That's right, kiddos, it's Baja Adventure Time! After spending a fabulous few days in Brea, CA with my brother, his family, and more of our extended family, we finally got rolling and headed for Mexico. That is probably one of the easiest border crossings to do, but knowing what the wait is on the other side to get back in is the tricky part. Thankfully, we won't be having to cross back in for quite a while!
We rolled up and through in under two minutes, picked up the highway and headed south. We didn't ride very far, as we were only planning on going as far as Coyote Cal's Hostel. It's on the coast, south of Ensenada, and has been there for several decades. There was no one staying there, and we arrived at happy hour, so we got ourselves a couple of beds for the night and a bucket of beers.
It was a nice, easy start to riding and staying in a different country. Eventually three other people arrived and stayed for the night as well, but it was a pretty quiet group. My guess is that during Baja riding season it is a madhouse, in the most fun way.
Up to that point, we had ridden only pavement, but heading out of Coyote Cal's the next morning, we hit dirt roads almost immediately. We rode across the peninsula on an easy, scenic dirt road. The middle section was pretty rutted out in the turns, but still easy and beautiful.
Coming to the end of that road into town, however, was a different story. The town's streets are sand. I don't mean an inch or two of sand on top of hard pack, where you can see corrugations here and there and get some traction. I mean inches to feet of it. And I managed to ride right into what felt like a bottomless pit of it in an intersection, nearly losing it, dabbing my right foot, and throttling the hell out of there.
Ah...sand. So fun on fully loaded big bikes...
Later, we rode through San Felipe and continued south on to Puertecitos. There were a number of low spots in the road which had washed out during the last storm, or had sand washed into them. After going through a number of small spots like this, we came up on one and I slowed down to third gear--probably 45mph or so. At the last second, I realized it was way deeper than the others had been. I hit it, felt my bars yanked out of my hands, then managed to get back to them and gas the crap out of it. My back end wiggled a bit, but boy did that feel better than my front end wiggling.
As I came out of it, feeling a lot better than I did as I entered it, I watched for Josh in my mirror. I asked if he made it through easily and he said yes. He mentioned that he slowed way down, and picked a line to the left, going through no problem. I said I had hit it in third gear, and he responded that he saw that, and that I also managed to pick the deepest line there was.
Of course I did.
It's always fun to challenge one's self, right....
We motored on and pulled into Puertecitos around 5:30, super happy to see the gas station. Then we got closer and were super unhappy to see the gates on it closed.
We needed gas. What was going on?
We rode further into town, and when we saw some people, rode over to ask about the gas station. They said to go back, and soon someone would open it. They discussed amongst themselves, and said it would re-open within half an hour.
So, with nothing better to do, we rode back and waited. While rummaging through things on bikes and waiting, a guy rode up on a three wheeler and asked if we were waiting for gas. When I said yes, he said it would open later. I told him some people had said in half an hour. He thought about it for a moment, and said yes, more or less.
About ten minutes later, he rode by again and said it would open at 7.
We decided we should find a place to camp, and within a few minutes had found Campo Octavio. It was the one closest to town, and after telling us we could take whichever spot we liked--and proudly pointed out he had bathrooms and showers--the gentleman told us where a market was. We headed off to buy a few supplies, including a 6-pack of Modelo, then went back to the gas station to wait for gas.
There's nothing classier than sitting on the side of the road, drinking a can of beer, and waiting for a gas station to open. I was heartened to find our three-wheeler friend working on the pumps, and the lights for the station eventually come on. During the half hour or so, while we were waiting, we watched a constant parade of boats on trailers being pulled out of town by a couple of pick-ups. Each boat had 2, 3, 4 or more guys sitting in the back, and it looked like the trucks were shuttling them back home at the end of the day. Right about 7, a pick-up came rolling up, saw us, and the driver asked if we were waiting for gas.
He seemed surprised they weren't open, rolled up closer and yelled at the guy working on the pumps. Then I heard the word I had been dreading..."Mañana."
The pick-up reversed, repeated what was said to me and I thanked him, not feeling particularly thankful.
It wasn't that I cared whether we got gas that night or the next morning, but I was concerned the reason it wasn't available that night was because of gas not having been delivered to the station due to the recent tropical storm--not that I had to wait until the next morning, but that I might have to wait several more mornings.
