Tuesday 5th July
I have to say that I absolutely love my new tent. I ended up buying the one man MSR Hubba nx, which is really easy to put up and just the right size for me and my stuff. You can also have the mosquito net part up without the outer, which is definitely a bonus in the heat, although I discovered in the night just how much the netting keeps the heat in! It was around 10pm and still hot when I went to sleep, or at least attempted to go to sleep, and I spent the next eight hot and sticky hours tossing, turning, peeling my face off my inflatable pillow, and my body off my inflatable mattress. I would have opened the zip had it not been for the various flying insects that were trying to get in, and not fancying having them crawling all over me I was left with no other option than to sweat it out. To say it wasn’t a good nights sleep would be an understatement, but I did manage to get an hour or so of continuous sleep when it finally cooled down around 4.30am.
I woke around 6am as the sun rose, and despite being tired I still had the energy to admire the scenery around me, and appreciate where I was. There’s something quite magical about cacti when the sun is low, and I sat and had some breakfast while watching the shapes change around me.
By 6.30am it was hot again, so I decided to pack up and get moving. With the bike all loaded up I went to make my way back to the main road, but managed to take the wrong trail and quickly found myself completely stuck in deep sand. It was so deep that I wasn’t able to wheel the bike backwards or forwards, even without me on it, and found myself having to drag it round in a circle on the side stand, while sweating and cursing in equal measure. Needless to say that my desire to do any off-road in the Baja quickly disappeared after that, along with my energy.
In need of some sugar and a cold drink, and wanting to say thank you to the owner, I decided to stop at the cafe on my way out. I loved it as soon as I went in, mainly due to the dirt floor. When I was a kid my mum used to take me to a butchers that had a thick layer of sawdust on the floor, and I’d get great joy from taking my shoes off and walking in it. The cafe floor reminded me of that for some reason, but I kept my boots on this time, as after all the sweating I was worried that any potential smell might put their customers off their morning coffee!
I sat down on one of the picnic benches and ordered a cold water and an orange juice, which again had so much flavour my taste-buds didn’t know what to do with themselves. It was good to sit down and get some fluids in me, and while I sipped on my drink the driver of a coach that had pulled in stopped and had a chat with me. He knew a little English, at least enough to understand my Spanglish, and after finishing his coffee and going to pay, the lady behind the counter called over to me to say that he’d paid for my drinks! What a gentleman. And it’s funny because even though they hadn’t cost that much, it still meant so much to me. In fact it never has anything to do with the value of something, even the smallest gesture and random act of kindness means a lot to me, and more so in Mexico for some reason. I think it’s partly because of all the negativity and bad press that it gets. When someone is friendly or performs a random act of kindness to me here, it not only means a lot to me but it also makes me happy, as it’s another thing that I can throw back at the small minded and quite frankly racist people that claim that the whole country and its residents are dangerous and should be avoided. Yes there are dangerous areas and people here, but it’s the minority, and I really feel that people are missing out by not coming here.
The time came to leave my little haven in the cafe, but I got distracted on my way out as I discovered two men sat at a table de-spiking a cactus. This was a photo opportunity if ever I saw one, but before I knew it the roles had been reversed and I was sat down at the table de-spiking a cactus, while the little man was busy with my iPhone taking photos of me!
I wasn’t entirely sure if I should be trusted with a big sharp knife, and I think the man opposite me thought the same! He quickly directed me the best way to do it, and I happily chopped away, before the man with my phone decided that it was time for him to take over. I actually thought that I was doing a rather good job of it, especially considering that it was my first time, but I think he’d seen enough of me butchering his cactus for one day. Although I couldn’t have been that bad, because as I went to leave he gave me a sweet little gift. It actually turned out that he travelled around selling these little handmade gifts along with his bounty of cactus to local cafes and restaurants, and he helped to prepare them before heading to the next place.
Left amused and with another experience under my belt, I made my way out of town, but not before being entertained by Catavina’s gas ‘station’. I loved the fact that they’d gone to all the trouble to make a PEMEX sign, pure genius.
From Catavina the boulders and cacti came in waves, along with huge expanses of flat barren land. For what can be such a hostile environment it was incredibly head clearing and relaxing for some reason, although the later may have been due to the absolutely ridiculous heat. In fact I got so relaxed by the heat that I was left feeling incredibly drowsy, and there were multiple times where I was desperately trying my hardest to stay awake.
One long straight road nearly finished me off, when suddenly out of no-where it began to cool down. I looked at the map and noticed that I was headed for the coast, which explained the sudden cooling, and before I knew it I was actually cold. I couldn’t believe it; from borderline heatstroke to shivering in less than twenty minutes. That’s as ridiculous as the heat was that day! Although I didn’t have a thermometer so I can’t say what the temperature different was, but I did find out later that it had been 48C out in the desert that day. No wonder I’d wanted to fall asleep.
After some pretty non-eventful riding I crossed in to Baja California Sur, or south to you and me, and headed to the town of Guerrero Negro. It was around 2.30pm by this point, and as my stomach started grumbling I decided that my first stop would be food, so I quickly whipped out my list of recommended places to eat. Marcelo’s list took me to Restaurant Malarrimo, where I spent the remainder of the afternoon in a very relaxed and contented state.
