Baja California Part 2 – South


Guerrero Negro is a popular place for whale watching but since we were in the offseason the town was quiet and there wasn’t happening nor wasn’t of any interest. We took a day off to do some laundry, bike maintenance and taste a few tacos before tackling yet another wasteland, this time the Vizcaino desert. Part of Parque Natural de la Ballena Gris, this part of Baja California has long, flat straight roads that would challenge anyone venturing on it. Before reaching Santa Rosalia, the small town waiting on the other side of Baja’s coast. Thankfully, we left Guerrero Negro with the wind in our sails.

San Ignacio, an oasis town about three-quarters of the way to Santa Rosalia, is a contrast with the last couple of days. Tall palm trees and lush bushes suddenly appeared out of the sand and cactuses. As we were about to go back on the road after a refreshing Fresca, we were approached by a fellow Canadian who’s been living there for many years. He told us about natural springs in town that we absolutely needed to visit. It seemed like a good idea to go have lunch there so we followed the rocky road and soon saw the tall palm trees in front of us. We walked up and saw the crystal clear waters. A family was playing in the water, the only human presence when we arrived. We picked a spot and prepared our ham sandwiches. We went a little further to have a quick dip and almost instantly decided to spend the night there. 

We swam in the beautiful springs, laid in the shallow water and let the small fishes eat our dead skin. We hooked our hammocks and prepared dinner. A man, with his 3 dogs, approached us and mumbled something we couldn’t understand. He stood there as we prepared dinner, watching us without smiling which made us quite uncomfortable. After 5 minutes of standing, he went on his way, without saying anything. We hoped this strange man wouldn’t pay us a visit during our sleep and luckily, only birds chants disturbed our sleep that night.

When morning came we got into our routine of preparing breakfast when we heard dogs coming. We turned our head and immediately recognized the man following them. This time, he carried a machete. I told Tiphaine to relax, that he certainly doesn’t want to hurt us. We greeted him, he responded by asking us for 100 pesos. I pretended not to understand as I continued my routine of preparing coffee and oats. Like the day before, he stood there without saying anything. Like I learned in the past, one needs to become friend with strangers of this kind, not annoy them. So I offered him oats; he refused. I followed by coffee; he accepted. He took a few good sips before I asked him to give back my cup. Caffeine is always needed to kick start my day after all and he was drinking all of it. After a moment, he decided to go for a walk, probably disappointed he didn’t get whatever he hoped for. We packed up, rolled our bikes passed the barking dogs on the rocky road and got the to highway 1 only to realize I left my wooden stick behind. I sprinted back to our spot, grabbed the stick and sprinted back passed the aggressive barking dogs, ready to pedal away from this small paradise in the middle of the desert.

With this event behind us, we tackled a long false flat leading to the Volcan de las Tres Virgenes, a volcano shooting up from the flat desert land. Over the last couple of days, heat scorched in the middle of the day but on that day, it was unbearable. It reached above 50 degrees Celcius. As we neared the coast, we had fun descending a long winding road until it went back up in a 12% gradient that nearly destroyed us morally. The afar view of the Sea of Cortez gave us the courage to keep on pushing and go for a dip. Then, the sea materialized in its entirety. Leading into Santa Rosalia, our fist glance was a dumping site where plastic was being burnt. The smell was horrendous. The road became bumpy, filled with potholes. The outskirts didn’t offer a nice welcome into Santa Rosalia. After a few kilometres, we rolled into Santa Rosalia and booked a motel before walking around town which was very lovely.

From there, we cycled the coast of the Sea of Cortez, better known as the Gulf of California, under scorching heat once again. To make matters worse, we always seemed to go up into strong headwinds. Before reaching the city of Mulege, we flirted with dehydration as we climbed an isolated section, leaving us completely exposed to the sun, heating the air to mid-40s. We decided to check in the Hacienda Hotel in Mulege despite having done less distance than usual, but we were so exhausted and beaten that there wasn’t any other option. We enjoyed the pool and air-conditioning for the rest of the afternoon.

Re-hydrated and after a good night sleep, our body recovered overnight to cycle the winding and hilly road along Bahia Conception, a small bay in the Sea of Cortez where many popular beaches are visited by locals and travelers. We met another cyclist who has been sitting under the shade for the better part of the afternoon because of de-hydration. We were the first cyclists he saw during this time in Baja. For hours, he had been waiting for a bus to take him to Loreto. We started talking about our journeys and after a moment, he gave up about the bus showing up which was an hour late. We walked toward the restaurant where we could get water and as we crossed the road, the bus came down the hill. We gestured and waved for the bus to stop, but it ignored us. Asking people around on the beach and at the restaurant, he could find a lift. We, on the other hand, had only a few kilometers to go before getting the El Requison, the beach where we spent the night. On the beach, there were little shelters we could camp under for 100 pesos. We enjoyed the warm waters for the rest of the day.

The following day, we decided to get up by 4h AM and be on the road by around 5h, before sunrise. The aim was to cycle most of the 90 something kilometers to Loreto before being hammered by the burning sun. For the first time, I could use my sinewave dynamo light at full power to illuminate the road and boy, did it worked well. The beam was as strong, if not stronger than lights on the cars. It was Tiph’s first experience of riding in darkness and she enjoyed it. Our plan worked very well and by 10h30 we stopped for lunch after having covered 65 kilometers. We entered Loreto in mid-afternoon and treated ourselves to a well-deserved lunch.

After 3 days rest off the bike on Loreto, we suited up in lycra and mounted our bikes toward La Paz, the end of the road for us in Baja California. Days melted into one another, traversing deserts, arid, sweltering hot temperature, long straight roads. Wild camps surrounded by cactuses, howling coyotes (we even saw one early morning walking around camp!) and lots of pasta for dinner.

Arriving in La Paz was an awesome feeling of achievement. Crossing Baja California was harder than what we anticipated and certainly brought us out of our comfort zone. The heat, climbs and the absence of a shoulder being the main factors. We stayed a few days in La Paz to walk along the Malecon, a path along the beach popular with locals and visitors. Located in a bay, the beach was the place to be for a swim in gentle waters. Along the road following the Malecon, many bars and restaurants offered happy hours and play loud music. The mood was relaxed and chilled, reminding me of some beaches in Australia and Thailand. We explored the town for a few days, relaxed and organized our overnight ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan, on Mexico mainland, where our wheels will hit the tarmac on our way to Mexico City.

Look at my Mexico photo album

Author: Pascal Lachance

I'm Pascal, cyclist, travel lover, software developer by trade and an enthusiastic photographer. I'm now cycling around the world, take the time to visit as many places as I can!