Category Archives: adventures

XploreBAJA Opening Week at Solosports Adventure Camp – Punta San Carlos

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The fog shrouded the Pacific Coast heading into Ensenada, but the hustle and bustle of the fish market, the delicious smells of the carne asada on the grill didn’t put a damper on unforgiving cool weather.  We were hoping for clear skies and 78-degree temperatures but we had to settle for the wet cloudy dew instead.

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The easy drive through the country south of Ensenada is always a nice cruise through the wine fields before paralleling the mighty Pacific Coast.

Word that a swell had arrived was right on as the waves were pumping at the Solosports Adventure Camp.  Everyone was smiles for as long as the waves break to the right.  A nice slight breeze blew off the point as the warm long afternoon moved into the fun-filled evening around the Chili Bowl bar.

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Punta San Carlos is a full-service adventure camp providing an amazing camp, incredible food and access to some of the most advanced toy technology available to action athletes.  From mountain bikes, kite boards to surfboards, they have it all.  Kevin Trejo is the owner and has built up Solosports Adventure Camp for the past 27 years.

If you’re looking for an adventure in Baja, Solosports Adventure Camp at Punta San Carlos ranks in the number one spot.

XploreBaja guides many people throughout Baja and Solosports Adventure Camp is one of our favorite spots.

5 days of Solosports over the opening week was amazing as always!

Tim

Xplore Baja Heads Out on 2014 Rip to Cabo

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Xplore Baja is gearing up to head out on another epic Baja adventure. We are trekking south with the Rip to Cabo, an adventure where 45 moto riders will gear up in California and set their sights south to Cabo San Lucas. The riders will cross the international border in Tecate and ride south to the tip of Baja – Cabo San Lucas. This year’s adventure will kick off on April 2nd as the entire crew heads through San Felipe, Gonzaga Bay, San Ignacio, Mulege, Loreto and so many more inticing Baja locations.

Check out the Rip to Cabo compilation of 5 years of footage from different Cabo rides featuring some of the greatest motorcycle riders in the world.

Be sure to check out our XploreBaja facebook & instagram as we will be updating you along the way as we head south for another Xplore Baja adventure.

Baja OVERLAND Adventure Sign Ups Now Open

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This overland adventure will wind through some of the most majestic terrain the Baja Peninsula has to offer including mountains, deserts, beaches and the famous Mexico Highway 1.  This route will traverse the Baja Peninsula from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean with a blend of graded roads, highway and remote dirt tracks.  There are no required hill climbs, difficult obstacles or water crossings that are extreme.  A non-4WD, well-equipped and maintained overland vehicle can make the journey, but a 4×4 with proper clearance is recommended.  All overnights will be vehicle or ground tent based. Our experienced crew will guide you across the border and back again on a one of a kind Baja overland adventure.

Who is XploreBAJA?

Exploring the pristine white beaches, desolate deserts and mountains on both sides of the Baja Peninsula has been a 40-year adventure for XploreBaja founder, Tim Sanchez. For more than 25 years he has had the unique ability to mix business with pleasure while adventuring throughout the Baja Peninsula.  The XploreBaja crew is staffed with seasoned Baja adventurers coming from all walks of life.

XploreBaja is a unique company that turns Dreams Into Adventures.

Tim explains, “I’ve been very fortunate to have spent time with some of the top adventurers to set foot in the wilds of the Baja Peninsula and for me, personally sharing Baja’s beauty with others is magical.  XploreBaja is about safely traveling and exploring remote and exquisite regions with an experienced crew leading adventurers throughout Baja.”

Over the decades, we have created a network of local liaisons spanning the entire Baja Peninsula. XploreBaja thrives on interacting with locals in every walk of life. Our travels have helped us forge lifelong relationships.

We love Baja as much as our clients and that’s what keeps bringing us back time and time again.

XploreBaja looks forward to seeing you soon.

Baja Walk – San Ignacio Lagoon to San Juanico

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The Baja Walk team fills us in on the last few days of their travels, they ran into DIRTnewz’ Tim Sanchez in San Juanico….read below for the full story! 

We left San Ignacio Lagoon in the early morning and the first day on mud flats was easy going and very little mud, more like a highway of mud, smooth and flat. Finding a place to camp was difficult, but we did find a place behind a sand dune, next to a dry lakebed, it was nice, quiet and out of view of the “road”. The second day was exactly the same, with the only real problem being the choices of roads, literally every few hundred feet we would be offered  a choice of 2 or 3 roads, or path choices. We only made a wrong choice once, somewhere near “no town”. We figured it out quickly enough, turned around, and got back on track. On the second day, we made it to El Datil. We spend the night with Minerva and Hugo, camped on the porch of their tienda. These were two extremely nice people, so much so, we have made plans to come stay with them again at their home for a couple of weeks, so Hugo can teach me to be a panga fisherman. Photos on the porch: https://picasaweb.google.com/111762627298877558621/BajaWalkGallery2

 

During our visit in El Datil, our new friends Tim Sanchez the “Desert Bull”, and John and Seth Beck showed up after spending the day searching for us. They came walking in just as we were showing photos of them and the day we met south of San Ignacio. YouTube video of their search for us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQVelurCUps

 

The next two days were by far the toughest we had encounter to date. There was a stretch of road that we had to pull threw of soft sand up to the axles. It was brutal. We had to camp in view of the road, but there was little traffic. The road was rough and rocky and made pulling the wagon difficult, but we made good time and good distance. The next day was a race to San Juanico and one of the hardest days because of the rocky road and the non-stop hills to climb.

