Todos Santos

I’ve been spending a few days in Todos Santos, a small but spread-out village just inland from the Pacific coast. It’s one of those ‘sleeper’ villages that has attracted a lot of attention (and US money) in the last few years due to its laid-back atmosphere and proximity to the major cities of La Paz and Cabo San Lucas (Los Cabos), collectively being re-branded as the “Cabo Rivieria”. Authentic Mexico it certainly is not. Numerous artists and would-be US retirees have set up here, but it’s not hard to see why. It’s also right on the Tropic of Cancer (so having crossed that marker I’m now officially in the tropics!)

I’m very much enjoying it though as it’s still a quiet enough place to unwind after days cycling through the desert. English is prevalent here, and all the signs of a tourist town abound – lots of cafes and restaurants, spas, boutique hotels, ‘health/well-being’ places etc. I found a coffee shop (La Esquina) that serves organic coffee, which I think must be my first since Ensenada. Very welcome indeed. I also checked the friendly GotBajaMaps store – quirky souveniers (not that I’m buying any as I have enough luggage…) and very helpful local information.

I also picked up a local rag called the “Gringo Gazette”, a free bi-monthly English-language ‘newspaper’ that is published from California but seems to think of itself as based in San Jose del Cabo. Either way, it’s a sloppy publication that seems to promote xenophobia and the colonial ‘us and them’ attitude that characterises new developments in ‘developing’ countries. Change is happening quickly in this part of the world, but really it’s the same story seen many times before. Money’s talking here but it’s not the peso.

I’m staying in a smaller little place called El Pescadero, where I can camp and enjoy the view of the small pool (I’ve yet to try, surprisingly). It’s a nice little spot to enjoy my time here, except for the 12 km commute I’ve been doing back into Todos Santos. Oh, and the heat, the dogs…ok, just kidding, it’s a pretty sweet deal.

El desierto: Part II

So yes the desert is tough in this heat. But when I’m riding during the day it often doesn’t feel as such, given the breeze that accompanies me along the way. Eventually however it takes its toll and making an effort to get at least some shade is important, if only for a short break. I’ve got used to the ‘bleakness’ and it’s grown on me. The things that I find hardest is the distance in between towns as it’s nice for me to know there are at least a few people somewhere along the way (though conversely I then wonder just what makes a person live all the way out here??). The early mornings and evenings are the best time to be out there.

So onto La Paz…and somehow in the back of my head I couldn’t help thinking, that maybe, just maybe, if things went very well, I could get pretty close. Close enough that there might be an alternative in the small town just outside of La Paz. I wanted to get to Todos Santos the day after so getting as many km in on the first day would make things a lot easier on the second. So a big day ahead and things went about as good as they could have done. A good breakfast to start (tortillas & beans), tailwinds and flat terrain for the first few hours (I could have cycled blindfolded the road was so straight) and so it continued. A delightful German lady stopping to give me a drink; feeling good on the ride; mostly tailwinds and not too many hills. By late afternoon I felt that La Paz was in reach, though I still scouted possible places to sleep. With the sun coming down low I was closing in on La Paz. I got a great view of the bay in the softening light around 40 km out of the city where the plateau begins to drop towards the ocean, and by then I knew I could do it even if it meant the last few km were in the dark.

I didn’t need to get to the city centre, so seeing an RV Park about 11km out, I checked in. and I must have been in a state because the owner asked if I’d like a room instead of camping. At the heavily-discounted price I couldn’t refuse. A hugely satisfying day, clocking my longest day so far.

And seeing as I’ve posted enough pictures of the desert already, here’s a few others things I’ve seen lately…

