Revived after a couple of days of rest. Ready to reap the rewards of Baja’s best.
From Guerrero Negro on the Pacific Coast, we traversed the Baja peninsula again. The Vizcaino desert, far from being barren, was scattered with scrub and ocotillo and more cacti. Not as wondrously abundant as further north, healthy doses rather than a feast for the eyes. Small settlements were scattered along the route, making it easy to get drinks and snacks from kiosks.
We sat sipping cold coke with beads of icy water dripping down the outside of the bottle onto our hot clammy hands. There was no shade outside this shop. The local dog viewed us suspiciously but never took his eyes off us in case we should be a friend to hand out food. When we next look up, a pinto horse is stood at the door, a strongly built steed with muscled quarters. His neck is lathered with sweat where the coarse leather reins have being rubbing his glistening coat. The rider, a large Mexican with leather chaps and red shirt sits comfortably like he grew up in the saddle.
‘Buenos dias,’ I say. ‘Buenos dias,’ replies the rider of few words as he views ours bikes. ‘Want to exchange your horse for my bike?’ I ask half-seriously. If I had ever loved my bike, it was in Baja that I fell out of love with it. I got no answer. The rider just smiled. That horse reminded me a little of Basil, a chestnut 13.2hh I once had. Not the colour, or size. But his apparent calmness while he stood there, but knowing that only a brief encouragement was needed and he’d be off like a shot (although I never wore spurs like this rider). A trusty friend you could go anywhere with and fun to ride too. I hope I have a horse like that when I make a long ride on horseback some day. But Baja was not that day.
Over the hills and back down to the sea of Cortez. The road joined the coast just north of Santa Rosalia. At a rubbish tip, where trash burned and plastic debris lay scattered across the land. Vultures circled and trucks spewed fumes and churned up dust. Foul testimony to the waste we create.
Fortunately, further down the coast, there are some superb unpolluted viewed and lovely historic towns.
A couple of nights camping on a private beach at the head of Bahia Concepcion with generous hosts, meant we could explore the nearby islands by canoe. Watching pelicans doze on rocks and caracaras bathe with outspread wings atop towering cacti and prehistoric-looking frigates patrolling the bay.
As far as towns go, Loreto was the prettiest in Baja. The first Spanish settlement on the peninsula, it was founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1697. It is no surprise therefore, that the cultural centre is dominated by the mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto, which built in 1752 still stands strong with it’s bell tower and understated church of wooden pews and whitewashed walls.
Onwards, we once again crossed to the Pacific side. Climbing slowly up switchbacks and overtaken by only slightly faster moving trucks. The slowest of all was a Mexican family in an old RV. Smiles on all their faces, they were either oblivious to the increasingly long line of vehicles tailing them or just didn’t care. Either way, they were happy and enjoying the moment and afterall, isn’t that what life is about?
The Pacific side was flat fenced farmland and two big characterless towns. But a tailwind made light work and so Christmas found us heading back across Baja for the last time. Feasting on Bacon butties and omelettes and stopping occasionally for a beer, it was definitely an improvement on mayonnaise sandwiches in Guinea two years ago!
Christmas morning and the roads were pleasantly quiet. Most people, catholicism being strong here, were in church. Throughout Baja, homes were adorned with festive decorations and a shrine of varying grandeur with pictures of the Virgin Mary. The true reason for celebrating Christmas has not been lost to commercialism here, yet. Although I suspect it’s only a matter of time judging by the numerous toys the children were playing with and the sheer volume of goods family cars were stuffed with on their visit to distant relatives.
The last evening before La Paz, we stopped for a refreshing Pacifico. The bottles here come in 1.2L, so one to share (at a time) was enough. The family who owned the small shop were all nearby. The younger man asked us where we are going… – After La Paz, to the Mexican mainland. ‘Be careful, it is dangerous there,’ I am am warned. – Why? I ask curiously. It is not unusual for people to think that the place just beyond what they know is dangerous. ‘El jefe,’ comes the reply. The boss. I say we will be careful and that we have not had any problems so far. ‘Ah, but here (Baja) is not Mexico.’
And he is right. About Baja. Baja is neither Mexico nor America. An agglomeration of the two, it has it’s own identity. This local said. I suspect they all do. And I felt it on the three week ride to La Paz.