Southern Loop (456km)

08/03/18

Getting out of La Paz on a paved road for more than 15 miles, we get hot and sweaty 20 minutes in. It’s 30°C and the road climbs gradually and slowly until we turn onto dirt. At lunchtime we munch on grapefruits, much appreciated. Once on dirt it is mainly downhill, with a few small hills in between. We have good views after a few turns. The landscape fools us as what we think is sea far away turns out to be land.

IMG_0952[1].JPGIMG_0954[1].JPGWe keep going for a bit until we find a camp quite early in an arroyo-like place by the side of the road. While Ian works on his bike, cows come to eat near us. They seem puzzled by our presence as we probably stole their “sofas” or beds on the ground. We also have a sheep and a pig passing by.

IMG_0958[1].JPGIMG_0964[1].JPGThe following morning when we get up a family of pigs is around again. Ian feeds them a couple tortillas and then they are all over our bags.

IMG_0968[1]
Cute but greedy piggys

IMG_0970[1].JPG

Back on the trail it’s hilly but compact and nice until we reach the next resupply. Time for some cold drinks.

IMG_0972[1]
The last village around where electricity cables reach

IMG_0974[1].JPGNext apart from a few hills easily climbed on our bikes it’s a lot of downhill on a really nice trail… I ride up to 40km/h downhill and actually have to be careful on the bends as I skid and almost fall once! Ian and I both think this was our favorite passage of the entire Baja Divide.

IMG_0975[1].JPG

IMG_0978[1].JPGBut then we hit sand for more than three miles and soon enough we are pushing until we get back on the paved road to San Juan de los Planes. We get some drinks again (it’s scorching hot) and some fruits and look for some water. So far we’ve always managed to get it from a purificator in a shop, from a local’s tap or just the bottled quantity we need… Unfortunately here we only have the choice between 4L bottles for 20 pesos each (not cheap by Mexican standards, and we need 8L), or a 20L tanks for 16 pesos . We end up getting a tank, refilling our bottles, drinking some more and splashing ourselves before leaving the remainder to the shop owner….

IMG_0979[1]
Cactus roots by the sandy bit

We have a short late lunch a few kilometers down the road. Then we turn back onto the dirt and it starts climbing… Nice views but a good effort. I am happy to realize that if I still do some pushing I feel quite stronger these days.

IMG_0983[1]

.IMG_0984[1].JPG

IMG_0986[1].JPGIMG_0988[1].JPGWe camp by the road, just before reaching the coast. And since we are not rationing water as much as usual given more frequent resupply options we can rinse ourselves off at the end of the day!

In the morning we cycle to the coast, a lot of short ups and downs follow as well as beautiful views. At some point we follow a track on the beach to have a swim… the water is really clear and calm and nobody around. I also look up a big boulder which seems like fun climbing… expect it’s quite exposed and friable.

IMG_0990[1]
This is the road locals drive up with their cars !

IMG_0998[1].JPGIMG_0994[1].JPGIMG_0995[1].JPGIMG_0997[1].JPGIMG_1000[1].JPGIMG_1005[1].JPG

IMG_1009[1]
Stopping for a swim

We keep going until we reach Cardonal where we get some food and have lunch. While there three street dogs come around, of which one seems quite sick and in a bad state. I give him some piece of tortillas, but as Ian says, I realize I’m only prolonging his misery… It’s hard to see aninals like that. We have seen some street dogs and even some pet dogs not looking well since Tecate, and everytime we can’t help but compare the difference in chance and treatment animals have in countries such as Mexico compared to the West. In a logical/economic point of view this makes sense as in places where it can already be hard for people to get by, then their pets or animals which would be rescued in the West don’t get as much of a chance as in a place where people can afford treatment and food for their pets or programs for street dogs. That said, it is a mentality problem too as here in Baja California animals are always considered expendable. Holidaying Americans and Canadian often rescue street dogs from Baja. Some of the emaciated pets could be fed easily by all the scraps of what average Mexicans eat: a lot of meat based and fat containing products. It’s hard for me to look at. This reinforce my desire to help out at animals sanctuaries in the next few months.