 

About 6 miles from San Juanico, Tim, John, and Seth showed up again to check on us, and to let us know they were just about to BBQ. Of course, we said we wanted to continue and we see them around 10PM, however, by the time they had turned the truck around we changed our minds, so we marked the road with a stack of rocks and went into town. We enjoyed a great evening of conversation along with hotlinks on the barbeque and lots of great veggies, not to mention the hot shower, cold beer, ceramic toilet, and comfortable bed.

 

The next morning they took us to breakfast at El Burro Restaurant and drove us back out to the rocks on the road, so that we could finish the remaining miles to town. When we made it into town, we were walking to center of town on the only paved road, when we looked ahead and noticed school kids pouring out of the school into the street. Rachel and I crossed to the opposite side of the street to avoid the activity. However, moments later a woman crossed over to us and asked us to come back to the other side, so we did. It was at that moment we realized all the children from the school were lining both sides of the street and they were there for us. We walked the gauntlet as the children cheered and sang for us. It was a very moving experience and made everything we’ve done worthwhile.

 

That night, they had a special Mexican birthday dinner prepared especially for us by a wonderful woman in town named Secarro; we had dinner on her patio, and then returned to John Becks home, for cocktails and more conversation. The biggest surprise was when John came out with a chocolate cake he had baked for my birthday, adorned with burning wooden matchsticks, since there were candles to be found in town. It was the first cake he had ever baked and it was fantastic.

 

Apparently, while Rachel and I were out walking they had planned all of this and not only the dinner and cake, but also they rebuilt the wagon with new barring washers, grease, and spacers and made it better than it has been since we first began using it.

 

Today, they took us to the beach. Seth gave me a board and we sent the morning surfing. Well, Seth surfed, while I made many attempts, and got some good rides, but don’t know if I would have called it surfing. I surfed as a kid, but apparently, surfing is not like riding a bike.

 

We are rested, happy, and ready to start walking. Tomorrow morning we will be leaving bright and early, pulling our rebuilt wagon with restocked supplies. We expect it will take about 5 days to reach Insurentes and two weeks to reach La Paz.

Baja Walk – Troubles on the road to Constitucion

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www.BajaWalk.com

From San Juanico to Ciudad Constitucion

Can we get a break? On Wednesday June 27, we had a wonderful breakfast at El Burro restaurant. The restaurant is complete with surfboards hanging on the walls, and a lush garden of potted plants, under a cool palapa. A relaxing oasis atmosphere we had enjoyed two days prior. Once again we enjoyed a great conversation with our new good friend Tim Sanchez, along with the Omelet de Papas, which is a crispy omelet of hash browns stuffed, in my case, with bacon, avocado and eggs. It is Awesome.

 

When we had completed our breakfast, Tim said his goodbyes, climbed into his massive Dodge diesel truck, and drove back to John Beck’s house to prepare for his return to the United States. Rachel and I paid and while Rachel completed a couple of tasks on the restaurants computers, in their Internet Café area, I browsed their display counter of miscellaneous trinkets and local merchandise.

 

When we went out to Mad Max, we were both upset to find that our carts front left tire was completely flat. We had noticed it was low when we had pulled it to the restaurant, but had only thought it needed a little air. Rachel suggested we head back to John’s house, but I told her that now that Tim had left, we were once again on our own and need to deal with it ourselves.

 

John and Seth Beck had given us a little C02 compressed air gun, to fill a tire in case of a flat. It was the first time I had seen such a device, but was familiar with C02 from owning pellet guns as a kid. However, that previous experience was not any help in this case. I inserted the C02 cartridge and screwed on the handle and immediately the device started to blow cold air. I knew it wouldn’t last long and panicked. I tried and to get the device to the tire, but when that failed I attempted to plug it with my thumb. All my efforts got me was an empty C02 cartridge and a cold burn on my thumb from trying to plug the frozen air escaping the cartridge.

 

Fortunately, we had another spare and as we had done many times in the past, we quickly changed the tire and were ready to roll in only a few minutes. The problem was we were now leaving town with no available spare tires. As we were fixing the tire, a local gringo Coyote Steve pulled up. We told him of our situation and he suggested we stop by Antonio’s the local llantera (tire shop). He gave us directions and we were on our way.

Antonio’s was easy to spot from the old tires lying about the tin covered garage area, dispersed and stacked between a dead generator or two, a bench seat that was removed from a car many years back, and sits exactly in the same place it was first placed (view image). The first person to come out to greet us was Antonio’s son. We explained how we wanted to get three of our tires working. I gave him the first tire and he walked off, and we didn’t see him again for about 10 minutes, until Antonio himself came out of his house located towards the back of the property. He emerged half-dressed, and was pulling over his shirt and buttoning his pants as he neared. His son appeared from a place beyond the house carrying our tire, exactly in the same condition I had given it to him.

