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Baja Divide

Before we set out, cycling the length of Baja didn’t seem like such an incredible feat. It’s just a little peninsula, right? That’s how naive I was. Once we got underway, the true depth of the challenge became apparent to us. Our progress was often so slow that we found it best to not even consider the number of miles remaining. Often the only thing on our minds was getting to the next spot where we could acquire more water!

Well, after exactly 11 weeks of riding, we did it. We finished the entire Baja Divide route, with just a couple of small deviations. It seems somehow wrong to get too worked up about this, given that it’s such a small piece of our overall goal. That being, to cycle to Patagonia. From what people have told us though, it is an accomplishment, and so we’ll give ourselves a tiny pat on the back while we make plans for what comes next.

The Final Days of the Baja Divide

Cabo San Lucas is a large, metropolitan city, and like any place of that size, there’s no way that it’s possible to see it all in just a couple of days. Fortunately for us though, our hotel was right downtown, so it was easy for us to get out and walk around a bit. What did we see? That there’s a lot of tourists in Cabo! We toured the marina area, and the surrounding streets, and walked by countless bars and restaurants, all seemingly set up to cater to Americans. “Get your $1.00 beers here!” We sampled only a couple of the spots as their prices were most often beyond our budget, but it was apparent that with a thick enough wallet, you could definitely have some fun there!

Trying to “squeeze in” some of the sights of Cabo.

Always drawn to the water. The marina is huge!

Anyone remember the movie The Shining?

Cabo Wabo. We had actually visited there before. 

There are no shortage of bars and restaurants. Most of them are $$$ though!

A quick pic from my iPhone. Remnants of an afternoon rain storm.

When it came time to leave, we cycled our way out of the city in the early morning. Without actually planning to do so, we left on a Sunday morning, which no doubt reduced the amount of traffic that we had to deal with immensely. That said, it was still a bit scary until we made our way to the highway with its nice wide shoulder. The highway was less scary? In this case, yes!

Our first destination was Todos Santos, a town that Google Maps told us was 41 miles away. My Google search didn’t take into account our downtown starting location though, because when it was all said and done, the trip ended up being a fair bit longer than that. As I mentioned already, the highway we were riding on had a nice wide shoulder, and relatively little traffic. That was nice. We began with a climb from near sea level to 800′, followed up with an equally long descent. As we blasted down the other side of the hill, we passed a number of cyclists working their way back up the other side. My guess is that it was a cycling club out for a morning session.

On our way out of town. Getting to this point was the scariest!

Today: Todos Santos. La Paz: A bit later.

The entire trip was relatively uneventful. It was interesting to note how the topography of the paved highways differs from the natural landscape. Instead of short, steep, up-and-down hills, we were presented with long, gradual climbs and descents. Easier, without a doubt, but the climbing was still there.

An unwelcome addition to our ride was a wicked headwind. The sailor in me thinks that it was a sea breeze created by the ocean that we were riding by. Regardless of its cause, it was often so strong that it felt as if we needed to keep pedaling just to make forward progress as we were going downhill!

We passed a number of cyclists heading the other way. 

This guy was heading up a big hill while we were on our way down.

We stayed relatively close to the coast line all the way to Todos Santos.

This is what we find when our GPS indicates a river.

By luck we were traveling on Sunday morning so there was very little traffic.

If it wasn’t for our friends Eben and Genevieve, I probably wouldn’t have been familiar with the town of Todos Santos. We first met these guys while cruising in the Bahamas and have kept in touch ever since. Like us, they have recently moved away from boating, taking on some new adventures. One of which involves Todo Santos. Unfortunately for us, there weren’t in town when we passed through – and that’s really all we did there, spend the night before pedaling onward. They were instead working on other, equally-exciting projects back in Canada. If you’re not familiar with this family, check out their website. They’re always doing some cool stuff.

At the top of one of the many long, low-grade hills.

Remember the water on the road pic above? That’s rain in the distance.

It was in Todos Santos where we finally rejoined the Baja Divide route, and after a couple of miles of pavement outside its borders, we were back to dirt roads, and heading to the mountains. The route guide warned us that the sandy tracks heading towards the hills would make us work, and that was not an understatement. We gradually climbed for most of the day, stopping only for a short break at lunchtime. As the afternoon wore on, and we were faced with the steepest part of the day’s climbing, we once again found ourselves racing an approaching thunderstorm. Monsoon season… who planned this? While riding, and sometimes pushing our bikes up the steep tracks, there was often nothing that I’d rather do than just sit down for a break. The thunder and imposing clouds kept us going though.

After a few miles of pavement outside of Todos Santos, we were back to dirt.

Mountains in the distance. We would slowly approach them.

The roads approaching the mountains were often very sandy, making the pedaling tough.

Rough roads make even the downhill stretches tough.

A downhill isn’t that much fun when we know we need to climb back up again right after it.

Entering a nature preserve.

Green trees indicates water.

After cresting the final pass, we raced down the steep, and very rough backside of the mountain towards El Rosario, a spot where our route guide suggested we could refill our water. Trying to travel lightly, we had only taken just enough water to get us to that town. When we entered it and approached the first place that looked like a store, and the lady there told us that they had no water, we were a bit worried. When she directed us up the street to where the real store was, and we found that they were open, our fears subsided. Seriously, it’s always a crap shoot as to whether or not these small town stores are open. In this case, we struck gold. They had cold drinks, and of course beer, and the friendly shopkeeper filled all of our water containers for free! Even when I insisted on paying, he wouldn’t accept the money.

