Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Biking the Baja Divide: A Photo Journal

At the end of January, I traveled to Mexico to bike the new Baja Divide route. This a photo journal of my trip.

Part I: Biking from Tecate to San Quintin with Ronaldo

I rode the first ~270 miles from Tecate to San Quintin with Ronaldo. We covered this section in just over a week. 

Due to recent heavy rains, the desert in the north was unusually lush.
(Photo: Ron Norton)

I rode with my friend, Ron.
I met Ron three years ago; he was a WarmShowers host
on my Sierra Cascades trip (see Day #10: Crazy Ass Winds.)
You may recall that I also visited Ron on a roadtrip two summers ago
(see A Roadtrip Through California and Oregon.)

This was a common scene at the end of each day's ride --
chillaxing while perusing the next day's route.
(Photo: Ron Norton)

We encountered a surprising amount of water on the roads.
This was our first water crossing. Not knowing what to expect, we walked the bikes.
In retrospect, this would have been a piece of cake to ride through.
(Photo: Ron Norton)

This water crossing, however, was quite deep and necessitated a push.
(Photo: Ron Norton)

The dusty roads made for some unhappy drivetrains.
Cleaning and lubing our drivetrains was a daily ritual.

Some of the roads were in decent shape; others were not.

Here is an example of a not-decent section -- a deeply rutted, steep-ass descent.
Ron and I are the two tiny dots walking our bikes down this monster.

This little boy was sad he couldn't ride with us
(but even more sad we didn't give him a handout).

A colorful, abandoned building on the side of the road caught our attention.
 From the inside looking out, the window perfectly framed Duke Muir.

The layers of peeling paint on the outside of the house were psychedelic.

For a few days, we rode with Will & Tyler, two guys who we met en route.
Here are my handsome riding buddies: Will, Tyler, and Ron.
Check out Will's blog for more trip photos:

Will's shirt has a unique patina!
(Scroll down for photos of my unique patina.)

Many of the barbed wire fences were draped with cardboard,
presumably to make the fencing more visible.

Though the first few days of the ride were grand, I quickly tired of the landscape. I parted ways with Ron, Will, and Tyler, and hopped on a bus to La Paz in search of some culture.

Part II: A Brief Volunteer Gig in La Paz

I arranged a volunteer opportunity through Workaway for which I would help teach english to a local woman.

I enjoy walking through cemeteries to see how different cultures honor their dead.
Walking through the Parque Funeral Jardines del Recuerdo in La Paz,
I came across a colorful heap of discarded plastic flowers.

My hosts had a buddhist display on a shelf in their home.
How fun to read the buddhist principles in Spanish.

Despite my excitement to teach english, after four days, I had done absolutely no teaching; my host wasn't in the mood to learn. No longer with purpose and itching to get back on the bike, I left La Paz.

Part III: Biking the Southern Loop Counterclockwise from La Paz to San Jose del Cabo

I set out, by myself, to ride the 110 mile southern loop of the Baja Divide from La Paz to San Jose del Cabo.

Three cones and three peacocks.

My first penis encounter in Baja!

So few was foliage in Baja, and so hungry was I for such foliage.
I sat under this tree, staring upwards, for a long time.

No siree, those are not tan lines.

Part IV: Continuing from San Juan del Cabo to La Paz with El Mecánico

I met up with El Mecánico in San Juan del Cabo. He had flown down to Baja after visiting friends in California. We spent a lazy couple of days riding 120 miles north to El Sargento along the Sea of Cortez.

An abandoned kitchen -- including a yet-to-be-cracked egg and plenty of wasp nests.

Yes, we both like our MSR Hubba tents.

(Photo: El Mecánico)

We spent a night camping under palapas in Cabo Los Frailes.
Some people would consider this camp spot to be right up there with heaven;
I guess I'm not much of a beach person.

Your eyes do not deceive you.
Yes, I'm airing out the ladybits.
The minimalist bikepacking setup precluded me
from packing my modest bike skirt.
(Photo: El Mecánico)

The simplicity of this scene is intoxicating.

And the narrow ribbon of water makes El Mecánico seem gigantic!

I like this one, too. I like how the shadow of the palapa resembles a bird.

El Mecánico poked fun at my patina.
(Photo: El Mecánico)

Yeah, okay, maybe that's a little gross.
(Photo: El Mecánico)

I read my Kindle in what little shade I could find.
(Photo: El Mecánico)

We spent a night camping on the beach in La Ribera.
I thoroughly enjoyed examining the detritus that had washed ashore
and was lined up militaristically at the high tide mark.
Look at the teeth on that sucker!

And look at those honkers!

This poor little pufferfish ain't gonna be puffin' no more.

Taking a photo of El Mecánico, who is taking a photo of the sunset.

This was about as scenic as the riding got in Baja.
The dull browns were fortunately complemented by the Sea of Cortez.

But this I liked. Look at the color in this totem pole!

