Saturday, 1 May 2010

On the road to La Paz

I spent three nights in Tecate, relaxing during the day and drinking beer in the bar in the evening. Time well spent if you ask me! Finally on the 1st of May I got back on the bike and headed south on highway 3 over the mountains towards the town of Ensenada just over 80 miles away.

I wasn't expecting to make it there in one day and I didn't. The day was spent slowly going uphill for up to 90 minutes before blasting downhill for 10-20 minutes again and again and again. I actually quite enjoyed it! The uphill bits weren't too steep and the scenery was fantastic. By just after midday I have covered 40 miles so I was halfway there, the rest of the day's mileage was a bonus!

By 3 in the afternoon I was only 20miles from Ensenada and 15 miles from the coast. Taking it easy I ended up in the small “town” of El Sauzel right on the coast of the pacific ocean 90 minutes later. I found a “cheap motel”  (if you can call £22 pn cheap) with a great shower, free wifi and super firm bed :)

the next day I woke early (why?) and turned on the TV to find that  the Liverpool V Chelsea match was  live on fox sports...fantastic!!!!

I finally left the motel after 10am and travelled the 5 miles to Ensenada. After a quick bike around the tourist area I found a good hotel for only £15 pn. I'll be here for a few days before heading south once again.

I ended up spending 3 nights in this little American orientated tourist town, I didn't do that much. I checked out the local museum (small but interesting), the local Starbucks (where else am I going to get an ice cold frappaccino?) and the local cinema (iron man 2 is cool!). Yes, there were also bars but man was this town quiet! Why sit in a bar where the staff outnumber the clients by a ratio of 2:1 when instead I could watch TV lying on a bed with a fag in my mouth and a beer in my hand...I know I'm a classy kind of guy. I forgot to mention all the shops selling tourist tat...well now I have!

Come Wednesday (the 5th) morning I was up at 6am and on the road an hour later. It was 52 miles to the small town of St Vincent and after 10 miles the dual carriageway and the hard shoulder disappeared. It was once again a day of crossing valleys, the downhill bits were nice, the uphill bits not so nice.

A fully loaded touring bike is at its most unstable at low speeds (i.e. going uphill) and when an Arctic lorry is passing you by less than 2 feet...well lets just say it's fun and leave it at that.

By 13:30 I still had 10 miles to go and damn it was hot, even though I am wearing a “head sock” the salt from my sweat was stinging my eyes. When you are going uphill the last thing you want to do is look up!

Another hour later and I was in St Vincent, a small dusty town straddling the highway. I passed one motel that was shut, another that was open but with no one around however the 3rd time was lucky.

It is now 5pm and the heat of the day is fading, a cooling breeze is helping with that and the sound of the traffic 100m away can't block out the birdsong in the trees that are keeping me in the shade.

The following day after an uneventful ride I arrived in the small town of San Quintin in the early afternoon. I checked into a nice motel next door to a bar (strange that) and after showering walked the two mile round trip to the nearest ATM. Since leaving Tecate I haven't used my cane at all and I was getting used to “walking normally”. By the time I got back to the room my ankle was aching. Looks like a tendon on the outside of my foot was playing up. As it was the 1st time since I broke it that the outside of the ankle was causing me problems it gave some cause for concern.

The next day and my ankle was still sore and stiff so it was time for some bed rest and massage therapy. In the end I stayed in San Quintin for 3 nights, which was one more than planned and on Sunday the 9th of 'May I got back on the bike.

As it was a Sunday the road was quiet and for the 1st 30 miles it was flat! Mountains to my left and the pacific ocean to my right and for the 1st time since Las Vegas....a tailwind!!!! The end stop of the day was the small town of El Rosario which was only about 40 miles from San Quintin. After 3 hours I only had 10 miles left to go. However 8 of those miles were uphill but on the bright side the last two were!

By midday I had arrived and was in a hotel, next door to the famous Mama Esponzia restaurant, which if you are into off road racing (like the Baja 1000) you'll know all about it! My ankle seemed to be okay, which as tomorrow is going to be spent going uphill, is a good thing.

Monday 10th of May

What a day I've just had!

I left El Rosario just before 7am and at midday, 5 hours later, I had only managed to cover 30 miles. There was many steep ascents to climb and in 1st gear I average 3.5 mph. At one point I was almost at the top of a ridge when a police car came screaming down as fast as possible, ten minutes later I found out why. Going downhill I passed an overturned lorry on the apex of a tight left hand bend, its trailer smashed open discarding its cargo down the hillside. I guess the police car was being used as an ambulance!!!

A few miles later I was going downhill into a large and wide valley and by 2pm I had covered another 20 miles, making it 50 in total. Passing through a town (if you can call 2 houses and a shed a town) I realised that I would have to carry on in the saddle.