Can you see the track in the distance?

There it is. Yes, we need to climb up that track, another 1000 feet!

Once again, racing another afternoon monsoon. That means we’re pushing hard. No time to rest.

With water containers full, we had a decision to make. Our initial plan when we left Todos Santos that morning was to try to make it to El Triunfo for dinner. We had read that the town had two actual sit-down restaurants, and that it was a place worth visiting. The town was a couple of miles off route, but in total, only about an hour’s ride from where we were. Even though the rain had yet to begin where we were, the sky was very dark. Should we go for it, or hold up there? We opted to go. Did we make it to El Triunfo before the rain? Of course not.

Our rain jackets were keeping us somewhat dry as we rolled into El Triunfo, and actual knife-and-fork highway signs made us salivate thinking of the nice meals that we’d order for dinner. A bit down the road an A-frame sign touting pizza directed us to the first of the town’s two restaurants. It was closed. And so was the other one. In what, to me, seems like a significant failure of a business decision, both of the town’s two restaurants had decided to close on the same day, Mondays. That did not make me happy! On the bright side, and I say this only half tongue-in-cheek, there was a good ice cream store that was open, and ice cream for dinner is not too bad. It has plenty of calories!

Rainbow, which comes with rain. Jackets came on just after this shot.

After recovering from the depression caused by the restaurant fiasco, and when the rain had finally subsided, we pedaled back out of town to, for the final time, rejoin the Baja Divide route. We had another 6 miles of pavement to ride after doing so, along which no suitable campsite could be found. It was only after we finally got back on the dirt track, close to 12 hours after beginning riding that morning, when we were able to find a spot to bed down for the night. By the light of her Mantus headlamp, Rebecca prepared us a tasty meal (take that restaurants!), and when we were both sufficiently satisfied, we laid down to rest on our sleeping pads, sans tent, and fell asleep with a million stars glittering above us.

Back to dirt again. Made me wonder: what is the origin of the name San Blas?

Happy to find a nice camping spot after a very long day of riding!

Knowing that it was to be our final day of riding in Baja, we had a lazy start yesterday morning, taking our time to have coffee and breakfast before breaking camp. Pedaling into the sun, we had only about 6 miles until we reached Los Divisaderos, a town that we had passed through a couple of weeks earlier when we were making our way towards the East Cape. We arrived there at 9:00 AM and made our way to the one and only tienda to purchase some more water. From that point on, we were retracing out steps, our GPS overwriting the track that we had recorded on our first pass through the area.

After a lazy start, we began our final day of riding the Baja Divide.

A Tecate sign is always a welcome sight.

The road to Los Divisadores was in pretty good shape.

I was tempted to go visit the church.

When we first traveled that route, heading from the road outside of La Paz towards Los Divisaderos, we had some discussion about whether it was really a downhill run, given how many up and down hills there were. This time around, heading back in the other direction, there was no question: we were going up hill! From Los Divisaderos to the highest point, we had to climb 800 feet. We took our time doing so, partly because we were busy taking some photos and shooting a few video clips, and partly because we were tired, having had a couple of very long days in the saddle. Knowing that our prize for making it to the top was going to be an epic, 15-mile paved downhill run back to La Paz kept us pushing forward.

Riding from Los Divisadores to the paved road to La Paz is a roller coaster.

A roller coaster with an eight hundred foot elevation gain!

It’s a very scenic road.

Pretty sure this refers to motor cycles.

We got a good workout with all the climbing.

And still more climbing.

Taking advantage of gravity.

After back to back long days of riding, there was quite a bit of this going on.

Are we there yet?

No, not yet.

That paved downhill stretch, when we finally started rolling down it, was awesome. Once again though, we were met with a ridiculous headwind. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I do know the difference between a headwind and the apparent wind created by riding. This was a headwind! Once again, I’m blaming it on a sea breeze. Headwind or not, La Paz was ultimately ours, and with nowhere else to go, we retraced our tracks right down to the waterfront, to a spot where I knew that a cold beer and some hot food would be waiting to welcome our triumphant arrival.

At the top. It’s largely downhill from here to La Paz!

Enjoying a 15-mile paved downhill run to La Paz!

In closing this post, it seems only fitting that I take a moment to give a shout out to all the people who helped us to get to this spot. Obviously Daniel from Tumbleweed deserves thanks for setting us up with such worthy steeds, as does Nick from Rogue Panda for kitting out our bikes so nicely. Thanks to Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox for the immense amount of work they put into creating the Baja Divide route. Thanks to our friends on the internet, most of which we have yet to meet in person, for passing along such great advice and intel, and to our friends and family for their never-ending support. Thanks especially to the countless Baja residents who, through their generous and welcoming nature, made this portion of our trip so rewarding. You all have our eternal thanks. Muchas, muchas Gracias!

Trip Stats:

  • Cabo San Lucas to Todos Santos: 76.7 km, 7:30 hours
  • Todos Santos to Wild Camping: 79.4 km, 12:26 hours
  • Wild Camping to La Paz: 58.0 km, 6:11 hours