 

After a few minutes of searching for tools, Antonio settled on a socket without the wrench to remove the wheel bolts. But, before trying to remove the bolts, he meticulously marked the location of the value stems on each of the tires with a white wax pencil. I thought this man really wants to be precise. He quickly realized he needed the wrench that goes with the socket to get the bolts removed, and after another search about the garage; moving tools from one location to another and back again, he found the wrench and went to work removing the well-marked tires from all the wheels.

 

While Antonio worked on our tires, our friend Tim Sanchez, had driven his car to the edge of town, which gave him a view of Antonio’s garage, and of course Rachel and I sitting there waiting. He came over and couldn’t believe we had not left yet, and were sitting at the tire shop. Moments later John and Seth Beck pulled up, equally surprised to see us. After a quick hello, and Tim replacing a bungee cord we had lost, we all once again said goodbye.

 

Antonio had us ready to go, and after $100 pesos, we now had four working tires on the cart and two spares. However, I did notice that he had exchanged the tires and the rims, mixing them up, so much for needing the wax pencil or being precise. I strapped on my harness, and we started again walking south. It was now 11AM and the sun was almost directly above, and unlike the previous two days in san Juanico, there was absolutely no breeze and it was hot.

 

We had been told that we would be hugging the Pacific coast between San Juanico and Las Barrancas; however, it wasn’t long after leaving town that the road moved inland just far enough that we could no longer see the coast, and it would be a long time before we saw it again. The road began to rise and fall, as the arroyos of the mountains made their way to the sea, not dissimilar to a roller coaster. We were either climbing a hill or descending one. On the largest of these climbs, Rachel and I were pulling and pushing in the heat, encouraging each other, by reminding the other, we were nearing the top, and just as we crested the top, I could hear the tires on the road more than usual and looked back to see the front left tire was completely flat. The same tire Antonio had fixed just 6 kilometers earlier.  We replaced the flat tire with our second to last spare and started walking again.

It was our first day out of San Juanico and although we left late, we were able to push ourselves to about 23 kilometers (14 miles) and made camp in a clearing in the desert, something we were lucky to find. Small thorns covered the ground and required sweeping. So, using the head of an actual kitchen broom we carry specifically for that purpose, Rachel swept away a space for the tent. A great tip provided by our friend Jerry Freer.

The next morning we were able to get up and out around 7AM, with our goal to get as far as possible, ideally all the way to Las Barrancas. We had not walked long when new San Juanico friend Tony Moats drove up on his way to Ciudad Constitucion to pick up his brother-in-law and his two kids, which were arriving on the bus from San Jose del Cabo. He told us he would be returning later in the evening, between 7-9PM, and asked us if there was anything, we might want for a treat. Of course, my quick reply was Pacifico, and “I have a deposit bottle”. I have been carrying a large deposit bottle for several hundred miles, and had it available for just these opportunities. Rachel couldn’t decide as quickly, and started with the Magnum ice cream bar, then moved to a Snickers bar if they were available. Tony told us he would see what he could do, and wanted to know how he would be able to find us. After a moment, I told him we would create three stacks of rocks, each with 3 rocks and place it next to the road on the right-hand side. He told us he would see us later and drove off.

 

Throughout the day, we continued to push each other on, counting down the kilometer markers, when they were available and periodically stopping to consult the map when they were not. We decided from the beginning not to bring a GPS and only use the map, and that was before we became prisoners of the road. About midday, the heat became too much, and we equally agreed it was time to find or create some shade. With some heat related bickering, we concluded we needed to create our own shade because we could not find or agree on anything we found.  We decided to work on perfecting our shade creating lean-to technique. Using our cart, umbrella, and tarps, we build our shade based on the direction of the sun and the wind. Ideally, we wanted the sun to pass over without moving us out of its shadow, and allowing the breeze to blow through. In almost each case, the umbrella, which was a tip from our friend Jim Green in San Felipe, has been the most important element, usually supporting our tarp roof.

 

After about 2 hours, a nice nap, some peanut butter and banana sandwiches, a few tortilla chips, it was once again time to walk. Within a few miles, a rancher in a Toyota pickup pulling a horse trailer pulled up and asked if we needed anything (view image). We told him “todo bien”, or “all is good” and he was off. Later in the day, he stopped again heading the opposite direction and wanted to see if our condition had changed. We assured him we were okay, introduced ourselves, and provided him with a printed sheet explaining our walk in Spanish. As in many similar cases, he was pleased and introduced himself as Alberto, the owner of the La carnicería, or meat market in Las Barrancas and told us we were welcome to visit his place, that he had food, water and a place to rest. We confirmed that we would make it to town later in the day and his offer was much appreciated and we would love to visit him.

 

About an hour later, Rachel yelled for me to stop pulling. “I think we have a problem”, she says “looks like were losing the barring in our tire”. Sure enough, the tires was wobbling side-to-side and was causing the cart to veer left to right, and making Rachel move out into the road. Once again, we unpacked the top of the cart and pulled out the tools to remove the tire. When I remove the tire, sure enough the barring fell out on the road. We were now completely out of spares, and had only been walking two days.

