Welcome to “The End” of our Baja Divide trip! This blog post starts up where the “Middle” left off. As a bit of a recap, the first two blog posts cover the 28 days it took us to get to Ciudad Constitucion, some 1,251 miles from San Diego. By this point in the trip we were feeling like seasoned veterans having spent nearly a month on our bikes working our way south.
Reading over the guide, as we did every morning before setting forth, we dwelled a bit on the part that says, “the steaming burning dump outside of Ciudad Constitucion is unavoidable”. At this point we had passed several dumps on the outskirts of small towns so it was nothing new, but this one seemed particularly ominous since it was noted in the guide. Weaving our way out of town and down a paved highway we began to see the plumes of acrid smoke rising from the desert. As we got closer we donned our buffs over our faces and picked up the pace a bit. The steaming burning dump was a bit of a rite of passage I felt before embarking on one of the last few rugged remote stretches of the Divide. We had heard stories and it was talked about by fellow Divide riders. I have to say it was pretty anti-climactic. We passed through quickly and kept breathing to a minimum and before we knew it we were into one of the typical wandering, washboard desert roads that had become the trademark of the Baja Divide.
It was always a bit of a relief to exit a town and be in the backcountry once again. Although the towns were a nice respite, allowing for luxuries such as prepared food and showers, they felt unnatural, as I suppose is the true nature of any town. It was nice to both be on the same page when it came to this feeling, and we would both shoot each other cheeky smiles and glances as we worked our way further into the unknown.
What we did know, from reading the guide, was that we would ramble through the desert a ways, before finding our way into bigger terrain with drainages and views, before then bombing down to the oceanside. Our rhythm was typical with myself pedaling off the front at my pace, and Jenny settling into her pace just a ways behind. Towards the end of the day, with the shadows growing longer, we began to encounter some of the dramatic relief of the drainages and mountains. Our favorite time to ride was the last few hours of the day, as the heat relented, and the sun rays softened. While waiting for Jenny at a water crossing I noticed a cave up on the cliff. Naturally, I set my bike aside and scrambled upward to inspect the ancient dwelling. Nothing of note was left except for a creosote stained roof to the once occupied rock home. I sat inside and enjoyed the coolness of the earth as I pondered what it was like to live here before the road blazed a path of relative ease. Jenny pedaled up and took some time before locating me upon the cliff wall. We greeted each other with the usual “Hola!” and once again we were pedaling. The remote desert camps had become a favorite of mine, sitting among the cacti and scrub brush with a small fire and just each other for company. We covered good ground and La Paz was just days away.
The next day brought more arduous terrain, but with it earned views of the Sea of Cortez. The descent to the ocean was a thriller to be sure, and the groans of the bike could be heard the entire way down. Brakes overheating and bodies worked over, we rolled into the small fishing village of San Evaristo where we treated ourselves to some fine ceviche, fish tacos and a couple of cold cervezas. We debated staying there for the eve and continuing the pattern of hammock sitting, cerveza drinking and ceviche consumption, but alas we yearned for our own private beach spot. As luck would have it we found exactly that just a few miles down the road on a rocky point complete with tiny bay. The evening was spent wandering the beach together and counting the numerous mummified puffer fish and other once living creatures. Camping on the ocean never got tiring and we enjoyed a quiet evening with the waves lapping at the beach.
