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10 weeks

For 10 weeks now, we’ve been zig-zagging our way down the Baja California peninsula, following the “road less traveled” that the Baja Divide route has set in front of us. As this is our first ever bicycle tour, and by far the most technical off-road cycling that either of us have ever done, our progress thus far has admittedly been slow. As you’d expect though, after riding 4-10 hours per day, 5 or more days per week, our legs and lungs have become much more conditioned to the long days in the saddle than they were at the beginning of our tour. In addition, we’ve both become more accustomed to maneuvering our heavily-laden bikes.

We have no fixed schedule that we need to complete our tour by, other than the schedule imposed by our host country’s tourist visa (in this case, our 6-month Mexican visa). Weather will ultimately be an issue too down the road, as we have no interest in cycling during the austral winter in Patagonia. That’s a long way off though, and not a subject that either of us are too ready to invest time into thinking about.

Climbing out of La Paz. Don’t worry… we’ll be back.

Another well-maintained roadside shrine. 

Leaving the paved road. Los Divisaderos is where we are heading.

Note the lit candle.

Cycling is climbing

I don’t know about you but before we came to Baja, we really had no idea that it was as mountainous as it is. Every single day that we ride here involves some type of climbing. Sometimes, the incline is steady and gradual, and we ultimately top out at a pass to descend down the other side. There are other times though where we hardly gain any amount of elevation at all. Instead, we simply follow a roller coaster pattern, up and down, up and down. Then there are the hardest days, when the road we’re traveling on is so rough that it’s almost impossible to cycle, requiring us to push the bikes. Although this happens less and less these days, it still happens!

If variety is the spice of life, then our past few days of riding have been particularly spicy, because we experienced all those types of climbing. The road we pedaled up out of La Paz was amazingly consistent, gaining approximately 200 feet for every mile that we traveled. The route then spit us onto a dirt road heading down to Los Divisaderos that, although the general trend was down, was a roller coaster that even Disney would appreciate. There was plenty more up and down riding after that stretch too.

Then there was the climb to a pass outside of San Juan de los Planes. The Baja Divide route guide described it as a rough road. I’ve come to get a handle on their terminology by now. Rough road means incredibly rocky and you probably won’t enjoy riding on it, just like well traveled means extremely washboarded. I was happy to read that a couple of internet friends of ours who rode the Baja Divide earlier this year had the same experience as we did with that climb.

Rain clouds forming up earlier than expected.

Lightning in the distance.

Racing towards the storm. Rain jackets came out shortly after this pic was taken.

Racing the storm

The biggest drama to occur during this particular 3-day stretch was our race against a powerful afternoon electrical storm. For a change we actually checked the weather before setting out, and in so doing, read that an afternoon thunderstorm was predicted. From our experience, these typically take place late afternoon but in this case, we saw the clouds organizing themselves during our lunch break. When we were five miles outside of Los Divisaderos, we could see the lightning in the distance, right in front of us! We had little choice at that point but to keep going, and hope that we could make it to the town, and shelter, before the rain started to fall. We didn’t.

By the time we reached the village we were soaked, but luckily came upon a spot where we could hide out. The storm continued on for more than an hour, and the lightning was quite close to our location. We would come to learn the following day that the rain caused serious flooding in some of the nearby areas. Fortunately for us, the ground is so thirsty that only moments after the storm had passed, the roads were already beginning to dry, allowing us to cycle on.

A short lull in the intense storm. We were soaked when we arrived. 

We spent close to two hours hiding from the electrical storm in this shelter at Los Divisaderos.

The storm moved away from us, so we carried on with our ride.

Although they dried quickly, the roads were in rough shape after the storm.

A deep arroyo.

This tree looked as if it was glowing in the setting sun.

It was tough to find a camping spot in this thick brush but our patience eventually paid off. 

The lady at this restaurant, presumably Paola, showed us some online videos from flash flooding caused by the storm we got caught in.