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El desierto: Part I

I spent a nice day in Loreto after my night ride and was able to relax and look around for the rest of the day, although not much was going on due to the heat. It was back inland after that and back into the hills. And somehow those hills just kept on coming. It was looking to be a very uncomfortable day and I didn’t get much respite with a lack of shade to be found when I stopped for lunch. Once on the plateau the wind was up and right in my face. Ah, a headwind for a change…but I wasn’t complaining too much because I knew when i arrived in Cuidad Insurgentes the road takes a sharp left and with it a likely tailwind for most of the rest of the way south. I was pretty spent by the time I reached town and so after some rest my initial plans for desert camping started to look unlikely. It was only 25 km to Cuidad Constitucion, a much bigger town. The irony of a whole day in the empty desert and now having an almost urban corridor made me smile. I thought that to try and get through the town and back into the desert was too much and getting too late. One issue I certainly have is that although Edna looks svelte (from her best angle!) she does carry a hefty package and any off-road situation is almost like pulling a bag of bricks. I did try to get off the main road but I was laughably incompetent trying to get anywhere. So arriving in Cd. Concepcion I lucked out in finding a pretty comfortable RV Park to camp at (with wifi!).

I woke up late the next day, packed up and then decided it was just a little too good (and cheap) to run from. It’s nice to change plans and I ended up staying another couple of nights.

Camping in the desert is not as hard or as bad as it might sound. In fact, some tourers thrive on it (I’ve met them) so it just comes down to whether you want to or not. Coming from the ‘comfortable’ US of A and my difficulties in adjusting in my first few days in Mexico did not really give me the right mindset for it, but I was much more comfortable now and would have been happy trying it out.

Maybe on the road to La Paz…? 210 km lay between me and La Paz and other sleeping options were pretty much non-existent. One night in the desert would be fine, wouldn’t it? But these two might give me some problems…


Ants in my pants

Nico and I separated as I wanted to make up more ground on the road to Loreto, in order to leave a shorter day after. South of Mulege there are a number of ‘postcard’ beaches in the Bahia de Concepcion. All offer some degree or another of camping and some have beachside restaurants too. It’s a particularly attractive option to get a cabana, a little protective wooden shelter. And all very cheap. I passed a number of very nice ones, but pushed on to the end of the bay.

It all looked so idyllic and when I got to Playa Perla I thought this is just fantastic! Although it wasn’t the nicest one and had no facilities (it would be a stretch to call the toilet a toilet), it was empty (save for a couple of locals who looked they were living there…) and I was right by the water. Quiet, peaceful, a day’s riding behind me – almost perfect. I took a swim and later sat outside the hut for a typical tourer evening food (i.e. lots of peanut butter). Doesn’t get much better than this, thought I. A bright moon was rising, so as the sky deepened over the horizon I looked forward to getting an early night under the stars, just sleeping on my camping mat and sleeping bag. But as I keep learning, things are never quite as straightforward…

Around 9pm I got some fellow visitors. A couple of guys arrived and they wandered about the beach with a few beers in hand. After my US hiker-biker experiences I feared the worst. Luckily they weren’t too noisy but soon got the inclination to build themselves a fire. I have no idea what they threw in there, but it stank, and I was directly downwind…nice touch, fellas. Somehow though I got a bit of sleep together, at least to start with. It wasn’t long before I woke up scratching myself here and there. It soon turned into more than here and there and I wondered what was going on. Soon I got into the sleeping bag – better to sweat than suffer the bites, or least it was for a while. I considered pitching the tent but really just hoped I’d get away with things as they were. Ant bites everywhere was no fun and by 2.30am I was not a happy camper – I’d had enough. Time to get up and hit the road early! I’d guessed it was the ants and got another shock when I discovered hundreds of them all over my food bag. Another mistake not learned – I’d forgotten to hang up my food in the cabana. They were particularly keen on my oat biscuits. Little gits.

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Nick the Greek in San Ignacio

Dates weren’t the only other thing I found in San Ignacio. On arrival I did a quick tour of the village, just to see what it was like and check out the accommodation options. I stopped in the lovely plaza in the village centre to get my bearings and was quickly interrupted out of my distracted thoughts by a ‘hello’. And the accent didn’t sound Spanish. It turns out Nico (“Nick the Greek” as I couldn’t help thinking after he introduced himself) was a Greek-British guy cycling his way from Canada to South America. We chatted for a few minutes and he told me where he was staying, so Agnes got lucky again as I found the campsite Nico was at. We ended up spending the next couple of days together, cycling to Santa Rosalia and to Mulege the following day.

It was good to have some company and (as is often the case with these random encounters) it turns out Nico went to school less than 10km from where I did near lovely Leeds. Somehow we’d never met before then, despite both coming from Vancouver (Nico from Kelowna) at similar times and pretty much on the same route.