After that we ride through something completely different to what we have seen until now. Resorts and wealthy American holiday houses for miles on end. Americans and Canadians going around in quads, sand buggies or golf carts. Until we arrive in Los Barriles, where we get some food and go past the town to camp on a beach.

IMG_1011[1]
Passing a private airstrip- Most of these are not in use anymore, according to a local, because of drug smuggling problems.
IMG_1012[1]
The resorty side of Baja Sur
IMG_1017[1]
Passing some engraved sandstone. Almost desintegrating as you touch it.

IMG_1018[1].JPG

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_1028[1]
Camping on the beach

The following morning, on my birthday, we wake up on the beach and I have a swim. Ian bought me a birthday present, quality healthy peanut butter from an organic shop, which is a real treat here. Before we are all packed and ready to go (which takes a while) one American resident comes and gives us some water, and then an Canadian in his sixties invites us over for tea and coffee. We end up having a good chat with him and his wife and don’t leave before 11am. They also give us a couple oranges and offer to give us a lift to halfway between Los Barriles and Cabo Pulmo so we can dive today when the wind is not too strong, as tomorrow will be windier. We have been looking into diving in Cabo Pulmo, a day’s ride away, which is a National Park and very well know for diving but we decline as we are happy to cycle there and enjoy the coastal landscapes on the Divide. Arriving into La Ribera though, our last resupply point before Cabo Pulmo we hear from other US locals that there is a very sandy section coming…. So we decide to follow the highway to a point where it rejoins the dirt.

IMG_1031[1]
Waking up on the beach
IMG_1033[1]
Before La Ribera

After rejoining the dirt we see a sign telling us we’ve just passed the Tropic of Cancer… and not long after we are in Cabo Pulmo. We find a free camp in an abandonned RV park where a lot of overlanders and some tent campers are staying. Ideal location by the beach.

IMG_1035[1]
Riding into Cabo Pulmo
IMG_1038[1]
Crossing the Tropic of Cancer

IMG_1042[1].JPGIMG_1043[1].JPGIMG_1054[1].JPGWe have a short dip in the slightly chopped sea. Nice day for a birthday!

IMG_1047[1]
One of the birds we could directly observe from our camp- scroll down for more !

The following day we hang around, as we are in Cabo Pulmo which is well known for diving and snorkelling. Unfortunately after going around a few diving places we soon realize it is too windy for one or the other. One place is ready to take us snorkelling but they seem a bit dismissive of the forecast so we don’t trust them. Unfortunately it looks like the wind is lasting the next few days. We still decide to wait until the following morning to see if the forecast gets any better. In any case we can relax as there is food available for us which we were not expecting, even though there is not much else than diving centres in Cabo Pulmo apart from a couple restaurants.

We end up spending the day between repairs for Ian, some reading of “the 4 hour workweek” by Tim Ferris for me and enjoying our surroundings with plenty of birds and animals.

IMG_1072[1]
One of the closest shot I have of an hummingbird, nipping at a flower

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_1057[1].JPG

IMG_1058[1].JPG

IMG_1059[1].JPG

IMG_1056[1]
One of our campsite friends- a bold mouse showing up for our dinner scraps

We are surprised to be joined by Saxon (the English Bikepacker met in Ciudad and La Paz) who rode from La Paz after finishing a bikerafting trip. He is not very enthusiastic about the southern loop and plan to stay in Cabo Pulmo for a bit.

We end up camping all together, and Saxon tells me about a lot of different places to climb in the US and Canada. Not long after, I make the decision to head north towards Vancouver after we are done in La Paz.

