Juan and Diane were heading up to SD for the day, but, as far as I know, I’m not allowed back into the US without leaving North America due to visa regulations so had to turn down the offer. I would have loved to spend more time with them, but it was time to head south, towards the desert, the heart of Baja.
As I mentioned previously, there is only really one road for traffic between Ensenada and El Rosario, Mexico 1 which stretches the whole way through Baja and Baja Sur. It travels through a couple of towns and a number of villages, the largest being that of San Quintin, and is home to a large amount of agriculture which leads to a large number of trucks moving produce. All the blogs I read on crazyguy spoke about terrible drivers and being forced to take evasive action, not helped by the lack of shoulders most of the way. I made sure my mirror was on and hit the road.
After making my way through the industrial area surrounding southern Ensenada, the hills began. They were mainly small rollers, the problem being that having read so much about terrible drivers, every time I got to a hairpin I expected a car or truck to come hurtling round the corner and knock me off the road. It really didn’t happen. Yes, a lot of drivers don’t give you anything like the 3 foot that a number of American states legislate, there were some that felt that they were much closer to 3 inches, but on my whole stretch through Baja, there were only three occasions when I looked in my mirror and thought that I’d be better on the side of the road by choice than by being pushed there.
The first was when a truck was coming towards me and the one behind me decided to overtake me at the same time, I’m sure they’d considered it and decided that they’d fit through with a few inches to spare, but I wasn’t moving that fast and stopping seemed easier. The second was when I was double overtaken, a truck was passing me, but obviously not fast enough for the car behind it who went past the truck at the same time. That’d be passable on larger roads, but with lanes that are almost exactly as wide as truck it seemed foolish to me. The final time was when I was crawling up a steep grade on the way into a town, a truck was waiting patiently behind me but had a number of vehicles sat behind it. To say thanks to him for not deciding to overtake, I pulled off into a driveway and let them all pass.
Without any connections in the area, I didn’t have a destination on the first night. There were a few dots on the map that I’d picked up crossing the border at Tijuana, and it was interesting to see the places. Some of those dots represented places with 5 houses, and dots of equal size were used to represent places with maybe a few thousand inhabitants. My legs felt good and my TitanicoX was doing its job well after a brief adjustment, and so I rolled on to the community of Ejido Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (an ejido is an area of communal farmland), which wasn’t actually on my map.
My first stop was at a mercado to grab something for dinner. Rolling my bike off the main road and down the dirt side streets in this small farming town, I got a lot of looks and holas from people passing me. I went into the grocery store and was looking for something cheap to eat and was happy to have got what I wanted for about 20 pesos (1USD is currently about pesos). Walking through the narrow aisles, I squeezed past someone, conscious that it was darkening outside and that I needed to find somewhere to stay, and felt my back rub knock against something and then heard a crash behind me as a large jar of mayo fell to the floor and exploded. The kids of the family I was trying to pass found the jar falling, my red face and my horrific Spanish trying to apologise to be absolutely hilarious and I’m sure I would have too in their position. Someone came over to clean up and I apologised further. When I checked out I found out that Mexican shops have a different policy to the US, UK and Japan, if you break something you pay and so my thrifty grocery shopping ended up being 80 pesos, enough to have bought a much nicer dinner in a restaurant.
Walking out the store, I headed down the dirt road and was looking for a place to ask. I went past plenty of dilapidated houses, where I’m sure if I’d had the courage to ask, I could have camped, but walked past. I kept going until on my right I saw a house with a shiny white people carrier with California licence plates parked outside and a couple of girls swinging in a hammock. I leant my bike against the wall, walked in and used my poor Spanish to reply to ¿Qué buscalo? (What are you looking for?) with Quiero hablar con su mamá (I want to speak with your mum). A lady came out and I showed her the little note that Linda had written for me and after a bit of confusion I got the OK to put my tent up which I did with lots of inquisitive looks from not only the children
In the morning, I was pulling my tent down and getting ready to leave before the father of the family came over in his wheelchair to invite me in for coffee and I didn’t end up leaving for another 3 hours as I spoke with Javier and his family. The warmth I felt in the house from the whole family Nunez was wonderful and set me off on my ride to El Rosario with a big smile on my face.
The road had a few short sharp hills which I’d sprint down and hope that momentum would take me back up the other side. On one of them, I was spinning my legs and felt the straps by my toes on my left sandal come loose. I was still able to ride clipped in, but it was annoying. I’d had a similar issue with my right sandal back in Arizona and it has been fine since being fixed so I figured I could find a hardware shop to get it sorted out.
Towns in Baja seem to enjoy being at the bottom of hills and El Rosario was no different. There’s a hill just to the north of it and so I got to climb for about 45 minutes, be waved through a military checkpoint as the sun was setting and then bomb down the other side. It was getting a bit dark so I pulled into Mama Espinozas, a hotel that I’d been told I could camp at, and got to use my Spanish again. The lady told me it was 50 pesos and I was made-up that with my broken Spanish that I was able to haggle it down to 30.
Rambling in San Telmo
Riding through town
In the desert
Rambling in El Rosario