 

As the day came to end, and Rachel and I could no longer walk because of exhaustion and sore feet, we came to an arroyo that looked as if it would make a good campsite. Rachel checked one side of the road while I checked the other. The right side was the best and since that was the side we told Tony we would place our rock marker, we began stacking our rocks. The problem was that not only had Tony not returned, but also if we waited for Tony we would disappoint Alberto, who might be left waiting for us. It was at that moment that Alberto drove us in his Toyota, this time with two cows, and horse in his trailer.  After a short period of trying to explain our situation in our broken Spanish, he understood and we all agreed we would come to his store in the morning. This was perfect for us, because at this point we were down to only 2 gallons and water and no spares, so these had to be addressed before we continued.

 

After Alberto left we waited until the coast was clear and made our way into the arroyo and set up camp, took a sponge bath, or in our case shower, since it is more of a rinse using a jug of water and scrunchy  and shared in making dinner. Just as the sun was dropping and we were readying for bed, Tony and his family arrived, and not only did they have my Pacifico, which was the larger variety than the deposit bottle provided, but also Snickers, a half pint of ice cream and two ice cream cones. Of course, there was no way we could carry ice cream, so that was left in the ice chest for the kids (view image). We gladly accepting the Snickers, a small container of ice cream that Rachel thought she could get through before bed, and of course, the beer that I knew I could get through before bed. As we were standing there, visiting a man in a beat-up car drove past us and up the arroyo, where he turned off his engine once out of our view. This made me a little nervous, but didn’t seem to be noticed by the others.

 

After a short visit, Tony and his family drove off while we finished our much-appreciated treats then went to bed full, but happy. I sat up for a while listening in the dark, wondering what the man was doing. In an hour or so, I heard to the car start, drive as if he was coming closer than stop dead again. This time, I could hear he was trying to start the car, but it would comply. I again waited, listened and dozed off, later to be awaken by another car. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the second car had come to pull the dead car from the arroyo and after a short time of fussing in the darkness; I saw the two cars pass our camp, leaving the arroyo and us for the rest of the night.

The next morning, we got a late start, not leaving camp until almost 9AM, not wanting to get to town or Alberto’s too early, so we moved through our daily routine slowly, without hurry. I took the time to tear down our tires, and to put together the best combinations I could, and actually got a good spare out of them. The only thing I missed was the air to fill it, which we could no doubt get from the tire shop in town. Once we were ready, we eased onto the highway and moved south the short distance to the town turnoff, a dirt road. Alberto had drawn us a quick map the day before and as small as Las Barrancas was, finding his home and store was easy. It was located at the end of the town’s only main street, directly across from the community center and the Las Barrancas town monument, plus the big bull painted on the business wall helped.

We asked the young kid in the store if Alberto was around, and were told he was gone but would be returning soon and that we could wait for him on the shaded patio. The young man from the store, which we found out, was Alberto’s son opened two large doors at the end of the patio, which appeared to be a garage or barn. Rachel said she wanted to see in the barn and walked down to the open gate as I watched, waiting for Alberto to return. Rachel quickly turned “this is not a barn, it’s a slaughter room”, she said looking back at me with a surprised look on her face. It was about that time Alberto returned in another big commercial work truck with a friend Francisco from San Felipe, and they were carrying a big cow in the back. When the truck was backed up to the “barn” we knew what was next.

 

We went out to meet Alberto and he walked back to the patio where we all sat around and visited for a while, until they said they had some work to do, and they walked off towards the barn, motioning us to follow. Rachel said she did not want to see it, but I told her I had not seen anything like it and wanted to watch, at least what I could. I grabbed the video camera and with Alberto’s permission started videoing the whole process. I wasn’t sure how I would react, but wanted to see it at least once. The room was very clean, ceiling to floor cement with a small storage area in the back.

 

The truck was back up close to the large doors, the cow was lassoed and tied, then with an electric prod the cow was forced to jump from the truck, where he was pulled to the ground, in a kneeling position with its head to the floor. Both Alberto and Francisco began laughing at me, as they could see my expression when Alberto handed a rifle to Francisco. Francisco wasting no time, cocking the rifle, placing it near the cows forehead and pulled the trigger. The cow shuddered a moment and drop to the floor, where Francisco immediately punchered the cows chest with a very sharp knife, and cut a whole not much larger than a half dollar coin. Then using a small cooking pot, Francisco captured the blood pouring from the wound and transferred it into a plastic five-gallon bucket. The process was clean, and not what I expected, not really knowing what I expected. When there was no longer blood coming from the wound, he tied the cow’s legs and after a few swipes of his knife blade across a sharpening tool, he began skinning the cow. At this point, I left to check on Rachel, and when I returned a short while later, he was already removing steaks, and pieces of meat I recognized. Although I am glad I got to witness this process at least once, I will be okay with purchasing my meat from a market in the future.

