Happiness is a warm bike
Not since Beatles broke up has there been a bigger split! The Dirty Two went from being a group of four to a group of eight and ended up biking Baja solo so we thought it would be best to have a separate account for each of us to show what we have been up to. But first lets start from the start as we finish cycling through the US and get our first taste of Mexico.
Our last blog was in LA which now seems as far away as Australia. We biked down to San Diego with one of Brendan’s old university friends Andy, his brother Mark, Andy’s girlfriend Ashley and last but not least Andy’s work colleague Joaquin (or as Ciaran likes to call any person of latin decent ‘Enrique’)
That took our group to a total of eight on the road! It was a great change up and resulted in some fun times. As with any good adventure something should always go wrong and Andy had no problems stepping up to the challenge losing his phone in the first 10 km to later find flattened out on the road.
So we biked through LA and the OC, surfed Huntington Beach, had a barbie on a private beach which felt like we where on the set of the OC except we were all far better looking.
We also ended up on Channel 10 news which was a lot of fun and if you haven’t already seen the news segment check it out here.
We crossed the boarder on the 3rd on January and just simply walked through a turnstile, ‘simply’ is probably not the right word as these things weren’t designed for someone carrying a bike and a trailer with a surfboard on top and once you’re in you can’t come back! But we managed.
We knew we were in Mexico straight away, the car fumes, power-lines hanging and roads with less rules and a huge wall dividing the two nations. We did what we have always done before and continued to bike but it was a shock to the system no longer having those comfortable bike lanes that California gave us.
We faced a bushfire in Big Sur and our second challenge was about to begin when we got news that the toll road has collapsed between Rosario and Ensenada (100km south of the border). It was vital for us to reach Ensenda as we were spending two weeks taking a Spanish course. So turns out ALL traffic down Baja was diverted down a small little windy road. To say it was wild is an understatement and we weren’t sure what we had got ourselves into. Blind corners everywhere trucks overtaking us leaving centimetres between them and us. As If we didn’t already realise what kind of situation we were in, a very friendly gringo decided to remind us what we were doing whilst driving next to us (very safe with oncoming traffic) Finbarr quite adequately responded with ‘frothin’
We made to the top of a large climb and decided our first hitchhiking experience was about to happen. We weren’t to confident given the large amount of gear we had 4 bikes, 4 trailers, 4 surfboards and 4 bags to the each of us. But the thumb was put out.
It didn’t take long and two seperate 4wd’s pulled over. Two bikes per car and we were off! Brendan had hitched New Zealand and this was quick wait for NZ, this was a first taste of Mexican hospitality!
Ensenada and aidos hermanos
So once reaching Ensenada the little brothers decided is was time to leave the Dirty Two opting for waves and warm water as this seemed more of a priority than learning Spanish. So they headed to a surf camp at the bottom of Baja. We said good-bye to Fin as university would call him back to Aus in a few weeks and told Ciaran we would re-join with him once we reach the bottom of Baja. Four dirty cyclists became two.
We got news from Ciaran a few days into our Spanish lessons that he had pulled a few cards from his sleeve and was jumping on the next plane to Canada to get some powder and catch up with some good friends from home (sneaky little bastard). So now we were definitely just the Dirty Two. Spanish lessons where very helpful and stayed with a local family so we ate like kings stuffing our faces with ‘real’ Mexican food. But we are realising now you gotta use it or otherwise you will loose it.
After two weeks of Spanish lessons it was time to hit the road. We had no idea was infront of us, the only thing we did know was that it was going to be a lot harder than California. For example we had to carry a lot more water, there were no more bike lanes, the language barrier was going to test us and it was just the two of us, it was liking starting again!
Three hours into the trip and old injury of Brendan’s returned resulting in him not being able to ride his bike at all. So a camp was found quickly and we were quite relaxed and calm hoping it might come good the next day and the adventure would continue without any hiccups. It didn’t.
The next morning we ended up making a pretty big decision that would set up the next month of the trip. Tom would ride on through the desert alone and Brendan was left on the side of the rode in the middle of know where with a mechanically perfect bike and a sore leg. It was a daunting time as the whole adventures of the Dirty Two could be over and we were only a fraction of our way into it.
Being in the desert alone is tough. Especially when your first few days of riding a bike through one involves constant rain and headwinds that almost blow you back to the border.
So after some pretty challenging days of cycling I found myself a private beach to hold up for a couple of nights. This was my last chance for surf before the 3-week stint in the desert and just as our luck has had I was met with a messy windblown beach. Fortunately the beach was full of large stones so time was spent making Doyles replacement. I changed his name to Fred and he provided me with some great stories over morning coffee.
Leaving Fred was hard but I knew I had to move on and try and get through the desert that was lurking to the south.
