Mulege to La Paz (634 kilometers)

08/02/2018

Before leaving Mulege we looked for a local fisherman who could take us accross the bay on his boat. The next section of the Divide, the most remote side of Bahía Conception, is only reachable this way. After some asking around and bargaining with locals, we end up finding a tour boat/fishing guide on the indications of an American tourist (himself found in a bar). On our departure day, waiting for Alejandro at the boat launch we have some time to admire the pelicans and other birds there…

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Pelicans in flight
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It´s a jungle out there
Once on Alejandro’s boat, it´s a little bit rocky on the sea but nothing too bad, though we have to hold our bikes to prevent them from banging against the boat. Talking with Alejandro, it turns out he is one of Yolanda´s (our Warmshower host) brothers.

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On board. Yes, we all look a bit funny, courtesy of the glaring sun and mist.

A desert island awaits !

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Stranded: Ian uses the last bit of network available before disappearing from civilization.
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A one or two miles hike-a-bike to the beginning of the tracks, on the beach, too. After which we have a swim before cycling a few kilometers on the trail going inland, and then settling for a campsite with a view.

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IMG_0616[1].JPGThe morning after a late start the beginning of the track is quite sandy and its sometimes more a hike a bike than riding, before getting firmer again passing salty marshes. I get a puncture, then the replacement inner tube Ian puts in loose pressure again not long after so we have to change it again. We have really nice views and ride next to the water almost all the time though.

IMG_0618[1].JPGA bit after lunch the track, passing salty marshes, becomes a bit firmer again and we start getting a bit faster. It is quite hot though and just before we leave the coastline at the end of the day we go for a really nice swim. Refreshed, we keep going until we are a bit inland, where we camp.

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Salty tracks
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The bay we have a swim in
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Last view of Bahía Conception
The following morning, waking up my rear tyre is flat again… Slightly taunted by Ian who declare that on my own, I would be screwed with a puncture (He has been the one fixing them so far as it requires quite a display of strength with those rims- but also some patience from him watching me trying for some time !), and wanting to practice, I attempt to fix it. Once I have managed getting the tyre out the rim, and swapped the punctured tube for a new one I predictably struggle putting the tyre back in the rim with the levers… Ian looks at me going “Don’t snakebite it! Don’t snakebite it!”. Of course I do. Then Ian uses an other patched tube and we start going… until my rear tyre is flat again a few hundred meters later. Ian deals with it from start to finish this time and we are back on the road.

The dirt is fairly flowing and compact so we make some ground until, after a tiny uphill and a nice descent on the other side, we arrive near San Sebastian, looking at the sea again from the other side of the small peninsula. There we see a few goats in a palm grove, before Ian tells me he thinks we are going to have to climb out of the small valley we just descended in. And obviously just after a turn and a few dozen meters there is a big uphill on rocky and soft ground so it’s all pushing… then downhill, then we have to push to the same elevation again on the same type of terrain…

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Palm grove in San Sebastian
The ground is more compact and it get better after that but overall a lot of quick ups and downs following one another, which means a fair bit of pushing for me. It’s been two weeks and a half we haven’t been on a hilly trail ! Luckily the views are great so it’s not too hard, but I’m getting tired and hungry. We make it to San Nicholas for a late lunch where we can get some food, not much choice though so we end up having an unlikely lunch composed of a small bag of crisps and a lot of canned fruit.

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Views from the other coastline
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San Nicholas: same vegetation, different animals
After that the gravel road is better while still alternating ups and downs. I’m getting trashed and by 5pm, about 3 kilometers from the next resupply point, El Rosarito, we camp.

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Arriving at our spot for the night: this is what you look like when you cannot make sense of what your exhausted riding partner is saying!
The following morning we get up and cycle to El Rosarito where we have  breakfast/brunch. We order each a plate of beans and fries and ask for 10 tortillas with it, and the waiter looks at us, dumbfounded. We each ask for another plate again afterwards, to his amazement.

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Palapas-style truck-stop/restaurant in El Rosarito
Afterwards, we head out on the gravel road to San Isidro. It’s all gravel and soft ground and bumps and going generally uphill. Being still a bit tired from the previous day I’m not too happy for the first 10 kilometers. Then we arrive near a strangely shaped mountain and the road gets more interesting. Some rocky passages but it is more varied. Most is rideable and fun rocky ground, some compact sections are present, and then some downhill and uphill. The scenery is nice too, unfortunately I did not take pictures. At some point I get my toilet paper out of one of my panniers -soaked- ! My Ortlieb water bag filled this morning has leaked everywhere in there. Luckily, my passport and important paperwork is stashed in a waterproof bag and is fine. Not my Spanish book though, or my stove which has taken the water. For the last few miles before camp Ian carry my stove on his handlebar to dry it out. After we arrive at camp he has to fiddle with it to make it work. We camp next to the road but surprisingly no car passes during the night.

