Day 297-299, 4-6 May 2009: Baja California Sur, pt3: through the desert to La Paz
Note: only a few photos in this report as the scenery was quite boring and often it was too hot to stop for photos, but instead some more stories, hope you like them as well!
We had been advised to take a ride as the last section to La Paz would be ugly and boring. We had cycled over 1100km/700mi in Baja California so far, and still had more than 300km/200mi to go before we could rest in la Paz and think about the crossing to the mainland.
4th May 2009: from the beach to the dust & food confusion: Juncalito – Ciudad Constitucion, 97km (+40km ride)
We said our good byes to Roberta and headed our loaded bikes back onto the main road. We passed the exit to Puerto Escondido this time and continued over relatively flat roads. The walls of the mountain range we had to cross looked down upon us with indifference.
We had read in an old guidebook that the next climb was one of the longest, steepest and most dangerous of the peninsula and had decided we would try to get another ride, as the combination with the heat and lack of sea-wind would be a horrible way to wreck my knees again.
Just at the bottom of the hill we found a new bridge with a nice wide shoulder where we parked our bikes and flashed our thumbs up at the passing pick-up trucks. Soon a nice man stopped in a huge SUV; we loaded the bikes, headed into the air-conditioned cabin and quickly made our way up 40km of steep and narrow ascents, very happy we were not pushing our bikes on the black tarmac.
He was going all the way to Ciudad Constitucion and asked if we wanted to join him to there, but we declined. It is always a hard decision when somebody offers a ride, especially when it is hot, windy and boring, but we have come here to cycle and felt bad enough about the ride so far.
He dropped us at the highest point and as the wind was in our face, we enjoyed the constant downhill towards the city. But soon the road turned horizontal, while the wind picked up in speed and temperature and soon we found ourselves fighting the giant blow-dryer at 10km/6mi per hour, while cursing ourselves for not being in an air-conditioned car when we could have been… We stopped exhausted in Ciudad Insurgentes and treated ourselves to some refreshing liquados.
Fortunately the road had made a 90 degree turn when reaching the city and the last part the wind came from the side and even from the back and we were in Ciudad Constitucion quickly. Traffic was very busy between the cities but the road wide and we had no problem. What turned out to be more difficult was finding a place to sleep in the city. We asked several people with gardens and even the Police for a place to pitch our tent, but all turned us down. It was already close to dusk when we left the city, trying to find a place outside of town.
Only a few minutes outside the city limits I noticed a great garden. The house was deserted, but a little ahead were some people underneath a row of fruit trees. Sure, it was ok to camp and if we needed some sweet grapefruits? They were intrigued by our trip, or tent and our stove, but when Ivana started to cook our daily pasta meal, problems began.
‘Que es eso, sopa?’, ‘What is this, soup’?’
‘Pasta! We eat if every night, good energy and tasty!’
‘Hmm. But how are you going to eat it?’, she replied.
We looked at eachother. ‘Well, we have a very nice tomato sauce today!’
Sarah looked perplexed.
‘Y como lo va a comer?’, ‘How are you going to eat it?’ she repeated, this time a bit louder.
As my Spanish is not so good, I was not sure if I had understood her correctly, but Ivana’s face looked just as puzzled as I felt. Ivana tried a different answer.
‘Well, we have a fork and a spoon, Harry has a foldable plate and I eat from the pot, look.’ and she showed Sarah our limited but useful cutlery and cooking gear.
No, that was clearly not the right answer, either. Sarah called her son.
‘Antonio!!! Come here. Go to the tortilleria and get the gringos some tortillas!’.
A few minutes Antonio came back –on his bike!- with a full kilo of hot tortillas. Sarah handed them over and said that at least we now had something to eat our soup with. She also served us delicious fresh and sweet juice, but clearly was still shaken from the thought that somebody would even think about having dinner without tortillas…
5th May 2009: 110km through the desert, from Ciudad Constitucion to El Cien.
Early next morning we shared or peanut butter sandwiches with Sarah and her kids and took off. The road was still flat, the wind was still good and we had a good average on the first 55km. Then slowly we headed more inland again to cross the peninsula for the last time and things turned bad again.
