3 days of biking south in Mexico and we ended up in Chetumal. Most of Christmas Day was spent catching a boat to the island of San Pedro, Belize.
For the holiday season Jeff and I went where it is warm. These pictures are from 2 days at the condo of his awesome aunt Carol in Akumal, and one day of biking south where we stopped at the Mayan ruins in Tulum.
For our last full day in Mexico we left the bikes in the hotel room and spent 12 pesos on catching the bus to Cabo San Lucas. We ended up going to Pelican Beach to try to snorkel. The water was just cold enough to make it tolerable for a little while. Definitely a tourist mecca.
The next day we put our packed bikes in a taxi, had a lovely ride to the airport, and I spent my last hours in Mexico reading in the airport. The plane flight over to LA was wicked awesome.
The next day we did about 10 M’s to catch a ride with the owner of the RV park who was driving to Cabo San Lucas, about 100 miles down the road. We were skipping a hot 60 mile ride on the main highway. Our planes were leaving in 2 days from San Jose Del Cabo, so we decided to get a hotel room there.
San Jose Del Cabo is about 20 miles from Cabo San Lucas and completely devoid of the nightlife that constitutes part of the fame of its sister city. There is a bus that runs between the two cities and costs about a dollar (American).
The dirt road snaked around hills by the ocean. The scenery was amazing. The road was challenging.
The dirt was replaced with sand. When the sand was relatively hard it was manageable, but bike tires do not ride well through soft sand.
Eventually we had the opportunity to leave the sand and get back on pavement. The paved road may have been the hilliest road I have ever seen (I am not exaggerating). You would finish a hill and think “damn that was hard” and then there would be another, larger one. Repeat this about half a dozen times. We all ran out of water.
It was another tough day of biking, and incidentally ended up being our last full day on the road. The riding from La Paz had taken its toll on our desire to bike. We thought we could do the last 60 miles to Los Cabos on a paved road along the beach, but we learned the road was only paved for 10 miles. Spending our last days of the trip biking on 50 miles of who-knows-what kind of conditions was unexciting, to say the least. The idea of relaxing by the beach was rapidly gaining appeal.
Leaving La Paz was rough. Lots of stores were closed because of the holiday and finding food in the morning was challenging. Also, we ended up biking about 9 miles in a completely wrong direction, and so we started the day with 20 M’s before we went anywhere.
We also decided to not take Highway 1 out of La Paz. We thought a side road would have less traffic (which it did) and take us closer to the beach (which it did). What followed was possibly the 2 hardest days of biking I have ever done in my life.
Taking the 286 out of La Paz starts with a 15 mile up-hill (maybe 20?). Due to our misstep in the morning we did that in the hottest part of the day.
The giant uphill was followed by a downhill of about the same distance, most of which was on a single straight-away. It was wild to be coasting in the same direction at over 30 mph for half an hour. It was glorious.
Our route abandoned the paved road (which ends) and crossed some mountains on a dirt road. We did this in the late evening. It was rugged. By the time we were camping I remember any sort of movement was a serious challenge.
Loreto was the sight of some of our less-good decisions of the trip. An unfortunate encounter with some local hooligans left us a bit demoralized. We were running out of time on the trip and decided getting a ride to La Paz, about 200 miles to the south. The biking between Loreto and La Paz was mostly a long and straight bit of highway through the desert. No one was too worried about skipping it.
We spent several hours by the highway 10 miles outside of Loreto in the late afternoon trying to hitchhike. Finding a ride for 3 gringos and their bikes so late in the day turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. We ended up biking back into town and catching one of the fabulous baja buses late in the evening.
The bus ride was probably my favorite ride ever. The road was passing us by as we lounged comfortably and without worry. It was one of the only times in my life I didn’t want the journey to a destination to end.
We arrived in La Paz around midnight that night. Exhausted, we managed to find a cheap hotel downtown.
The next day was New Years Eve and for the first time all trip we would be staying in the same place on 2 consecutive nights. Jeff and I did a 30 mile day ride. It was great to bike without the weight of our bags.
New Years in La Paz ended up being a bit of a let down. There was a stage setup on the waterfront, but the only ‘music’ we saw were cheesy guys with too much makeup lip synching. It was awful. The event seemed to consist of people that didn’t know how to have a good time. Probably me just being judgmental. I felt the Mexican government was to blame for this crappy celebration.
A brief morning walk to secure breakfast and baked goods from a big-deal bakery and we were back on the road. Outside of town we stopped to talk to the first bike tourers we’d seen, 2 girls from Switzerland who had spent the last 2 years biking from Patagonia.
The road was going south again so our tailwind returned. We were cruising near the gulf in the warm sunshine.
We stopped briefly in Mulege (muy popular con los gringos). It was a quaint little town with lots of huge palm trees and the only riverish sort of thing we saw in the baja.
The evening consisted of rolling hills right along the gulf and some of the most spectacular scenery we would see all tour. We ended up staying on the beach at a little spot called Buenaventura, owned by a man from Madison, Wisconsin and his mexican wife. They had eventually married at the cost of 150 pesos to appease the Mexican government so they would allow him to stay in the country.
