16 Dec Cycle touring from Loretto to Ciudad Insurgentes. Baja Mexico
The long climb to SanJavier and spending a night at the Goat Farm. 31 miles
“Buena Suerte!” those are the words our hotel owner says when we tell him about our bicycle route out of Loretto. The plan is to turn inland to see the mission in San Javier from there we want to cycle over to the other side of the Baja peninsula. The hotel owner, who also happens to be a cyclist, tells us that the road to San Javier is nicely paved but all uphill. However, the rest of the route is supposed to be unpaved, has a lot of rocks, and is “Muy feo” ( very ugly).
He looks at our fully loaded bicycles, shakes his head and says deep in thought: “maybe it will take all day, maybe longer?” Oh well, what else do we have to do all day?! We know it would definitely be a change from being on the highway, and That is exactly what we are looking forward to.
We stop and grab a bite to eat, before we head out of town.
Our turnoff to San Jose is only a few miles down the road. At the turn we see a sign letting us know that the road will take us into and over the Sierra de la Gigantas. As soon as we turn off the main road we can see that we are heading straight for the mountains. Supposedly the highest peak of the range is very close to Loretto. Thank goodness our path will conveniently skirt the summit.
Nonetheless, we start climbing shortly after turning inland. Initially, gradually but that should change throughout the day.
The road winds it’s way up and up, curves and twists along the hills. Eventually the climb becomes steeper and we zigzag our way up the mountain. On and off, we follow a dried out riverbed and canyon to our left.
Occasionally, we see a few palm trees scattered here and there along the dusty riverbed. This must be where water settles during the rainy season.
We take short breaks to enjoy the views and for me to catch my breath. A few times I need to stop and push my bike up the steeper sections. Ron, again doesn’t seem to be too bothered by all the climbing as he steadily pedals uphill and then takes a break to wait for me. After a long switchback we have an amazing view of the surrounding mountains and the winding road below us. For a moment we were excited, thinking that we should be almost at the summit. That excitement lasted until we made the next turn, were we quickly realize that there are more switchbacks and climbing ahead of us.
A few cars and motorcycles pass us along the way. The friendly waves, thumbs up and cheers from the drivers give us the needed motivational boost during the climb.
Eventually, we arrive in San Javier. The rough cobble stone road through the village leads straight to the mission church. Like the other mission churches before, it is hard to miss the Spanish influence in the architecture. Yet, it really stands out with the mountains in the backdrop….not to mention that the building towers over the tiny village.
Since the doors are wide open, we can just go in to explore.
Hungry from the sightseeing and probably even more so from all the uphill riding we stop across from the church to grab a bite to eat. We spot another bike packer going through the village as well and chat for a moment. He stopped in the village to resupply, before continuing his ride along the Baja Divide.
Shortly afterwards we continue our ride as well. It is already later in the afternoon, but we figured we should make it another 10 miles or so. According to our mapping app it is mostly downhill so it should not be too hard. At that point we’ll either wild camp or maybe we can find that ranch that supposedly allows camping. As soon as we pass the church and take a right though, the already rough cobble stone road turns into an even rougher dirt road, riddled with potholes and lots of big rocks.
The next ten miles end up taking us a lot longer than anticipated. We pretty much creep along the rocky path. Along the way we pass a woman and young boy herding a few cows. At other spots we hear bells ringing and spot a few rouge goats roaming between the shrubs. We encounter a short but very steep uphill and have to push the bikes for a few feet as the grooves and lose rocks make it difficult to ride the fully loaded bikes. To our surprise, a car passes us on this desolate, brain jarring stretch, a reminder, that we are actually on an official road, according to the map.
As the sun sets, we are descending another hill. We have not seen a house in several miles, but here is an older gentleman walking at us. He looks surprised to see us as well. He greets us and asks where we are coming from and where we are going. Then he tells us there is a ranch just a couple more minutes ahead, where we can stay the night.
Tired and beat up from the rocky road we reach the gate of the ranch. On the other side of the fence are two bikes parked. Maybe there are more cycle tourers out here? But we see no tent. A man with a cowboy hat walks along the other side and comes right over after we get his attention. He is more than happy to let us camp. There are a couple basic bathrooms with cold showers and we can set up our tent close by.
Right next to us is a corral with two mules, chickens are running around and looking for spots to roost, and all around we hear bells and bleating. There are numerous goats and even more little kids jumping around. We are on a genuine goat farm.
The rancher though ensures us that it is very quiet and tranquil out here and perfect for camping.
He also tells us, the bikes belong to a woman and a boy which are out to town and should arrive later.
Since it is almost getting dark now, we set up camp, eat and get ready for bed. Before we know it, all the animals are settling down, it is dark, the stars shine bright and it is as quiet and tranquil as we were promised.
Rancho Santo Domingo to Ciudad Insurgentes, 51 miles. A long day off roading
In the morning we wake up to a concert of roosters crowing, mules chewing on roots, bells ringing, goats bleaking, and kids jumping around….not the human kind.
As we heat up water for coffee, we meet Daniella, the mysterious bicycle owner. Apparently, her and her 8 year old son have been traveling and living in Mexico for a few years now. After spending two years in La Paz she somehow ended up on this ranch here and helps the owner to take care of the animals. Occasionally she will take a tourist on a tour to some cave paintings on the far end of the property.
We chat for a while and watch the young goats play and jump while drinking our coffee.
Eventually, we get rolling again. It’s already later in the morning, but we enjoyed the place so much it was a little difficult to leave.
Shortly, after pushing our bikes through the front makeshift gate we are back on the rocky dirt road. Less than a mile away we hit a steep uphill. The grade mixed with big lose stones makes it difficult to ride up, so we half ride half push our bikes up.
It is another hot, dry day. Although, there are more bushes, it still feels like we’re in a desert. There are still cacti around, the ground is sandy and dry. Surprisingly, though we do cross a couple small streams.
Cycling on this rough dirt road is slow going. At one time a pick-up-truck comes at us. Two guys bounce around in the pick up truck, which seems to go about the same speed we are managing.
The men say hello with a wonky smile. Then the driver says something to his passenger and hands Ron an ice cold beer before wishing us safe travels. Since it is really hot, the cold Tecate beer has a life expectancy of about 3 minutes.
For the rest of the way we keep spotting the same Tecate cans….one about every other mile. Apparently, the only way to tolerate driving at a snail-speed on this awful rough road is to drink a couple of six packs.
It is a long day of drudging along in the heat. We do manage to find a somewhat shady place to take a break and to eat a bite, before continuing on. Eventually we notice a ranch out in the distance…a sign that we should be getting closer to the main road on the pacific side of the Baja. We check our map and are happy to figure out that it is only about 4 or 5 more miles before we reach pavement again. What we didn’t count on was that it turns out to be 5 miles of the most horrible, hard washboard, dirt road, which was still not lacking on having a good amount of lose rocks.
By the time we finally reach the other Mexican Highway 1 it is already late and we still have several miles to go to find a place to sleep.
It is already dark, when we finally reach Ciudad Insurgentes. We are hungry and tired and can’t wait to get to bed.
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