The nearest town with a hotel was Catavina, 26 miles away. By now my ankle was hurting and my right knee was starting to feel the strain. It was too hot and to early to camp by the side of the road so I just carried across the desert landscape.

By 3pm I was only 12 miles away and the road was crossing a boulder strewn cactus forest. The road was mostly flat and when it wasn't it was downhill...which was really lucky!

An hour later I had reached the town of Catavina. There are about 20 houses, a restaurant/shop and only one hotel. As soon as I saw the hotel I knew it would be costing me more than 250 pesos a night. I was right, it's 1100 pesos ( or about £60 ) but its not like I would go anywhere else!

Its now just gone 6pm and I'm sitting in the courtyard garden next to the swimming pool wondering if I am the only guest here but also if the restaurant is open?

I really wasn't planing on spending 9.5 hours on the road, with 8 of those hours in the saddle covering nearly 80 miles today. As for tomorrow...well it's about 70 miles to the next town or if I feel as knackered as I do right now I'll be on a shade lounger near the pool reading a book and trying not to think about how much this is costing me!

The next day

Shade lounger won!

I don't think that was a surprise to anyone :)

the following day I was on the road just before 7am and after 30 miles or so the steep climbs were left behind and I was travelling across easy valleys. As the day wore on the miles slipped past. By 5pm I had covered 85 miles and decided to call it a day. Being miles from nowhere I pitch my tent at the side of the road, cooked dinner and relaxed as the sun went down.

At dawn I was up, chilled and relaxed and after a coffee and the 1st use of my folding trowel I was on my way. There were only 62 miles that needed to be covered today (I know!!! I think 62 miles isn't that much any more...???) and as such I took it easy. The last 30 miles were along a dead straight road, so it was quite boring but by 3pm I had reached the town of  Guerrero Negro. This is one of the places to come for whale watching (but right now its out of season) but apart from that there really isn't much else.

I'll be here for two nights, clothes to wash and legs to rest before heading across the desert to  Santa Rosalia nearly 140 miles away. So that should only take a couple of days then :)

right now it is Thursday the 13th of May and I have been on the road for one month. I've spent 18 days cycling and have so far covered just over 900 miles. Not too bad for a beer swilling, chain smoking fat bloke

(Turns out I spent 3 nights here. I was online on Friday afternoon  when I realised that the FA cup final was being played the next day. Kick off was 7am local time, so instead of an early night I had beer and in the morning watched Chelsea win!!)

Sunday 16th of May:

I rolled out of Guerrero Negro just before 7am and as the road was flat and straight within 3 hours I had travelled 40 miles. As I was planning to cycle 90 miles across the Vizcaino desert today, it put a grin on my face :)

At nearly 3pm I was watching the odometer and as all the nines turned to zeros a big smile erupted across my face. I stopped, lit a full fat marlboro to celebrate and let out a big sigh!! I had just cycled my 1st 1000 miles, I wonder how many more there will be?

Back on the bike I only had 8 miles to go to the small town of San Ignacio. The town itself is about 2 miles from the main highway and as I turned off I came across a motel next to a restaurant. After biking 90 miles already I really couldn't be arsed to cycle a further two!

The following day I “only” had 46 miles to cover, across the desert to the sea of Cortez and the town of Santa Rosalia. A few miles out of the town there was a short but  steep bitch of a climb and after 30 minutes I had reached the top, sweating like a pig in a butchers shop!!! After yesterday's epic ride my legs were only at about 60% and so I was cruising along the road at 8-9 mph as opposed to the 13-15mph of yesterday.

About 3 hours later I climbed over a ridge and was met with a beautiful view...a wide valley that lead all the way to the coast. Its undulating road was easy to ride and I just chilled out and enjoyed the views. Towards the end of the wide valley I climbed a small ridge and could see the Sea! Then the road plunged down into a narrow valley, which if I had been coming the other way would of made me cry at the  gradient. I kid you not, I would of struggled to even push the bike the final kilometre, it must have been about 25%! So glad I was going downhill!!!!!!

8 kilometres later I was by the sea, the main road following the coast line the few miles to the town of Santa Rosalia. The town is set back from the sea and the harbour in a small canyon. It has two main streets, one goes uphill and other one down. The streets are narrow, lined by wooden houses with small verandas. The town dates back to the late 1800's and was built by a French mining company and the bakery has been here since 1901! I'll be here for a few days before heading south along the coast.

Wednesday 19th of May

After a couple of nights it was time to move on. The next main town is Loreto nearly 120 miles away but as I am feeling lazy and the sun is feeling hot I decided to take 3 days to cover the distance!!

