08 Dec Crossing the Baja for the Third Time
Guerrero Negro to San Ignacio, 92 miles
It’s a boring straight stretch of 50 miles from Guerrero Negro to Vizcaino. The surrounding area is pretty flat and desolate. There are hardly any cacti to adore. The only steady companion along this mundane part of the Highway is the long row of telephone poles, which sometimes decorate the left side other times the right side of the road and intermittently we have the pleasure to ride between two lines of poles.
Traffic seems to have picked up more today, so we find ourselves pulling off the road for trucks a few more times than previously. Although we have a little bit of a headwind during the day, we make really good time into Vizcaino. In the middle of town we take a right at the traffic sign to get off the major business strip in search of an affordable room. As we almost reach the end of town, we find a very cute hotel. It looks almost new. It is painted in cheery colors and has a small restaurant within its courtyard and the rooms are bright and roomy. The price is even better than we have hoped for and although dinner and breakfast takes a long time to cook it is very delicious, plentiful and fresh.
After leaving Vizcaino, we find that the scenery still has not changed much, at least for half of the 49 mile ride to San Ignacio it is still as desolate and bleak as yesterday’s. As we start hitting a few more hills, we are spotting more cacti again, which gives us at least something to look at. Along the way we pass another military checkpoint. The road is pretty much closed off and the traffic is diverted off the road to slow traffic down. A few vehicles are stopped in front of us. Like usually though, the soldiers just wave us through, no biggie.
Shortly after passing the checkpoint, our path curves around and we can see, what almost looks like a canyon to our right. This one however is very different from the ones we have seen before. This one is filled with lush green date palms that grow so closely together that it almost looks like a jungle down there.
We coast down the road toward the small town. Again, we made really good time and arrive in San Ignacio in the early afternoon. But before we head off the main highway to find our way into the Oasis, we stop at a small store, which also functions as the village pharmacy and buy water, beer and some electrolyte drink. Afterwards we stop across the highway for street tacos to have early dinner.
Happy and with full bellies we snake our way along a few dirt roads through the village. As we reach the paved road again we feel like we are entering a subtropical forest. There are palm trees everywhere. We spot 2 horses to our left standing in a baseball field. They are not phased at all by us nor by other cars passing by. Shortly afterwards we cross a bridge with a nice body of water to our left and to our right the water’s edge is heavily overgrown with tall grasses and reeds. The Oasis is like a garden Eden in the midst of the Baja desert and a very welcomed change of scenery for us.
We cross the bridge and take a right straight into a small campground. The owner sits at the “reception palapa”. Camping is about 11 bucks, it comes with flush toilets and hot water for showers. For some reason the water heater though is only turned on at 7 AM and then again at 7 PM. We don’t care, we get to pick the most awesome camping spot in the whole campground in the far back, under a palapa right next to the water. A table and chairs are already waiting for us under the palapa. We don’t even bother to unpack or set up camp. Instead we just pull out our beer and sprite to make two Radler. We pull out our two cups, get comfy in the chairs, and enjoy the views and sounds of nature. As we sit and watch the few waterfowl on the lake we realize that this is the first body of freshwater we have seen since leaving California.
While we sit and relax a small RV pulls up, it’s the same couple from Germany that we have met near the beach of Gonzaga. It’s funny how our path keeps crossing with other travelers, no matter how fast or slow their way of transportation is.
We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in camp and chatting with our camp neighbors, a fellow from England and his girlfriend from Mexico. Throughout the afternoon and evening we get regular visits from a small, very furry and very cute cat. The little booger likes to stay right around our feet or keeps trying to get into our tent or into one of our panniers, no matter how often we try to shoo her off.
As we exit the tent at night to go pee, she finds her way into our vestibule. Unfortunately, Ron has allergies and we are afraid that she might claw the tent, so we shoo her back out again in the middle of the night. The persistent little kitty returns again before sunrise and jumps up on top of the tent, just to get shood off again…poor little thing.
The following morning, we say goodbye to our German friends. Their plan is to meander throughout the Baja for the rest of the month, so who knows, we might meet again before we leave for the mainland.
We also chat some more with our British/ Mexican neighbors. The two are very worried about the little cat. According to the campground owner the poor little thing was left abandoned by its owners in the campground and has been there since August. This would explain, why the little kitty really wants to hang out with people. More than likely it has never learned to fight nor how to hunt for food or how to survive in the wild. The furry coat actually hides how scrawny the cat really is. It scrounges food whenever and wherever it can from compassionate campers.
