Tag Archives: baja
The nitty gritty
Total miles in Baja :965
Total miles to date :2258
Total flat tires :12 – thanks to Bob, my trailer
Days in Baja :23
Days couchsurfing/warmshowers :6
Nights spent in Hotel: 2
Nights paid camping : 3 (beach & very nice beach resort)
Nights wild camping: 12
Most water drank in a day: 14 liters and still dehydrated
Desert – Sweltering – Water
White line – Bimbo – Extreme
Thus far, the desert of Baja Mexico has taken all my expectations, pulverized them into a small jar labeled ‘you wish!’
and then at regular intervals, delivers a healthy dose of dust in my face. Luckily, my expectations were not that great to begin with, and have now lowered considerably, so the jar was emptied swiftly. However, I have had my fair share of ’WTF’ moments. Baja, in all its glory, is deserted for a reason, mainly because the terrain is harsh and inhospitable. This makes for ‘interesting’ cycling, especially for someone like me who thought Baja was flat and not going to be too hot as it’s the rainy season. Well, that jar of dust was opened quickly as my expected 100km leisurely descend into Ensenada, turned into a hilly, unpaved, insanely hot and dusty ride. Not one to let go of misinformation so easily, especially when it’s of my own making, I continued down the coast in search of flatter and cooler surroundings.
Needless to say my search was in vain, and the true Baja revealed itself, small mountain ranges dominate the land, and with afternoon highs of 120/50c, and very little opportunities for shade, I found my experience coinciding with the environment, in all it’s extremity.
So I went from cycling the Californian highway 1, which in comparison is like taking leisurely day rides around the neighborhood, to riding the white line and praying that the semi truck driver I just saw at the ‘loncheria’ didn’t have one too many Tecate beers. Strangely though, regardless of the amount of beer cans embedded into the roadside like a natural feature, and the many murals dedicated to loved ones lost on the road, I have found the drivers here to be very good, the truck drivers especially. There is essentially one road that cuts through Baja, a two laned highway imaginatively named the 1. There are small villages every so often and then the occasional decent sized town, I’ve decided that if a place has an ATM then it’s a town, if not it’s a village. So It’s common to see a car traveling at say 70mph being overtaken by someone who wants to do a 100mph, people want to get where they’re going fast, as one guy put it ‘there’s a whole lot of nuthin out here, that’s for sure’. So this is my only concern on the road, the oncoming overtake, one guy blasted past me yesterday, less than a foot away, if I had any water in my body to spare, I would have wet myself.
Not until Baja did I feel like I was crossing great distances, I mean, along the coast you have small regional variations, trees etc, that act as a visual indication of new terrain. But with Baja, you look out into the distance and it’s just vast plateaus as far as the eye can see, nothing but rock, sand and cacti in abundance. It’s truly
amazing, and makes for superb sunsets and star gazing. From El rosario on the pacific, right across to Santa Rosalia on the sea of cortez side, marked my toughest stretch yet. I had to carry several days food and water, and the re up points were few and far in between.
The following summarizes 7 days alone in the desolate desert.
Everything was going to plan, the weather was hotter than hell, the water was warm, the food was mediocre and there was nothing for miles,just another day in beautiful Baja. Then out of what I suspect was a now thoroughly depleted roadside carcass, came a whole platoon of flies, and they said ‘hey, this guy smells like a rotting carcass, but if you look close enough, I think he just might be moving, thats strange’. ‘lets call in our area manager and see if he can figure this thing out’, before i knew it, I was swamped with pesky flies. The area manager must have demanded a thorough investigation of this potential food source, as I had flies in every nook and cranny faster than I could reach for my DEET.
