21st of January till 27th of January.
It is a totally different world. Another language, another culture, different food and different roads.
After a refreshing day at Cielito Lindo with a test of the bikes on the beach we decide to do a second loop of the Baja Mountain bike route.
This loop leaves (MEX1) to go inland and returns to MEX1 after 100+ km. It is supposed to have only minor technical sections and not too much sand. As we already noticed in the US and now again here on the beach, our set-up is not made to bike on loose sand. You definitely need 3.0″ or wider tires, our bikes have 2.1, see the difference in surface and you can imagine what a difference this makes riding on loose sand, especially with our luggage.
Off-road (Baja Divide part 2).
On Monday morning we stock-up for 3 days of food & water as we will not pass any opportunity to get water or food until returning to MEX1. At the very small shop we briefly meet Devin & Amanda from Sacramento, they also left from San Diego but are 100% following the mountain bike route, very minimal luggage and the 3.0″ tires. As they speed-off we pack all our food and are finally leaving at 9:00. I already know now we will not see them on this loop, but will we ever see them again somewhere else?
You sometimes wonder if there is a difference between biking on tarmac or on a gravel road as you more or less bike through the same landscape. There is a difference. So much more fun to go off-road, you don’t have to watch traffic, it is more quiet, slower and it feels that you are even closer to nature. Also the technical part of mountain biking is fun. So going off MEX1 is fun, especially in the beginning as we roll over some small hills but the closer we come to the mountain, the more difficult it becomes. At one moment the road becomes so bad and hilly we have to push the bikes up-hill one by one .
During the first kilometres there is still some agriculture but then we enter in a landscape with minimal impact of human presence. Yes there is kind of road, but it is hardly used. In the US you would have seen people with their All Terrain Vehicles during the weekend, as they have enough money to these toys and the gasoline for them. Here you only see the tracks of the fatbikes that left before us. It is beautiful but very demanding. After being 7 hours on the road (including grocery shopping) we start setting-up camp at 16:00 as sunset is at 17:00. It is way too risky to ride this track in the dark and try to find a level, open space to camp, as have biked through an area with 10-15 different kinds of cacti.
Day 2, struggle on
As the total loop is 100+ km and we only covered 27 km and only have water for 3 days we decide to wake up at 5:00 so we can leave at 7:00, as it is light by then. During the last 8 months we never have had such a quiet night. No other people, no planes, no wind, no water, no animals, but total silence. Waking up at night to listen if you hear anything, as you are not used to such complete silence.
We start and become a bit concerned as we only cover 1,5 km during the first hour. It is beautiful, real backcountry and also today we don’t see anybody. But today’s road is even worse than yesterday as there is not one level piece of land. Downhill can be as challenging at some places as you can’t speed downhill on very loose and large rocks. The only flat parts are dry river bed crossings with deep loose sand. So yes also today we did a lot of pushing and walking back and forth. It is amazing but also a confirmation that we will be very selective in further off-road adventures. Because if we want to be more off road we definitely need to adjust our arrival time in Patagonia and adjust/change the bikes. From 7:00-16:00 we covered a meagre 27km, but are proud that we did it. I have to say I considered turning back but as we had covered already this part we decided to keep pushing on. As we are now at almost 800m it is really cold once the sun has set and we are in bed at 19:30.
Again a wonderful quiet night under a starry sky.
Day 3, surrounded by Cirios.
As we really need to be back in civilisation today to get water we start again at 7:00. We start with a steep hill and then we enter a fairy tale country. The whole valley is covered in cirios, like fingers pointing meters into the blue sky or the masts of ships in this desert. They are covered with small thorny branches and small hard leaves.
They look like guards spread over the valley. Seems you only find them here in Baja California. Strange to also see that they are all grouped together, next valley it is mainly the really big cacti. Did you know birds can make holes in them to nest? The old ones are like apartment buildings and can be 150 years old!
As we have had the highest point we now are mainly going downhill with still some steep up-hills in between. At one moment you see that you get closer to civilisation as the road improves and you see more tracks, but still no people! Road works have improved the surface, only challenge is the tick layer of loose sand, Frank is good in riding downhill, I struggle and we both need to push when it is flat or up-hill. Still we manage to cover 50 km by 14:30 and Frank loves the Tecate beer at the very little restaurant located where our road meets MEX1.
How funny to suddenly see George and Kubi. She has been sick and therefore are only now biking again, followed the HWY as she did not yet feel strong enough to go off road. We follow them to the next restaurant where we can set-up the tent in the back yard. Great food and fun discussions! PS. Electricity only by generator. No running water, all water needs to be hauled in. Location only has the restaurant and 3 other houses.
MEX 1 revisited
Next day we decide to follow the highway, as we want to cover some miles, G&K will do a loop of the Mountain bike route to see if they will do the 200 km loop that comes after that or follow the HWY. Fast ride to Catavina through a landscape that feels like a cactus garden. What an amazing nature.
We stop at a small drink stop and try to chat with Arturo who is supplying all the small local shops. Spanish it not at a great level but continues to improve. It is amazing that they still sell what they have at such low pricing. In Catavina we end-up in a real hotel, with real US pricing and ridiculous pricing for doing our laundry. But there is no laundromat and we need clean bike shorts. Fun to see Devin and Amanda again. They are flabbergasted that we were already there, but we did the last part over the highway, whilst they struggled off road with a strong head wind. That is the only reason we “won” :-).
Wim Hoff in the desert.
They wondered if we had turned back or not and were impressed that we made it with these tires. Amanda has been professional road biking and Devin works in a REI shop (outdoor). Fun discussions on what is good gear, best bike etc. followed by a Wim Hoff dip in the freezing cold swimming pool!
Luckily we can do the grocery shopping for the next 2 ½ days before turning in for the night.
Lots of uphill and headwind but we still manage to cover 70km before we decide to set up tent off-road, in our privat cactus garden.
Here Frank experiences that you really have to watch out where you kneel. When setting up the tent he gets attacked by a cactus and the cactus won! 2-3 cm into his skin! Scarry.
Making speed to the Pacific Ocean.
After again an early start, tail wind and following the silver ribbon of the highway we manage to cover 90 km in less than 6 hours. Cool biking! Back again at the Pacific coast! Very small fishing village known for their lobster, with two very small grocery shops and 6 rooms for rent will be our place for the next two nights. Will we stay-off off-road? Stay tuned!