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No.69 Mexico – The Street Life – Bikepacking Baja Divide Trail IIII

May 6, 2017 | America, Blog, Mexico

I sometimes stayed in towns for almost a week to enjoy being among others. Cute little towns and tons of barking dogs.

Somehow the street life is not really what I expected from Mexico. Latest at 8 PM the streets are dead and almost pitch dark. But what I tremendously enjoy are the colors. The houses are shining in paint from yellow to dark pink. The shops are decorated with beautiful adverts all painted by hand.

Simply Superb.

Taco stands, little corner shops and small restaurants where granny makes some extra money for the family are my favorite spots to eat out.

69 - Bikepacking Baja Divide Mexico Street Life lemon
69 - Bikepacking Baja Divide Mexico Street Life Salsa
69 - Mexican cuisine Baja California
Mexico Baja California Mexican cuisine Tacos

Some old missions are nice to look at. Shrines remind everyone they are travelling in a Catholic country and the church bells give some memories of home, even though no one in Germany pulls a string by hand to let them ring. They also only ring for the service, not every 15 minutes as they do back home.

One of my hatred topics are the dogs in those towns. In all honesty I can’t stand dogs anymore. It might sound a bit harsh because some are even cute. But most of the time the dog owners don’t seem to understand that not everyone loves their pet. Actually, I will never get the concept of people watching their dogs chasing me and thinking that this is funny.

I also hate it when they lick my pants, jump towards me or pee on my bike and no one cares. Too bad that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of people without dogs in this part of the world and the only thing I can do is to accept that they are there. If things are getting to scary I shout at them, stop immediately and pick up stones and pretend to throw them or even pitch a big rock in their direction.

Of course, the Baja California is by far not as bad as other places around the globe where I was chased far more. But it adds up and adds up and it just comes to a point where it is too much and I am simply sick of it.

If I walk or cycle past one house after the other and those nasty dogs jump up and down along the fences and scare me there is simply not much enjoyment for me to even walk in those alleys which are mainly off the main roads. While cruising along I usually check the fence carefully to see if there might be a hole and the dog might be able to escape and attack me.

Listening to a bunch of barking dogs all night isn’t fun either and I wonder why people put up with this in the first place.

Another thing I don’t like is the trash which is lying around everywhere. You get closer to a town and tins and plastic are covering the ground.  In some places in the Northern part of the Baja California it was unbelievable and I just thought, why on earth would you like to live in a junk yard?

By the way every supermarket gives plastic bags away – same as in the US, Canada, Japan and China and sadly so many other countries. Haven’t we tossed enough plastic into the oceans by now?

Yes, I know I have a plastic aversion, I mentioned this topic now for a few times, but I am still hoping that people might consider one day, to not use plastic bags any longer.

The weirdest thing is that some Mexican food sellers even cover up the plates with a plastic bag and serve the Tacos or what the order might be straight on the plastic. They are most probably too lazy to do the dishes.  It is well known nowadays that this is not healthy at all. By the way the last time I have seen this practice was in China.

But on the positive side, what I really totally love is the concept to be able to fill up filtered water in little water-stores all over the Baja California. No more plastic bottles – people fill up their big canisters and I my water bottles. Because tap water is supposedly not safe to drink.

Even if I mentioned a few negative things, don’t get me wrong, the Baja Divide trail is great and I enjoyed almost every kilometer of it. Not necessarily those endless sandy stretches or 20 water crossing in one day, but the trail in general was one of the highlights of my entire trip so far. Mainly because of the awesome plant life, amazing camp spots and cozy little towns – definitely not because of the challenge. I had enough challenges by now and actually got a bit tired of getting shaken all day.

In San Ignacio more and more other cyclists caught up with me who started with the official Baja Divide group start at the beginning of January, so I was no longer alone when I was in a town.

Especially in Mulege, a small fishing village at the Sea of Cortez. I really enjoyed having the possibility to have some proper conversations for a few days and I have to admit that I was at first a bit skeptical towards the bikepackers.

I kind of expected a group of racers, talking about their bike and gear all day and trying to tick the trail off their bucket list. But I was far from being correct. The cyclists I met were all super nice, open minded and just out to enjoy nature as much as I do. I had a great time with them.