As morning encroached on the still of the night, we also encroached on the sea for some “adventure coffee” on a steep ridge above the ocean. Seeing the sun rise over the Sea of Cortez while enjoying a cup of steaming joe was quite the start to our day. We needed the motivation as right from the get go we had a large pass to clear. The day was marked with several steep ascents and descents before the road finally relented and allowed us to pedal oceanside. The further south we went, the more signs of civilization we encountered. Arriving in a small mining town during the heat of the day we took shelter on the porch of a small company store and enjoyed cold beverages along with a few cookies. The mileage and daylight remaining meant that La Paz was within reach by the end of the day. Just outside of the small town we found our first pavement in several days of riding, and what a glorious feeling it was! Vast views of the ocean on one side and a steep cliff on the other made for a gorgeous cruise. Slowly working our way up the last rise in the highway we began to catch glimpses of the bustling metropolis. With daylight waning and hunger on the rise we elected to stop at a small roadside eatery for dinner and to plot where we would stay for the night. A table of expats sat nearby and quickly took notice of our disheveled states and inquired about our journey. We kindly acknowledged and shared a bit about our trip to which they rewarded us with a couple of cold cervezas. Bellies full and legs sore we found a nearby campground to take refuge. After a late-night snack run we settled in for the evening to discuss the merits of various chips and Mexican treats while stargazing.
On day 32 of our Baja Divide journey we pedaled into the city of La Paz along the Malecon, taking in the sights and sounds. La Paz was by far the biggest city we had seen in a month, and it was overwhelming to say the least. A Google search and discussion led us to chose Hotel Yeneka for its eclectic and laidback setting. It felt good to get cleaned up and hand over our dirty laundry to the front desk for a proper cleansing. Although we weren’t to the end of our trip, in a way it felt like we were. Less than 200 miles lay between us and the finish proper to our trip, a mere few days. We planned a full day to explore La Paz and tourist about the town. One thing we looked forward to was meeting up with some other Baja Divide riders whom we had followed on Instagram, and we did just that. Over some cerveza and food we chatted about various sections of the route, what we really enjoyed and what we would have chosen to avoid. It was nice to relive some of the route with folks who had ridden it as well. After a short layover in La Paz we decided to make tracks further south towards our end destination.
The climb up and out of La Paz was paved, but that didn’t make it much easier. The route took us high into the mountains with spectacular views in every direction. This unique mountain ecosystem was pleasant to pedal within and we made good progress up until the end of the day where we faced a very sandy arroyo prior to our next resupply town. The curse of the sandy arroyos was yet to let go of us, and we trudged forward to an oasis with burritos and Coca Cola. We took up camp on a mountain ridge overlooking the ocean and slept quite well after a long day. The next day brought an amazingly scenic stretch along the ocean with many small towns worthy of a layover. We had a specific area in our sights where it seemed we could camp oceanside with little to no other people around. Once again, we encountered sand and questioned our idea to push on as opposed to finding comfort within a small town, but our plan was reaffirmed upon pushing out to a deserted beach with only a small fishing camp. It was one of our favorite nights of the entire trip! Endless piles of driftwood allowed for a nice bonfire, and the only adversity we encountered was a small hermit crab attempting to steal a package of Ramen noodles. We relished these beach camping spots and there was no better sleep than a long day in the saddle followed by the surf crashing against the beach as we looked out of the tent at the stars. We knew from referencing the guide that the ride from our camp to San Jose Del Cabo was doable but would be a long haul. The fifty miles wasn’t an issue, it was the 5,000 plus feet of climbing accompanied by steep grades and copious sand that was daunting. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t dealt with before and we made sure to get an early start and fuel up down the road at a small cantina. Naturally we hit the base of the climb, five miles of sandy arroyo, during the heat of the day. Even in the easiest gear we barely made headway and most the time it was faster to just push the bike a couple hundred feet then take a break for water. The crossing up and over the mountains to the city was dry so we had to take plenty of water which added to the weight of our loads. It was a relief after a couple of hours to finally hit some solid ground and begin pedaling steadily up into the high country. Once near the top, the views expanded in every direction revealing both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. After a bit of ridge top rambling we saw our first glimpse of the city, and our destination. A riotous descent, followed by low country rambling, brought us to the outskirts of town. We had made it to San Jose Del Cabo, the city where we would be flying out of in a weeks’ time!! Although we wanted to go all the way to the end of the peninsula in Cabo San Lucas it was really a formality, and if we so chose, could have just kicked back and enjoyed the city for a week of rest and relaxation. But you probably know by now that that’s not how we roll.