 

Alberto provided us with some incredible jerky and machaca for us to have on the road, and invited us into his home, where we had a wonderful lunch with his wife and son. We enjoyed a conversation, which consisted a lot of figuring out what the other was trying to say, but it was a great time. And when I pulled out my glasses to try and read some translated Spanish on their son’s hand-held translator, Alfredo tried them on, and was gesturing how well he could see, then turned to his wife and told her how beautiful she was, and gave her a kiss. I was so moved by the gesture that I gave him the glasses to keep. I knew that once we left him, I only had four days before picking up a package from home, that would contain new contacts for me and I wouldn’t need them.

 

After lunch, we stocked up our water supply and got our spare aired up from Alberto, no longer needing to go to the llantera (tire shop); we took some photos with the family and said our good byes.

Once again, we were leaving late, around noon and the sun was up high in the sky and there was no breeze again, making the walk a little tough, but we both agreed the experience and new friends made it worth it. The road was being worked on, with new segments being added and paved, so pulling was slow, but we got to highway 53, and headed south. At around 2:30PM, we found a nice tree next to the highway, and stopped to rest in the shade, listened to our audio books, ate a peanut butter sandwich, and took a nap (view image). Around 4PM, we started walking again for a couple of hours, until we found an arroyo that we felt provided some good coverage (view image), and by the time we were setup, it was getting dark.

 

The next morning we got up around 4:30AM, determined to get a good start on the day. The morning was cool, and since we both fell asleep quickly the night before, we felt refreshed and ready to go. Not many kilometers after passing a small community called Francisco Villa, I again notice the cart getting tougher to pull, and found that once again we had another flat tire. This time the hole was from a thorn that punchered the tube, something that was getting easier as the tires tread got thinner and thinner. The problem this time, was we were out of money, not having access to money since Vizcaino, a couple hundred miles earlier, we were out of spare tires, and we were out of batteries for our Spot satellite device, having gone through them since receiving a package of Lithium batteries in Guerrero Negro. We mutually decided to get a ride to Constitucion where we had a package waiting at the bus station, a bank, and new tires. We stuck out our thumb, when the first truck appeared. It was a small pickup truck with a man and women, and the bed only contained an ice chest. The man, Jesus Alonso, help load us in the back of his truck and climbed back into the cab with his wife Iracema.

 

Rachel and I sat in the back of the truck, trying to stay warm from the wind and cloud cover. We made a couple of stops, so they could pick up a few items at a veterinarian in Zaragoza, use a restroom in Insurgentes, before we drove directly to Banamex to restock up on dinero. We were very grateful, and asked them if we could take them for lunch, so they took us to a great Taquería for fish and shrimp tacos. After lunch and getting to know them better, we learned that he was an administrator, and Iracema had two brothers and a sister, one of which was a teacher in La Paz. After lunch, they asked if there was anywhere, they could take us, so we asked if they knew of a cheap hotel. As luck would have it, they did. As bad luck would have it, they did. But we didn’t find out soon enough, and made the mistake of paying the $230 pesos before looking at the rooms.

 

The Hotel Reforma is a two-story hotel painted white with orange trim, and has about 25 rooms. The old man at the desk was kind enough to provide us with our requested bottom floor room and even walked us to the room. We dragged out cart inside, and wanted to get our projects done quickly; finding a tire, getting to the bus station, purchasing some supplies, etc. What we found out was the door wouldn’t lock, when we told the old man, he provided us with another key, and again it wouldn’t work. Therefore, he moved us to a new room, only now the room had no key at all, he said to lock it, and he would open it later.

 

Getting our projects took the rest of the day, and once we got our packages from the bus station and returned them to the room, where the old man still did not have a key and had to open the room for us, we left again to complete the rest of our tasks. We found Raul, (view image) and the best llantera we have ever seen in Baja, clean, impeccably organized, and very friendly. Not only did he fix the tire we had, he sold us a brand new tire, and all for only $150 pesos. The next door to the tire shop, was a bicycle shop, (view image) also part of the family business, where low and behold we found a small, lightweight bike pump and patches, two things we had not had any luck tracking down since leaving.

 

We also stopped to at the pharmacy to replenish our Ibuprofen, lip balm and to get some consulting on some health issues that first started in Vizcaino. At first, we were scared, but after a little self-diagnosis on Google, we felt better, and I felt better. Then when we got to San Ignacio Lagoon, I had blood in my urine. This again had us nervous, and although a bad policy, we once again self-diagnosed the problem, not really finding the answer, but at least eliminating enough to carry on. Although the blood has not returned, I was starting to have lower back pain, but it didn’t feel the same as muscle soreness. When we left San Juanico, I was feeling 100% better, no pain, no symptoms of any kind. I have been feeling much better, and the back pain is more of a periodic feeling now, than an actual pain, but we thought we might check a consultant anyways. Of course, when we got there, there was a long wait, so after some arguing with Rachel, I got my way, and we didn’t go in and I promised to see a doctor when returning home to San Felipe. Although Rachel didn’t get her way with the doctor, we did get everything else.

 

We left and returned, having completed most of our tasks, and walking many miles around town, from one end to the other. By the time we returned to the hotel, it was late in the day, and the old man gave us our room key as promised.

