After spending so much time on the back roads of Baja we’re ready to discover pockets of civilization again. More specifically, our minds are focused on water. We can’t wait to be in a place where we don’t have to worry about running out of it, plus we’re in serious need of showers.
Back on pavement, the riding is easy, fast and furious. While our bodies revel in their relaxed positions our minds focus on the extremely narrow road. Traffic is generally low and most folks give us plenty of room while passing but after a few dicey situations Kai & I quickly come up with a method of calculating traffic risks and formulate what our reactions will be to different situations (details to come in a post Kai’s writing up now for a Baja travel site). If we had a shoulder to ride on or an easy way to depart from the road (the pavement drastically drops off, six inches or more, from the white line, usually to a sloping, glass-strewn, rocky or sandy ditch) we wouldn’t worry about it so much but with the road being only about 16 feet wide and trucks as wide as 7 feet travelling it, that only leaves us with a narrow one to two feet of the road when we’re all passing at the same point. That’s too close for our comfort so we adjust accordingly!
The few dangers associated with the highway don’t distract us from the changing scenery before us. What looks like a fairly bland and boring landscape suddenly turns in to a lush and fascinating one, filled with more variety of plants than we’ve seen so far in Baja. The Central Desert has opened to reveal the Valley de los Cirios, where Dr. Seuss-like cirio trees grow, along with a variety of other trees and cacti. A boojum forest covers the land for miles, made even more spectacular by the backdrop of the mountains. Signs alongside the road indicate we’re in the midst of a biosphere reserve and we can understand why the land is protected. It’s one of the most spectacular things we’ve seen in Baja and we’re enamored.
A couple of hours before dusk we climb off the highway and push through the sand to get to a road in the distance that looks promising. Small bushes and cactus have splattered themselves across the unused tracks, reclaiming their rightful space. Taking great care to avoid disrupting plants we push our way along until we come to the only small area that can find that is flat and void of plant-life, perfect for a tent. We are simply blown away by the diversity and richness of the life around us and we can barely focus on our evening chores of setting up the tent and making dinner. Running around, we ooooh and aaaaah over each new find. The falling sun casts its theatrical glow over everything, its rays reaching out to christen each spore and spine as sacred. Talking ceases and we fall silent, reverent.
We awake before dawn to catch another spectacular light show then we pack up and reluctantly leave our desert paradise. The only traffic on the road are trucks hauling goods, trying to get in as many miles as possible in the early morning hours. As we turn southwest we notice a thick fog blanketing the desert valley ahead of us and we kick up our pace, hoping to catch it before it lifts away. We fail and just as we dip into the valley the last of the fog burns away and we’re left baking in the sun.
The town of Rosarito might be passed by travelers if it weren’t for the built-in highway-wide speed bumbs that line the road for at least a half a mile. As we slow we see the town consists of only a few buildings and we’re confused, we thought that there was a hotel or camp here but we don’t see any obvious signs of one. We pull up to the mercado which abuts a car parts store. After grabbing a cold apple juice from the cooler along with some snacks the young man behind the counter directs us to the restaurant next door. Apparently the family that lives there and runs the business allows people to camp in the back yard.
We splurge on dinner then set up our tent in the back yard, several rather large dogs coming by to check things out. Making friends with them is to our advantage since they tend to be very protective once given good love, the downside being that they then want to piss on everything you own.
We have access to the bathrooms out back and one room has a shower so we take turns washing the last week’s grime away. The water is hot, hot, hot and I silently thank the family working in the restaurant for the decadent luxury.
We planned on making the next day a short one, about 30 miles, and stopped in Villa Jesus Maria. After doing a quick tour of the town we find the town’s park and the police station bordering it and are quickly given permission to pitch our tent next to the station. We’re even given access to their bathroom and while we set up our tent we’re surrounded by smiling ten-year olds seated on their own bicycles. After we exhaust the two or three conversational phrases we know in Spanish they fall silent, smile and watch us as we work. An occasional exclamation I don’t understand escapes their lips and as they point to something we’re doing they look at each other and giggle.
The next day’s ride is especially boring in comparison to the valley we had traveled through the day before. The land is flat, gray and sparsely populated with plants that hug the earth rather than reach for the sky. Even though we’re fighting a headwind we make it to the border crossing to Baja California Sur by mid-morning. The man at the border doesn’t even allow us to slow down, waving us through with a smile and a “Buenos Diaz”. After our unofficial entry in to our second Mexican state we ride into the town of Guerrero Negro where we intend to break for awhile.
After doing a quick tour of town and checking pricing of a couple of hotels we settle in at the Mallarimo, a sweet hotel blanketed in flowers and set far enough off the main road to provide a quiet space for recovery. We focus on all the things we can’t do while on the bicycles: laundry, processing photos, updating the website, emailing, cleaning our bicycles, taking walks, reading, showering, watching movies, eating at a table and skyping with friends and family. We intentionally move within a small radius, knowing that the act of movement necessitates the equally important act of resting.
Our Route from Chapala to Guerrero Negro.