We rolled up to the Cactus Inn late in the afternoon and scored ourselves a place to lay our heads for the night. As we were checking in we couldn’t help but notice another couple unwrapping fatbikes and bikepacking gear, so we said hello. They were getting ready to tackle the Cape Loop which covers some 300 miles of the route in the tip of the peninsula. The looked busy and we were hungry, so we kept conversation brief. While plotting where to eat I was also chatting with some friends of ours who had arrived the day prior in town to tackle the Cape Loop. They knew the couple that was at our hotel; what a small world! We made plans to meet for dinner by the airport and enjoyed a seafood dinner together while sharing stories of our trip and tips on the route they were about to tackle. Back at the hotel, Jenny and I had to decide what our next move would be. We had made good time riding down the length of Baja and now had over a week before our departure. I had made a route that simply followed the coastline some 30 miles down to Cabo San Lucas and would be easily do-able in a day, but then what would we do with the remaining 7 days? The answer was to keep riding along the Cape Loop and up and over the mountains again. Instead of rolling 30 paved miles along the ocean, we would ride 60 miles over the mountains to Todos Santos, then 50 miles back south to Cabo. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Turns out riding up to Todos Santos then back south was an awesome idea! When we awoke to depart from the Cactus Inn, our new friends at the hotel were also leaving so we joined forces as we pedaled out of town to a spot for breakfast. Over hot tortillas and huevos we all got acquainted and discussed a possible rendezvous that evening to camp together should it work out. The climb up into the mountains was no slouch, and we mused aloud a few times during one particularly heinous powerline sand road that we could have easily just sat on the beach in San Jose. Sitting on the beach isn’t really our style though. Don’t get me wrong, I like sitting on the ocean and swimming… for a few hours. I guess we just figured we’d get the most bang for our buck by traversing another gnarly stretch of the Divide before packing up. The climb turned out to be well worth it when we got to the top. The road down the backside towards Todos Santos had been severely damaged by a hurricane and was impassable to vehicles but could be hiked with a bike. The storm damaged road also made for an extremely scenic camping spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean from 4,000 feet up. Our evening was spent with good company as our new friends made it to the pass just in time to see the sunset. We shared stories of adventures current and past over a campfire before calling it a night.
The descent to Todos Santos was invigorating and we were anxious to see the Pacific Ocean up close once again. There is a strong expat presence in town, but not overwhelmingly so. A unique blend of old meets new comprises the small town and we enjoyed the day wandering side streets, sampling cold cervezas and enjoying fresh seafood for dinner. The next days ride down to Cabo San Lucas was straightforward as we made good progress down the paved highway. Only a few passes laid between us and the port town and we made it to the end of the peninsula by early afternoon. Rolling into Cabo was a bit of a culture shock to say the least, but we had a goal in mind. We pedaled out to the beach and marina that comprise the Lands End and stood there excitedly. This was it, we had accomplished what we had set out to do over a month earlier! We embraced, kissed and expressed to one another how wonderful of a journey it had been together. A kind tourist snapped some photos of us, and that was that.
Being only a few days out from Christmas there were loads of tourists ambling about and the hustle and bustle of humanity made us weary quickly. I made haste to find accommodations for the night and we made tracks to our hotel. Rolling our bikes into the room and closing the door behind us, we both collapsed onto the bed and simply kicked back. The prior urgency we had along the way to wash clothes, go shopping for food, and plan out the next stretch was gone. Slowly we ambled about, got cleaned up, and stretched out to watch some television. We couldn’t help but wander around in the evening, taking it all in like some strange circus sideshow. Having spent over a month bouncing between small towns and villages it was overwhelming. We only stayed in Cabo for one night.
