I didnt intend to leave it so long between updates but I had a problem with my computer being able to attach itself to wifi, and then there are limited opportunities for wifi.
Here are the photos that belong with this post
I have always compartmentalised this trip in my mind. For example, when I was in England I could only think as far as saying goodbyes, getting the flight and meeting Leah, then once I was in California I could think as far as starting off, and then crossing the border. So, now I find myself at a new stage- the trepidation about leaving and starting cycling, and then the euphoria of crossing the border have all passed, and it’s time to concentrate on the day to day of cycling and the logistics of life of the road. And so I am reminded of how I came to the name of this blog – we’ve been cycling through these places that had never imagined in my mind, and more significantly, meeting people from these places and experiencing their kindness.
Leah and I have pondered how we might write about some of the people we’ve met, and some of the things that have happened, there is risk that people who we’ve met along the way may be offended by the truth, but really I think being honest about things is more important.
16th May – Ensenada to San Vincente
As I’d said in my previous post- Marco, he guy who we’d met cycling down the road, just before crossing into Mexico had ended up cycling with us to the hostel the previous night, he’d decided then that he wanted to keep cycling with us. We really appreciated Marco’s navigation skills through the first few days into Mexico but Leah and I had gained some confidence, and Marco had an incredibly cautious personality to the point of being quite frustrating. We understood that we would need to have our wits about us in terms of our personal safety and with negotiating Mexican highways, however he took it to the extreme by guiding us through where to bump our bikes down the curb, and watching Leah as she removed re-fried beans from the microwave in case she burnt herself.
So, that morning we headed out of Ensenada, said goodbye to Marco cycling as the 2 of us in Mexico for the first time. We were feeling pretty cautious about the roads; in most places there is just one lane on either side, with no hard shoulder, or very little – but really it wasn’t too much of a problem as there weren’t many occasions where there was traffic in both directions, when necessary we would just get off the road and wait for traffic to pass. We said goodbye to the coast at this time, and headed in land. Turning round to look at Leah I also caught eye of another touring cyclist, I slowed down and as I did he said ‘Cherry?’. It was this guy called Randy from Alabama that I had communicated with briefly via the cyclist touring website that I’d met Leah on. He is heading the same way as us, having started in Alabama See his blog here. We chatted for a bit before we all headed off together.
The road signs let us know we were entering the ‘Vineyard Route’, there was now little traffic and we really began to relax in to the riding, the views of the vineyards totally stunning, we stopping for delicious Strawberry and Banana juice at a little shop, making jokes in Spanish with the owner Jose Pina. The climbs that afternoon were huge, lasting several miles in the afternoon sun, and I saw no shame in getting off and pushing my bike up, it also seemed safer as the other traffic snaked up the mountain too. It was pretty remarkable that we were guided up the hill by some government vehicle, we now know that these are called ‘Angeles Verdes’ and it’s there job to make sure traffic passes safety through that region. There were points when we really held up the traffic, when we stopped to let people pass we got waves, smiles and toots of horns from every car and truck – we waved back regally, laughing about their positive reaction and how conversely at home drivers would have been pretty pissed off with us.
Leah and I tend to cycle in our own rhythms, and then we stop at some dusty layby, throw our bikes down, intending to stop for just a snack, but then managing to eat the equivalent of a whole lunch – (peanut butter and celery is a hands down favourite, although since journeying further through Mexico we’ve realised we need to kick the habit as PB just isnt readily available without a crazy hefty price). We laugh and cackle about the dumb stuff that’s been going through our minds.
After around 60 miles of cycling we checked into a cheap motel in San Vincente, drank a beer and fell asleep, excited about the day that had passed.
17th May-San Vincente to San Telmo – Unusual things happen in unusual places
This day was Leah’s birthday. We’d explained to Randy that we were going to hold back that day, and as Baja only had 1 road that was 1000 miles long we’d assume that we’d see him further on down the road. We breakfasted on lemon cake and coffee from the shop round the corner, we made the most of the free refills and extra cake. We started after mid day as Leah had some stuff to sort out online. The landscape slowly became less dramatic, the hills became less rolling and the landscape full of shrubs, we stopped at some place for tacos and the woman’s 12 year old son Jesus decided he was going to guide us out of the town, we was so proud ripping it up on his BMX with us.