The neighbors already fed her some tuna, it gets some leftovers from us. After hearing her story we feel somewhat bad to have shood her away last night. The camp neighbors are buying food for the cat and asked the campground owner to feed her. Unfortunately, the owner is not present before they plan on taking off to continue on their journey. Thus they leave the food and a note for the owner with us to relay the message.
Today, though, we take a down day and decide to walk into the old part of town, where the old Spanish mission is located. There is a quaint town square, which is nicely shaded by big trees right in front of the Mission. The church was build in the 17 hundreds and is still in very good condition. We wander through the nave and the mission gardens, afterwards we head down the side road away from the touristy restaurants to a place that our campground neighbor suggested to have early dinner.
The Long Hot Ride to Santa Rosalia, 50 miles
The alarm goes off right around sunrise. We manage to crawl out of our sleeping bag early, but for some strange reason we end up having a late start. By the time we packed up camp and talked to our new camp neighbors it is already past 8. We looked for our new cat friend and even contemplated on somehow rigging up our panniers to be able to take her along, but she was nowhere to be found.
We do one more sweep of the campground before we take off and head back toward the Mexican Highway 1, where we stop to have a couple breakfast burritos and coffee at a small cozy shack along the road.
By the time we finally finished eating and resupplied our water bottles and electrolyte drinks it is well after 9.
As soon as we leave San Ignacio we are back to the desert landscape. The air is dry and the temperature rises quickly.
Our route starts out with about 25 miles of gradual climbing. There is only one area along the way to get some food and drinks, but it is too early in our ride to stop, so we pass it right by.
According to our mapping app it looked like we should have a short downhill as we pass the „Tres Virgenes Vulcanos“, followed by a long stretch of level riding and then a nice downhill into the town. Unfortunately we never saw the level stretch after we pass the Vulcano and we’re greeted with a few gradual rollers instead. We, however enjoy the scenery of the mountains, although it continues to be barren desert without any place to get out of the blazing sun.
As we finally find a small tree along the road, we stop to take a break out of the sun and eat a quick lunch, banana-peanut butter burritos. It feels amazing in the shade and we have a hard time getting going again. At least we know there will be a much deserved downhill coming up eventually.
It is not much further when we are greeted with a “caution downhill sign”. The road curves to the left and immediately we can see how this stretch of the highway received its name.
The road seems to zigzag slightly and then just disappears into the abyss. We pull over to take pictures and to watch a couple trucks descending very slowly in their lowest gears. From the bottom we can hear a truck struggling up the mountain, he moves even slower and it takes it close to an eternity to make it up.
One of the highway safety cars pulls over right next to Ron and the driver asks if he is alright. They thought since his bicycle is laying down he must have some sort of trouble. After making sure that everything is ok, the driver has his coworker take several pictures with us and the bikes. Afterwards he wishes us well and drives off into the abyss. Shortly afterwards we follow down the “ Devil’s Grade” as this stretch is rightfully named.
As we fly down the mountain, we can see very different looking hills ahead of us. Santa Rosalía is an old mining town and the old mining pits have left their marks on the landscape. It also made for two more short but steep rollers before we reach the coast.
It is close to sunset as we approach Santa Rosalia. The road into town must be one of the roughest and most neglected stretches of highway we have ridden on so far in Mexico. There are huge cracks, potholes, and occasional areas that looked like the pavement was washed away. We pedal by the industrial area and by an old but fascinating looking industrial building. It is huge. It has a few old crane mechanics and pullies and looks a little bit like a rusty erector set on steroids.
We rush by it to find a place to stay the night as it is getting dark. Luckily, we find a small hotel at the beginning of the old town that has a room for the right price, where we plan on taking a down day.
Little did we know, we’ll be staying an extra two days…compliments of another bout of traveler’s stomach issues.
At least the town is nice and has a few interesting things to see. Besides the old mining facilities there are also an old metal church, which was originally built by Gustav Eiffel in France. Later on it was disassembled and shipped to Mexico, where it was put together again in this little town.
The old part of town feels very relaxed. People are putting their Christmas decorations out and the city park is having Santa Clause coming to town for pictures. The French influence is still present everywhere in all the wooden architecture.
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