Well, at that point, there was nothing more we could do. So we headed back to Octavio's and set up camp, had some dinner, and relaxed on the beach. As the sun was going down over the mountains behind us, it appeared to be throwing really cool light on some clouds just over the house out on the point. They had a warm, surreal glow, like they were being lit from inside, like they had there very own source of light.
A few minutes later, that source would reveal itself in the form of the full moon. It was breathtaking, and I cursed myself for not having a really good camera. It was huge, and it seemed like we could reach out and touch the glowing orange orb. We were absolutely mesmerized by it, and at that moment I realized I had been camping for every full moon since early May. I knew at some point in the middle of the night, I would wake up and think it was morning because it was so bright out. I don't get the highest quality of sleep when I'm camping during a full moon, but I accept that when there is so much beauty around.
And in the end, the moon didn't disrupt my sleep at all, really. Remember how we saw those couple of trucks making all those trips, taking boats and dudes back home for the night. Nope. They were taking them OUT for the night. Shrimp season has begun here, and that's a night job. So, several hours later, after I was finally slumbering peacefully, the trucks went back to retrieve the full boats coming in. And the access to the launch point took them across our beach....
Until the tide changed early in the morning...
And the access for the boats going out before sunrise WAS our beach.
Moral of the story--Don't stay at Octavio's unless you really like the sound and smell of old pick-ups going through your campsite.
I will say, though, it was pretty fascinating watching boats launch and get picked up right off the sand beaches. I enjoyed sitting in my chair that morning, cup of coffee in hand, watching how they did it all. It was surprisingly simple and efficient. Not everything has been improved-upon to death.
We packed up that morning and headed for gas, and it was...wait for it...open! The same guy was there and apologized for it not being open the night before--he couldn't get the system working. I didn't care, I was just excited there was gas! Yay! We filled up, checked tire pressures, and rode on.
Looking at the map I'd been using, I was surprised to find the road we continued on to be paved. But, speaking of not having been improved upon, the pavement soon ended. The state was working on getting the road done, and for the next 80km or so, a blasted out and smoothed new road-to-be crisis-crossed our rocky, sandy, rutted road. We loved our road, with the exception of that time we got stuck behind a semi for a bit. Josh got around him in a good spot, but of course by the time I went to pass him, I did it in the sand.
Eventually, our road ran smack into Mexico 1 again, and this was the highway we would take to reach Guerrero Negro for the night. But, my sandy adventures weren't done for the day, yet. We stopped in Villa Jesus Maria to fill the tanks again, and hit up a little grocery store for lunch items. Then, we decided we'd take the 9km dirt road out to the coast and have lunch on the beach.
It was great! The water was beautiful, the beach was picturesque with two beached fishing boats and hundreds of birds. There wasn't a single person around, and we were able to ride right out onto the beach. We stopped and I grabbed the bag of lunch things from my bungee net, while Josh went to retrieve the crackers and tuna from his top case. He made an awful sound when he opened his top case.
Uh oh. This isn't good...
You know how I mentioned our road that morning was rocky and sandy? Well, it was a really rough and bumpy road, and the banana I had chosen to pass up that morning at breakfast was smashed nearly to liquid. Sweet, sticky, slimy banana gross-ness was all over everything in the top case. So, for the next ten minutes, we did some cleaning...
Then, we had lunch on the beach! Afterwards, we rode the 9km nice dirt road back to Villa Jesus Maria, and finished out our day in Guerrero Negro. Guerrero Negro is a small city at the northern border of Baja California Sur. During the high season, scores of whale watching trips go out from many different hotels and expedition companies located there. But the night we were there was quiet. We stayed at the Malarrimo Hotel and RV Park. They allowed us to camp for about $10 that night--seems to be the going rate--and had bathrooms and showers for us to use. There was another couple from the states staying in the hotel, but they couldn't be bothered with even exchanging pleasantries with a couple of people on motorbikes. I didn't really care--there was a big fluffy Black and Tan dog that lives at the hotel who was super friendly. Even better!
I liked riding and staying in Baja California, but little did I know how I would like what was to come next even more.
Next, Baja California Sur!