A chilly morning led to a hot day. The wind was either a head-wind or a cross-wind, as the road going due east. We biked 30 miles to San Ignacio and stopped for lunch at a tiny place with a lovely covered porch owned by a lady with a fondness for frogs.
James was having some knee issues and this was the second day of me riding on a rim that I felt was going to collapse. It was hot and everyone was feeling a bit worn out. We decided to take a bus to the coast town of Santa Rosalia, about 40 miles down the road.
An extremely disinterested younger bus station worker cast doubt as to whether our bikes would be a problem or not. As we were outside waiting a postal employee who spoke decent English sparked a conversation with us and offered to shove our bikes into the back of his postal truck and take us there.
The cab of the truck held 3 people and I offered to ride in the back with the bikes. There was a sliding door that stayed open and I spent an hour taking pictures, listening to music, and watching the desert drift by, happy to be done for the day.
At Santa Rosalia he dropped us off at the bike shop, which incidentally overlooked the ocean. Jeff and James scouted the local deets while I waited for the store to reopen. Eventually the helpful owner of the modest store found me a replacement wheel from a mountain bike in the back, trued the wheel, and changed the cassette, tube, and the tire. For all of that for I was charged 300 pesos, about 25 dollars.
He cautioned that the wheel shouldn’t be trusted, and I should get another ASAP. I ended up riding on it for the rest of the trip.
In Guerrero Negro running errands (ATM, a mercado stop, internet, and breakfast) got us off to a relatively late start. A little ways down the road Jeff noticed that my rim had a crack in it. Not good. A spandex-clad local mountain biker said that the next place to get it fixed would likely be Loreto, about 180 miles down the road.
That was not happy information for me. I figured I would just ride on it until that wasn’t possible anymore. It wasn’t very comforting thinking your rear wheel could have a catastrophic failure at any moment.
When it was clear would would be camping that night, and evening stop for groceries and beer resulted in me leaving a my warm orange Patagonia jacket outside the market. My biggest tour mishap ever.
Our Christmas present was more tailwind that helped us to bike around 85 miles, our biggest day all tour. There was hardly any traffic, it was our own private highway. We ate warm food for all 3 meals. All in all I thought it was an excellent Christmas.
The previous night the couple renting us the hotel room mentioned a possibility of 60mph winds the next day. We didn’t think much of it at the time.
In the morning we had birria and set down the road in what was already a windy day. About 10 miles later the road came up over a large hill and into a tremendous headwind that required serious pedaling to go anywhere. The road changed direction, entered a valley, and the headwind turned into the most intense crosswind I have ever experienced in my life.
Biking in a straight line required seriously leaning into the wind. The gusts at this point we thought were around 60 or 70 mph. You would be doing your best to bike in a straightish fashion and a gust would come along and the feeling was as if someone was giving you a hard push off the road. The road was elevated with no shoulder and the consequences of failing to stay on pavement would not have been pleasant. When the gust stopped you would inevitably over-correct and go back to the left, which was occasionally in the direction of an oncoming 18-wheeler.
It was scary.
We stopped at a pullout and just standing upright required focus. Everyone agreed biking in winds comparable to a tropical storm was not safe. We found a spot that was sheltered from the wind and layed down in the dirt and thought about what we should do. I distinctly remember thinking what was wrong with me that this was how I decided to spend my Christmas. After about an hour and a half of feeling more trapped by the weather than I ever had in my life, we decided to try to get a ride.
Leaving our sheltered spot and approaching the road, it was evident that the wind had died down considerably. I suggested we try biking in it and, if we felt it was unsafe, get a ride.
Biking in a 30mph wind turned out to be reasonable.
As an early Christmas present, for the last hour and a half of daylight, the wind was directly at our backs. We biked 25 miles in a little over an hour as the sun dipped below the mountains. After the events of earlier, biking at 30mph in relative peace (since you were matching the direction and speed of the wind) was amazing.
We spent Christmas Eve camping near several large cacti on the outskirts of the small town of P.P. Prieta. The evening was calm and we were able to have our first campfire of the trip.
Packing up at sunrise was a chilly endeavor. The morning was windy and the wind would continue all day, keeping us in our jackets. We stopped at a few tiny places for water and food.
We ate lunch at a restaurant in what was essentially someone’s living room. Another place had a no-nonsense older woman wearing a Tecate baseball cap selling us bottled watter, galletas, and a dense sweet bread she had made for 5 pesos.
We got a hotel room in the tiny town of Catavina. There was no lock on the door. The owner said he gets around that with his constant vigilance.
A morning passing more large farms led to a day full of uninhabited desert. We experienced our first of half a dozen or so military checkpoints. Our bags were very casually searched. The traffic dropped dramatically.
As dusk was rapidly turning to darkness we thought we might be approaching a town, but a stopped truck driver informed us we had about 40 clicks left (over 20 miles). The terrain had become hilly again and we were exhausted, so it was time to camp.
We quickly found a spot near the highway. A large cactus watched over us and kept us safe during the night. Nights were surprisingly cold at this point.