Welcome back to the ongoing story of our bicycle journey south from Quesnel, through the U.S. via the Pacific Coast and into Mexico via the Baja Peninsula.
Our last story took us to the border between the U.S. and Mexico and that’s where we’ll start.
We had stayed a couple of nights at a hostel in San Diego to finish our preparations for crossing into the huge country of Mexico. On the day we left we followed a well travelled bike route to the border via Coronado Island just off San Diego. Arriving at the Tijuana border it was easy to see why this is known as the busiest border crossing in the world. Thousands of people were streaming both ways across the line. We had arranged to stay at a warmshowers.org host in Tijuana and were anxious to get there. The crossing was actually a breeze. We just got in the lineup with all the pedestrians going south and eventually made our way to the huge revolving steel gates below the large metallic sign “Mexico”.
We were aware of what our first priority was as we entered – we had to make sure we received the Mexican Tourist Cards that all Canadian travellers need while visiting the country and need to get out of it. We asked with a memorized phrase in Spanish and were directed to a small hallway with a tiny office occupied by two very helpful ladies. For the equivalent of $25 each, we were issued our cards and we were on our way. Back in the line, we shuffled along and eventually descended into a swarm of humanity going both south and north. Not so conveniently, the lines crossed at a point and it was our first demonstration of the patience that Mexican folks have for this kind of thing. Our line eventually emerged into a street in downtown Tijuana. From this point, we had directions to follow to our host’s house.
Well, okay, it was a little easier said than done. But with help from some very friendly taxi drivers, other local folks and a GPS, we made our way four kilometres into the heart of the city. At this point you might be wondering about our safety. We felt totally safe and not threatened at any time. Yes, the traffic was a little wacky but we took a cautious approach walking our bikes when it seemed the right thing to do. Within a half hour we had arrived and what an amazing feeling it was. From the familiarity of an English-speaking country with all the conveniences we come to expect, into a completely different world.
Our hosts, like the majority of the people we have met in Mexico so far were friendly, very hospitable and keenly interested in our journey. We stayed only one night with them and for the next three to four days were immersed in the very busy border region as we headed south. The traffic was challenging to put it mildly but we have developed and adopted a defensive riding style that kept us safe. We stuck to the coastal roads and visited towns such as Rosarito and Ensenada. In Ensenada, we were fortunate to stay with a family, again through the Warmshowers program. They made us feel at home and even invited us to stay a second night to rest up after the hustle bustle of the border. They had a wonderful guest room with its own bathroom and they regularly host cyclists from all over the world.
South of Ensenada, the riding became far more relaxed and the roads even had shoulders at times. We rode through dry valleys and over mountain passes as we headed south. In the little town of El Rosario, we stayed another two nights as the traffic was building in the region for the Baja 1000 race. We decided to say put while the racers screamed past the town as they headed for La Paz in southern Baja in what would be a 25 hour race for some of them. It was pretty hectic even in the little town. We could hear the buggies racing into the night and it even kept us awake.
Leaving El Rosario, the riding became even more pleasant. Out on the highway, the shoulderless road was not really a problem as vision was good and drivers were courteous. If two large vehicles from either direction were going to pass near us, our routine was just to get off the road. So far, it’s going very well. We’ve also met other cyclists riding the same route. It’s a very popular ride. We travelled together with four other riders for a few days but eventually the different riding styles and time schedules separated us.
Baja is an absolutely beautiful place to ride. The stark beauty of both the desert and the ocean make this a very special bike tour. Riding through the massive field of huge boulders near Catavina was something we’ll never forget. We saw dozens of different types of cactus thriving in a harsh environment totally different than we’re used to in the Cariboo. The boulders were the size of houses and made us wonder about the incredible forces it took to place them where they were.
Clearly the Ice Age has played a role in the formation of this region. The tops of what look like ancient volcanoes are shaved flat, creating huge high level plateaus.
Out in the desert, we have both camped and stayed in hotels.
Camping in the desert is something new for us. We made sure to have enough warm clothing and bedding for the cold nights and sun blocking clothes for the sunny days.
Water is also an issue here. We’ve treated water for drinking but most of the time, we’re buying it already purified. We cook as well, but there are quite a few roadside cafes to stop at for breakfast or dinner. Our lunch is typically made on the road with food we’ve carried from the previous towns.
In the next few weeks, we’ll cross into a different timezone as we ride into Baja South or “Sur” in Spanish. Our route will take us east to the Sea of Cortez with cities like Mulege and Loreto. In this stretch, we’re hoping to slow down and enjoy the beaches and maybe meet some fellow Canadians! After one last pass through the inland of Baja, we’ll reach La Paz just before Christmas. If you would like to follow our blog, please visit www.crazyguyonabike.com/quesnelbikers2014 or if you’d like to send us an e-mail, please address it to firstname.lastname@example.org