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Some interesting riding to come…
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Tucked by the road
IMG_0661[1].JPGThe following morning we ride a series of short hills and a flat bit before reaching San Isidro. It’s, again, a nice ride given the landscape. Dropping into San Isidro to resupply on food it’s really beautiful. We get bananas and fresh tortillas for lunch which we are really happy about after days of rice, beans and tortillas with jam. San Isidro seems quite developped given its size, with a stadium and some paved roads. We pass quite a few fields too. A farmer starts talking to us and when we ask him for dates, he sells us a kilo for twenty pesos and gives us a few guayavas each too!

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A truck, improving the road to San Isidro just for us !
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Canyons view before San Isidro
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Road through the fields in San Isidro
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Having lunch by a canal

After San Isidro it is mainly climbing. The start is steep just after lunch and so I push for a bit. It gets a bit easier afterwards but I’m quite tired and we only ride about 7 miles from the turn off to San Isidro until we camp, but not before a few beautiful vistas again.

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The following day, as the resupply sheet promises a “awesome descent into San Jose de Comondu”, we have high expectations and we think we are almost done with climbing. There is actually a lot of rocky stuff to push the bike up and then it’s a mix of rocks, flatish, winds, rocks, small gradient, winds, etc. The vultures are having a hard time flying… We keep up a slow bumpy pace until we are one mile from San Jose… then it is frankly downhill and a bit less rocky. Although it can be gruelling riding on dirt we actually never climb to more than 600 meters above sea level. San Jose is at 300 meters altitude. Arriving there around 1pm we hope to refill on water and food and start climbing again just after. Both stores in town are closed though. Asking an old lady, she tell us one opens at 4pm… Time to rest for our own siesta too. Since we have crossed into Baja California Sur we came accross quite a few places closed from 1-4pm or 2-4pm but had not been impaired by it until now. Nonetheless, its a good time to relax and spray ourselves with some cold water from a hose in the town square…

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The real descent into San Jose !
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San Jose de Comondu Mission
When the little shop opens, there is not much for us. No tortillas or beans, our usual staples. We still get rice, some lentils Ian’ll soak to reduce cooking time, and some corn with which dates and tomato salsa will make our lunch… Instead of tortillas for breakfast (we have been using them since we have not been able to find porridge anymore) we´ll have rice pudding. At the entrance of the store we also meet a couple of bikepackers in their 40s or 50s, who don’t look like they have cooking equipment and they start asking around locals for a cooked meal and somewhere to camp. They are ultralight and do a lot of distance in a day, as usual. We calculate from what they tell us that they covered twice as much ground as we did in average days ! They have another GPS than ours, showing a full elevation profile of what is next… more hills to come.

After resupplying we don’t have much time left before dark to find a campsite, and given the village is small we decide to risk pushing on a few kilometers to find a campsite even if the road climbs straight back up. We are lucky and find a flat camp relatively close to the road but well hidden after a few kilometers.

Next day we continue uphill for a bit. Then it’s downhill into the canyon. And just after it’s pushing the bikes up a steep long climb back up. On the last two switchbacks it’s so steep both Ian and me push my bike. We have lunch. 17 miles to go. The climb levels outs before going a bit down. Then it’s up again but slowly. I’m quite trashed by this stage and even if it is not too steep at this point my calves are done in so I walk my bike…Ian is far ahead, until, his bike parked by a tree, he comes back running downhill to meet me and ride my bike back uphill as I walk there… I feel a bit guilty of cheating on the trail but I’m quite tired and his smile from ear to ear while riding a bike too small for him is worth seeing. His cassette has been skipping cogs for a couple of days now so he hasn’t been able to climb steep hills in the gear he likes. We go downhill, Ian ahead again, and as I catch up with him at the end of the descent I find him bathing barechested in a river, happily getting a rinse since we haven’t had a shower in days.

