Desert, wind and a salt cloud – Baja by bicycle part 2

My brave husband holding two bikes in the wind so that I can go for a photo walk

Desert ride

Desert, wind and a salt cloud – Baja by bicycle part 2
Country
: Mexico
From Ensenada to San Felipe
Lesson learned: Tailwind can be exhausting too
Laughed about: Bike shorts that look like diapers
Most wonderful miracle: Walking the mudflats
Animals we saw: Hummingbird, squirrels, bunnies, vultures, serpent
Days on the bike: 3 1/2
Kilometers cycled: 273
Average kilometers per day: 78
Total kilometers cycled: 26,288

Baja by Bicycle part 2. Missed the last entry? Here it comes: About sunscreen and ice cream – Baja by bike part 1
Blog auf Deutsch: Wind, Wüste und Salzwolke – Baja California mit dem Fahrrad Teil 2

Some kilometers out of town

Some kilometers out of town

It was noon when we left Ensenada behind us. From now on we were both entering lands we had never been before. The elevation chart showed a constant all-day-long climb. But I felt prepared, I felt more self-esteem than usual. Apart from that I knew there was no way around but through. All the meters we climbed today, we wouldn’t have to do tomorrow, that easy.

Towards Ojos Negros and San Felipe

On the way east

I had gone back to wearing padded bike shorts, because I knew by butt and my saddle had been apart for too long. The shorts made me look like a baby in diapers but I couldn’t have cared less.

Vineyard on the way to Ojos Negros

Vineyard on the way to Ojos Negros

We passed the last gas station, the last shop, the last farmhouse and soon found ourselves in between rocks and shrub. Pretty much all drivers were very considerate and made lots of space when overtaking. One car drove very slow, first behind us, then next to Roberto.

The Baja's wine and cheese route

The Baja’s wine and cheese route

I turned around to find out what was going on and all I saw was a small hand in the window and a puzzled Roberto. The car continued and Roberto stopped. A little boy had handed him an Empanada.

Landscape between Ensenada and Ojos Negros

Cycling up, up, up

We continued for a couple of hundred meters before we reached a safe place to stop and eat this delicious calorie bomb.

The first cacti

The first cacti

We biked past a few pretty farm houses and wineries but other than that there wasn’t much to see. We stopped at the first “Abarrotes” (little village shop) for lunch.

Crocodile Rock

A crocodile rock!

This was where the old cheese and wine route began. We decided to leave this culinary and culturally interesting route for some other time, because it meant a long and bumpy detour.

Old Cheese and Wind Route, Baja California, Mexico

Cheese and wine, what a great combination!

Outside the shop we found ourselves eating our lunch and chatting to the other customers. One of them gave us three boiled eggs from his fighting hens.

Fresh eggs

Here’s our dinner

After some 50 kilometers of constant climbs we called it a day in Ojos Negros. The little village near the highway was well known for its cheese and the high quality of their tap water. At the police station we asked for a place to pitch the tent and were sent to Rancho Casian, a pretty eco-tourism camp.

Caping in Rancho Casian, Ojos Negros

Camping in Rancho Casian, Ojos Negros

Tonight we were the only visitors. We paid 100 Pesos for the tent and two cold showers. They even had two large pools, but they were both broken. Our dinner was three boiled eggs and some dried apple slices.

View on Highway 3 from Ensenada to San Felipe

Pretty view

We slipped into our sleeping bags and both grinned. It had been a while since we had last spent a night in here, since we smelled the tent’s materials, heard the wind in the walls and felt the cuddly sleeping bags around us. It was so warm and comfortable and it felt so familiar, as if we had never slept anywhere else.

Back onto the Highway 3

Back onto the Highway 3

Next morning on our way out of town we stopped at a “Comedór Comunitario”, a public eating stand. This is where they sell a warm meal for anybody who needs it for only 10 Pesos. We had already prepared our granola, but we enjoyed the chats with the owner and her customers and bought some burritos for the way.

Rocky landscape

Rocky landscape

After 5 ½ Months without biking we seem to have forgotten the very basics: if you make the effort to get up early, you should also leave early. Else you’ll get caught in the heat. And that was precisely what had happened when we found ourselves back on the highway at 9 am.

Nopales (Prickly pears) on a rock.

Nopales (Prickly pears) on a rock.

Fortunately this morning’s climbs weren’t too steep and after only 24 kilometers we reached a large tree and stopped for noon break. We played battleships, napped, observed a hummingbird’s flight and ate our burritos.

Shady lunch stop

Shady lunch stop

At 2 pm it was still hot, but at least the sun didn’t hit from right above us anymore, so we continued our ride. The wind was hot and dry and we drank water like there were no tomorrow.

Some fields around Ojos Negros

Some fields around Ojos Negros, then we were back in …

The first cacti appeared in between the bushes. There were no human villages up here, but this place was home to a lot of plants as well as animals like squirrels, serpents, bunnies and vultures.

... a more empty landscape

… a more empty landscape between brown and green

The climb got steeper and steeper and eventually we had made it up the 1227 meters. It remained surprisingly green for an area with sparse rains. All there was left to do was letting the bikes roll and occasionally use the brakes.

Up on top of the climb. Cycling the Baja isn't easy, they all told us, but it's totally worth it.

Up on top of the climb. Cycling the Baja isn’t easy, they all told us, but it’s totally worth it.

In Heroes de la Independencia there was another little Abarrotes. Owner Monica offered us an old shed behind her business for the night. We happily accepted even though it was still early in the day, but the climb had tired us.

Highway 3 from Ensenada to Highway 5 (Mexicali - San Felipe)

Highway 3 from Ensenada to Highway 5 (Mexicali – San Felipe)

We were back on the bikes at 6.30 am even though we still had to fix a flat tire in the morning. Yes, we do learn our lessons the hard way. The first part of the day was mostly downhill.