Sarah3
Tom 3
Colleen 1
Harry Tom

Locals are far more open since I am further away from the US, but I am still hoping that the friendliness will also get better in bigger towns on the mainland, not just in remote places, where I was lucky to be invited a few times.

I ate fish with a bunch of fishermen where I asked for water. “Here it is all for free – eat as much as you can”. And the fish was extremely delicious.

They were really curious who I am and wondered why there are cyclists passing this remote place. “We have already seen 5 other cyclists lately, why are you doing this?”

It sounded as exciting as seeing one of the world wonders. I like it when people are interested and want to know more where I am from and what I am doing. It is far nicer than being ignored as it was further up north the case. It even feels a bit intimidating at some stage.

But the point came where I was already surprised about myself that I had stayed on the trail for so long and that I was able to follow someone else’s idea for about 2000 KM. But one morning, roughly about 250KM before La Paz, the place where I was planning on taking the ferry to the mainland, I had enough.

I didn’t want to push through the sand anymore, didn’t want to be confronted with cobble stones, water crossings and stones in general. It was simply time to pull out. Diversity is what I like best and I had spent 2 months in total in this awesome area and I felt like moving on and seeing something else. I wasn’t able to motivate myself for even another kilometer along this trail.

What I learned on my trip is, that motivation is the key to being able to keep going and the most important thing is to keep it alive – no matter what. I didn’t want to risk falling into a bad mood. In hindsight, I know that Canada for example didn’t work out for me because I was too long exposed to something I didn’t enjoy and I want to make sure that this won’t happen again.

Sure pushing yourself is important, but the balance is the key to success.

The problem along the Baja California, aside from the dirt and sandy roads there is only the MEX1 – the main Highway – which in my opinion is not very appealing and has far too much traffic and almost no shoulder, especially the last stretch towards La Paz.

I fought with myself again if I should just stick to the trail or take the bus instead and opted for the 200 KM ride in the bus.

Now it is time for the real Mexico – I am totally thrilled to experience it in my own way again. No more GPS track, no more information what’s ahead. The real adventure begins again, where I most probably will knock on church doors, fire stations and ranches to find a spot to stay at night – a totally different way of life.

I also bet it was my last trail for a while. Somehow it is not really my style, even if this is a contradiction to what I have said before. And I am also sure I will change my mind a few times again once a few months have passed. This is kinda how I like it best – changing my mind all the time is important 😉

La Paz, a rich city located almost at the end of the long Peninsula, gave me a great farewell – I caught up again with some other riders – also among them the makers of the trail.

Thanks very much Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox for your masterpiece of mapping this awesome trail for the bikepacking community and I am glad I was part of it. It was simply totally amazing!


I stayed with Tuly, a Warmshowers host who had hosted hundreds of cyclists during the last few years. Tuly was super nice and let me stay for an entire week, sewed my pants and my beloved ORWI pushbikegirl Jersey. Sadly, it won’t last much longer.

While I was there a Spaniard, two Americans and one guy from India either stayed there as well or picked up mail she had received for them. Among of the boxes were my Schwalbe tires which I had sent to her to be ready for the less strenuous roads again.

People like Tuly are so amazing and such a big help for all touring cyclists. Thanks, Tuly!

Goodbye superb Baja California – I am sure I will miss you tons.

21 Comments

  1. You are truly an amazing woman, Heike. The conditions you endured along obviously one of the most difficult bike trails in the world would probably have caused me to give up shortly after getting started. Your photography is stunning and I am thrilled every time I look at what you have produced. Stupendous, exciting, romantic, calming, awe-inspiring. Please keep taking the photos. They are memories that become more valuable the older you get.

    I’ve been to Mexico several times and would find it very difficult to cycle through, probably more because of the heat more than anything. I remember driving through a desert there 40 years ago and having to stop because the asphalt had melted. From 11 a.m to 5 p.m., I could only sit under a shade tree and not a single car passed me back then. I’m hoping that most of those highways are now made of concrete or even paver blocks.

    I also remember miles and miles of empty landscape when I traveled through central Mexico on a motorcycle once – all the way from Colorado in the US to Nicaragua. That was totally boring to me until I finally reached the area south of Mexico City. I hope you are doing well and are enjoying the mainland after leaving Baja.