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First downhill of the day… Not for long ! The gruelling bit just after is not in my pictures
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Just after the crazy push, before lunch.
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Welcomed river
We then reach a paved gravelly road, meaning a tar-mixed-with-gravel-road, and so ride the four remaining miles to San Javier quickly. Arriving there we hope to negociate for rice and beans at one of the two restaurants in town but one is closed and the owner of the other just put a Cerrado sign on it as she sees us arrive. We manage to find some food in a small tiendita though, and go camping in a dry river bed near the village after that. While we have been baking in the sun all day and it is fairly warm as we eat dinner we’ll have a cold night.

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Arriving in San Javier de Borga
The following morning we manage to get some food at the restaurant for breakfast and as we get ready to leave a pack of American tourists visiting the Mission groups around us. Where have we been? Where are we going? How long? How many kilometers? Wow! That’s amazing ! We are even asked if we need money, which we politely refuse. And then some people starts taking pictures of us. It looks like we were the second attraction in San Javier just after the Mission that morning!

We get back on the road and it is flater but quite bumpy still. After twenty miles I’m looking forward to camp as we have passed quite a few shallow river crossings which, each time, made me want to go swimming or camping near the water. We end up near a small river which looks really nice, however once in it, it is a bit dirty as the bottom lime and slime gets disturbed… we still both get a swim.

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Getting watery
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…Another river crossing
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View of the valley
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Strange effect from mountains juxtaposition
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Our quiet camp- private access to the river from the back
As Ian is preparing a place for himself to cook he unturns a stone under which a scorpio is hidding. I’m quite happy to see one for the first time in my life and thought they would be much bigger. Obviously, it varies according to the species, but this one is probably less than a thumbs length.

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Disturbed scorpio.
IMG_0745[1].JPGThe following day we hope to make it to Ley Federal #1, a resupply village 35 miles away. From the GPS data we are thinking we will ride through a mainly downhill/flat terrain which would be perfect to make ground. Unfortunately, while going mainly flat and downhill the route keeps going through small up and downs. Given it is mainly soft ground with sandy and rocky bits as well as passing quite a few river crossings it is slow going. A couple of hours after start I am a bit checked out. It’s now the 8th day we are out of Mulege and it has now been quite a few days on irregular terrain with similar landscapes which is a bit discouraging for me. We end up doing 22 miles instead of the 35 planned.

I’m happy to see this little frog though, and see a strange grey animal with a fluffy tail disappearing in the bushes as I approach. It could have been a racoon or a skunk (which can both be found in Baja Sur ) but I am not 100% sure as the encounter was very brief.

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The following day luckily we make up for time. After 13 still-quite-sandy miles we get to Ley Federal and have some lunch before a short stretch on the MEX1. Going back on the trail it’s really hot but after a bit we pass through citrus groves. A car of workers stop by us and gives us a few oranges.

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Just before Ley Federal
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Citrus groves
Arriving on the outskirts of Ciudad Constitution, we pass a big cemetery which is quite strange. Although it doesn’t look like a funeral is on, on two opposites ends mariachi mexican music is blaring out from speakers, while some cars drive in the middle of the cemetary in between the graves. Huge mausoleums of all colors (mini white castles, pink, blue, orange and greens little houses) are more numerous than crosses or usual tombs.

After a couple miles we are in the centre, and find a cheap motel to rest for a couple days after nine days on the dirt without a break and phone coverage! We end up staying three days. The last morning as we are going to the internet cafe we meet a couple of Dutch bikepackers in their fifties and a Englishman who has travelled all over, also on the Divide.

Leaving town we resupply for another predictably long stretch of the Divide. Entering a water purification shop, it turns out the owner loves cyclists, and gives us the water for free as well as some new plastic bottles (unfortunately, we have had to carry some spares who got, very, very dirty…).

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A common scene, but not often pictured, of us on the Divide: Reattaching bottles just filled at a purification station when we pass a town
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The purification shop owner, Filomeno, and us. Another kind person who helped us and probably other cyclists on the Divide.
We make ground fairly quickly and the trail condition is good. The landscape is nothing new and won’t change much, but it is nice riding….It’s really hot though, and we both feel our troats are very dry even though we keep drinking -warm to hot water, that is-. After 30 miles we arrive in another village with a Mission. A few houses but no shop or water for resupply. We keep going and set camp about 2 miles after .

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Still being really warm in the evening I only pitch the inner tent then, but during the night it start raining and we have to get up to put the fly up. The following morning after the rain has stopped the tent dries unusually quickly. Impressive how the air is still dry and hot after the rain!

