Saturday, November 11, 2017

Baja California North

After doing some work on my bike in San Diego, 
 I crossed into Tiajuana on Nov 1.

Via the pedestrian customs, the crossing was uneventful. Once into Tiajuana, the city and traffic were a very unpleasant welcome--as anyone would suspect.  After changing some money and a bite to eat, I attempted to cut through the city in order to avoid the highway, which I suspected to be quite dangerous.
My route was not much better. After a super steep climb /push over a hill,  I was soon onto a secondary high way then a dangerous connection back onto highway 1 south. Probably the most unpleasant section of my entire trip so far. 
I overnighted in Rosarito, where I was happy to find loads of cheap road side restaurants. 
Highway 1 to Enseneda wasn't as bad or heavily trafficked as I thought it might be. 
It was in Enseneda that I finally came across someone who could shed some light on a route I had been considering to avoid the busier highway 1 south. The hostel manager told me that the route 3 crossing over to the east side of baja and route 5 south were both paved roads.  Except the last 30 miles of route 5 that connects back to the 1 south was not yet paved. I figured what would surely be lightly trafficked roads for at least 4 days would be worth a hitch hike for 30 miles. And I also met a German boy who was keen to do it with me. So the next day we set out to cross over the desert hills. 
It was to be a pretty big day: 75 miles with 4500' of climbing started with 3 hours of climbing. 
We landed in Trinidad Valley, a small mountain town of only sandy roads. 
The next day was another 75 miles to reach San Felipe, a beach town on the east side of baja and the sea of Cortez. 
While we lost all the altitude we had gained the day before, it was still another challenging 75 miles through nothing but desert mountains to finish with a 20 mile stretch along the coast into a head wind. Despite the fact that we drafted each other, the German cracked and told me to go ahead so he could slow down. I waited a while for him at the first gas station but I never saw him again.
I was lucky enough to arrive during a shrimp festival, so I obliged the festivities 
After a rest day in San Felipe I continued south along route 5 to find a great combination of desert mountains to my right and the sea of Cortez to my left.
The road was mostly okay but really rough in some spots :
Along the shore line, for about 30 miles, was an almost continuous line of "camps", " ranches ", casitas", small homes that I presumed were inhabited by American retirees /Expats. That said, it appeared that the majority were vacant, as were many properties in the region. 
I headed to the small village of Puertocitos, also mostly abandoned it seemed, for I heard it had a place to camp
and an unusual natural phenomenon that enticed me both that afternoon and the next morning. Ride aside the village are thermal hot springs that feed right into the shoreline and mix with the ocean water. So that as the high tide recedes the pools get hotter and hotter, too hot in some parts when the tide is out. It was pretty neat.
In the pools I had a nice conversation with some American Expats about their experience in Mexico. They confirmed my suspicion that many of the vacant coastal properties I saw earlier were a result of an American expat construction boom in the 80s. 

Continuing south the next day, I had one my favorite days of riding so far. This section had very little traffic, the road quality improved (as some segments had recently been paved for the first time), and the views were stunning. 

It is an ineffable mixture of neurotransmitters and hormones released in the brain/body when: 1- you push yourself up hill and test your resolve, 2- the fulfillment/satisfaction of reaching the top an then 3- the exhilaration of cresting the summit to behold a magnificent view. Especially with a little THC sprinkled into the synapses, it is it is quite something.
Along this section of Baja, I some of the best experience of my life.

Passing through a military check point I asked one of the guards if the smattering of huts ahead  was Ganzaga bay, the last human presence before the paved road ended. Nothing more than a convenience store, gas station and a string of palapas (huts) on the beach. 

It was here I'd have to find some kind of ride over what many had told me was a treacherous dirt road for about 30 miles back to highway 1.
In the meantime, I picked out a palapa and went for a swim. 
I quickly befriended my Mexican neighbor who was fishing from the shore.  He invited me over to share his catch with he and his wife. 
I went to bed that night concerned about safely transporting my bike the next day. 
After a lovely morning swim, I packed up my stuff and went to the market to start asking for a ride. I soon found a trucker willing to take me.  With my bungee cords and some rope, I tied my bike to the back of the cab. 
The 30 mile passage was indeed pretty rough. And not only would I have had serious trouble cycling it, but I probably would have been been mowed down by the Baja 1000 drivers flying around this off road section.  
So gnarly was this section that it even caused our truck to break down. To my surprise, after an hour of work, my driver was actually able to fix it. In the end, it took 6 hours to go 30 miles.    
The only stop we made was at "Coco's Corner". An 80 year old fellow who, for some reason, has been living out in the middle of nowhere for over 40 years. He actually gets many visitors, partly evidenced by how well "decorated" the place is. Gruff, curmudgeon, legless and uninhibited, I didn't care for him myself.
I bought my driver lunch and he dropped me off at the next town. I was happily surprised to find my bike covered in dust, unscathed. 
I didn't like being cooped up in the truck all day and was keen get back on the saddle. I made an early, 630am, exit from the run down trucking town I stayed in and cranked it hard south. Mostly flat, I churned out 40 miles in 2 hours without stopping.