Conception Bay to Loreto :: Lone but Beautiful

We leave Santa Rosalia early and spend the day climbing up, down and around a meandering Highway 1.   The road sneaks inland then naturally comes back to the shore to catch glimpses of the ever-beautiful Sea of Cortez.  Eventually we make our way toward another oasis on our route, the small town of Mulege.

Riding up, toward Mulege

Kai climbing into Mulege

A huge archway welcomes us and leads us down remarkably clean city streets to a quaint and quiet downtown.  Criss-crossing our way through town on one way streets we discover where all the mercados and restaurants are located and make our way down a dirt road that runs parallel to the Santa Rosalia River.  After checking out the various hotels we decide on the newer, cleaner and cheaper room at the Hotel Mulege, the first hotel we  looked at, situated near the entrance to town.  We’re planning on camping for the next few days and we’re both suffering slight knee aches so we’re looking forward to a hot shower and a real bed.  Even though we just want to crawl in to bed after our showers we take an evening walk through town, stop in to check out the offerings at a couple of the mercados and pick up an easy dinner at a restaurant before we check in for the night.

Businesses, on Mulege main street

Stores in Mulege

Riding into downtown Mulege

Riding into downtown Mulege

Downtown streets, Mulege

Beautiful flowers line the fences in Mulege streets.

Bomberos (Fire Trucks), Mulege

An unusual half-round fire station and the Bomberos (firemen).

The next couple of days consists of many steep but short inclines and declines, the kind of which you fall into the descent then find yourself just as quickly climbing again.  This kind of riding is exhausting to me and I dislike it even more when combined with a narrow highway without a shoulder that twists and turns enough that I also have to be constantly worried about traffic not anticipating our presence.  That being said, we seem to have lucked out and have missed the heavy tourist season (October through February) and there is surprisingly little traffic on Highway 1 at this time of year.

River and Sea of Cortez, Mulege

Looking back at Mulege and where its river meets the Sea

Housing outside of Mulege, Highway 1

Some interesting housing we saw off Highway 1

Roadworkers, Highway 1, south of Mulege

We got a close up view of road workers as they laid new road down on Highway 1. They were constantly and quickly shoveling asphalt onto the road and when two of them got tired they handed the shovels off to another two waiting in line. As I took photos they whooped and hollered, hamming it up for the camera. We were the first in line of many cars following them as they slowly inched forward. Hot and hard work!!

Another added benefit to cycling just outside the heavy tourist season is that we’ll get to experience a quiet and peaceful Bahía Concepción over the next couple of days.  Conception Bay runs down the eastern side of Baja California Sur between Mulege and Loreto and it’s known as one of the most beautiful areas of Baja, offering dozens of breath-taking beaches.  We decide to cycle a couple of really short days in order to enjoy the Bay, which actually ends up being a great choice considering temperatures have been soaring lately and we’re having a little trouble acclimating to the heat.  Not long into our day we spot the Bay and our first campsite from a peak in the road.

Santispec, Conception Bay

Coasting down to Conception Bay

Santispec, Conception Bay

The entrance to our first campsite/beach on Conception Bay.

Playa Santispec is the largest beach on the Bay and it sports palapas, a restaurant, a pit toilet and a view to die for.  As we ride down the gravel path leading toward the beach we see we have a wide range of palapa choices, with only a few RV campers parked near the restaurant on the northern part of the shore.  We choose a palapa that also has a couple of walls, for protection from the winds and the sun, quickly change in to our bathing suits and make a run for the waves.  The water is cool, clear and perfect.  We frolic around like kids experiencing our first day on summer break, we wander up and down the beach taking photographs and we sit under the palapa just taking in the scene before us.  It’s truly spectacular.

Our palapa/campsite at Santispec, Conception Bay

Our view from the Palapa on Playa Santispec

Santispec, Conception Bay Santispec, Conception Bay Santispec, Conception Bay Santispec, Conception Bay Santispec, Conception Bay

The next day we reluctantly leave our paradise on the beach and ride a mere 13 miles down the road to another beach.  It’s a rough life sometimes! 🙂  Along the way we see several absolutely gorgeous coves where people are camping, swimming, fishing and kayaking that would be worth visiting but we have limited supply of water and food so we decide to limit our stay along the Bay to two nights.

