Baja Norte

I just looked at Rachel and asked “so.. you left off in Ensenada, right?” That seems like a month ago, but I think it’s only been a few days. I’ll catch you up chronologically, and if I haven’t typed ten thousand words, I’ll get into the details and my feelings and flowery language!

Our Airbnb in Valle de Guadalupe.

Our Airbnb in Valle de Guadalupe.

We stayed three nights in Ensenada just to get our bearings a little bit. I think it was a good idea for that reason, but not for the fact that Ensenada has tons to offer. We headed Northeast on Highway 3 for about 40 minutes to Valle de Guadaloupe, where most of Mexico’s wine is produced.  I’d read VdG can be likened to Napa Valley in the 1960’s, and while I can’t really verify that, it definitely felt like how I would imagine Napa being back then. There are dozens of very cool wineries and vineyards but it has an authentic vibe, like it’s waiting to be discovered by tour buses from San Diego. We were also there on a Monday, so maybe we just missed the buses. We booked a place on AirBnb that ended up being really fantastic, albeit a bit out of our daily budget. The daily budget was made up arbitrarily and is unilaterally and unrelentingly enforced by me... More on that later if word count allows.

Wine tasting bikes

Wine tasting bikes

Due to the non-touristy nature of the Valley there are no cabs, and Uber doesn’t go that far out of Ensenada so we realized we’d need to hire a car for the day to do wine tasting. When we got to the AirBnb, I saw two bicycles and mustered up my best Spanish to ask if we could use them. It turns out that’s what they were there for, and we had a great day riding around drinking wine. We didn’t want to leave after just one day, but we did, and rode a pretty long day down to El Soccorito.

The central section of Baja is pretty barren! We booked another AirBnb, and weren’t super happy with it the night when we arrived. We had just been spoiled in un-spoiled Napa, so this felt like a big downgrade, even if it met the budget. We decided we’d only stay one night instead of the two we had booked, but in the morning our backs decided otherwise and we both were happy to learn the other person was on board with a rest day. It ended up being a great day, and we found restaurant with an awesome garden full of citrus trees and cacti. As we checked it out, I grazed my shoulder on something and looked down to see my skin was chock full of cacti thorns since I was wearing a tank top… Not fun, but Rachel helped me out!

Salt flats of Guerro Negro

Salt flats of Guerro Negro

Our next stop was Guerrero Negro, 400km to the South. That would be our longest day on record, so we left early in the cold and mist. I knew there wasn’t a gas station between the two stops, and it was beyond the range of our gas tank. I’d read about a truck that was supposedly along the route that would have gas for sale. I didn’t let Rach know that was my plan as I knew she’d make me buy a jerry can. There was a gas truck where I expected, so I got to sleep inside the hotel when we arrived. Guerrero Negro is home to two things: salt and grey whales. The grey whales are there because of the salt, so maybe that’s just one thing… They calf their young in the bay because the buoyancy helps the calves in the beginning when they’re figuring out how to be whales. Years ago the Mitsubishi Corp of Japan and the Mexican govt. began harvesting the salt, and it’s now the largest saltworks in the world, producing 34% of the world’s salt. The more you know! We met a nice, interesting lady at a vegetarian restaurant and talked all throughout dinner. She recommended we find the salt pools and fill a water bottle to use the liquid for its healing properties. On the way out, we rode down several roads until we found a parking lot and what looked like a beach beyond a row of palm trees. We scooted the bike over a barrier and between some trees and were suddenly riding out on the sand levy separating the salt pools. It was quite a scene, and Rachel got some healing water for her ailments.

Next we rode to San Ignacio, about an hour and 45 minutes down the highway. San Ignacio is an oasis due to a spring in the middle of the desert. The word “oasis” is perfect to describe this place. We are staying at yurt village that is owned by a couple from Alberta, Canada. They came to stay for one night and wound up buying the property from the previous owners earlier this year. There are nine yurts and two cabins amidst hundreds of palms adjacent to the water way created by the spring. This morning Rachel and I used their paddleboards to paddle up to the source of the spring where we found warm water, several herons and a stork.

Our yurt home in San Ignacio

Our yurt home in San Ignacio

We’re at present day and not even at one thousand words! I’d just add, so far we are learning a lot about how long we are comfortable riding (if Google says it’s a 2-3hr day, that’s enough) and how long we can stretch it if we need or want to (if Google says 4hr 45min, that’s going to require a rest day). We are learning about how to ask for vegan food, and we have a pretty good idea what tortilla chips, refried beans and rice taste like! We know the beans often have lard, which we are willingly ignoring for survival. Personally, I’m learning a lot about the rules I create for myself about budgeting and “adventure authenticity”. I often equate a true adventure to the least possible amount of comfort and spending. It’s been nice to stretch my comfort zone in that regard, which is not something I was expecting at all. The couple times we’ve blown the budget have been my favorite days/stays by far, and the budget wasn’t really even blown, just nudged a little.

Rachel is doing great on the bike, and we are both really appreciating the freedom that comes from traveling by motorcycle. We leave when we want to, stop when we want to, and have no shackles to a train, plane or bus schedule. We have no choice but to see the landscape change dramatically as we ride south, and also no choice but to smell the outskirts of towns and their struggles with sewage and trash. The aforementioned freedoms and complete disassociation from the passage of time far outweigh any nasty smells and unbudgeted expenses. So far, it’s totally worth it.

Rachel and one of her many new friends

Rachel and one of her many new friends