Agnes gets a look-in at last; figtastic

Since holing up in San Diego for a few days I’ve had Agnes packed up in my bag. She didn’t appreciate it but I was enjoying the hostel in SD and then the motels in Mexico. Camping just didn’t seem quite the same here…

But I found a hotel here in Vizcaino that did a pretty nice camping setup and it was a heck of a lot cheaper than the other options so Agnes got her first taste of Mexico tonight and she picked a great spot. Right next to orange and fig orchards. I thought picking right off the trees was a bit rude so just hunted for what had fallen on the ground. Figtastic! I found far too much that I can realistically carry along with, so I’ve literally stuffed myself with figs this evening and feel far too full to go to bed. I’ll be digesting this lot until tomorrow lunchtime. I wonder what I’ll have for breakfast…

Agnes seems happy and we’re going to get ourselves reaquainted pretty shortly.

There’s sun, but is that really a tan or just dirt?

I’ve been on the road for over 6 weeks now and until reaching San Diego was camping each night. Warm, comfortable showers and sleeping arrangements were obviously somewhat limited, and being on the road means suncream, dirt and (occasionally!) a bit of sweat.

As you’ll have seen, I’m fair-skinned, and usually go from white to red at the drop of a sunhat. Part of my body are getting some colour now, but is it just grime or could it signs of a real tan??


Some good companions

Not everyone I’ve camped with has been a bunch of idiots. Through all the crap there’s usually some good to be found and my friend Nicholas and I enjoyed the company for a few days of Aaron and Jojo.

We departed paths in northern California as Aaron and Jojo decided to tackle the “Lost Coast”; essentially a roam into the wilderness of sorts. The two of them couldn’t pass up the chance to see what the unexplored might bring. Me, I had an apporintment to keep in Fort Bragg so I declined this one.

I figured that would be the last time we’d see them so imagine my surprise last week when I’m riding back to camp on my rest day north of San Francisco and who should roll by but the two of them, safely out of the wilds and looking pretty good for the experience. Meeting them again the following morning in Sausalito I got to find out of random meetings with the few people who live around there, camping in someone’s garden, exhaustion, many long hill climbs…but all of it a worthwhile experience. Aaron had geared himself up with incense, a Tibetan prayer flag and sage in order to make the experience a little more ‘authentic’.

So when I received part of the prayer flag as a parting gift I was very touched. I will keep it for my own exploration of “La Costa Perdida”

Gemini snaps under the strain of my open relationship with Edna

Edna and I are getting along very well which is just as well considering how much time we spend together. When I’m not with Edna I’m with Gemini, and we’ve been cosy as well for the last month, spending every night together. I thought she was very tolerant but alas the strain of life on the road was too much for her and she snapped, literally. In the space of a couple of days she broke two of her poles leaving me with little faith in our ongoing relationship. I tried to fix things up but really our long-term future was finished.

As callous as it sounds, with some sharp talking I quickly managed to find a new companion (Agnes) who I feel will be much more suited to a long-term deal. So far she’s making me feel pretty happy.

Edna really doesn’t mind, she knows we’re in an open relationship and there will always be another one; she knows she’s unique and will be with me for a long time to come..

Gemini during the good times: helping me in the Oregon rain

Things that go bump in the night

We all know its a scary word out there. I’m glad we have such concerned authorities that tell us our coffee is hot, that the hot tap contains hot water, that a packet of peanuts may contain nuts. How we ever got by without such information is a mystery that many billions regularly ask themselves.

So it goes with camping and bike touring. Lots of potential danger out there, and lots of warnings to go with it. Cars, strangers, security, and very definitely the wildlife. We get warned about bears (bear locker mandatory in Elk Prairie campground), elk, deer, suirrels, raccoons, cheeky birds who’ll nab your food at the earliest opportunity etc etc. All good to know.But one warning I didn’t receive was about those that live under the ground. Being woken up by something bumping up into my thigh in the middle of the night was a little disconcerting…and was stubbornly refusing to go back down from whence it came…but it was ‘just’ a mole as I saw the next morning with many alternative molehills surrounding my tent.

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