Waiting for the ferry to Mazatlan

Today is the 10th of July and we are sitting in Pichilingue waiting for the ferry to take us to Mazatlan tonight (they only run over night) with a nice cold lime lemonade in a pretty fancy restaurant.
After spending 3 days in La Paz, we were ready for some nature and tranquility. La Paz though was quite friendly. Our campground 10km out of town was the most expensive we have encountered so far ($12 for the two of us), but it was nice and big and compfy with a swimming pool and clean bathrooms/showers, internet in the tent and a cafe. La Paz is a friendly town – there didn’t seem to be much happening during the day, but when we were out late one night, we found all and everybody and their mother out and about enjoying the cooler nights with ice cream and some were even splashing in the water at the beach front. Really a sweet place.
We left to find the coast further up on the peninsula and found something close to paradise at the end of the paved road – though it didn’t seem like it at first. The ride was only something like 24km out of La Paz and we past a few amazing white sand beaches with turquoise water, little coves….but it was Saturday and everybody seemed to be out to find a quiet little place.
The end of the road met us with some rough looking people, a huge restaurant building and a few other building and A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE!!!! All locals though!
The first night was rough as well. We set up tent right next to the restaurant as advised by a couple watching the sun set. The night watch was friendly and said we can use the bathroom as well (everything costs money here -using the toilette is 70 cents!). We spend somewhat of a restless night, listening to the dogs rummaging through the overflowing garbage cans near by (if you didn’t hear it you could most certainly smell it) and if it wasn’t the dog, it was the one homeless person looking for aluminum cans who had taken residence under one of the palapas further down the beach.
We packed up early enough before the restaurant opened and moseyed down to one side looking for some comfort…..
It was Sunday and the place filled up at 8am – it looked like the board walk in Santa Cruz (or any other boardwalk for that matter). All locals enjoying this place – I even witnessed grandma in a reclining chair -they carried that thing in their 4wd truck, so she can be part of it too!
There wasn’t room to put down another chair at the entire beach (seemingly) and everybody had a grand old time. It wasn’t the day to look for comfort, it was a day to see what the locals do on a remote beach at the end of the paved road. I prepared myself for another restless night under a palapa (amazed we even got one and for those who don’t know what a palapa is: An umbrella made of palm fronds which the government provides…..all the beaches here are public, by the way, meaning everybody and anybody can enjoy the waterfront at any time…yes camping too!)
The parties stopped at a seemingly reasonable time and it got quite and beautiful with a bit of a breeze and the sound of the waves friendly and soothing.
Monday was a different story: The beach seemed forgotten….empty (only the overflowing garbage cans remind of the past crowds).
We headed out of the tent right into the turquoise waters – seemingly untouched like when it snowed all night and first discovered it in the morning……SO REFRESHING, we swam out to the blue (and deeper) part of the water further out. I felt some stinging on my knee, but was just too happy and refreshed to be bothered. The stinging got more persistent and by the time I reached the blue, it was clear that something was just WRONG. At this time I felt stings all over my body. James had a similar experience and we gave it all we got to get back to the shore to investigate what is going on. Stinging burns on arms and legs, backs and bellies, red and bumpy skin around those areas like a bad rash. Somehow we both were calm and agreed: We didn’t see anything in the water at all that could have caused it.
We had made friends with a family member of the people who own the restaurant way down on the other side of the beach. Peppe was consulted and he laughed out loud, telling us that those are tiny jelly fish you can’t see and they are doing all the damage, but it doesn’t last and all was forgotten in about 15 minute. He had invited us to his (now) empty restaurant, letting us use the showers (yes, for free) and cooking us some amazing meals (he has been and wants to be a chef in a restaurant, specializing in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine) and we did pay for those, but we got our drinking water for free too….
The next day and night was spent in true paradise -it helps to have a friendly person watching over you and the whole beach for yourself for most parts of the night and day but especially in the morning.
Pretty clean and rested we are here at the ferry terminal for the next adventure.

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Walking through the desert?

