Leaving Bahia after a camp in a bush near the town (closer than the previous camp) we get resupplies in town for a four days ride again as we are not sure what to expect ahead in terms of road conditions and we might pass some resupply points on the first of January when everything is closed. In front of the supermarket we meet Lupita, Gabino’s wife (Our San Quintin Warmshowers host)! She is doing a three days walk from coast to coast, from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Cortez, with some friends.
Leaving around midday, riding out of town is not really enjoyable for me. Really hot and sunny. The road is O.K. but quite bumpy, and we are carrying too much on our bikes again. I feel every vibration in my body as the bike is bouncing around like a tank. We camp after about 30 kilometers on the trail. The spot is really nice- beautiful views of the moon and a fallen cactus skeleton on which we lay our bikes.
The following morning we wake up to a puncture on my rear tyre again- pushing the bike in a thorny area most likely did it. While we have breakfast near a tree a hummingbird come very close to us. They are really cute birds ! I have the time to see closely his red neck and his eyes before he go humming elsewhere.
Back on the road the trail gets a bit better than yesterday and we pass through yellow open desert.
After lunch we come accross a big jeep towing a pick-up trailer itself carrying a motorbike on its bed (more on that later).
Rejoining the coast in the afternoon we end up in San Rafael, which according to our resupply sheet is a hamlet in a bay with only one habitant, Pancho.
When we get to San Rafael there are a few shacks, a few people camping around, and Pancho. He tell us he‘s sixty-eight and has been living there for thirty-two years. He is quite merry, too, and it‘s even harder than usual to understand him speaking in spanish. After talking with him and another camper with his jeep, Pedro, we end up setting camp there too. A strange and beautiful place to spend New Year‘s Eve, even though we’ll rest in preparation of next day‘s ride.
Pedro tell us that two motorbikers whose bike broke down several times in the area stayed there before we arrived. Pedro drove them to Bahia de Los Angeles to get some help (a pick-up) to come back to take the broken bike to Bahia for repairs. It ends up the pick-up truck broke down just after leaving San Rafael. Not hearing from the pick-up truck owner (he hadn‘t come back after dark) his family came in the jeep. That’s how they all ended up on the road where we saw them earlier!
We also hear that apparently Pancho is going to be featured in a movie-documentary taking place in Baja California. From my online researches, it seems to be that one, still being produced. As it treats of the biodiversity there, we’ll definitely check it out when it’s released.
Anyway, we end up getting a picture with Pancho and he graciously gives us some water for the road ahead to Rancho Escondido.
Leaving that day, I am originally quite ambitious and think if we do 35 miles+ we’ll manage to reach Rancho Escondido and then go on for about 10 miles or more on the route to the next gps waypoint, another ranch, before dark. This would allow us to make it in four to four and a half day total from BOLA to Vizcaino, which is O.K. given our food supply (we took four days). The track is not in a great condition though with soft sandy patches and a lot of loose rocks overall. Hard to ride at any decent pace in those conditions and it’s quite hot too. It’s a tense day between Ian and I too. I am quite tired and would have done with some more rest days before this section, and Ian feels he has to push me on.
After some riding, stopping by the side of the road to climb in a blocked caterpillar, (which is great fun!), some more riding, and quite a lot of pushing from me, as usual, we arrive at the rancho just as it gets dark… we get water just before finishing the day, camping by a road junction near to several ranches.
After getting ready the following morning a fair bit of sand is awaiting us at the start. We progress slowly on a fairly hard road but with lots of bumps and sand in the next few hours. Some more pushing for me, even if it’s rideable. Sometimes riding at a really slow pace is more discouraging for me than pushing my bicycle. After a while we arrive at the bottom of a few switchbacks on tarmac. Just after it is dirt again but nicer, and fast flowing for about 2 miles. We pass a friendly family stopped next to their cars there and have a good chat given our spanish language abilities.
Not long after we are pushing/riding in deep patches of sand before it becomes easier again but still slow…time to have lunch. It starts going downhill which helps. A few more kilometers and we are in Rancho Piedra Blanca getting cold drinks and water… a cute but sad puppy is there, waiting in a pick-up bed on his own. He gets super excited when we start playing with him but seems startled by my smelly armpits! Back on the road it really improves and we start to fly on it… such a drastic change after so much struggling those past few days.
