Sunday, August 27, 2017

Saddle Tramps - Baja California - Moto Trip: The Americas

We take on Baja California.

The morning of August 17th we were up early as we had our first major border crossing. We packed up and said our goodbyes to Johanna's parents before riding a short distance to the border. We had researched it, and felt we knew what steps to take for a quick, successful crossing. Unfortunately, it appeared we had bad information, and Google wasn't much help either. We passed through the border so quickly, we were on the other side in Mexico in minutes. Our data said the Aduana office, and all related areas were after you enter Tijuana. But we drove around for a while trying to find them, and after a while decided we must have missed something. Our only option was to re-enter California, then turn around and re-enter Mexico. The line into the US was long. Really long. So long people were going down the highway in reverse to avoid entering the queue. Luckily we're on motorcycles so we were encouraged to lane split and move to the front. When we went back into Mexico, we made sure to take the declarations lane, where we had a very smooth experience getting all our entry paperwork and temporary vehicle import permit (much smoother than the internet claimed it would be). Once that was done, it was a quick drive south on the 1 until we found a near empty campsite on the beach. We set up camp and relaxed with some beers while watching the waves crash from our tent.



We were up with the sunrise, and took a short ride to the town of Ensenada. After a quick breakfast we continued south down the 1 until we found the 23, and rode that about 21 km to the end, where we found La Bufadora. After parking we were assured by the parking attendant that he would watch our bikes if we talked to his friend on the phone, who promised us he could get ANYTHING we wanted. I told him we just wanted to see La Bufadora, which ended the conversation. We continued down the hill towards La Bufadora, and we suddenly realized how touristy this place was. For about a kilometer we were surrounded by vendors shouting at us constantly to come check out their wares. We were offered enough Pina Colada samples that we could have had a full drink by the time we reached the bottom. 

Finally we arrived, and watched the geyser spray up between the rocks. We got our obligatory photos and headed back to the bikes. Luckily the vendors had grown bored of us, as busloads of tourists had arrived and were there to get drunk and buy tourist shit. 

 We got out as quickly as possible. We rode back to Ensendada then turned East on Highway 3. This was a great ride that at first wound up through some beautiful scenic hills before putting us on one of the flattest, hottest, and emptiest stretches of road we've ever seen. Just when we thought the saddlesore was too much to bare, we found a small town and filled up at the Pemex before having a nice, cheap lunch. 4 km later we turned off on a sandy path and rode far enough away from the highway to set up our camp by a dry riverbed. It was the perfect way to end the evening.







The next morning we were up with the sunrise once again and quickly packed up our camp. We made good time, but on our way back to the main road had our first drop of the trip when Johanna's bike slid out from under her on some deep, slick sand. Luckily it was low speed and she was uninjured, and we were quickly on our way again. We grabbed some huevos chorizo at a local restaurant and continued on into the desolate and seemingly endless straight Mex 3, which after a military checkpoint turned us onto the Mex 5, which also seemed to be endless. 


By this point it was about 10 am and the heat was becoming unbearable. The only relief came from the wind when we were traveling over 60 miles per hour, but even that was unusually hot. Hoping to find some shade and a place to cool off in San Felipe, we were disappointed to find it was essentially a ghost town, the locals just hadn't realized it yet. We found ourselves passing endless "beachfront property" which amounted to a gate and a sign, with nothing beyond it. Apparently that's as far as many developers got before giving up or going bankrupt. We rode on as fast as we could over the variable quality roads, passing a number of giant cacti and abandoned homes, but little else. 





Finally we made it to Puertecitos where we found a beach front campsite with an amazing view. The price was a bit steep at $20, but we needed relief from the heat and were happy to take it. Soon after Johanna started feeling the effects of heat exhaustion, but luckily we were camping by the ocean, which helped cool her down.