Roadside shrine, overlooking Conception Bay

A roadside shrine, lots of these along the highways. They usually have a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe inside surrounded by lit candles.

Conception Bay, heading south Highway 1

Another gorgeous cove on Conception Bay

Conception Bay

A sailboat on the Bay.

Our campsite at Buenaventura is actually a sand beach in front of a restaurant owned by a couple that live next door.  We spend the lunch hour and afternoon inside of the restaurant, sipping on cold grapefruit drinks, enjoying a light lunch and checking our email (they, surprisingly, have internet!).  Later, when the owners close the restaurant for siesta we sit outside, Kai chatting with his parents on Skype while I enjoy a quick swim.  Two quirky and sweet dogs keep us company the entire evening and one of us has to distract them with games on the beach while the other sets up the tent and empties needed supplies from panniers.  We sleep well that night, the sounds of waves hitting the shore just feet from our tent.

Conception Bay, Buenaventura Beach

View from the Buenaventura Restaurant

Campsite at Conception Bay, Buenaventura Beach

Our campsite at Buenaventura.

Conception Bay, Buenaventura Beach

A sunset complimented by the moon.

Sunrise signals our natural alarms and although we have grand plans to get an early start to avoid the heat, by the time we pack up the tent and our panniers, wash morning dishes and stretch, it’s already 8:30.  Climbing our way out of the southern section of the Bay we hear the bleating of goats in the valley below us and watch them and their herder making their way over the rocks toward the shady side of the hills.  As we struggle up to the peak of the pass we come upon a couple of cows walking down the highway toward us.  As soon as they see us they freeze, confused.  Their heads turn and eyes follow us as we slowly pedal past.

Conception Bay, Leaving Buenaventura Beach

Lots of climbing involved along the Bay.

Cattle roaming alongside Highway 1, Conception Bay in background

Cows walking along the highway.

Conception Bay

We make our way inland and away from the water.  The last time we saw a mercado or supply store was in Mulege and we know this strip of the Highway is lacking in places for us to stock up on water and food so we’re nervous when we pass a road that intersects with Highway 1, where we were told by locals we would find a small store that would be able to refill our water bottles.  We cycle on, determined to put as many miles under us as possible at this point, knowing that we’ll most likely wild camp tonight and have another day of cycling before we hit the town of Loreto.  Needless to say, we’re relieved to see a small family owned restaurant as we round up and over a hill.  We pull up alongside their home and take rest under the shaded seating area, fill our water bottles and buy several packages of cookies they have displayed behind the counter.

The climb leading away from Conception Bay, Hwy 1 toward Loreto

Once last big climb at the southern edge of the Bay.

Top of the climb, leaving Conception Bay, S toward Loreto

Towers signal when we’re near the top of our climb.

Supply Shop & Restaurant, Hwy 1 after junction with Hwy 53, toward Loreto

A Wonderful Sight :: A restaurant where we refilled our water bottles.

As soon as we’re back on the road we feel the heat of the mid-day upon us.  The sun is relentless and there is rarely a shady spot in this part of the desert to stop and take shelter.  We slowly make our way forward and as we swoop gently down into a valley a wave of heat hits us like a Mac truck.  Although the winds are furious, hitting us from the west, they provide no relief.  They simply seem to push the heat along, only making us work harder to stay upright and from swaying out in to the middle of the road.  Wind tunnels form to the west of us, pulling up the sand to create mini-tornadoes.  We watch them form and percolate, growing larger, and we are part fascinated, part concerned, hoping they won’t make their way toward us.  We’re dripping in sweat and our faces are red, neither of us feeling we can travel under the heat much longer.  We need to find some shade, quickly, and rest for a couple of hours.

A couple of miles down the road and we still haven’t spotted anything for us to cower under other than a few sparse thorn trees.  Thorns and bicycles don’t really mingle well so we pass them by but another 1/2 mile down the road and we realize that’s all we can see for miles so we drop off the pavement into the sand ditch alongside the road and take cover under the largest thorn tree we can find.  The area around the trees are covered in goat and cow manure but we don’t care much at this point – we are both suffering from heat exhaustion and we need to just be still and drink liquids.  It’s amazing how quickly the mix of heat, sun and exertion can do a number on your body.

Type of sheep?  Baja California Sur, Hwy 1 south toward Loreto

We saw a couple of these guys along the deserted roadside.