And look at the color on this biking chick!
(Photo: El Mecánico)

Part V: Another Volunteer Gig in El Sargento

After I bowed out of riding the entire Baja Divide route, I decided to join El Mecánico, who would spend the next three weeks in El Sargento working another Workaway volunteer opportunity.

Jumping for joy in Mexico.
(Photo: El Mecánico)

Is that a novelty shop called Sarah??? Spelled with an "h"???
(Photo: El Mecánico)

El Mecánico plays on the coolest ride ever...

...located in the saddest playground ever.

A storm delivered a variety of blue hues to the beach in La Ventana.

More stormy gorgeousness.

This poor cow had been attacked by a cholla cactus!

¡Pobrecita vaca!

There were vultures everywhere in Baja.
It was interesting to see them perched atop the cardon cacti.

This is where we stayed during our volunteer gig.
Two hoots for RV living.
(Photo: El Mecánico)

After much deliberation, we decided to bail on the volunteer opportunity four days into our three-week commitment. We were doing various heavy labor tasks for gringos who own a winter home in Baja. In a nutshell, we felt as though our efforts were taking work away from the locals. Our moral compasses weren't comfortable complicating the Mexican labor scene, particularly in our current political climate.

Part VI: Another Brief Visit to La Paz

We were ready to be done with Baja. The riding wasn't so great, and we were turned off by the heavily gringo-ized culture. We biked the final miles back to La Paz, where we spent a few days before catching a bus back to The States.

A colorful array of umbrellas cast geometric shadows on the ground below.

The pretty rainbow in the sky.
(I've never been so desperate for color!)

You can use this old-school payphone to access a wifi connection. How ironic!

My photos don't capture a few of the more memorable events:

  • Riding behind Ron and smelling his sweet scent after he spilled whiskey in his backpack.
  • Eating bags and bags of beans for sustenance.
  • Watching the campground host in Santo Tomas show us his pet skunk.
  • Realizing we were about to be robbed. [The long story made shorter: Just days before starting our trip in Tecate, two cyclists riding the Baja Divide were robbed at gun point. (Sorry, Mom, I didn't tell you about this.) A few days into our ride, Ron and I spotted some sketchy-looking guys along the route, very near to where we were going to camp. We cycled further down the road and stopped where we thought we'd be safe. A little while later, Ron spotted the sketchy guys on the horizon. In a panic, Ron and I quickly changed out of our bright clothing, hid our valuables, and did our best to conceal our camp spot, all while watching the bandits get closer and closer. When the banditos were close enough so we could make out details, we noticed they were riding nice rigs. They weren't bandidos after all -- they were our new riding friends, Will and Tyler.]
  • Face-planting and the scraped-up chin and bruised cheek that resulted.
  • Getting electrocuted moving a gate in a field near Vincente Guerrero.
  • Running out of water when I was biking solo through the Sierra de la Laguna mountains and being utterly grateful for my ATV trail angels who gave me water and snacks.
  • Seeing all the animals as I rode through the Sierra de la Laguna mountains -- horses, cows, chickens, goats, peacocks. Just after I said to myself, "I have seen everything but a pig," a wild pig snorts loudly from the brush and then crosses the road ahead of me.
  • Marveling at all the colorful kitesurfers in El Sargento. At one point, I counted more than sixty kites flying in the sky! [El Sargento and the neighboring town of La Ventana are meccas for kitesurfers. Just the week before, Ferit, who had taught me to kitesurf (see Reflections on My Turkey Trip), had been kitesurfing in La Ventana.]

Stay tuned for my next post, in which I will share my lessons learned from the trip.


  1. Awesome trip!!! I'm very jealous! But was it a wild pig or a javelina? They are different you know!

    1. Valid point. Mostly likely is was a javelina. :)

  2. I'm still wondering how that whiskey got all leaky.....! Thanks again for riding with me - i don't think it turned out the way either of us thought it would, but i think it defintely met the "adventure" criteria.

    1. The whiskey was great -- smelling it on you (even from 20 feet away!) meant I didn't have to smell my stinky self. ;)

      Thank YOU for riding with me! Although it was indeed an adventure, I'm thinking the next trip for me will have to be amongst the trees.

  3. WOW!!! My 2 favorite lines are "leisurely pedaling 120 miles" and "Airing out the lady bits!" Love every photo, but my favorite was the bike looking like its ina picture frame through the window.

    Glad you were NOT robbed, and I am sorry the whiskey was spilled. Looking forward to your lessons learned as always and welcome back!!

    1. Ha -- thanks Tony! It's good to be back. :)

  4. Hi Sarah. I'm writing now from Melbourne, Oz having completed my trip to the Panama Canal. Just getting some lovely quiet moments to read what you have been up to. I cycled the normal Baja route on my own over 6 weeks last Dec. I didn't enjoy it too much. It was more like a chore I was happy to finish. After seeing your photos I'm looking forward to reading your reflections. Hope you are well. Michelle

    1. Great to hear from you, Michelle! You are on quite the adventure! I'm relieved to hear that you, too, didn't think too highly of Baja. I rode a few stretches of the "normal route," and it was pretty yucky. How are you liking Australia?


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