IMG_1066[1].JPGThe following day we go back around the diving/snorkelling places. Snorkelling being quite affected by the wind as it is on the surface and both Ian and I being tempted by a dive we end up deciding to go diving with a place we didn’t see yesterday. They are at work while most others aren’t but still seem trustworthy. Unfortunately, we won’t have a great experience as we only get an instructor for both of us, and I have never scuba dived in my life while Ian has done his PADI course. This means that on the first dive I got to get supervised by the instructor while Ian sits around in the water. Getting cold and shaky quite quickly I can’t practice the skills the divemaster is asking me to do to be able to go deeper on the second dive. I give up on the second dive still being shaky after getting back on the boat. Ian gets back from his second dive still a bit disappointed as the visibility was not that good compared to other dives. On the bright side I now know what being in the water attached to a tank feel like and have seen a colorful orange and electric blue big fish as well as a big school of grey and yellow fishes.

After that we spend the evening with Saxon again before heading out the following day.

Happy to be back on the bike, the beginning see us riding on compact flowing dirt before a few miles in we turn into a very sandy track climbing slowly for four miles. After a short lunch and lots of bike dragging in the sand we arrive on a more nicer and compact trail, but still climbing. By that time it’s been really hot for a while and prevailing winds are against us which really tires me out quickly after a succession of steep uphills-low gradient climbings-steep descents where we loose what we have just climbed-and again and again.

IMG_1084[1].JPGIMG_1085[1].JPGIMG_1086[1].JPGWe are also both low on water as we have been a bit overoptimistic on the quantity we needed, which means we don’t drink enough to save some for cooking and the following morning. I end up pushing a lot. While we were hoping to make it to a resupply village, Palo Escopeta, 30 miles from start, 20 miles in we stop for camp just before dark, and at the first flat place we find since the climb started, behind a small graveyard.

IMG_1096[1].JPGIMG_1104[1].JPGIMG_1106[1].JPGAfter a windy night involving a mosquito raid we manage to get back on the road early before it’s really scorching hot and after a tiny bit more of some endless climbing we start descending, not without some short steep uphills thrown in between for good measure, in typical Baja Divide fashion. Of course, this leads to some more pushing for me. Ten miles in we arrive at Palo Escopeta (meaning “stick shotgun” according to the translator) and grab some snacks and sodas. After that the route is flater for the last few miles.

IMG_1109[1].JPGIMG_1114[1].JPGIMG_1116[1].JPG

IMG_1117[1]
Into San Jose

We arrive back on the road north of San Jose del Cabo, near the busy airport, and then go into town looking for a cheap hotel to stay there for a day. We don’t enjoy the city much, as it’s very touristy, pricey and we don’t find much to see. Loads of American resorts, golf courses, malls. In the town square strangely one small pharmacy is next to another. They all advertise the same 10-15 classic drugs including Solis and Viagra. Those drugs are all they have, displayed separately on shelves above their name in huge capital font. We end up eating a lot, finding some very welcomed tahini in a mall (not seen since the US), finding a couple of stuff and getting lazy while checking the internet.

Back on the road we turn back on the dirt. After some steep pushing we arrive on what looks like a cow trail. A lot of sand and pushing under some rain and headwind follows, until we turn onto another track, more compact and bringing us into the mountains with a reasonable gradient. The landscape is quite tropical. The trail is climbing but flowing nicely until we stop for a camp. Winds and rain disappear.

IMG_1120[1].JPGIMG_1121[1].JPGIMG_1124[2]IMG_1127[1].JPGThe following day we have a few miles of slow climb before we reach a pass. Then it’s a really nice descent.

IMG_1131[1].JPG

IMG_1138[1].JPGOn a bend with a really nice view on the sea we see a fire ring by the road. Ian realize it’s probably one of the latest camp spot of a vegan couple of bikepackers we have been following on Instagram. We keep going and after passing out some water crossings the descent kinds of flatten out but really is more of a steep uphill/steep downhill succession which tires me quickly again.