    Someday, I hope to see you in person. My brother and his wife said they really enjoyed meeting you.

    All the best in your continuing journeys,
    Don

    p.s. Due to reasons of which you are well aware, I haven’t been able to keep up my website as before. But when I spend the next month in Sankt Peter-Ording, I will attempt to catch it back up to date.

    Reply
    • Thanks very much Don!
      I doubt it is the most difficult trail, but not the easiest either 😉 Great fun!
      Yes, Mexico is not always biker friendly, the heat is tough to deal with…..
      Thanks mate and all the best for you too…..Heike

      Reply
    • Comments:

      I hope Tuly receives an award from warm showers.

      Dogs in Peru are wwaayy worse than Baja.

      Yes, try and avoid Mex 1 on the final run in to La Paz. Lots of construction happening right now. Mar 2017. The finished sections look great but the old sections are dangerous. No shoulder with lots of traffic, curves and hills.

      Reply
      • She should get an award – for certain.

        Sure I know South America is far worse when it comes to dog attacks….the worst for me was Tibet – totally crazy there.

        I am far away from Baja already….

        Cheers Heike

    • Excellent images. Capturing the vibrant colors and street life really inspires me to get to Mexico fast!! Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
      • Thanks Chris!!! Enjoy it…..CHeers Heike

  2. Ciao Heike,
    Great story again!! and you’re pictures are like art, you’re really a magician!! I understand you’re feelings about the dogs but there’s not more you can do then to except……?
    Safe travels! Gert

    Reply
  3. Hi, Heike, How are you? What câmera is your? I like kind of pictures, people’s day to day. Hug! Good trip

    Reply
    • HI Tanja, I am good. I am using a Olympus OMD EM 10 Mark 2
      Cheers Heike and thanks for your wishes.

      Reply
  4. You know, for me, meeting you in Mulége, and seeing you again in La Paz was a highlight of the Baja Divide. Even though you deny it, you are famous! I love the photo where we are discussing the merits of churros. I remember you taking that photo, and saying we all were making bad faces!
    I, too, did not like all the trash, and didn’t understand why they would rake the dirt, but not pick up the trash. As for the plastic bags on the plates, I heard that has to do with the lack of clean water. At least in the county (Thurston County in Washington State) I live in, plastic shopping bags have been banned.
    I wish you continued safe and interesting travels, and hope that somewhere along the way our paths will cross again!

    Reply
    • Colleen, so nice to hear from you !!! I am glad I made you happy – and I can only say the same to you, it was so nice to meet you all!
      They also cover the plates with plastic bags on the mainland, where there is plenty of water, and there is the same amount of trash along the roads.
      Great to hear the US is making progress! I know especially Washington State, Oregon and California are well ahead in a lot of ways.
      Thanks for your wishes and see you somewhere 😉 Keep your adventurous spirit! HUGS Heike

      Reply
      • Always good to read about your trip.
        I was in Sri Lanka last year.
        Same there for trash burning roadside and plastic bags on restaurant plates.
        And such a beautiful countryside.

  5. Beatifull photos like allways, thankyou, felicidades!

    Reply
  6. Great shots Heike!

    Reply
  7. Dear Heike, read you latest blog this morning. This evening I came across this poem and couldn’t help but think of you. Safe and exciting travels.

    “There is magic out there, so it’s magic we’ll seek. Adventure lives a whisper beyond our comfort zones, just a half breath after No turns to Yes. Here’s to the wild life we will never stop living, here’s to the wanderlust and the lights we were born to chase.”
    Tyler Knot Gregson

    Keep chasing and come back and see us in Flagstaff someday.
    Best wishes

    Reply
    • Big hugs to all of you …. thanks mate ! One day I might be back in beautiful Arizona 😉 Cheers Heike

      Reply
    • Ooooo, I love this poem ! Thank you.

      -Eric

      Reply
  8. Wow amazing trip to read about. A year ago I rode up from La Paz on Mex 1 after staying with Tully who is awesome. Such a kind family, hope her triathlon training is going well.

    Reply
    • Yes Tuly is great…..she went for a run a few times when I was there 😉 Thanks for your compliment!

      Reply
    • your info on copper cayon will be helpfull going there in march 2019,keep on ridding Happy trails

      Reply

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