 

When we actually got into the room, we found that it had not only missed the key, but the glass in the window was missing, but fortunately it had thick curtains and heavy bars over it (view image). The bathroom was tiled floor to ceiling, and the showerhead was a pipe sticking out of the wall, and no hot water. The tile was covered in small flies and the room was buzzing with mosquitos, needless to say, we kept the door shut. The room had spider webs in most of the corners, and looked as if it had not been cleaned in a while, if at all. It was dark and there was nowhere to go, so we decided to make the most of it, and actually camped in the room, placing our air mattress on the bed and never pulling back the covers. By the time we got to bed, we knew we needed more time, which meant we had to find another hotel in the morning.

 

In the morning, we immediately began walking up and down the main roads, and after about two hours, we finally were about to return back, when just two block from the “Bates Motel”, we found Hotel Arborita, a small 18 room hotel, painted in olive green, with small clean rooms, hot water, internet access and very pleasant staff. What a major improvement and it was only $3 pesos more.

 

Today we packed, showered, and got some things done for the Baja Blues Fest, our own website, and other work, resting up for the start of walking again tomorrow. We have decided not to go back to Francisco Villa, or the place we were picked up and continue from here, not wanting to repeat the nightmare we had in Guerrero Negro. We had promised ourselves we would never to go backwards again. We figure we are missing two days and about 50 miles, and will deal with the loss of those miles, and any penalty points that come with it, but are ready to continue and are prepared to deal the hottest and most difficult part of the walk. We expect to be in La Paz 8 days, on our around July 9, where we hope to rest for at least two days, before continuing to Los Barriles, where we expect to arrive on or near July 14. If things go as planned, we will be in Todos Santos by July 20.

Baja Walk: The Road to Santa Rita

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The Road to Santa Rita

We were excited to get going again and to leave Constitucion on our way to La Paz. We got a late start and didn’t actual get going until after 6AM, but we had an early morning cloud cover that provided some relief from the sun for at least the first few hours of the day. The only problem that we had with the cloud cover was the impact it had on our SPOT satellite batteries. We had learned from calling SPOT support that cloud cover could reduce our battery life to as little as 3 days, and considering it required lithium batteries only, which are rarely available in Baja, this had been a problem. Although, we found we could use the Alkaline batteries as long as we remove them daily from the device when we went to bed each day, to help reduce the chance of corrosion or problems, that according to SPOT support was common when alkaline batteries are used.

The road leading out of Constitucion was very busy in the morning, mainly with worker traffic and large commercial trucks, and as usual, the road narrowed to two lanes and the shoulder disappeared once we reach the edge of town. Within just a few kilometers, we encountered our first flat tire and were proud that this was also the first time in the trip we actually had all the tools necessary to fix the flat, so that is exactly what we did. We pulled over, removed the wheel, then the tire from the wheel, patched the tire, and put it all back together. We had been looking for a patch kit and bike pump for several hundred miles, so it was nice to have found everything in Constitucion. Within 20 minutes, we were back on the road. In the days to come this skill was greatly improved. During this stop, just as I was completing my first tire change, Gene Jensen called from San Felipe. He was excited to reach us, and we were excited to hear from him. I was especially excited to share my new tire changing skills with him. The call was brief, but a nice addition to the start of the day. (view image)

We continued walking for several hours, and as it neared noon, we reach Villa Morelos, a small agricultural community, probably no more than a few hundred people, but a large area in terms of farm and ranch lands. On the right side of the highway was a taco stand called Café Colado, a roadside taco cart, like so many we’ve seen throughout Baja, so we stopped for lunch. As in most cases, our arrival drew the attention of those in the area and they all wanted to know what we were doing walking in the heat, pulling a cart. Sitting at a small table next to the taco stand was Efren, a pleasant looking man, well groomed and in the attire of a farm worker. He spoke some English, and we could tell he wanted to use all the English he could, which of course made communicating easier. We gave him our printed sheet explaining the walk, and our goals. We began to discuss his ranch, the organic products he produced, and how he had worked there since he was 15 years old, and how he loved his job, his boss, company and the products they were growing specific to children. Although we had only 20 minutes to talk with Efren, it was a wonderful conversation and the passion he had for his work was contagious and exciting. (view image)

Before leaving Villa Morelos, we stopped at the only llantera (tire shop) and although the young man working the shop didn’t have a tire we needed, he did have grease, so we had him remove all four tires and grease up our axles and bearings. It was fun to watch him use the full size car jack to jack up our small little cart. Once back on the road, we only lasted a short time before our next tire went flat. Again, I was fixing and replacing a tire. (view image)

This was a hot day, and a tough day, but nothing we had not dealt with in the past, but unlike the days when we were traveling off Highway One, we were now on Baja’s main highway. We found that many people we had met in the past were seeing us again for the second, third or more times, as they drove from one town to another. One of the most pleasant visits was from Jesus, a very nice man that we ran into riding his bicycle alone from the town of San Ignacio towards the San Ignacio Lagoon to roads end and back. On his return from roads end, he stopped alongside us to ask us what we were doing out there, a distance from town and moving further away. We told him about the walk and again provided the usual piece of paper with our explanation, something we learned was the fastest, smartest way to get our story told in Spanish. Now, here we were more than a hundred miles from our first encounter, and this time Jesus was driving his car, not a bicycle and when he saw us, he drove the car off the road onto the dirt shoulder, and this time he was with his wife and kids. He was excited to introduce his family to us. After a short visit, we had to continue, and they had to get home, so we said our goodbyes, again and parted ways the second time. (view image)