Green Eggs and Ham
Turns out the desert wasn’t to bad at all and things started looking up. After about 5 days of riding through the Valle Los Cirios it felt like I was in a scene from a Dr. Suess book with trees that didn’t look like they were suppose to be trees in a landscape where whole mountains were made from boulders.
And after a few more days I stumble upon the town of San Ignacio. This place is a literal Oasis in the desert and it turned out to be a place where both Brendan and I ended up meeting some good humans to travel with. Juan and Alice are a Columbian and English couple who have decided to ride their bright red Vespa from Canada to Argentina. Why not huh? And Andreas is a 22 year old “farmer” from Ohio who is riding his 1978 Treck as far as it will take him. He also has a banjo with him.
I ended up riding the rest of the Baja with Andreas cruising down Highway One camping behind restaurants, in dried up river beds, on drive ways of farms and between cactus groves. It became routine – riding from 9 to 5 and then searching for a safe patch of dirt to set up our mobile homes for the night.
Every now and then a shower is needed. I can get pretty stinky at the best of times but put me on a bike for weeks on end with showers few and far between you have got to watch out. Fortunately a couple of Warm Showers (couch surfing for bike-tourists) hosts welcomed me into their homes for a night or two. This became a great way to see how the locals do things. Gabino and Lopita put me up and gave me a bed to sleep in and their son Luis was a legend, he showed me around his hometown and took me to the local bike mechanic to get some new tubes (two flats in the space of two hours is enough to drive you loco). I also stayed with Bill, a crazy old expat who has been living down here for the past 20 years. Bill lives with his 7 cats, talks to himself quite often and loves to drink rum from 2 in the arvo. Its people like these guys who are keeping bike-touring alive and well and your personal hygiene in order.
After 3 weeks without seeing the surf of the pacific coast Andreas and I decided to take right turn down a pretty hectic dirt track to a break called Punta Conejo. It was always going to be a risk as no Internet in the desert means not being able to check the swell. What would usually take 40 minutes to ride ended up taking close to 4 hours. After a few Kilometers the dirt track turned to patches of soft sand but we pushed through. And just as the script had been written for us we arrived at a beach with no swell. So the next day we packed up and ended up hitching back to the Highway with some local fishermen.
By now we were out of the desert and a few days away from the bottom of the peninsular where I would be re-uniting with Doyle. I decided to by-pass waiting in La Paz and made tracks for the surf camp Ciaran and Fin had stayed weeks before. When I arrived it was like I was already family! Ciaran and Fin must have made a good impression. Working on my surfing has been amazing and surfing every day I can feel the progress. I ended up staying at the camp for 2 weeks getting a couple of sessions in most days and hanging with some pretty rad folk.
A sore leg can open a lot of doors!
Tom rode off and I was left standing there feeling sorry for myself. The plan was to head south find a surf break stretch my leg for a while then continue south. These plans quickly changed when a bloke by the name of Jim Riley from Orange County pulled over. With his first words being “its your lucky day” at the time I was very much in the complete opposite frame of mind!
There wasn’t much room left in ‘Baby Jesus’ that’s the name of Jim’s 4WD ute but we made it work. Turns out Jim was on route to study the flora and fauna of a particular region of northern Baja. It also was not only Jim but a whole array of scientists some into insects, rodents or plants.
The main reason why Jim pulled over was due to the surfboard he also informed me straight away he was going to surfing and of course I was down (the day was definetly getting better) I ended scoring some of the best waves of the trip with only two others out so I was pretty happy. Jim then asked if I wanted to join the science trip, at this stage I was spoilt with lifts as a Canadian surfer offered for me to ride in his van down to Cabo it was a big decision! I went with Jim given I probably will never get a chance to study Baja’s flora and fauna (and its a bit different to a balance sheet) and still wanted to bike Baja!
I ended up spending over 10 days getting my science on. It was actually a lot of fun the flora and fauna it completely different to that of Australia seeing all these cactuses in the wild and learning about them was a blast and also catching and taggin rodents was good fun too.
Majority of the group departed on day three and then Jim on day four. But I decided to continue with the Jorges two chilango’s (a term for people from Mexico City) we went on a surf trip for 3 dayas to remote Baja which was not bikable at all.
Then returned to catch more rodents. I bid goodbye to the Jorges and found mself in San Quintin (gained about a 80km from where I hitched) during this time I’d been stretching like a Russian gymanbist but still not completely confident I would be ok.
Tomorrow never knows
Setting off was daunting experience because if my leg didn’t work I really didn’t know what I was going to do (buy a car, buy a motorbike, take up catching rodents full time?). I wasn’t confident at all and the first 20km I was just waiting for the pain to come back, I got to 50km and started feeling maybe I was over it by the end of the day the stretching paid off and I was fine! But still super weary.