With a good build up of dirt and salt, the flies knew they were onto something and continued to bring in area specialist to run tests on me. Ever the diplomat, I stopped and left my negotiator Montreal to try and sweet talk these guys into leaving me alone. 5 minutes later, it appeared Montreal may have been a bit to firm in her request, as it seemed like the chief had flown in more reinforcements. Damn it, I was now surrounded with what I estimated to be a 100 flies, I think their plan was to slowly torture me into a slapping frenzy and hope a semi truck took me out. Man, did these guys pick the wrong guy, I have perused the art of war, played call of duty and don’t get me started on rainbow six. There was only one thing for it, I hated to do it, but it was a kill or be killed situation, so I resorted to chemical warfare, thats right, and I’m not ashamed of my actions! The 99.9% DEET was generously deployed all over me and Montreal, I even tried spraying the enemy directly in the face, but to no avail. It seemed like these flies were immune, they must have been vaccinated. These guys were pro’s, probably specially trained in desert warfare and the plan back fired as minutes later I was getting DEET infused sweat in my eyes, and o how it burned, and they got kicks out of seeing me cry, I know it! ‘he’s crying like a baby, won’t be long now guys, keep it up, hey you! concentrate on his lips, their big enough and he cant resist a swipe’. I shouted and cursed but steady did I hold to the white line, where all is safe. Then I broke out in a mischievous smile as I saw a huge down hill approaching, ‘surely my superior speed down this hill will shake them in to retreat’, I thought as I peddled like crazy in a desperate attempt to shake em. Again, these guys were pro, and just used my back as a windbreaker, I admired their ability to improvise as a team, but was not impressed by their savage behavior. At this stage the battle had been going on for maybe 30kms, they had the stamina thats for sure, I on the other hand was outnumbered and decided a siesta was in order. So I stopped, threw Montreal to the ground, at this stage I was still mad at her for blowing the negotiations, grabbed some bananas and a book, and marched off in search of shade. These guys were not going to let me have it that easy, so they continued to harass me and my bananas. Then, whilst eye balling one of these rotten bastards hovering around my banana, it came to me. I had seen Troy enough times to know that when you’re out numbered, your best move is that of the mighty Trojan Horse! I carefully opened the banana down the side, devoured it and let out a triumphantly evil laugh, o yes, if it was good enough for Brad Pitt, it’s good enough for me. I saved just a pinch of the good stuff and smeared it in the inside of the peel and carefully placed it down beside me. The wait was on, soon enough, word got out of the potassium gold mine and they all came rushing to devour the goodness. I positioned the peel in a way, so the flies could get in, but would not be able to see whats around them once in the goldmine. I waited until at least 50 of these germ spreading monsters were inside, then carefully lifted my knee to my chest, enjoyed a good stretch, breathed in deeply, and then slammed my foot down on the peel, instantly destroying my enemy! I opened the skin to see if there were any survivors, there were none! They drew 1st blood! When I got back to Montreal, I prepared 2 more Trojans, enough to wipe out the whole area, and I waited patiently by the road. However, this time, in a tribute to tradition I thought it proper to leave some troops behind to tell the story. So, eager to flee the crime seen, and with enough blood on my hands for 1 day, I left them in a drunken banana glory and rode off. On this day a legend was born, one that will last for generations and has a great moral to it.
‘Don’t mess with a hungry cyclist in the desert, because he’s probably on the verge of insanity and might just be crazy enough to kill you with a banana!’. The legend is now known as the ‘siesta banana massacre’. RIP
So I finally made it across and As I was taking a breather under the shade of a tree in Santa Rosalia a woman came up to me and gave me a plate of hot tasty food. No doubt I must have looked a right state, I had just spent 7 days crossing the desolate desert,which felt more like a month. Needless to say after a week eating ‘frijoles’ beans and tortillas and the occasional tacos when I could get them, it was immensely uplifting to be gifted with some gourmet comida.
After now crossing over into southern Baja, the heat has taken on a new identity. It used to be ‘Hi, my names chip, and I like salt, so if you wouldn’t mind hanging out with me for a while, or perhaps all day, and I’ll extract all the salt from your body and leave it encrusted on your skin and clothes’. I had enough salt on my skin I could scape it off and make pasta. Now, I long to be reunited with my relentlessly eager friend, chip. The heat is now worse. The sweat begins, usually whilst packing up in the morning, it’s not 8am yet, and the first salty drop plunges to its demise, no longer will you cling to my nose and torture my senses, bye bye. A few pedal later and the floodgates open, I’m talking legs, arms, head, all soaked, the slightest movement calls for splashes of belly-flop proportions. I have adopted a technique where instead of shaking my head from side to side rapidly, I can, if going fast enough, just turn my head and allow the wind to blow my face free from droplets. This kind of sweating calls for an intake of much more water, which is an almost impossible task, eventually the dripping stops,usually around 3am. Sick of drinking warm water I have taken to brewing up tea instead, I figure I would rather drink warm tea all day, than warm water. Making adequate judgments of water availability and consumption has been a daily task, one which you cant really afford to mess up on, so far so good, I’m still here.
‘The body thrives when the heart has a mission’
Indeed it does, and my mission is usually to get more cake, so a special thank you goes out to ‘Bimbo’ without your tasty treats, mainly the roles de canela (cinnamon roll) I wouldn’t be here today.