The day was long and with visits, we were not making our usual distance, but running out of daylight. In addition, we found both side of the road were lined with barbed wire, and there was no place to camp at all. We were getting concerned that we wouldn’t find a safe place to camp and we had not seen any ranches, stores, or homes in many miles. Just as the sun was dropping, we came to our first ranch, and although there were signs stating it was private property, we didn’t care and wanted to see what could be done before the sun dropped completely. In the dimming light, we could see that there were people on the porch of a house several hundred yards from the fence, so we began to wave our arms and yell “hola” in their direction. After a few moments of this, we noticed one of them was walking off the porch and putting on their shoes. After the shoes were apparently on, they started walking our way, not in any hurry, which was okay; because at least we had their attention. Within seconds, a smaller figure joined the approaching figure and as both got closer, we realized it was a man and a young girl, maybe 9-12 years old.

Eventually, they both arrived at the fence, and we learned that it was Luis and his daughter. We tried to let him know that all we wanted was the ability to camp inside of his fence, where it was safe and that we didn’t need anything from him and would leave early in the morning. However, after what seemed like more than 30 minutes of trying to explain ourselves, much as we had done without difficulty so many times before, and what seemed like begging this time, he still didn’t seem to understand our request. We were getting frustrated, and were almost ready to risk sleeping along the road, when Luis received a call that stopped the conversation so that he could answer. As Luis spoke on the phone, we could both see a woman off in the distance also on the phone, and she was looking directly at Luis. When the conversation was completed, Luis said we could stay and showed us where we could put up our tent. It was clear at that point, that Luis was not the boss. Ten minutes later as we were setting up our tent, the young girl that had accompanied Luis came out to us with a pitcher of lemonade, and two glasses. It appeared to us that the woman in the distance was boss, and after Luis had delivered our explanation sheet in Spanish to the real boss, his wife, she found it safe to have her daughter bring us refreshments. (view image)

The next morning, after a short time of walking, our new friend Efren, we had met in Villa Morelos at the taco stand, drove up and off the highway, then stopped on his way to La Paz to introduce us to his entire family; mom and dad, his wife and children. They had also brought us apples, pears, and a box of Rice Krispy Treats. It was very nice to see him again and to meet his family. Although the visit was brief, it was pleasant.  (view image)

Later in the morning, before the clouds had burned off, we saw a couple of cyclists riding towards us, this was only the second cyclists we’d seen since we left, the first being David Grossman, that turned out to be our best friends cousin, proving once again that the world is a small place. On this occasion, we watched as the riders passed us, and we yelled where you going. When they reached us, they continued to ride past, but then as I thought they didn’t see us, the rider in the back, looked our direction, and yelled “Hey, they’re walkers!” to the first rider. They both slowed and turned back towards us, crossing the highway, rolling down the dirt embankment to reach us. “We thought you were highway road workers”, one of them said, asking what we were doing. Once again, we gave them the usual mini-speech, and saving our print outs for the Spanish speaking. They turned out to be Marieke and Arnold, husband and wife from New Zealand and they were finishing the last leg of a ride they had been working on for many years, riding 3-4 months each year; from the top of the continent to the bottom and most parts of the world; China to Middle East. Arnold was turning 68, and Marieke was near his age, and when we asked them where they were going next, Marieke said they said they were not sure, but it was a big world and “we still have at least 10 more years of riding left, so who knows”. We enjoyed a wonderful conversation, shared coffee, and stories of adventures and dreams. We exchanged numbers, contact info, and said our goodbyes. (view image)

 

Two hours later, around 11AM as the sun was beating down hot and relentless, we came to Las Brisas del Desierto, a restaurant that was alone in the desert and an oasis to us at this time. The entire restaurant, inside and out, along with the signage was painted in the Pacifico beer colors, blue and yellow. Rachel and I both agreed we had never been there, so we wanted at least see what was there, and we could use a cold Pacifico. We crossed the highway and parked the cart under a thatch palapa just outside the entrance to the restaurant, which was another much larger palapa of the same thatched design (view image). Rachel removed her backpack, and I removed my pulling harness and we went inside. We were greeted by a group of about 10 Mexicans, all sitting around the room chatting with one another. We all gave each other a traditional “Buenos Dias”, and then we asked if they were open, they replied yes and motioned for us to have a seat. They had seen us walk up with our cart and wanted to know what we were doing, so again we pulled out our printed explanation. The paper was handed to a young girl, probably 17 or 18 years old, and the youngest in the group, and she read the sheet aloud to everyone.  The reading was followed by a visible approval by the group. At that time, the majority of the group got up, shook our hands, and said they were glad to meet us, then all but four of them left, which was the father, mother, son in his twenties and the young girl that had done the reading. The same young girl took our order of four burritos, and two cold beers, which turned out to be Tecate, not Pacifico. Apparently, they had changed distributors, but according to the dad, had not bothered to repaint the building or change the signs. The daughter disappeared into the back, while Rachel and I sat and worked on our Spanish with dad, mom, and the son. A short while later the daughter returned with our burritos and Tecate. We enjoyed a pleasant lunch, with a pleasant family. (view image)