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Drying tent
The sky is covered and grey all day, but still the air is fairly heavy. The route is still good though, and after a few small hills we have lunch in a spot with a nice view. Just before we pass a few houses, including one where we are stopped. They are celebrating the 100th birthday of one of the women. Kids coming around us are nice and curious about our bikes and adults ask about our trip. We are invited in for food but politely refuse, knowing that goat stew is on the table. We feel a bit disappointed to miss out on an occasion to meet and exchange with the locals but neither Ian or I would actually enjoy seating around at a table where we are expected to eat meat. They tell us that last night they had cyclists around eating and sleeping- the Dutch couple as well as maybe some others !

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View from our lunch spot
IMG_0775[1]In the afternoon while the route is compact and rideable and the hills are small ones I get really tired after 20 miles in the day. We push on 6 more miles and camp. Lots of stretching follows. I probably didn’t drink enough during the day.

The following day see us through quite a lot of climbing but with some really nice views… it is still a difficult day for me as my ass feel sore as soon as I get on the saddle. Ian is a bit acky as well. After all the beautiful views and just before we have lunch we think about getting resupply in a little town marked a bit off route of the trail…we start following a broken rocky road from a turn in the settlement we are going through but decide to turn back as we actually have enough food until the next resupply on route. Then we have lunch before going back on the easier fast flowing dirt road- only to come accross a home where a local, Noberto, gives us water and directions. We then realize we were supposed to actually take the turn on the broken road anyway. We keep following the broken road for a few miles until we decide to camp, halfway between Soledad and Evaristo, in a cattle resting place with babies scorpios under some rocks we move…

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Las Animas church
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Canyon vistas
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Sunset over a pass to come, from our camp
The following day, a few kilometers after start, I catch up to Ian dancing frenetically on top of a hill. We are on top of the descent we have been looking forward too. We are not going to make up some time as we thought, as the descent is very steep and with a lot of rocks so we are slamming on the brakes.

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San Evaristo “Mini super”. Closed on a Saturday.
After the San Evaristo jumble we keep going on some harder flat ground for a bit, have lunch, and then more hills. A lot of very steep pushing and some astonishing views follow.

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The landscape has gone crazy…
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IMG_0853[1].JPGIMG_0855[1].JPGAfter a long time aiming for Punta Coyote I get a puncture on my front tyre as the sun gets low. It will be a really hard job for Ian who pinches three tubes while trying to get back the tyre on the rim… So at some point I wander off the road to look for a camp as I think we are done for the day. Not for Ian. He ends up getting the tyre back fine, declare we are back on the road, and we end up in a settlement in the dark. We ask a local, Hector, about the grocery store who tell us…that the Tienda owners are in La Paz for the weekend. However he bring us to one of his neighbour who has cold drinks, always appreciated after four days without one. We camp by the hamlet’s church. Parking my bike, my front tyre is flat again. We are by the beach but access to the water is via a fishing place where there is litter around, so no morning swim.

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IMG_0872[1].JPGIan fixs my puncture easy enough when we get up. The morning light reveals the beautiful cliffs all around our camp.

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Hector gives us some water and we get going. Some small hills await us but it is fairly fast flowing. We pass a prawn farm in the middle of the desert and canyons.

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Near the prawn farm
This incredible landscape we are riding through, and the severe food rationing we are experiencing since San Evaristo make me somehow compare the colored canyons to vegan layered sponge cakes/strawberry tiramisu or blueberry/matcha ice cream and lemon/chocolate sorbet. I’m hungry.

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The road gets flater, we pass a huge mine and then it’s time to resupply in San Juan de la Costa! Thanks god, they are open and have a decent amount of food.

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Passing the mine
IMG_0906[1].JPGAfter resupply we get tired and stop five miles after we are back on pavement, on a beach. We have a great camp there, observing beautiful views of the sunset and some bats coming out at dusk.

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It’s time for some city time, though ! In La Paz, the most inhabited place we have been in months (250000 inhabitants) we’ll end up staying four days in an hotel where there are a lot of backpackers and a few cyclists passing through. This leave us time to sort out some gear, visit a Warmshowers host we have sent mail at ahead and exchange with a few travellers. Also I start to look up for some information for onwards planning and Saxon, the British bikepacker met in Ciudad Constitution and staying in the same hotel than us gives me some heads up for climbing destinations.

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Courtyard in the hotel in La Paz, with his resident cat well alert.

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