It felt like a relief to pedal out of Cabo, it was too much for us in our current state, and perhaps it would never be appealing to us? Rolling along the coast back towards San Jose Del Cabo we took in the sights of massive resorts, the likes of which were constructed to offer a completely sanitary experience of Mexico. Clearly these monstrosities were not designed for the likes of us. I couldn’t fathom spending the same amount of money that had gotten us all the way down the peninsula in just over a month for one weekend at an all-inclusive. There were times when we felt sheepish stepping up the counter of a small Mercado and spending $10 USD on a massive pile of snacks for a day when clearly other folks were living on far less for a week. Earlier on in the trip we had talked about “splurging” and getting ourselves some deluxe accommodations for Christmas and to celebrate the journey, but faced with the decision it seemed ludicrous and out of place. We found a quaint locally run inn located in old downtown San Jose Del Cabo. It had a local feel to it, and the place was teeming with Mexican families enjoying the company of relatives in town for the holiday. The room was cozy and simple, and the staff were pleasant and allowed me to continue my onslaught of poor Spanish. It was perfect.
Christmas day brought with it sunshine and 70-degree temperatures. After a leisurely breakfast we geared up to do what we always do; ride our bikes. It felt amazing to ride the Fargos fully unloaded and just enjoy a simple pedal. We made our way east along the cape and enjoyed the ocean breeze and we bounced along rough roads. At the halfway point of our ride we located a small resort and stopped in for a drink and fish tacos. The ride back to our hotel was uneventful and very pleasant. After the arduous riding we had faced over the previous month it was strange to just go for an easy pedal and take in the sights. Returning to town, we cleaned up from the ride and made our way over to a local seafood joint. We weren’t in the mood for Outback Steakhouse down by the oceanfront resorts, and the hum of Spanish and mariachi music was warming to the soul, as was the homemade salsa and ceviche. We stuffed ourselves to the gills with fantastic fresh seafood and took it all in, both knowing that soon this would come to an end and we’d return to our normal lives back home.
We found ourselves in a strange limbo during the last few days of our trip. On the one hand we were eager to see our friends, family and dogs after being gone for over 40 days. On the other hand, we had settled into life in Baja and we rather enjoying what our daily lives had become. As ridiculous as it sounds, a strange melancholy began to set in with our impending departure. The simple goal of waking up, eating, pedaling, eating and camping that we had become so grown used to over our time venturing down the peninsula was such a clear and honest existence. During the trip, our lives were absent the usual paltry worries and lacked the onslaught of social media and constant political noise. Never had it felt so obvious that our lives back home were overcomplicated for no apparent reason. We managed to live just fine, and frankly thoroughly enjoy ourselves, with only what could be carried on our bikes. It was an eye-opening experience to be sure, and no matter how much someone tells you that paring down your belongings and living a simple life is the way to go, you have to experience it for yourself to truly understand. We are so grateful that we were able to enjoy the time together wandering down the Baja peninsula. We will always have that experience that just the two of us will truly understand and can smile at each other whenever something back home triggers a memory.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t extend a heartfelt thanks to our family, friends and sponsors for supporting our trip. My mother and her husband were true saints to have homed our dogs for the long haul. Our friends back home who made valiant, yet thwarted, attempts to ship us supplies were not forgotten. All of the kind messages of excitement, encouragement, support and enthusiasm really cheered us on. The support of Salsa Cycles for providing us with top-notch gear that never once let us down. The support of Teravail tires for providing us with rubber that never once went flat. The support of Grand Rapids Bicycle Company for all those odds, ends and everything in between. The support of Velocity USA for perfectly true and bombproof wheels. The support of Wolftooth Components for helping with all the small bits to fine tune our packing just right. Adventures can be difficult, but with the massive amount of support we received it made the whole thing seem like a cakewalk; all we had to do was pedal.
And on that note, I would encourage you, the reader, to consider finding an adventure for yourself to undertake. Whether it’s a few days or a few months all you really have to do is pedal and ride forward.
Matt and Jenny both rode Salsa Fargo bicycles with 27.5+ tires for their Baja Divide journey. To learn more about the Fargo, please click here...
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