About 40 miles down the road is the small town of Mulege and that was where I was heading today. Just outside of Santa Rosalia I passed a road side sign which was displaying the temperature...25oc at 07:30! The road was easy and I was enjoying the views when after cresting a small rise I saw my doppelgänger! His name was Andrew too but he was from Norway and had been on the road for nearly 10 months travelling north from southern Argentina heading to Vancouver and a flight back home. We chatted for about an hour before we parted, leaving him to fix his puncture.

By midday I was in Mulege and after looking around the small town I  found a cheap hotel  on the highway. So, it's a ten minute walk into the centre of town for tonight's meal.

A few hours later it had just gone 5pm and so I got my carcass off the bed and walked into town and into Scott's bar. I was enjoying a cold beer whilst being slightly concerned that the pub's dog had decided that my bar stool was the one to sit under when I looked at the clock. It was an hour fast...or was it??? Turns out the southern state of Baja California is in fact one ahead of the north...doh!!! That explains a few things......

Tomorrow, well that's just more of the same!

The next day I was up at dawn and on the road at my usual time. It was only 74kms to my target town and after a few climbs the road went along the jagged coast line. The views were great but the inclines were not. After a few hours I left the coast behind and headed once again into the desert. A long slow climb followed under the hot unrelenting sun till finally I crested a ridge and saw a wide long valley in front of me.

It was only 5kms to the town and when I got there I was surprised (?) to see only 2houses and desert...bugger! I carried on along the road and 8 miles later I came across a truck stop. After spending 30 minutes in the shade rehydrating I decided to push on to the town of Loreto which was only 50kms away. By now it was nearing 3pm and so I was looking at doing a 12 hour day.

As the miles slipped by my speed slowly dropped and the small climb 10km outside of town was a complete  bitch! Finally at around 17:30 I was on the outskirts of Loreto and by 6pm I was sitting outside a hotel with a couple of ice cold drinks that didn't stay around for long!

The following morning after a great night's sleep (thank you super quiet a/c unit)I wandered around the tourist part of this town. Loreto is situated along a wide bay with a marine park off the coast. There is diving to be had here but I just don't think that paying 100USD to see some fish swimming around is worth it. As tomorrow is Saturday (as is the champions league final) it looks like I'll be hanging out here for the weekend :)

Sunday 23rd of May

After being kept awake till the wee small hours by a Mariachi band playing at an outdoor party across the road, my alarm clock woke me up. An hour later I was once again back on highway 1 heading south.

The road meandered along near the sea for about 18 miles before turning right and heading uphill into the mountains. The following 2 ½ hours were fun...not! The road was steep and curvy and I was in 1st gear going along at 3 ½ miles per hour. After a few false summits (I liked those) I finally made it to the top of the pass. It was at that point that Mr Headwind joined me and despite several loud vocal requests to leave he stayed with me for the rest of the day!

The downhill bit was far to short and at the bottom was a rest I did! 60 minutes and 2 litres of gatorade later I was back on the road. It had just gone 1pm and after travelling 60kms I still had another 60kms to the next town.

Heading along the valley the dried up river bed went downhill but the road went uphill (WHY!!!) A long slow climb into a headwind followed and by 3pm I was on top of the ridge with 40kms of straight road ahead of me. Due to the headwind I decided to camp by the side of the road and an hour later I was setting up camp next to an electrical pylon some 50 metres from the road.

Whilst pitching my tent I walked back to the peg bag for some more pegs when a gust of wind lifted up my tent and tumbled it along the dry stream bed nearby. Luckily a barb wire fence stopped the tent's brief flirtation with freedom. Sadly 3 of my tent pegs made good their escape. So tonight I'll be sleeping like a cowboy, under the stars.

After dinner I was pondering why I had back in England decided that the 320 gram weight of my hammock was too much weight to bring with me, because if I had  had it I would have been able to put it up using the frame of the pylon uprights!!

The next day I was up at dawn and whilst smoking my last cigarette (note to self: next time when camping by the side of the road make sure you have more fags with you than you want to smoke) I stumbled across the missing tent pegs...hurrah!!! A short time later I was on the road to Ciudad Constitucion which was only 60kms away. Halfway along the road I turned left and was now enjoying a tailwind whilst travelling along a flat straight dual carriageway.

I arrived at the town just before midday and after wandering around for a while (the town has a population of 50,000 people so it's quite a large place) found an over priced hotel (but it does have cable) near the highway. It is only 210kms or 126 miles to La I should be there sometime Wednesday afternoon.

The next two days on the road were easy and rather uneventful with boringly repetitive scenery!!

I arrived in La Paz just before 1pm on Wednesday 26th of May and got a room in a Hostel, quickly followed by me going to the shops for a ice cold beer :)

It's been 44 days since I left Las Vegas. I've spent 27 days “in the saddle” travelling one thousand three hundred and fourteen miles.......

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