IMG_1141[1].JPG

IMG_1144[1].JPGIMG_1146[1].JPG

We have lunch before carrying on for a bit, it get flater still and we are close to town but it’s quite late so we decide to camp and then have a small fire. We find a beautiful spot and both realize we are going to miss those camps a lot after we are done with the Divide. We think the Southern Loop is a bit of a “victory lap” for us as we were both quite checked out after making it to La Paz. It is fairly similar to the rest of the Baja Divide in terms of terrain but sections are shorter with more resupply options, which make our life easier. Expect when we underestimated how much water we needed we were more relaxed. This also meant that we were passing settlements, towns and cities much more often which was quite a change from the rest of the Divide, less remote and more on the tourist trail. Due to the fact that we had quite a bit of time to kill before our flights north (more on that next post), we stopped quite a few times and for longer than we had previously.

IMG_1148[1].JPG

IMG_1152[1].JPG

IMG_1153[1].JPG

IMG_1155[1]
Ian blowing his Thermarest- sunset included

IMG_1163[1].JPG

IMG_1164[1].JPG The following morning we have a fairly smooth ride into town and find a RV park to stay there for a couple weeks, to kill a bit of time before we go back to La Paz. While checking out the newly open bike shop in Todos Santos for bits and bobs we actually run into Carrie and John (the vegan couple) !

IMG_1166[1]
An everyday scene on the last miles (on paved road) into Todos Santos- driving a tree out of town

We think the Southern Loop is a bit of a “victory lap” for us as we were both quite checked out after making it to La Paz. It is fairly similar to the rest of the Baja Divide in terms of terrain but sections are shorter with more resupply options, which make our life easier. Expect that time we underestimated how much water we needed we were more relaxed. This also meant that we were passing settlements, towns and cities much more often which was quite a change from the rest of the Divide, less remote and more on the tourist trail. Due to the fact that we had quite a bit of time to kill before our flights north (more on that next post), we stopped quite a few times and for longer than we had previously.

While in Todos Santos, we are lucky to see turtles and whales from a distance as well as enjoy the beautiful town. Lots of American and Canadians here as well.

IMG_1169[1]
Woodpecker in the RV Park

IMG_1171[1].JPG

IMG_1174[1].JPG

IMG_1176[1].JPG

IMG_1187[1]
Pineapple farm in front of a resort
IMG_1188[1]
Watch out for baby pineapples.

IMG_1197[1].JPG

While here I also make the most stupid mistake I have ever done in my glasses-wearing life, ahead of what I thought was already a bad one: leaving my glasses too close from a Krav Maga mat to practice without the fear of breaking them (…of course they got broken). No, this time, I have actually bet all records: going in the rough sea with my glasses. I held on to them the first wave, but turning around to grab Ian’s arm the second (I am not a super confident swimmer) my glasses got washed out in the sea.

It turns out making new ones there cost about 2200 pesos (88£, so roughly the same price than home), and I have to wait one week for them. I had been told making new glasses in Mexico was really easy and fast by the French Canadians tourers met back in San Ignacio. They said they had done them in one afternoon in another town (possibly in mainland Mexico). From my experience, if you are quite badly short-sighted (-6.25, -3.75 in my case) it’s about the same waiting time and cost than in the UK. I was lucky there was a good optician in Todos Santos, who actually have better prices and waiting times than most in the neighbour resort of San Lucas Del Cabo from what I have seen.

Back on the Baja Divide’s last section we are on again for a lot of effort after two weeks off the bike, under relentless heat.

IMG_1199[1].JPGIMG_1201[1].JPGIMG_1205[1].JPG

After a lot of pushing in the afternoon we pass a few shallow rivers crossings/oases and cool off wetting our clothes.

IMG_1207[1].JPG

IMG_1211[1].JPG

IMG_1215[1].JPG

IMG_1220[1]
A delicate butterfly on the trail

After a 25 miles day we find a secluded camp in an arroyo. The following day is a smoother ride to the same spot we camped at the beginning of the Southern Loop, near Los Divisaderos, amongst the cows and the pigs. We are closing the loop.

IMG_1230[1]
Blooming cactus flowers on our way

The following morning after an ondulating downhill to the same turn we have taken to get on the dirt from La Paz, it’s all freewheeling for more than 15km on paved road to the city.

IMG_1235[1].JPG

We are officially done with the Baja Divide !

One thought on “Southern Loop (456km)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s