Baja by bike

Sometimes it was so green that I wondered where all the water came from

This early in the morning I was cold even in my fleece. We stopped in Valle de la Trinidad and shared a delicious portion of Chilaquiles.

Baja by bicycle

Baja by bicycle

This was where we met Alex, who worked in the area and joined us for breakfast. He ordered coffee and juice for us and even invited us for the breakfast.

Panorama Highway 3 Baja by bicycle

Then it got a little less green

There was hardly any traffic again and as usual the landscape was very diverse. You just had to have a good look and you’ll find a funnily shaped cactus, a slightly bigger bush or even a flower. There were several more climbs to climb, but a strong tailwind helped us over most of them. We spent lunch break emptying a big jar of “Agua de Limón” (homemade lemonade) in the village shop’s hammock in San Matías.

Relax time: Agua de Limón and a hammock in the shade

Relax time: Agua de Limón and a hammock in the shade

From here on it was a lovely drop from nearly 1000 meters down to sea level. And before we even knew, we found ourselves right in the desert. Not a wasteland with bushes, rocks and shrub, but an actual desert with cacti and sand. I was absolutely impressed.

Lonesome road

Lonesome road

Windy desert

It wasn’t easy cycling in this wind

I could have taken 1000 pictures. When we finally saw a save spot to stop the bikes, I nearly fell right off my feet. The wind had pushed us from behind and now that I had turned 90 degrees it blew me like a flag. I had noticed that the wind was strong, but I had no idea how very strong!

Some serious cacti out here

Some serious cacti out here

It was a long downhill

It was a long downhill

With both feet on the ground I held my bike and was hardly able to use camera or phone without having the bike or myself pushed to the ground. Sand and gravel drummed against my calves. I would have to skip my photo tour for now.

Bicycles in the desert

Look how they hug to protect each other from the sand and the heat

We guess it's a salt cloud from the salt lake

See that white dust? We guess it’s a salt cloud from the salt lake

We continued the ride with extreme caution, stopping frequently to let the rims cool down, because we didn’t want to finish our first sets of brake pads quite yet. Ahead to our right there was a salt lake. This morning we had thought about pitching the tent in there and observing the stars.

Baja California by bicycle

Not much to see?

A lot of sand, dust and skies

A lot of sand, dust and skies

Now we only saw a big while salty cloud that was blown from the salt lake into the desert and we knew we’d have to go with Plan B: Cycle all the way down to the coast.

Cactus

Cactus

Through the desert

Through the desert

We stopped at the exit to the sandy path towards the salt lake. A pickup truck stopped and three men jumped out. They opened the cooling box and grabbed a beer each. We were offered beers too, but Roberto declined, he didn’t want to spend too much time here, you never know if the storm didn’t get any worse. A pity, I was really in the mood for an ice cold light beer, just as they drink it up here.

My brave husband holding two bikes in the wind so that I can go for a photo walk

My brave husband holding two bikes in the wind so that I can go for a photo walk

In the desert

In the desert

We made it down the coast and spent the night at “El Oasis”, a little shop where highway 3 and highway 5 meet. Owner Abel had already been host for our friend Semi. Abel had several regular customers, three of them visited him today.

Cactus

That’s another good reason to not stealth camp in the desert.

Our home for tonight. Good thing the tent doesn't mind the wind

Our home for tonight. Good thing the tent doesn’t mind the wind

We even met Alex again, whom he had met first this morning. We all sat down and Roberto asked if any of them had ever seen anything supernatural out here.

Between Mexicali and San Felipe

We finished Highway 3 and continued on Highway 5

Surprisingly every single one of them had an experience to tell, may it be a ball of light, energies or light rays at night in the desert. We have heard a lot of this before and would be hearing several similar stories further south. It seems like the desert is the place for supernatural actions.

Empty desert road

We had the road for ourselves at most times

At Abel's "El Cruzero"

At Abel’s “El Cruzero”

It was a foggy morning, something very unusual for this area. Good for us though, because it kept the heat down to an acceptable level. It was an easy ride and we didn’t even bother stopping for nearly 50 kilometers until we reached San Felipe just before 9 am.

Welcome to San Felipe

Welcome to San Felipe

What we hadn’t considered was that we had reached town on a Saturday. Accommodation prices go way up here on weekends. We biked up and down through town before we finally got a room in the town’s most shabby motel for 350 Pesos. Usual weekend price was 500.

Official Tijuana Ambassador in San Felipe

Official Tijuana Ambassador in San Felipe

Our mood wasn’t all that high up. We locked ourselves in the room, trying not to touch anything, and worked on the laptops. I washed a few clothes and hung them outside. It was so hot that the first piece of clothing was about dry when I finished hanging the last one. My wet hair dried on the way from the room to the clothes line.

Mudflats of San Felipe

Mudflats

San Felipe was what you could call the Baja’s East Coast’s Rosarito. It was the closest beach for the people from the USA and for those from always-hot Mexicali. The restaurants had “Mexican food” written on the walls in English, there were sunglasses being sold, beach chairs being rented and banana boat rides being advertised. We decided to walk a few meters away from the Malecon’s (boardwalk’s) trouble and quickly had most of the beach to ourselves.

A walk in the sea

A walk in the sea

San Felipe counts with a flat land and string tides. Therefore we were able to walk the mudflats. I used to do this a lot back home in the North Sea. After some shrimp quesadillas and a beach walk I made my peace with San Felipe.

San Felipe's beach in the late afternoon

San Felipe’s beach in the late afternoon

It was a nice and peaceful place after all. And it was the last town for quite a while. For now we were going to return to the loneliness of Baja California’s deserts. Read on here: Hot springs and giant cacti – Cycling Baja California Part 3

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