La Paz July 5th
We left our sweet little place as late as 9:30am with a head wind and the desert as flat as “piss on a plate” as James would say. Pretty boring and slow with that head wind, but actually not that hot. The Pacific is near….
Just one pedal stroke at a time and a song and some good thoughts…just keep going, eventually something changes. As we all know, the only thing that never changes is change itself!!
The ride felt pretty good and right before the road took a slight turn to the right (hoping for tail wind, which didn’t quite happen…) heading more south east, we saw some people walking, pushing something. First I thought some locals cleaning up in this god forsaken place, but what it was was even more unlikely: A couple WALKING THROUGH BAJA. They are walking in the summer from San Filipo -oh, never mind, here is their info: http://www.mybajaguide.com/new/A-100-Day-Walking-Challenge-to-Help-Those-Who-Are-Challenged-All-Year-Long/330.
I just can’t stop thinking about them: For every hour we cycle, they take a day!! I checked the side of the roads where they would be walking….and I really think THEY JUST MUST BE NUTS!!
Also thinking, this biking stuff isn’t so bad: You work hard up hills, but you can go slow, you can even get off the bike, but, when you go down hill, you really get to rest, coasting, wind, stop pedaling, resting and eating up the miles at the same time. Really not so bad. Walking, you just don’t get a brake at all. The downhills can be even more challenging than the uphills as I learned in the Himalayas – no different anywhere else….
Well, moral of the story, cycling is it. Hard times, sure, but, man/woman IT’S A BLAST!!

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Boat life and beyond…..

Thursday the 28th of June.
James and I left the little beach Playa Requeson a beach at 6:30am and counted down the kilometer at the “mile”markers starting at 95 .
Though feeling pretty grungy, when the cool early wind sweeps through the clothes and pets the skin like a soft hand – it’s all OK!
We were told that Loreto is not the town to stop and we were counting to keep going to Porto Escondido about 22 km further south from Loreto and the last stop before climbing back over the Mt range back to the Pacific side, not all the way to the coast, but close. The ride was HOT, the road long and our expectations for Loreto very low, but we needed water and some food, so we made the town our main stop before moving on. We were “greeted” by industrial sights, dust, garbage and the usual, but decided to find the center and were pleasantly surprised to find a charming plaza with the oldest mission on Baja and besides an ice cream shop in the pedestrian zone, that would put each one I have seen in Europe to shame, a campground neat the center with clean bathrooms, wi-fi and a sweet place to set up the tent and park our bikes.
So much for listening to what other peoples experience is….we loved this place and stayed two nights. Most of the businesses in town where owned by locals. At night we watched a kid performance of dancing and music from Haiti. The kids came in all sizes and shapes and seem to have equal fun while highly professional. I was just stunned…..My favorite town in Baja so far..
We entered a little book store and didn’t leave for 2 hours, having ice water and cake and great conversations with the couple that owned the store (ok, they were not locals….but almost looked like it after 8 years of calling this town their home)
Hard to leave, but we did, only 22km to go, but after this fun place we didn’t expect much of Porto Escondido (hidden Port)- especially after checking it out on google street view and watching another one of those “ghostly” places that were half constructed and then abandoned. …
So, we took our time and pedaled along this beautiful Bahia of Concepcion, looking at all the beaches – each one as beautiful as the next between cliffs and valleys, greenery and desert, cacti and palm trees. We climbed on of the last climbs before P. E. and found a coconut truck parked on the top……PERFECT!!
The decent was refreshing – wind at 38 degrees C ( 100 F) is always welcome.
As expected, the place was a ghost Port, but a few boats – some sailboats where anchored and the water was blue and refreshing looking…the little store had ice cream and the few people were friendly. All the people on the boats were seemingly from the States or Germany for that matter and then there was a little pool and some lounging chairs and some shady trees to put our tent later when it get’s dark …..the intention was to leave early for the climb back over the Mt range to the other side AGAIN.
As we got hungry and scoped out our tree, we talked to a friendly boat couple with a little cute dog, when another couple approached with the words: You guys want to spend the night on our boat tonight?
I really did think they were kidding……
Not only were they not kidding, but it was the MOST AMAZING SAILBOAT I had ever been on. A 78 foot long, build around 1970 (see picture). We just couldn’t leave and spend another day and two nights with Kathy and Dan on Lungta (see their website at http://www.lungtalife.com). We almost forgot about cycling, eating, talking, swimming, exploring and meeting more of the sailing community. It sure was hard to leave, but ever so grateful, we did, this morning at 6am, our bikes had been stored in the bathroom of the harbor dry dock and watched by the guards of the hidden port.
As we learned, before the economy crashed in 2007, the peninsula of Baja had planned to build a canal around the northern parts from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez at Bahia de Los Angeles, so the ships could travel down the eat coast of Baja and stop at various harbors along the beautiful coast. So, private and government money was spent to start getting ready for the tourists who would be stopping and spending their time and money, but the money ran out quick, the canal was not even started and some of the harbors are only half finished. Porto Escondido is one of them.
It’s Monday the 2. of July, we said good bye, climbed over to the other side and our now in the flats of a boring desert, but in a sweet little camping place of Ciudad Constitution.
Important to mention: So far, we had ONE flat tire in northernBaja and ONE broken spoke in southern Baja.
We are 200 km from La Paz, our last destination in Baja – about 1500 miles from San Rafael, CA – I am sure we cycled a little more than that, just a little….