The hills started to come and together with the road, the temperature rose with every pedal stroke and soon crossed the 35 degrees (95F) mark again. It was time to stop for lunch, but there was no shade anywhere and the few restaurants were all closed or demolished.
Finally, after 80km of cycling, I stumbled into a small loncheria and ordered a cool refresco under the hot tin roof. A few other customers did not believe that I cycled Baja California, let alone from Alaska and looked at me as if I were a Martian. soon Ivana arrived as well and slowly they got convinced I was not 100% insane after all, though at the same time they realized what we had done, they clearly did think we were mad as a rusty doornail.
In the back room was an old abuela, sitting in a rocking chair, watching TV, shouting orders to various grandchildren running about. ‘Change the TV channel! Get me a drink! Stop shouting!’. While we were dozing off with our heads on the table, we suddenly heard her shout again.
And lo and behold, the little guy named Braulio arrived moments later with 2 large blue plastic-covered foam mattresses for us to sleep siesta on! We thankfully rested our tired bodies under the watching eye of yet another Virgen de la Guadelupe, and various other items that might need to be returned to the Museum of Bad Taste soon…
When the temperature had dropped slightly, we hit the dusty road again and rollercoastered to ‘El Cien’, (‘The Hundred’), simply named after the 100 km sign, indicating the remaining distance to La Paz. We got another tempting offer to hop in a car and arrive in La Paz that same night, but declined. We refilled our water bottles in a restaurant and made camp behind a deserted house, watching the stars fall and the police check random vehicles.
6th May 2009: back to sea through hills, heat and a tornadito: El Cien – La Paz, 105km, 750m up, 850m down
Today we planned to finish our trilogy of 100km days and get all the way to La Paz. The good thing about the desert is that it actually cools down considerably at night and when we left at sunrise, the air was fresh. We even encountered some fog on our way, but soon it was just down to the sun, the hills and us again. There was not a flat bit, all either up or down, but definitely more up, both in time as in distance.
Also here the few buildings and towns on the map were physically or functionally not there and after 50km we were longing for some shade and a drink. It took us another 2 hours and dozens of hot hills before we stumbled in a small shack where they had a working and filled refrigerator. Another guest showed us the centipede he just caught: huge and poisonous, it just fit in a plastic 600ml Coke bottle.
They mentioned that there were bigger restaurants just a mile up the road and so we continued a few minutes and stopped for siesta. We had some ramen noodle soups left and cooked ourselves some lunch when Ivana said that a tornado was coming. I thought she was listening to the loud radio that I had completely blocked out and asked her where and when.
‘There!’ she said and pointed behind me. A thin but high dust-devil slowly crossed the road and came towards the shop next door, selling 2nd hand goods. It looked like just another collection of twirling dust, but once it hit the neighbours’ shack, several large metal pieces of roof came off and flew several meters through the air. After it passed, Ivana went to check, but apparently nobody got hurt. The little boy from the shop came in as well, almost falling over from laughter and joy. He could hardly speak, but pointed up in the sky behind him and managed to utter a few words in Spanish, roughly translated as’ The dog was flying!’ before he fell over laughing again. Life in the desert…
It was basically one 20km long downhill to the city’s edge. We enjoyed the nice slope, only interrupted by some low-grade rollers and before long, we reached the coast and after cycling some very busy roads entered the charming center of La Paz. We bumped into the French in their RV again and then went to find a WiFi spot to check if any of our CouchSurfing requests had been answered…
Coming up soon: heaven in La Paz, new oil, free ferry and cruising The Net
Kowalski! Status report!
We spend about a month cycling from Tijuana – La Paz, stopping in several places along the way. We took some rides (probably about 100km together) and cycled about 1430km (900mi). After the flat tire on the first stretch we had zero flats, nor any other problems with our bikes.
My knees held out well, not getting better, nor worse, but I had very few problems with my back. Ivana had gotten sick from eating bad food, but that passed in a few days time. All in all a hard but satisfying experience, that we would not have liked to miss out on… More reflections later, for now here are the trip sections as described above:
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