We end up camping midway between the ranch and El Arco after 4 days on the road. Loads of cactuses around…
The following day we make the 14 kilometers to El Arco fairly quickly as the dirt is similarly fast flowing. El Arco is a ghost town where we fill up on water and have tea and coffee in a worker‘s cafe. We are out of food but there are no stores there. Having crossed into the state of Baja California SUR (from Baja Norte) the time gets one hour ahead. Lots of abandonned houses are in a state of destruction or half construction but the church and a building which looks like a school are still standing, almost unshattered.
We are planning to skip the deep sandy (according to our sheet) section of the Baja Divide from there to Vizcaino and to take the alternative, a graded dirt route from El Arco to the Mex1, and then the Mex1 up to Vizcaino. We are unsure about distances so far and haven‘t been able to evaluate precisely how many kilometers we’ll have to ride from El Arco to Vizcaino on the alternative route. When we ask the woman in charge of the worker‘s cafe she tell us it‘s 55km to Vizcaino… not bad given from the vague map of the peninsula we have I estimated the total distance from our camp (14 kilometers before El Arco) to Vizcaino to be about 85-88km. A few kilometers out of town we understand when we see the itinerary we are following coming up on Maps.me, an offline navigation app we sometimes use to have a better idea of what roads and trails the Divide leads us on, that we actually have 86 kilometers to go on top of the 14 we have already done!
We really hope we can make it before dark. And so we first go on doing 36 kilometers of graded dirt /gravel road. It is fast riding still and we are doing about 15km/h. The last 10 kilometers are really hard on me though. I have to really power up not to get off and walk the bike for a bit. My calves and all leg muscles are getting tired and headwinds are setting in. The road seem endless until we end up reaching MEX 1 .
After that, we still have 30 miles to go to Vizcaino on the MEX1. So far all our shorts jaunts on the MEX1 (including the long descent into Bahia de Los Angeles) have been fine traffic wise. However, this part is going to be more challenging.
Because there is no shoulder I get used to riding very close of the slanted white line on the side. After stopping at a small window shop when we can get cold drinks and some chips (we haven’t had lunch and have been powering on a few tortillas eaten for breakfast so far) we start getting a bit scared on the road. Cars sometimes cut right in front of us on the single carriage road with two lanes. Some cars honk at me and that´s not super soothing even though some mexicans just randomly honk for no reason other than saying hello. Some cars coming from the other direction sometimes also end up in the middle of the road.
But scariest of all is when two cars coming at us from the other direction overtaking each other take both fairly narrow lanes on the road while we are just in front of them. Meaning: they take all the space and we just have to jump off the road not to get hit!
After surviving 40 kilometers+ on the MEX1 we make it to Vizcaino!!! Today has been a 103 kilometers day… Time for a shower and some rest.
While in Vizcaino, I finally take some pictures of what we have seen frequently in some towns we have passed so far: Mexicans cars looking very much like Americans (or repurposed American cars, in many cases, I think), and walls being used for advertising local businesses and… politicians. In some places even walls of abandonned or half-built houses are used.
We spend a days rest in Vizcaino before carrying on to San Ignacio.
We are meant to follow the Divide again off-road for about 80 miles but 10 km after turning back on the dirt following 25km on the MEX1 we get lost, find the trail again only to encounter deep sand under scorching sun and the scenery is not really interesting compared to what we have seen until now. We decide to turn back on the MEX1 and take the road to San Ignacio. We camp before San Ignacio in a place surrrounded by all kind of thorny plants. A recent discovery, those little spiky balls sticking to everything, and especially to Ian’s shoes. In France we have “bardanes” (or burdock in english), but those seem on another level of size and stickyness.
The following morning, waking up to and fixing another rear tyre flat for me, 20 kilometers to San Ignacio with a slowly deflating rear tyre again (Thanks thorny camp for another slow puncture !) are waiting for us. After a short ride in headwinds and passing a military checkpoint, we are in San Ignacio for some longer and well-deserved rest !