 

We were not back on the road for more than an hour, when two more cyclists came into view in the distance. When they were close enough that they could hear us, I yelled out to them, “where are you going?”, and immediately they both turned and crossed the highway towards us. They introduced themselves as James and Margit, and told us they were from Marin County in the Bay Area, riding the tip of South America. James said they would take about a year and a half to make the trip, so I asked how they could afford to do that, apparently too young to be retired. They said they lived in one of the most expensive areas of California, and they could ride their bikes for less than they could live at home, and that they could travel full-time on their bikes for less than $500 per month. Margit was originally from Germany, but spoke perfect English with a German accent. She told us she sub-rented her place for $500 more than she pays in rent, and could live on $15 a day while cycling and camping. We told them about the previous cyclists Marieke and Arnold, and they said they had heard of them and were hoping to catch up to them. We let them know they were only a couple hours behind them and they became excited about meeting them in the next town. We exchanged our contact info, and promised to send each other updates, said our goodbyes, and they rode off. (view image)

 

The day was getting hotter and more difficult to deal with, so we took a brief rest under a mesquite tree, which seemed to be our most common refuge from the sun. It also became our most loathed tree, because of the incredibly sharp and ever-present thorns the tree produces. We were being stabbed and stuck by the thorns on a daily bases, in addition to daily flat tires, and the nightly fear of putting a new hole in our air mattress, even with the 4 layers of tarp we would lay down. This rest under this prickly tree was much the same, but the relief from the sun was always welcome, despite the utter dislike for the tree. Our goal was to reach Santa Rita, which was still several kilometers away, and from what we had been told there was a llantera (tire shop), and we were in desperate need of tire replacements, so we kept our stay brief, no longer than 30 minutes, but enough to remove our shoes and raise our feet to reduce swelling. Then we were back walking again. (view image)

 

When the radio tower of Santa Rita came into view, it became a beacon for us to follow, that kept us motivated, gradually getting larger the closer we got to our destination. However, when we reached Santa Rita, we were deeply disappointed to find it was a small pueblo, and offered us very little. It was clear there was not going to be any resting here, and the llantera we had hoped for was out of business, and looked as if it had been for years. Fortunately, there was a small tienda (store), where we were able to purchase toilet paper, much needed water at a high price, and two deposit bottles of Pacifico. (view image)

 

Rachel and I loaded away the new supplies and immediately got back onto the highway. Leaving town we had to cross over a bridge that spanned a large arroyo, which in many cases would have provided us with good shelter for camping, but not in this case. There was no way down into the arroyo for us, which was yet another disappointment. About half way across the bridge, that had no shoulder, something Rachel and I had become accustom to navigating, a commercial truck drove onto the bridge, heading north bound, directly for us. When it came onto the bridge, we both looked back to see the other lane was clear, so we were not concerned, knowing the truck had room, however the truck didn’t move, instead it remained on a course directly for us. We had nowhere to move, and we could not jump over the railing into the arroyo, it was at least a 50-foot drop, so we stopped, pulled ourselves and cart as far off the road as we could and waited as the truck sped for us. When truck reached us, he had not only not moved into the clear southbound lane, but had actually moved closer to our shoulder, as close as I think he felt comfortable getting, because when he passed us, he only cleared the cart and the two of us, both leaning away, by 3-4 inches and at full highway speed. This was the first time in over 600 miles and hundreds of trucks that we actually felt in danger from a commercial truck and knew we were deliberately being toyed with. The truck was not a full semi-truck, but midsize and white, without any logos or identifiable markings, so I had no way of knowing who it was or where it was from. Seeing there was no other cars behind this devil truck, I immediately leapt into the highway only milliseconds after it passed and flipped it the bird, passionately with both hands. All I could do was hope my sign language was international enough to get my point across, and that he would return, so I could teach the driver some manners.

 

At this point, Rachel and I were both exhausted from a long day of walking, the sun was dropping fast and we knew we needed a place to camp. About one kilometers past the bridge, we came to an abandoned restaurant, and thought it could make a good shelter for the evening, but on a closer look realized it didn’t provide much of a hiding place, and there was far too much trash for my comfort. We agreed to try the desert on the other side of the road. This turned out to be the best choice, because that evening and the following morning there was much activity around the restaurant, with trucks stopping, and cars passing on the dirt road that passed beside it to some unknown destination. Still angry from the truck driver, and the disappointment of the town, we set up camp. This was a long day, but we reached our goal, although a disappointment at days end, we still had those two bottles of Pacifico, which we enjoyed together, zipped up tight, safe and comfortable in our tent, before falling asleep to another chapter of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Princess of Mars on audio book. (view image)