We made it 30 miles down the road before we decided to call it a day, we followed an official looking sign for a campsite, which took us down a track, we could see a giant water slide in the distance and assumed that this was the campsite. What we found at the end of the track as a mini water park, not a campsite as we hoped. As we stood there wondering what on earth we should do, a couple of cars drove up – Renaldo the owner confirmed that there was no campsite but that we could stay in the snack kiosk of the waterpark. I spotted a birthday cake in the car, and asked who’s birthday- it was his! My cake spotting skills really are pretty great! So, that evening, on Leah’s birthday we sat around the waterpark with Renaldo’s family, eating birthday cake, getting quizzed about out trip, and playing with the little kids. As well as a totally bazaar and surreal way to spend Leah’s birthday we also completed the whole thing in Spanish. Writing this up now I still cant really believe it actually happened.
18th May – San Telmo to El Pabillion
Renaldo, his father, and his son were up before us the following morning, cleaning the pool for the weekend ahead. We breakfasted in San Telmo on giant quesidilla’s made by an equally rotund woman. The landscape became flat, and the sign let us know that we were entering the Agricultural Zone, this meant for fast but boring miles. This was our 7th day on our bikes, we were beginning to feel a bit achy and sore in certain places; we were being bratish about the dull terrain, the scent of fresh strawberries being farmed along the road side being our main source of pleasure. The road again came back to the coast and made it in good time to a campsite along the beach.
19th May – El Pabillion
a day off mending, stretching and a pretty great bonfire
It was Sunday, and the day definately had a weekend feel to it, we woke up late and then spend most of the day doing chores. Our chores involved fixing the camping stove – it took us 6 hours of tenacious perserverance, we diagnosed a blocked fuel jet, and set about unblocking it. Most of the day was overcast which made for ideal conditions to work outside. We had hoped to wash our clothes but the water coming out of the taps in the shower block was really salty, something we worked out after a rather horrible cup of coffee. We also spent the day chatting to Mark, an American who was also the only other person on the campsite. He’d first come to this campsite over a decade ago, he remembers on bank holiday weekends the camp being filled with around 400 people. Since the narco thing has become heavy and the border sitation has become more serious American’s are a lot more wary about crossing the border. And for those who do still want to come getting back into the USA can often mean a 4 hour wait on a Sunday evening, which means crossing the border is way less appealing than it used to be. We’ve seen the effects of this first hand, lots of closed down food stands, petrol stations and shops along the road, and stories from the people we meet about struggling to make ends meet.
Mark was a guy who was down on his luck, his business had gone bust and he’d lost everything- he’d come to Mexico to ponder his next move, he was really kind to us, and I think I will always wonder how things turned out for him. After a day of chores we made an amazing bonfire with firewood that had been gifted from some locals lads who were related to the campsite owner, sweetly they even bought as marshmallows and coat hangers to toast on the bonfire.
20th May El Pabillion to San Rosario –
More good fortune
We woke up at 6am, which sounds pretty impressive until I tell you that our average morning turn around is around 2 hours or more. We pack our sleeping stuff and our tent up, we make coffee on the stove. Filling our bottles with water also takes quite a while as we have to swirl this water purifying stick around in each bottle for about a minute. Without this stick we’d spend loads each day on water.
As the road turned we stopped and consciously said goodbye again to the sea, knowing we wouldn’t see it again for about a week.
We’d had planned to cycle the whole day. We stopped for lunch in El Rosario at a place we’d be recommended called Mama Espinosa’s, I understand it’s pretty famous in these parts, Huevos Racheros were amazing. Frustratingly there was something wrong with my computer, and it needed to be connected to a power supply for me to be able to fix it. Hanging around waiting for the computer the owner of the restaurant asked if we needed somewhere to camp, he had space behind the restaurant with the goat and the chickens, this was kind, especially when we considered that he actually owned the hotel in the town too! It actually ended up being good fortune that we stuck around in El Rosario because this was the last proper town before we’d enter the desert, for several days at least. We took the opportunity to stock up on food and plenty of water, carrying an extra 5litres in a water bag in my pannier.
We’re now a week in to Baja and on writing this we are barely a quarter of our way through this 1000 mile long peninsular, and yet I feel we have seen so much and met so many different people whose lives we’ll think about. We’ve seen the landscape change from dramatic coast line with big surf, to vineyards to mass industrial agriculture. And so next in this adventure comes the desert………
- The desert, act 1