Alone in Baja California

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North America » Mexico » Baja California » El Rosario
January 1st 2016
Published: April 1st 2017
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I slept in until 9 which I would regret later, I kind of mused about my upcoming travel and procrastinated and somewhere around 1030 in the morning I got going after topping up with even more food and filtered water. I was probably riding about 8 kilos heavier than I had previous but it didn't turn out to be too much of a big deal, I made some really good distance in short time and was tackling the hills with no problem. Days like this were just fun, compared to the times where you just struggle and strain and moan to yourself about how tough it is there are times where your body is 100% into it. I still had some pains in my left knee that I was taking note of, but my seat was adjusted pretty high now so I don't think the problem was being aggravated. After midday the three dirtbikers screamed up and stopped in front of me and were surprised at how far I'd already made it, they said that there was a pretty luxurious hotel about another 70 km from there that I could stay at with them if I made it that far. I told them I would if I could and they wished me luck. I had no idea about this hotel up to that point and I felt pretty motivated to get there, if only for the company than the luxury. Apart from a quick stop for lunch there wasn't much to distract me, the flow of the desert slowly revealing itself actually enticed me to keep going. Despite a constant flow of traffic on both sides and absolutely no shoulder to ride on at all, the drivers were all being very careful and the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. There were a few points that I saw groups of wild horses, one time a large group congregating under a shady tree. They were so majestic. Someone had mentioned to me the oases that were all over the desert, some of them big enough for people to swim in. I couldn't see any other way for animals to survive out here.

By my estimate at about 80km in I came to long straight that dipped down for a while and came back up, I was enjoying the downward part when I noticed something on the road, as I got closer it looked like a dog. It didn't make sense though, I was in the desert, how could another dog be here. Fear crept into my heart as I got closer and saw it was another mangy mutt, with black fur and for some reason it was living in the desert. It slowly moved over to the side of the road as I got closer and as I came to within 5 meters of it I noticed how wild it looked. Fur was jutting out of it's neck and it looked undernourished and haggard. It just stared at me without showing any aggression and I kept an eye on it in my rear view mirror attached to my helmet. After a few seconds it began pelting after me, adrenaline kicked in and I stormed up the hill as fast as I could. I was alone in the desert in Mexico with a wild dog trying to turn me into it's next meal. I made it to the top of the hill and saw that it was getting pretty close now, probably about 30 feet. I cycled along a flat part at what would have been about 30km/h for nearly 5 minutes and felt pretty confident that the dog would have given up. I looked back and it was still running after me full speed, about 200 feet away now. I kept going, up another hill, along another flat, down a hill. Every time I looked back it was still going, relentlessly. I wondered how fit a dog like this could, undernourished, no visible water source. What if it will just chase me all day and follow me to camp? I hit a long downhill and pedaled in top gear, the fastest I had probably ever ridden that bike. I used the momentum to get up another small hill and momentarily was relieved. I figured that surely after 10km of this that the dog must have given up to conserve it's energy. I looked back and saw nothing on the road except for one oncoming pickup, I glanced at the side of the highway about half a kilometer away though and saw a black figure darting through the desert flora. It still hadn't given up despite being so far away. It must have smelt my fear and decided that I was it's way of surviving, giving this hunt everything it had to try and catch me.

I pushed on without stopping for another hour and the dog by now was well and truly gone. I started wondering if it could have just been looking for a new owner, and I imagined how cool it would be to have a pet dog for this trip. I started even feeling a bit sorry for him, I snapped out of that and realized that I had no other choice. I kept cycling pretty much until nightfall and by my estimate I had made it the distance to where the hotel should have been. I tried to see if my Garmin was aware of any hotels in the area, listing one about 50km away. The device had proved at times wildly inaccurate and sometimes would list things not even there. I figured this couldn't be right, surely I was close. I cycled about another 20km in the dark and was full of hope when I noticed a group of lights in the distance, literally an Oasis I thought having a luxury hotel out here. As I got closer I saw it was just a ranch. I went another 5km and saw yet another property set up as a little store, still open. I went in and bought some potato chips and the owners told me that the hotel was another 30km. I was pretty much exhausted, I asked them if I could camp there and they happily pointed to a little spot normally used by RV's in the busier season. They had a generator running outside the building that was incredibly loud, I was asleep by 8pm though and felt safe after I heard him shut the gate to the fenced off place. I was up early, I bought a few things from the store and left them a few dollars in Rupees as thanks for the space.

