The Baja Divide is a brand-new trail which crosses Baja California on rough and sandy trails. Always away from the tarmac and busy roads. 1700 miles to La Paz at the Southern end of the Baja.
I wasn’t super excited to follow another red line someone else had created. Where I have information on where to get water and when I hit the next town, instead of finding the route and figuring out resupply needs myself. But I wanted to give it a try and see what Nicholas & Lael had come up with.
I actually opted for the trail 4 days before I left the USA. I read that it is advisable to have tubeless and wider tires and the opportunity to carry up to 12 liters of water. A GPS is also essential.
As everyone who followed my journey so far knows, I am not a technical talker, nor a fan of fancy bike stuff. It has to be sturdy and reliable and I am usually not jumping on everything that every cyclist should supposedly have. But I changed my Schwalbe Mondial 2.1 tires to Maxxis Minion 2.5 and put slime in my tubes and filled the tire with a protection band to be on the safer side when I enter the cacti country.
I was given a GPS and used one for the first time in my life, because finding the route without it is impossible.
The guy at the immigration asked for $25 for a stamp. “Isn’t it $20 for 6 months?” I asked. “No, it is $25” he replied. “Well Officer, I am pretty sure it is $20 instead of $25”. After talking back and forth he admitted it was $20 and I should just go outside to the bank to pay the fee.
Standing in the queue the counter shut the door right before my turn.
About an hour later I had my stamp and paid the official $20.
Welcome to Latin America. Another world lies ahead of me.
I was never keen on going to Mexico. I was also not a fan of Mexican food. Nor do I like the usual and well known machoism of Latin America. But as always, I wanted to find out if the few things I thought I knew about the country were true. And of course I was here to explore a new culture.
My Spanish is terrible and having had the possibility to have proper conversations for an entire year, I was back into some kind of isolation until my Spanish improves and in all honesty in the first few days I felt a bit lost.
Tecate, the border city, is a “Nothing Town” as are all the other villages I have been to so far along the Baja California.
If you start approaching something with absolutely no expectations, it can only be good and that’s exactly what happened. I loved it from the first moment on. Because I was finally back in my lovely nature, out of a dirty town and fought with sand and rocks and enjoyed the pretty barren scenery.
Besides a few Yankees on motorbikes I was all by myself. Nevertheless, the first few days I was cautious. Where do I pitch my tent? Do I light up a fire at night and might be seen by others? Is it really as safe as everyone is saying about the Baja California? I am always careful when I enter a new country and so far this was always a good strategy.
The cacti were awesome, the loneliness and the quietness was great and I didn’t stress myself and made about 50 – 60 km a day. It was way too pretty to rush through. And it was pitch dark at 5 PM, so days are short and the nights long and cold.
There is lots of sand and rocks on those tiny roads. Steep short sections, rough and tough, but exactly the way I like it. I also know I would have not found those trails by myself, so I am glad I can follow the GPS tracks. But at the same time, I am sure it will be my last trail for a while, because all in all I am still an explorer and not a follower.
The trail goes partly along a yearly off road auto race and it seems to me that people are so used to foreigners, that they have not much interest in me when I pass their property. I had noticed the same on the Great Divide MTB Route.
This is something I find sad, because having contact to people is so important when you are by yourself. My trip is not all about cycling it is about learning and understanding and this is missing on those well-known tracks. But I hope this will be different the further south I get, away from Gringolandia as the Mexicans call the US.
Compared to the Great Divide it is far more technical, but still manageable and not as tough as some of the sections I tried on the Arizona trail. But who knows what’s ahead of me! I heard it is getting rougher the further south I get.
So far, I had no issues with any thorns nor with the sand. If it is too sandy I push – simple. But still it was a good choice to opt for the 2.5 tires and the more aggressive profile.
I got caught by darkness two times and rode with the bright moon light for hours and was fascinated by the wonderful environment which surrounded me.
Sadly, up to this point, I could hardly get a glimpse of the culture, because the trail is far out. When I enter a town, the bustling life is attractive as much as it is annoying. Somehow, I guess I need to get used to it. But the positive side is – now there is culture.
There is music, kids playing on the streets, people eating in tiny Taco stands and lining up for food or money at the bank. Pedestrians, dogs running around, people cycle – there is life here and that is great!
After my first boring and dry tacos, I found super yummy Taco places and will never ever mention that Mexican food has no taste. It is gorgeous and has so much more than only rice and beans and the atmosphere in those places is interesting.
I saw dolphins, hummingbirds, and a monster tarantula. I listened to coyotes, nearly ran into a deer and was also chased by a few nasty dogs. I was allowed to stay the night in a church, I was able to spoil myself with a cheap hotel room and I am slowly getting to the point of enjoying another world.
I am now totally keen on doing the whole trail and hope I will have as much fun as I have had since leaving Tecate.