Hwy 1 headed toward Loreto

A look at the valley ahead.

Afternoon Rest in Shade, Hwy 1 toward Loreto

Taking a break to recover from heat exhaustion.

Dust Tunnels, Hwy 1 toward Loreto

Dust devils in the distance.

After a couple of hours, although lacking energy, we feel a little better and we need to cycle on to find a place to wild camp for the night.  Thankfully we only have to cycle 5-6 miles down the road before we found an ideal spot.  We both sit in the shade of an elephant tree till the sun starts to set.  We garner enough energy to make a quick dinner and set up the tent and after washing dishes we fall into a utterly exhausted sleep.

Wild campsite, off Hwy 1 toward Loreto

Roadside campsite

Scenes around wild campsite, Hwy 1

View of the mountains from our campsite.

Leaving our wild campsite, Hwy 1 Baja

Making our way back to the highway in the morning.

The next morning we appreciate the spectacular views of the mountains and take a short stroll through the cactus surrounding our campsite before hitting the pavement again.  A short 22 miles later we find ourselves riding through the streets of Loreto, a fairly large sized town (population ~15,000), boasting a beautiful view of the Gulf of California and an international airport.  We do our normal round the town tour, scoping out local restaurants, mercados, aqua purification centers and places to stay.  After checking out a handful of interesting hotels and rooms for rent we decide on a place with a quiet courtyard, reliable wi-fi and a kitchenette.  We’re expecting to stay for awhile, although we’re not sure yet for how long, and we quickly determine that the cost of a kitchenette will be far less expensive than eating out all the time.

Morning view off Hwy 1, S toward Loreto

View from Highway 1, heading toward Loreto.

Sheila, Cycling toward Loreto

Sheila riding toward Loreto.

The Hotel Santa Fe is extremely luxurious compared to the places we’ve stayed in the past.  The kitchenette provides a sink, double burner stove, refrigerator and microwave, as well as a really nice set of dishes, toaster, blender and pots and pans.  The interior is well-lit by a double sliding glass door that look out onto a naturally landscaped courtyard, the bed linens are clean and comfortable (and fit the bed!) and we have tons of closet space to stash all our panniers away in.  Just on the other side of the courtyard a small pool and jacuzzi lay snuggled amongst palm trees.  A restaurant, a mercado and a laundry mat share the retail space alongside the hotel entrance and another less expensive mercado is just around the corner.  The hotel is only two years old so everything is in good repair.  The staff is extremely nice, giving us a huge discounted rate on the room as soon as they see we are travelling by bicycle, which helps us stay (barely) under budget.

There are flaws.  We rarely experience a *hot* shower but we can deal with it – most times we don’t need hot showers and when we do feel the need for really hot water we simply heat up water on the stove or in the microwave and Ortlieb it or clean sponge-bath style.  And each room has a thin single door separating us from the next room so when we have neighbors (which is not often) we can hear everything, including their snoring at night!

That being said, neither flaw prevented us from getting a lot of work done.  We spend our days getting up to date on the situation in mainland Mexico and planning our route from Mazatlan, making lots of calls to the U.S. to take care of business with our apartment building back in Vermont, and securing a couple of very exciting new sponsor donations (we’ll share more about them soon!).

Beyond all of the work, we actually decided to take a couple of weeks off from everything – to stop moving forward and to just think about and talk about how we were feeling about our lives at this point, to assess if we’re still living the way we feel is best in relation to our values.  We do believe we’re still on the right path but we’re making some tweaks to the way we’re traveling to allow for more than just bicycling, so we’ll share more about that in our next post.  🙂


Our route from Santa Rosalia to Loreto





8 comments to Conception Bay to Loreto :: Lone but Beautiful

  • So, have you already decided if you’re heading down the MX1 or to take a detour into the mountains?

    Not sure how to read your last blog entry but if you are going to keep on cycling I really recommend to take the road into the mountains. I am sure that you won’t regret it…

    • We decided against taking the detour and stayed on 1. The traffic is really so light and we’re anxious to get ahead of the weather and into the highlands of mainland Mexico, as we’re having to take breaks in the afternoon already to bypass the heat of the day so we took the “easier” route for now. We’ll live vicariously through your experience/photos! 🙂

  • Jeremy

    I really enjoy the pictures and stories of your travels. I’m hooked! I check daily now to see if there is an update and especially love the details you throw in about the culture and food you come across. I just talked to my girlfriend about doing a similar journey just in California, and after she stopped laughing she said that she’d have a really hard time sleeping on the hard ground. So now my gear question: what are you guys doing for comfortable sleep?