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Crossing the border

After 5 weeks on the road we’ve finally crossed the border and find ourselves half way through Baja California. Crossing into TJ was uneventful with the exception of losing the road to Rosarito. But as fate would have it, Enrique, a local laborer, was commuting home on his vintage 80’s mtb fully equipped with rear milk crate, shovels, hand tools and the days fresh veggies. He lead us out of TJ with the savvyness of a NYC messenger. He knew the short cut that bypassed the Toll road entry gates to Rosarito and helped us hoist our 110lb bikes over the barricade and on to the road.

This, I think is the best road in all of Baja…..6′ wide shoulders of new pavement, nearly no traffic because the locals can’t or won’t pay the tolls and stunning views of the coast. Enrique led the peloton for the next 35k before giving us a stellar lead out to the Rosarito town sign!!!

After spending the night a Chuie’s Surfer Camp just south of Rosarito we nearly picked up a riding companion……Image…..Chuie or Stinky as Margit deemed him, was just about the most adorable little pup we’ve seen in years. The little guy was dropped off at the camp and was subsequently attacked by one of the big dogs and was chewed up pretty badly….hence his name. Jimmy the camp host swore he was going to take him to the vet but his prospects didn’t look good from our prospective so we thought we could clean him up, fix him up and put him in a handle bar basket and let him accompany us to points south. But after viewing his injuries and later learning what Baja is really about we abandoned the concept.

We worked our way south to Ensenada and was hosted by Luka a gracious woman with a set of twins missing upon our arrival. Luka gave us the lowdown on the peninsula….all the hot spots, if you will. And hot spots we got. After leaving the Pacific coast we crossed the desert to find relentless 900′ climbs and temperatures climbing to 118!

And then there was the marine awakening after we returned to the Pacific coast a few days later. We found the most remote shoreline campsite 30k from anything resembling Baja Civilization.

We were at least 3 or 4 k from the main road with a camp site high above the breaking surf. Temps back down to a manageable 70 and a star display never seen in the Bay Area lulled us to a wonderful sleep……until a light flash in my peripheral vision at 4am. A shooting star? UFO? Plane crash? What the hell!!!! And then voices. Opening the tent I see two pair of legs and that unmistakable image of the wrong end of a barrel! Damn! Not again I though……But this time the conversation was a little more civilized. “Habla Espanol”. ” Piquito” I squeaked…..”Guns and Drugs” they said in a rather serious fashion. “Dos gringos y dos bicicletas”….I said with some hope to what was a Mexican Marine search party patrolling the Baja coast for Narcos doing their thing in the remote darkness of the Baja beaches. As we learned those guys are our friends including the military check points scattered through out the central desert.

Now in Mulege suffering through a little Rancho with a great little restaurant with cold horchata and Negro Modelo, free WiFi and just 10 steps from the beach. Pancho and Yolanda have been great hosts but its time to head south.

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