I guess the drama of my leg was not enough and on the second day I got clipped by a car going up a hill, I was at the right place at the wrong time. A truck was coming down the hill whilst a van was going up there was no shoulder (those arnold schwarzenegger shoulders of cali would of been handy) and minimal room to pull over, despite pulling over I got clipped (I was fine). The driver pulled over apologised etc it was a steep hill so it was a nice hit of adrenaline.
Other then that I was in the midst of a desert where water becomes a much more important commodity and unlike Australia the desert was suprising hilly which made it a little more difficult but gave some stunning views. I preferred this rather then some torturous straights I experienced with some seeming endless!
Also if you feel your not getting enough attention in your life come to Mexico. Already we look like aliens but ride a bike on roads no mexican would ever contemplate and attach a surfboard to that and you’re going get a few looks and photo requests. Some of the looks are classic and it provides a lot of entertainment when rolling into town, something i will never tire of.
Before coming to Baja all I knew is it had some great point breaks, I managed to surf some of those in the north. Between the north and south the pacific side is not bikeable so I had about 1,000km with no waves. A little frustrating because the breaks in the middle are meant to be very good with no crowds, I’ll just have to save them for another day.
The bike was annoying me a bit sacrificing all these waves. I quickly forgot what I was missing when riding through some of this
Riding through a desert was a completely different experience to that of California. No longer did I aim for a camp ground I just got up and rode until I was tired. I would then ride into the desert trying to avoid as much cacti as possible and make camp. But other then that there ain’t much to biking baja. Turns out i wasn’t to good at the cacti bit, getting number of tire punctures (had none in cali other then in my trailer) but also getting a puncture in my sleeping mat! (now repaired with duct tape). Camping here I also felt a lot safer then then the states despite what i was told in the USA. At first i had a bit of paranoia about prickly encounters other then with cacti! But my whole experience with Mexican people has been extremely positive so far.
In a little Oasis town called San Igancio I met Noah and Russ, Noah was driving his Granpa’s ’67 VW down from Yosemite kayaking and fishing we hung out that night and the next day bid our farewells.
In Santa Rosilia I stayed with the Bomberos, (like tom did) but whilst riding into town, a guy by the name of Efrain pulled over. He was super stoked that I was riding with my surfboard and offered me a lift to Loreto (250km south) and he had a room for me and I can stay with him. As temping as it was I declined (of course i would write this but i actually did) got his number and i was told to call him when i reached Loreto. Efrain delived on his promise, a complete stranger put me up and showed my around his town.
I then hit up warm showers and stayed with a couple Don and Brenda in a very beautiful bay called Juncalito i got to eat some of the tastiest food on the entire trip and couldn’t be thankful enough.
I then got talking about Noah and Russ driving down. They mentioned they had seen a VW across the bay, low and behold it was Noah and Russ. I went over to see them and we decided I would come hang out with him in Aqua Verde a remote bay of islands 2 hours driver off the sealed road. We loaded the van up with my stuff and hit the road.
It was a load of fun kayacking and spear fishing and and to top it off we had the place to ourselves. I then biked to the ocean to score a few waves something i hadn’t done in over a month.
We met back up in a town called Todos Santos at a surf camp where our brothers originally set off. Was funny seeing each other after over 6 weeks, especially with Doyle having grown a beared that resembled a strange marsupial. We spent a few days surfing and then headed down to Cabo to have our first beers in about 8 weeks.
We have found biking like joining the priesthood (other then touching young children) you spend a lot of time in solitude, and not really seeing any other people. After doing that for the last 6 weeks we thought we might do would most people our age do – go to somewhere pretty and have a few frothies.
We where expecting Cabo to be exactly like Kuta and weren’t to confident if we would like the place but hey we’ve come all this way so we had to check it out. Turns out Cabo is a much cleaner and older demographic with people from the US being much mellower folk then us Australians when out drinking. Cabo had a completely different vibe to the rest of Baja feeling like we were back in the states and it was funny to see the difference. I guess most people come down for the warmth but still want all those things their used to. Just like in California it was the Mexicans who worked all the lower end jobs!
Another funny thing we realised is your tolerance drops significantly when not drinking alcohol for 8 weeks and exercising everyday, this coupled with trying drink the same amount as we used to results in not to much fun the next day. So much so we decided our second night would be spent watching movies. Much respect for those people that go on trips and drink every night they could easily bike Baja!
So now we are about to go to mainland, our plan is to hitch a ride on a sail boat but there’s a lot of luck and timing involved with this method and our alternative is to take the ferry from La Paz to mainland but we have just found out that the ferry has decided to stop and isn’t running again until mid march. So either we can score a lift on a sail boat or we will be back tracking up the coast to hitch a ride further north this is not what we want but its better then paddling across.
Stayed tuned to see what happens!