks, and some friendly stray dogs we found a household restaurant and had some lobster burritos before camping on the beach to the south of town.
We started the slow morning with chatting with the other gringos camping on the beach, everyone was talking of rain. We made it to another surf area, the wall, and ended up chatting with more gringos for maybe a bit to long as the skies were now extremely grey. One old surfer said the that our recommended road was not that good and everyone else takes another one further south. We followed his advice which left us exposed on the coast for miles as the storm finally came crashing to land. The roads remained passible as we slogged our way back east towards the highway. Eventually pavement was found but the rain was beating down on us and the situation was rather grim. We stuck our thumbs out towards the small highway town just a few miles up the road and a we were in the back of a pickup truck rather quickly. We were dumped at the lone hotel in the flooded highway town and immediately went to go find hot food and coffee. The lone restaurant in town was angry and left much to be desired. The decision was made to try and hitchhike to the next bigger town as the storm was supposed to not let up for a couple days. After some wet thumbing on the side of the highway we were eventually picked up by a rancher in a truck and we were soon headed south again. He had to make a stop at a ranch 1/2way so he kicked us out on the highway and said that he would be back in 1 hour before peeling off into the muddy mountains. We decided to keep trying our luck on a ride sooner so we were again asking for a ride on the lone flooded Mexican highway. Eventually a chip delivery truck answered our call and we loaded our soggy selves into the truck along with our muddy bikes and we were on our way south again. After a drive of Credence Clearwater hits we were soon in Guerro Negro, a large salt producing town. Our friendly driver got us to a hotel and we were soon showered and off to find food with some other travelers also at the hotel. It was not long we returned to our now mud stained room for a deserved sleep incredibly grateful to not be in the flooded highway town with the thorny restaurant.
The next day was our first zero day of biking as the rain passed in waves and it was clear tomorrow would offer the same. At this point another large section of the route was cut out as travel in the mountains is impossible when wet. We drowned our sorrows in pastries and tacos before deciding to keep moving south till we met back up with the routeanother 80miles or so down the highway. The highway has no shoulder and was less than desirable to ride especially in the rain so we decided to keep hitchhiking. It was not long before a truck carrying tomato’s and oranges in various stages of decomposition picked us up and we were moving again. I sat in the back with the bikes + fruit and Max sat in the front. The driver had a few beers as we rolled through the empty flat dessert with the occasional rain keeping company. We rolled through a police checkpoint and the driver was forced to pay $200 peso (~$12USD) and a bag of oranges for drinking while driving before they let us on our way. He could only take us about halfway to our desired destination so we were soon on the side of the highway again with our thumbs out hoping to end up in San Ignacio for the night. Eventually a refrigeration truck stopped for us and we were soon. 4 wide in the front seat with our bikes in the back of the empty truck. The two guys were very friendly and also drinking beers. They dumped us on the highway not far from our desired campground and we were back on the route. The campground was called Casa del Cicalista and was geared towards hosting bike travelers. We payed our $5 fee and set up the lone tent in the yard before finding food for the night right on the highway. It was Thanksgiving so a extra round of tacos was ordered for gluttony sake.
We awoke to sound of heavy rain on the tent and it was clear the day would consist of no forward progress on the route. We eventually found a weather window and biked the couple miles through the oasis in the desert to the mission site which was shared by a couple restaurants around a nice town square. While we were drinking coffee and scheming on miles ahead, a lone female cyclist on a road touring bike rolled up to the mission. We wandered over and said hello to Mod (spelling unsure) and planned on meeting up later at the campground we were at. We explored the lively little town and mission that gets many tourists in the whale season as it is a jump off point to go see them in the nearby lagoon. After a haircut, too many sweets, and more coffee we were back at the campsite for a couple hours of hanging with our new friend and enjoy our first proper zero day. We got dinner with her back at the mission site before calling it after a few beers.
We heard the day prior that the road washed out down towards the lagoon which was where we were headed. We decided to go check it out ourselves after breakfast back on the town square. Mod decided to come with us as it was paved most of the way and would ride back to town. It was a nice ride on a empty well maintained highway but eventually the pavement ended and we said goodby to our French Canadian friend. The road indeed was washed out not long after the end of the pavement and it soon became clear the only way across was to wade through the waist deep brown water. We took some bags off our bikes, stripped down bare ass, and each took two loads across the murky, rocky wash. We were soon on our way again uncertain of what mud or water lay ahead but eventually we got the town on the lagoon, La Laguna, for lunch and it was clear progress was possible. We followed the convoluted network of coastal roads and lakebeds, avoiding the mud as much as possible, before arriving at the fishing village of El Datil. It was very welcoming with kids asking for stickers and yelling at us when we rode by, much like the rural towns in Southeast Asia. The people were friendly and were pointed in the direction of a large home that acted as a unofficial restaurant. After two orders each of a delicious sandwich containing some mystery meat and nice company we were soon in bed at a loading dock for the fish which had a interesting smell to accompany.
The goal the next day was to start heading back over the mountains towards the Sea of Cortez. The route up and over is listed as being one of the hardest sections of the whole route because of the conditions of the roads. After breakfast at the same house as before and a quick restock at the little market in town we were off with more of the same lakebed, road, and mud navigation along the cactus strewn coastline. Eventually we peeled east up a river valley and began our 40 mile uphill battle up the canyon. The progress was slow but steady with lots of ankle to knee deep river crossings as well as loose cobblestone double track. We stopped at a ranch for cold drinks and snacks. The house had a solar array charging a network of at least 10 car batteries with wires running every which way. They had a semi truck radio hooked up to communicate with the other people in the remote valley which kept the air filled with static strewn Spanish banter. More creeks, more rugged roads, which were at times seemingly impassible for a car but there would be tire tracks on the other side somehow. We found camp on a sandy beach next to the river that was occupied with a group of wild horses when we arrived. It was our first backcountry campsite with fresh water which was a welcome feature. After a big fire and some tequila it was off to rest our weary bodies for more punishment the next day.