I sat outside in the shade and enjoyed a two course meal consisting of soup and octopus sautéed with garlic, onions, and peppers, served with rice, bread and beans. It was very tasty but I have to admit that some bits were rather chewy!! It’s annoying as Octopus is one of my favourite things to eat, but it’s a 50/50 chance whether it’ll be a culinary delight or like chewing on an old leather boot. In this instance it was actually a bit of both! I decided that a coffee was in order after my meal, and I happily sat back in my chair and watched the world go by, completely and utterly relaxed.
The time eventually came round to moving on and finding a place to stay, so I headed in to town to check it out. I haven’t actually spoken about these before, because they haven’t really been an issue for me, but all throughout the Baja and I believe Mexico too, are these speed bumps called topes. They are in lots of different places and in all shapes and sizes, and often turn up without warning, catching unsuspecting motorists by surprise. That might actually partly explain why the majority of the vehicles here have things broken off them and hanging and dragging along the ground. There are so many shit-box cars here that it’s ridiculous, and the majority of them don’t have licence plates. You would never find anything like that on the roads in England, they wouldn’t be allowed, and I have to say that I’ve seen cars in better states in my local junk yard. Anyway, back to the topes. Like I said they don’t normally bother me, but one in Guerrero Negro was so severe that I actually bottomed out on it! I rode over it slowly and felt my bash plate scrape along the top of it, and was left wondering why the hell they needed them to be quite that high. I tried to ride around the rest of them, squeezing down the gap that had sometimes been left by the curb, but for a lot of them there was no way round, and I winced every time I went over one.
I found one cheap motel but didn’t really like the feel or look of it, so went back to one that I’d seen earlier that looked safe and secure. I managed to get the friendly guy down to 300 pesos, which was over my budget, but I felt safe and happy there and there’s a lot to be said for that. It was clean and most importantly big enough for me to do my workout, which I did once my food had gone down. After that I put my feet up and wrote my diary, while watching Men in Black in Spanish. I’ve discovered that it’s a good way to tune your ear in to the language, but the choice of voices is often a little dubious!
It was while I was happily relaxed with my feet up that I got a rather amusing message from Ed.
DO NOT TRY TO FOLLOW THE BAJA 1000 ROUTE!!! It took me 4 hours to do 30 miles. I also lost my cock, the will to live, pints and pints in sweat and 1 boot somewhere. I would rather guide my dad into my mum than go back and find it. Didn’t see another human or sign of life except for some cacti to talk to.
Needless to say that I burst out laughing when I read it, the poor bugger. Oh and I’d just like to clarify that when he said he lost his cock, he means his cockerel thermometer!
I told him that I was in Guerrero Negro, and over four hours later I was surprised to get another message to say that he’d just arrived in town, and not in a particularly good state! I was surprised because I had no idea that he was so close, and it actually turned out that he’d ridden past where I’d been camping in the morning, with no idea that I was a stone’s throw away from him!
Just arrived. What hotel you in? Please reply with your gps coordinates. Can’t charge phone on bike, no headlight either and bike electrics are so fucked that my grips just caught fire and burnt the skin off my hands with molten plastic. Charging phone with laptop on side of road. Can’t risk riding for ages to find you. Need to go direct to you
I felt a bit mean laughing at the message, but I couldn’t help but see the comedy in it. I think it was more the fact that while I was having a lovely relaxing time poor Ed was going through hell. I quickly sent my coordinates to him, and within five minutes he was at my motel door, looking rather sorry for himself. I asked him if he’d had fun, and he said he’d had an experience! He’d slept next to a pile of dead animals, nearly died in the desert, had his heated grips catch fire and burn the skin of his hand, and had a complete electrical failure on the bike! I had to laugh, mainly due to the fact that our day’s really couldn’t have been any more different! I have to admit that once again I was really pleased to be travelling solo, as being stuck out in the desert in deep sand and 48C heat really didn’t sound like my idea of fun. Call me boring but I rather like the simple things in life these days and take great joy out of them, so I wouldn’t have traded my day in for Ed’s for anything. And don’t get me wrong, I do love off-roading, but believe me when I tell you that riding a low powered motorcycle in deep sand in the heat really isn’t fun. I mean I rode about a metre in deep sand in the morning and that was enough for me to think ‘F*ck riding off-road in the Baja on a C90!!’
And although he said it was horrific at the time, and that he could have been in serious trouble out there in the heat with very little water and not another human being in sight, he did say that he was getting a little rush from thinking “Holy shit, I could actually die here if something goes wrong”. And that’s where we differ again. While he gets a rush from something like that, I think I would only get stress and anxiety, which aren’t exactly my favourite emotions! I much prefer happiness and contentment, which comes in the form of things like tea and cake. So you can keep you’re shitty day in the desert thank you very much, but I’ll be thinking of you while I’ve got my feet up sipping on a chai latte and munching on a slab of cake.
With Ed feeling a bit more human after a good shower and a change of clothes, we decided to head out and find some food for him. He’d barely eaten all day, so when we found a street stall selling an array of meat and sausages smothered in all sorts of toppings, it was time for Ed to have his happy moment. I think the local stray dog was hoping for his happy moment too, but as Ed’s food barely touched the sides it wasn’t this dogs lucky day!
And talking of lucky days, I think Ed was pretty lucky to survive his day unscathed, bar the burns from his heated grips. And he knew it, at least enough to admit that he wouldn’t be doing any more of the Baja 1000 route in a hurry! Crazy fool.