    • Kai


      Thanks so much for following our blog and introducing yourself! Bicycle touring is a great way to spend time with your partner. Consider embarking first on a couple of short trips (overnight and/or weekend duration) to feel it out. Pick good weather to avoid rain and cold temps. Its easier to acclimatize to the more challenging conditions later. As for location, California is the perfect place to cycle tour. Talk everything through before you go to ensure you’re both on the same page when it comes to expectations and you’ll both have a blast!

      To answer your question: Our sleep system consists of our Estonian-made Hilleberg tent and integral footprint/groundcloth, our USA-made Feathered Friends Sandpiper Ultralight groundsheet into the pad pockets of which are slid our USA-made Thermarest sleeping pads. I use a 13+ year old self-inflatable version (its a “tall”) and Sheila uses a new Ridge Rest Solar closed-cell foam pad. On top of all of this we each use Scottish-made Endura silk Jagbag Deluxe sleeping bag liners and two mummy-style sleeping bags which we always unzip fully and use as comforters (for warmer weather we share one bag between us). My bag is a “tall” Chinese-made nineteen year-old, EMS- (Eastern Mountain Sports) branded, 20-degree goose-down rental, while Sheila is using my New Zealand-made c.1989 MacPac Solstice European 0-degree goose-down bag (regular length) with Reflex water-resistant outer. We also use a rather thin 23 year-old New Zealand-made closed-cell foam pad folded over on each end and positioned perpendicular to our groundsheet at our mid-section for additional hip padding.

      FWIW – these three sleeping pads (none of which pack at all small) comprise the majority of the bulk outside that contained in our panniers. Two ‘modern’ inflatable pads would take up about a quarter of the pad volume we currently manage. We opted to go with what we already had since none of this stuff is even remotely biodegradable and it all still works fine. Plus, almost every long-term cyclist we’ve read about has had major de-lamination problems with ‘modern’ self-inflating pads so most now carry bulkier closed-cell pads instead.

      Glad to hear you’re “hooked” – good luck on your future bike travels! 🙂

      p.s. Feel free to subscribe to our email updates – this way you’ll be notified immediately of new posts.

      • Jeremy

        Excellent information! This is very helpful. I agree that going with what you already have is definitely the best way to go. Inflatable systems are also fantastic in warm weather conditions but lose a lot of volume when the temp drops twenty or so degrees overnight.

        Ok, so I just spent the last half hour pouring through the Hilleburg website and have a shopping list I need to save up for.

        • I’m going to just throw in a comment or two here as well…..

          1. We love our Hilleberg tent and it’s great for our long-distance needs. We imagine it will be with us for years and years and we would recommend anyone buy one. That being said, the price tag is hefty so if you’re only going to use a tent a couple of times I might consider looking for cheaper used versions online. You never know if someone might be selling a decent tent, and even if “made in” location is important to you (it is to us), used or recycled gear is always better on the global/environmental level than is new. Just a thought in relation to cost of gear, so that it doesn’t prevent you from getting out there on the bicycles.

          2. In order to ensure you’ll have a relationship by the end of your first tour together (ha, ha), you might want to plan for alternative hotel, hostel, warmshowers or couch-surfing stops along the route, just in case sleeping on the ground turns out to be a deal-breaker. It took me a good month to get used to sleeping on my rigid thermarest pad and I was pretty miserable during the break-in period. Real beds helped the transition. Now, I find my pad comfortable and prefer to sleep outdoors… even though I preferred beds in the first half of our trip, I did come around. 😉 My point : prepare to be flexible in order to keep cycling. It will be worth it, even if you spend a little more dough in the process.

          GOOD LUCK. And if your girlfriend has ANY questions at all about ANYTHING, let her know she can email me anytime (just send me a note through our contact form and I’ll get right back to her).

  • Ooh, I’m excited to hear about your new sponsor donations, and about the tweaks in your traveling style. I think having other projects you care about besides the bicycling is a really good thing. 🙂

  • The Hotel Santa Fe Loreto looks seriously plush!

    Don Cuevas

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