We woke up early to get a jump on things but the dew from the humid air had drenched everything including ourselves over the night. We were on the “road” again soon enough and it was much of the same as the day prior. The canyon continued to open up as we ascended further into it until the huge vegetation strewn walls towered over the valley. It was hard to keep progress as around every turn it seemed to get more beautiful. At one water crossing we saw a tarantula the size of a hand floating down the river. We fished it out with a stick to check it out and it turned out it was alive which was exciting. The canyon showed very little sign of human life save for the little bumpy road and the occasional small remote ranches. We eventually reached the top of the big climb and after a big lunch were soon hurtling downhill with loud music blasting from our little speakers. The decent was steep, rocky, and quite exiting. The canyon on the east side was much different than on the west but also very beautiful and made for a hard time keeping eyes on the road. We were soon out of the mountains and chugging along on a extremely bumpy flat washboarded road which is agreed by both of us to be some of the most frustrating riding. After some angry miles we were soon in the oasis city of Mulege. After stopping for a beer and some much needed chain lube we found a taco shack that made our journey over the mountains very worth it. The lively town was a good mix of gringos and locals but it seemed fairly authentic with a healthy balance of the two. We grabbed a campsite at campground and were soon back in the town for second dinner and more drinks. Town was fairly slow but it was nice to spend time in a bigger city after so much time in smaller towns.
The next day we loaded up on supplies and water with the goal of trying to catch a boat ride across the bay to access a remote road before meeting up with the highway again around 60 miles to the south. After a surprisingly quick wait and ~$20 each we were soon in a little fishing boat blasting across the 8 mile stretch to the mountainous peninsula. We were dumped in a little fishing camp on the tip of the rocky peninsula. It took a bit of wandering through the spiky bush before finding the road but once we were on it it was clear that it was worth the price of the ride. The riding was quick as the faint double track wound along the water. After about 15 miles of mostly enjoyable riding we called it and found a nice spot to drink in some afternoon sunshine and enjoy the warm water of the Sea of Cortez for the first time. We had stocked up hardy that morning for a feast and brought some beers and tequila with us as well. We had a big fire that night.
A slow morning ensued involving a big breakfast and a swim in the sea. After getting rolling we soon were at the south end of the bay and headed east to the coast and the Sea of Cortez. We hit the water at a small community of big houses mostly occupied by not very welcoming gringos. We continued down the coast line on a road containing many loose rocks and many steep elevation changes. We passed a couple small fishing villages and were accompanied by vultures everywhere. At one point there was one on every cactus along the road. After a quick lunch on the coast we were headed back inland and into the mountains again for a couple of big days. We ate early dinner at a roadside restaurant and headed for the hills for a some miles in the fading daylight before finding camp in the bushes next to the road.
We got a start on things as per the routine minus the finding of the first scorpion of the trip. We were soon gaining a lot of vert with short steep downhills to break it up. We made it to San Isidro for lunch which was a vibrant little town nestled under a big mesa. Lunch was a cold cut ham omelette with watery beans served with a side of sass from the cook along with some silent glares from the grandma in a Yankees beanie in a wheelchair in the corner. It was actually pretty good. We loaded up on more trash food for later and were off again with more punishing climbs but this time with full stomachs. We rambled through the mountains for a couple dozen more miles before descending into another little oasis town except this one was run down and abandoned with a strange vibe. That did not stop us from raiding the market to fill our bodies up with more trash. We grabbed last minute food and water for the next 24 hours and a punishing climb led us back out of the valley. The high desert platau is beautiful with peaks and mesas towering out of a sea of rolling rocky cactus strew hills. The process of climbing and descending these hills is funny. The progress up any hill worth it’s rocks is generally painfully slow, not much above walking speed. These roads were very rocky so one must keep attention to the big rocks and large ruts to avoid which failure to do so would stop the already labored effort. Music usually helps keep the cadence as the ~300lb meat/mechanism hybrid crawls up the mountain. At the top usually water, a quick calorie, maybe a couple swear words about that hill and then on to the next. And the cycle continues. The downhills were mostly type 1 fun. Many times it is like a roller coaster coming up over the apex of the climb. You slowly are able to let gravity take over from your own energy and suddenly this heavy bike lugged up this mountain shows it’s worth. Physics prove they still work and it feels like you are strapped to a rocket all of the sudden. The decision making happens quick as there is no alternative as all of the potential energy is being quickly being converted into kinetic. It is a treat when a corner turns and a clear view of the 1/2 mile or so of clear looking down hill double track lies ahead. The fingers come off the brakes, the sound of the wind becomes deafening, and the feeling is truly like flying. That is where you find it. The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others- the living- are those who pushed their luck as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still out there. Or maybe it’s In. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions. -Hunter S Thompson Camp was found near a abandoned goat ranch in a insect strewn dried up mud pit. A lot of tarantulas were also seen this day so the tent was slept in.
The body has been holding up well so far this trip. Some intense bilateral knee pain the first week which passed, a bit of GI distress starting in Mulegé which seems to run its course, and some lower back pain which stretching more has been helping. Moral is good too, we are excited to get to La Paz for the first time and begin the loop around the cape.