The next morning we were up early yet again and found a market where we proceeded to buy a ton of water and Johanna drank several bottles before we were allowed to set out. We also discovered our spare oil bottle had leaked into Josh's tool bag, but unfortunately had no way of dealing with it at the time. Josh attempted to retighten the bottle and repacked the bag, now coated in oil. We rode for 50 miles until we reached a gas station/market where we could restock our supplies, as our fuel was getting especially low. 


By the time we were ready to ride again it was almost 10 am, and 100 degrees. We poured water over ourselves and into our pants pockets before throwing on our jackets. This worked surprisingly well once the wind hit us and we managed to stay cool for quite a while. It didn't take long for the pavement to end, as they were still working on completing this highway. We made our way through a zig-zagging mess of rocky, rough roads, never quite sure if we were on the correct one, as none of them were marked. But finally we arrived at the legendary Coco's Corner. Run by the equally legendary Coco, it is literally the only stop for miles in the excessively hot wasteland. We shared a coke with Coco and took some photos of his eclectic home, where the walls and ceiling are covered with souvenirs from the 20+ years he's been there. A lot of riders have passed through and left their mark there, and it was on our list as a must see stop in Baja. 











After re-soaking ourselves with water, we said our goodbyes to Coco and continued on the dirt for another 20 km winding through the desert. Finally we made it to Mex 1, and continued South. We rode for hours, only stopping for lunch at a small house that was crowded with truck drivers. The tostadas were amazing, and very cheap. Unfortunately for us, there really wasn't much out there, and we just had to keep going. By the time we reached Guerrero Negro, it was nearly 6 pm. We saw a run down looking yellow building off the road that said it had rooms and wifi, so we went to investigate. The rooms were 300 pesos, but surprisingly large and clean. We took it immediately, as it was the first bed and shower we'd seen in days.





We decided to stay an extra day in Guerrero Negro to recuperate and catch up with what was happening in the world. But after that we hit the road again, continuing South to Mulege. This was an uneventful day, and when we arrived we managed to find a cheap RV Park to camp in. It was run by an older American who, upon learning we were from the US, began ranting about illegals and how Trump needs to get the wall built. We didn't want to engage him further, and so decided against pointing out the irony of his hatred and racism towards Mexicans while living in Mexico as an immigrant. Incidentally, we had one of the worst nights camping yet, as it was so incredibly hot we had to sleep with the tent doors open, since even the mesh was too hot. The host had a pool, which was a breeding ground for mosquitoes, but at least he had a lot of animals hanging around. It was a rough night, and we couldn't wait to leave in the morning.




"Who run bartertown?"




After a few hours of riding we made it to Hotel El Conquistador, which we found on our maps.me app. The staff was very accommodating and allowed us to park in the lobby. This drew a lot of attention from the locals, who apparently had never seen bikes as big as 250cc before. They were especially curious the next day as we packed up to leave, with a crowd gathered by the time we started the bikes up. 


We rode through some of the most boring, dead looking terrain to date, until we finally got to La Paz. We were hot, sweaty, and hungry, so we pulled into a restaurant called Los Super Burros. We assumed this was just the name, and ordered some Asado tacos and an Al Pastor burrito. The food was great, but we noticed the meat tasted different than we were used to. Looking around at the d├ęcor on the walls, we noticed everything had a donkey on it. Hand painted donkeys, the donkey from Shrek, etc. And no meat types were mentioned on the menu such as chicken, pork, etc. In broken Spanish we asked the hostess if the meat was burro, which she confirmed. That was fine with us, as so far on our travels we've eaten Alligator, Kangaroo, and Guinea Pig, (and Johanna has eaten a lot of bugs). It was actually really good (though a bit salty), and we hope to have it again on this trip.







After filling up on donkey meat, we found a hotel a few blocks away for $350 pesos per night and hauled all our bags up to our room and took some much needed showers. The next day we only had one goal, to figure out the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan on the Mexican mainland. After some internet research, we decided to go in person to buy our tickets. The staff was polite, and the room air conditioned, and before long we had our tickets and a cabin booked for the next night. We'll let you know how it went on the next update!

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