Yes we are in Mexico! And it is hot, windy and gorgeous. Baja California is Mexico even if you could be confused by the name.
Off The Road Again
Staying the Sunday in the small fishing village of Santa Rosalillita is like being put back in time. However they do have electricity and limited water supply, most people live in old RVs, few have created a more luxurious life. We have access to two small grocery shops and of course have a great view of the Pacific Ocean.
Life here is hard and ruled by weather conditions. Last few days and next days a severe wind is blowing from South/East preventing fishermen to go out to sea. So no lobster or fresh fish for us this time. But a lot of fun with Negrito, if we ever would take a dog it should be one like him!
We are here because already in Catavina we intended to try one more part of the off-road route, so on Monday we set-off for the loop from here to HWY1 via off-road, which should offer the best coastal riding with a further rough double track to the highway.
As you can tell we are silly!
Let’s say that beach with loose sand and 15 miles with strong headwinds and 1,5% incline and a rough road results in less than 30 km in one full day with lots of pushing. We love the off-road but more at the level of the USA Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. This is too much or we would need to change our set-up.
Still it is amazing that the whole day we only see one lost Californian car with two surfers to whom we can confirm that the road we are on will end at HWY1. Don’t think they knew where they were.
We set-up camp in a gusting wind on the plains. It is a weird night with a lot of noise from the tent flapping and a lot of sand blowing around. Luckily not in our sleeping compartment as we can close this off quite tightly.
I really love the wild camping, we have quite a large tent so we can sit our chairs in the vestibule to prepare food, shelter from the wind and have some protection against the sand.
Morning starts with a bright blue sky and some final km to the highway. Even if we have headwind we cover more distance in less than 3 hours than yesterday during the whole day.
We are now at the Pacific Ocean side which features a few lagoons. Grey Whales will deliver their babies here, as the lagoons are shallow and warm and apparently orcas do not enter here to hunt for the babies.
At Guerrero Negro we join a whale watching tour which will bring you to the entrance of the lagoon with the possibility of prime whale watching.
We find a decent motel and head-off for whale watching the next morning. What an experience. We are super lucky because the day before it was too windy, now it is quiet. There are hundreds of whales most of them with babies.
Some of them come even so close we can almost touch them.
Before arriving to the lagoon we pass through one of the largest salt harvesting areas in the world, producing around seven million tons of salt per annum. Now owned by the Mexican Government & Mitsubishi but started in 1957 by an American, creating 1,000 + jobs for the town of Guerrero Negro.
You notice it in the city of 14,000 people. Better cars, nicely dressed people, some higher end restaurants, good grocery stores. People with a regular schedule as the plant works 24/7.
Next day we have an extra rest hour as fierce sea fog prevents us from leaving in a safe way. We meet 3 Italians who are biking, Alexandro & his wife Viorella and her brother Lucio. Alexandro already biked 27.000km!
After the fog has cleared we cruise down HWY 1 to Vizcaino.
Road Racers or Road Runners?
We meet Ben and Michael from USA on their first bike trip down South. Michael said yes to the invitation of Ben to join him biking Baja California only a week ago , just bought a very basic bike and found a guitar to start learning playing music. We end-up in a very basic motel. When we started this trip I said to myself that I would not mention what certain places remind me of (shouldn’t compare things all the time) but now I really can’t resist to mention that this part of Mexico really brings me back in time. Living & backpacking in Indonesia, more than 25 years ago.
We have to get back to the main street to get food and end up in one of the taquerias (place that sells taco’s) where they really understand their business. He is not allowed to sell beer, but run across the street and gets us a beer, wrapped in a napking. Now that is customer service!
We are impressed with their knowledge of preventing contamination and serving a healthy meal, even if they have to prepare food under very basic conditions. No running water, no electricity. Still we eat the non cooked tomatoes and onions. It has not bothered us a bit.
Halfway the next day we stop at a very basic restaurant we treat ourselves on some fresh cooked seashells. Never have seen those but they taste OK. Detail: restaurant sign is painted on the hood of a car, recycling at it’s best!
By 16:00 we take a corner and suddenly see the oasis of San Ignacio where we can visit the church and chat with Franciscus who is a resident and see a few bikers passing by. It is bizar to suddenly see fresh water surrounded by palmtrees in the middle of a very dry and desolated area.
It is for the first time during our trip we see a pond/river with fresh water. San Ignacio is also a crosspoint where road and mountain bikers will stay for at least one night. We meet Jalen, who is riding a fatbike. He is only 24 and biking on his own, did the great divide last year and confirms this off-road route is brutal, even if you have a fatbike. Last part he took the highway as he heard that the last loop would have a lot of very deep sand.
Again we opt for a very basic motel as they are so cheap and they save us quite some time in the evening and morning. And I am not complaining about having access to my own shower and toilet.
Heading off to Santa Rosalia we meet Robert, 63, fatbiker, who decided to bike this stretch on the highway as he had enough of all the sand, even he had to push quite some bits.
It is fun to ride together and share stories and the miles fly away. Halfway Ben catches up with us and we form a train of riders. Michael hitchhiked as he did not like biking on this busy stretch.
Santa Rosalia is an old and new mining village. The current mine was reactivated in 2010, Canadian owners and focused on mining copper & other minerals.
Btw the places with Rosa in them are confusing here; Santa Rosalillita, Rosarito, Santa Rosalia and probably more.
Only 10% is surface mining, the rest is underground. As it quite an old mining village, they have preserved buildings from 150 years ago we are lucky to stay at the 150 year old French, colonial hotel Frances.
Sqeeky wooden floors, original fabric on the walls, you feel the spirits peaking around the corner. Michael and Ben have found shelter with the fire department. Fun to have dinner with the 5 of use and listen to all their stories. Curious to find out if sleeping at the fire department is an option. More to come next week.
PS. As we entered the South Part of Baja California HWY1 is counting down between “big” cities.