The beginning of the climb.

Take note of the various roads leading up and over the distant hills. 

Sea of Cortez in the distance.

Baja Divide guide describes this as a “rough road.”

There was a lot of bike pushing that day!

Fortunately the sky was cloudy (nublado). 

At the highest point, ready to head down the other side.

They’re not much for guard rails around here so you’d better pay attention!

We find religious shrines everywhere! This one is a lot harder to access than the image shows. 

The day had been full of up and down riding.

From a distance these roads look smooth. They are not!

Can you see the road in the distance?

Stay on the road!

Looking back at what was a pretty steep downhill stretch. 

Wondering how we could access this beach. 

The roller coaster ride is about to gain a new element: sand!

Not in Kansas anymore

The first clue that we were entering a new area of Baja was when the hotel manager in El Cardonal quoted me a price for a room in US dollars. That hasn’t happened in some time. The second clue was when Rebecca was served toast and jam instead of tortillas with her breakfast this morning in Los Barilles. For those who have traveled here, tortillas are such a staple that to not be served them with a meal is virtually unheard of.

As we rode down the coast from Los Barilles to La Ribera, where we are now, we passed by huge mansions, which were only diminished by their neighbors’ even larger mansions. Last night, as we pedaled along in the setting sun, looking for a place to stay or a suitable patch of land to camp, we came across a hotel with its own airport runway. Yeah, not likely in our price range (we checked… it wasn’t).

Our intention is to leave here tomorrow morning, and as we get closer and closer to Cabo San Lucas, I expect this trend towards extravagance will not only continue but increase. The funny thing is though, even in a town seemingly dominated by tourists and expats, with 4-wheel drive buggy rental places lined up side-by-side with stores selling evening wear, there were still cows walking down the main street, appearing as if they themselves were window shopping. Mexico… gotta love it!

Time for a skinny dipping break!

I love this. Instead of fixing the giant hole in the road, they put a big object in it so that it’s easier to see. This is not the first time that we have seen this. 

Looking for a place to spend the night. When a hotel has its own runway, they are out of our price range. 

We opted to camp in this hidden nook on a, at that time, deserted beach.

The fishermen and cyclists get at it early!

Civilization in the distance.

If we’re not supposed to be doing any climbing, why am I looking down at this beach?

How I felt after that washboard road!

Trip Stats:

  • La Paz to Wild Camping: 63.5 km, 11:34 hours
  • Wild Camping to Wild Camping: 53.3 km, 9:39 hours
  • Wild Camping to La Ribera: 33.6 km, 5:01 hours

7 Comments

  1. I am still enjoying your updates and pictures. You also seem to be picking up a fair bit of Spanish. Bravo! A couple of years ago, in Chile and then in Argentina, I started taking pictures of the shrines I saw. They are called “animitas” in Chile. If you would like to take a peek, check out my instagram Valjpro.
    Suerte,
    Val

  2. Yes, great pictures and stories. Almost like being there. Do you know if anyone is doing similar traveling by off road motorcycles? Not racing but touring through the mountains. Also, have you come across any shops and/or businesses that rents these types of motorcycles? Mark

    • Hi Mark. No, we haven’t. We’ve seen plenty of guys riding dirt bikes on the trails, especially in northern Baja. There are obviously plenty of guys riding Baja on the highways too. I don’t think a hybrid bike would make it on the really rough trails. You could always pick and choose your routes of course.

      You’re on Facebook, right? If so, look up San Felipe Bob in my friends list and then message him with your question. I bet he’d know all about it.

      • Great Mike, thanks for the info. Just getting back to you now as I’ve been a little busy at the chip truck. Only a week to go before we start our “downhill decline” of the season. And I’m looking forward to it for sure!! lol

  3. Hi Mike and Rebecca, we have continued your journey and I am pleased that everything remains a great experience for you and for us through your page. Keep going.

    Alejandro and Juan Pablo

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