Day 286-291, 23-28 April 2009: Baja California Sur, pt1: Across Baja, records, annoyances & Oases
We have been enjoying Mexico a lot, we will try to get you updated on this wonderful country, filled with friendly people.
We stayed 2 nights in a roadside motel, as Ivana was not feeling much better. Coincidentally, we started to hear the first stories about some strange flu that was spreading in the mainland, just after we had booked flights for our mums, who are coming to visit us in East Mexico, the end of June. Maybe that is why the hotel staff looked so suspiciously at Ivana? And why was the biggest Mexican flag we had ever seen suddenly gone from the state-crossing? It was time to move on and for once (!) the fabled Baja wind was in our back:
26 April 2009: 28th Parallel – San Ignacio, 159,25km!
Yes! We beat our previous distance record and by a large margin, 40km more! After a quick stop in Guerrero Negro, we zoomed through the boring desert. We were too late for the famous whale season, so we had to make do with a cheeky coyote instead. A quick lunch in a most depressing dust-covered town called Vizcaino and then back on the pedals.
‘Come on Ivana, we still have 50km to go!’
‘But I thought you said we would do 100 today?’
‘Nope, I said 140!’. Lost in translation again, and a soft grumble was my reward.
It turned out that our map had an unmarked section (distance-wise), so that is why we found ourselves still on the bike after 130km. We decided we might as well enjoy the wind and continue to San Ignacio, a well-known oasis in the middle of the desert.
We made it just before dark and marvelled at the strange sight of fresh water (the first non-sea water we say since leaving Ensenada) and palm trees. After a quick tour around the charming plaza and an inventory of too expensive hotels and campsites, we made our camp on on a deserted property nearby only used for alcohol-consumption by some friendly locals.
The next morning we found the place that our fellow biketravellers had been writing about: Casa Leree, a small and homely B&B near the plaza. Owner Jane, who is working on chronicling a photographic history of San Ignacio, offered us to stay for a few hours so we could work a bit using her Wifi, and even gave us some snacks for the road.
25 April 2009: San Ignacio – Santa Rosalia, 81km, 830m up, 888m down
The next day was one of those annoying days. Annoying because we had to start with a steep uphill, forcing us to push our bikes in the first kilometers. It seemed to improve a bit with some nice downhills, but then it got very annoying using a gazillion ‘vado’s, small ‘rollercoasters’. Up. And. Down. Rinse and repeat.
It was followed by some extremely annoying stretch: a fierce headwind on a gentle but constant and 25 km long slope. Uphill that is. It made me check my back wheel and tire every few minutes as it felt I was rolling two flats, but alas, it was just lack of horizontality, strength and freshness, both inside as well as outside my tired body. The desert did not seem to end and the only positive point in the heat was that the really big hill, Volcano Tres Virgenes, was clearly to steep to climb, so somewhere on it’s flanks must be a downhill hidden somewhere.
It did come, but the full speed drop was too steep and curvy for comfort, only brief and followed by yet another slow climb in even harder wind, while the only shade offered was some itchy and prickly bush on the side of the road.
The only entertainment was a vulture eating a very flat 5-foot snake off the road, but the rare but aggressive traffic that day made me focus on my handlebars rather than my camera. We managed to get some water off a nice old guy who lived alone in a house. There was a sign with some cutlery on the road, but he looked as if he had never seen it before and food was not to be found.
Ok, we were getting really close to Santa Rosalia no and still had several hundred meters to descend, (it was rather safe to assume that the seaport of the town was actually at sea-level). A series of warning signs about the upcoming drop convinced me that I should wait for Ivana and while I posted next to the road, a huge and fast caravan of policecars and SUV’s rushed by at an insane speed. Some buses and pick-up trucks that apparently either got sucked into their slipstream or just hypnotized by the flashing police lights followed, all about 25cm apart and like a suicidal metal conga line of madness they dropped down the steep road together.
One of the last drivers had motioned to me excitedly, while motioning backwards. I did not see Ivana, so I headed back up the steep hill, but she appeared before i reached the top, totally angry and very shaken. The cars, under leadership of the police, had driven her off the road and almost hit her with their crazy antics. I tried to calm her down as we had a dangerous slope ahead. In fact is was also annoying: I hate it when you spend 25km going uphill and then you lose all height gained on a slope so steep (I guessed 12-14%) and curvy that we need to brake all the way down. The road was lined with crosses for those whose brakes were less strong than ours, maybe Magura should make some brakes for pickups as well…
‘A French town’ it was called in many guidebooks. Guess the authors have never been in France. It did have its own charm though, but the problem with all the houses built close together, was that there were no gardens and therefore no camping space. We had cycled all the way to the end (up) until we reached the scrubby neighbourhoods our guidebook had warned us about; plenty of stares but no place for our tent. We asked the Police and Firemen, but they were too busy guarding tonight’s fiesta.
The fiesta turned out to be a very long boring speech by the governor in which he proudly proclaimed that he did had done parts of what he was hired for in the first place. While we ate a large pizza next to the square, with our bikes rolled next to our table on the patio, it seemed that we had located the missing Mexican flag as well, nicely hung behind the politicians.
They were probably the ones arriving late and almost killing Ivana on the way with their escort. The ‘party’ and the day ended with very loud and very annoying music, but even though we pitched our tent just 3 blocks away, in the driveway of the Red Cross, we were off to sleep soon…
26 April 2009: Santa Rosalia – Mulege, 68 km, 500m up and down
We found the claim to fame: Eiffel’s church, which was not only special because it was designed by Eiffel, of the Parisian Tower (and Lady Liberty’s frame, how’s that for Freedom Fries!) fame, but also because it is the world’s first know prefab building, packaged in boxes and reassembled here.
I actually had a good day on the bike, but Ivana had it tough. More hills, heat, road construction –BC Sur seems richer, they are actually building nice bridges to replace the annoying and dangerous vado’s– and roadside grave markers.
Alas, the awful truth was slightly different from the deducted version. Even though the psychopathic engineers that had decided that the roads better go over those steep hills were the true culprit, I was of course the bad guy, but the mood cleared when we saw the nice oasis of Mulege, another palm tree-covered surprise in the desert.
We had to search all roads in the village before we found the house of Bill, our host for the night, but once we arrived we could enjoy the fact that we had had yet another nice day in Baja, and according to the the stories of travellers before us, the best had just started…
“Mulege is the safest place I have ever been, with regards to crime! There has only been one murder and that was a gringo guy being stabbed with a barbeque fork by his gay lover!” according to Bill.
The biggest danger is coming from the skies and sea though: the hurricanes have hit Mulege hard, with many houses -including Bill’s former place- being destroyed by Hurricane John in 2006. The water level of the river rose so much it touched the bridge (normally you can drive a big truck underneath) and many people had to run for their lives. Nowadays more big houses are being (re-)built and lots close to the sea and river are being sold to unsuspecting Americans. Though it is a pretty quiet place, you might want to read this post on the famous BajaNomads forum before you decide to invest in ‘this Piece of Paradise”…
here are a few pix from Mulege, let us know if you like them by commenting below!
Soon to come: Baja California Sur, pt 2
Kowalski, status report!
Knees: still ok! They hurt after cycling, but on the road they are quite fine. Santos Bikes are still stringer than the people riding them, they will probably outlive the human race…
Here are two tripsections as described above:
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