Sometime that morning I made it past the Hotel, it was only one storey high but quite long, I'm sure it would have been nice to stay in. I didn't see any dirtbikes parked out the front and figured the guys had already left. The desert wasn't as empty as I'd suspected, though Google had shown hardly any towns listed at all there were the occasional rest stops, someones home turned into a place to buy cold soft drink or snacks. I would have been OK if I'd not brought so much water but there was huge gaps in between these stops. I was entranced with this place though and knew that I was not just seeing it, but experiencing it, being on a bicycle. It was not just a glimmering scene fading as quickly as it came but a place offering itself up to my senses one pedal, one hill, one kilometer at a time. I felt privileged to be able to even navigate it safely, the road being the only part not under the control of the wildness of the desert. There was never a point in my life where I felt so grateful for the simple things I had as I was completely reliant on the health of my body and the bike to keep going. Aside from black pickup that came dangerously close to hitting me at around 100km/h I didn't come close to any cars through that stretch, I camped in the desert once, then again on the third night and in the morning due to my own carelessness I got my first flat tire. Again through sheer carelessness after patching it I got another one, I didn't take out the other cactus thorn that had made its way into my rear tire. I found myself in the desert having to patch my first flat, in the pretty intense sun with no real spot to rest my bike to make the operation easier. After some pretty serious messing about, surprised at how difficult a replacing a flat can get, especially when the brakes don't sit nicely into the spot where they'd previously been I kept going. There was something seriously wrong though, my tire kept on rubbing on the frame and I thought that maybe my axel was coming loose again. After 20km or so of this it became too much, I couldn't cycle anymore. I pulled over for the second time feeling overwhelmed by being out in the desert by myself with this problem and saw that my rear rim had become bent due to a broken spoke. I thought, it's fine, I have spare spokes. Upon seeing that I would have to literally bend the spoke to make it fit through the center of the wheel onto the rim I became discouraged. I did the bodgy fix but the damage was done, the rim was so bent that I couldn't ride without scraping the rubber off the tire. I was not yet ready to accept that I wouldn't be able to make it out of there myself when a large white pickup pulled up with a Mexican family in it. The man spoke good English and told me that I'd better jump in his truck, he was very persistent and didn't like the idea of me being stuck out there. I came to my senses and realized the situation I was in, he loaded the bike into the back of his truck that a bunch of clothing already in there.

I got into the back seat and met his wife and three young daughters, they offered me a burrito and some water and he told me that he ran a snorkeling tour business in Cabo San Lucas, at the bottom of the Baja Peninsula. His family only spoke Spanish and the conversation kind of died out pretty quick, he wasn't interested in why I was doing my trip he just wanted me to be safe. We stopped for a while at a very scenic point that his family enjoyed and he stepped on the gas the remainder of the way to Guerrero Negro. He'd taken me about 100km out of the desert. We pulled up at a gas station, unloaded the bike which now had a flat front tire and some guys walked up and spoke to the driver. He talked to them for a little while and left me with them. I thanked him at least 3 times for his help and he quickly took off eager to get his family back home. He had about 7 hours of driving left at least I guessed.

These two guys were so friendly, I worried at first as they were a bit disheveled but their intentions were good. They took me to a bike mechanic in their beat up pickup with no backseat and he spoke reasonable English, then they took me and my bags to a hotel where they arranged a discount for me with the person behind the counter. They didn't want anything in return and they just left once I was checked in. I chilled out in the hotel room for a few hours and heard a knock on the door, the young guy from the shop had fixed my bike, rim and flat tire and had pumped plenty of air into it. He only wanted 70 pesos for the repair, about $5 Canadian, I gave him 200 and told him to keep it. Having had no flats in the 11 weeks I'd been on that trip then having both tires go flat and a spoke break on the same day seemed very unlucky to me. How the front tire went flat after simply sitting in the pile of clothing in the back of the truck was a mystery. I ventured out into the coastal town and realized that the main thing to do there was get a whale watching tour. I booked it for the next morning and sat in a boat with the driver and a couple with their daughter from Switzerland. It was OK, though not many of the whales actually broke the surface more than just lazily rolling over and showing their tales. It wasn't the most active time for them, during the full season when they come into the giant lagoon to give birth there is supposedly a frenzy of activity. I felt the tour become boring an hour in and spent the remaining few hours looking forward to getting back on land. It's good to take these tours sometimes if only just to know if they are good or not, if I hadn't done it I would have been left wondering. Guerrero Negro is supposedly named after an American whaling ship called Black Warrior that became shipwrecked near the Lagoon in the 1850s. Supposedly half the world salt came from that place as well and the Japanese company Mitsubishi bought the majority stakes in it. It wasn't a glamorous town but it seemed like the people there were happy enough, most of them employed through the mine.

I had decided to book the retreat being held in Costa Rica by Dan Millman in early February which I knew meant skipping huge parts of Mexico. I would need an additional month to cycle all the way there as I had by my estimate nearly 3000km to go, more than I had already cycled previous to this. The Italian guy I'd seen in Alaska, Davide, whom I'd gotten in touch with in California through a warm showers host was about two weeks in front of me. He told me the section from there to San Ignacio was probably the worst of the Baja so I booked a bus for the next morning.


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