Baja California

Well, what shall we say about Baja? We had read and heard a lot about Baja California. Most cyclists loved it there, some really didn’t like it. So we didn’t really know what to expect, but we did know that there would be a lot of desert. And there was. And a lot of (head)wind.

From La Paz, where we had arrived by ferry, to Tijuana, where the border with the US is, is about 1500 kms (900 miles). The road doesn’t go straight up, but you have to cross the peninsula 3 times (east-west). So, it’s a bit of zigzagging.

The first 300 kms (180 miles) were very hot, we had a stormy headwind and the scenery was very boring and flat; desert with almost no vegetation. Only after about 100 kms (60 miles), we came to the first little town, before that there were only 2 small restaurants. Another 100 kms (60 miles) further was the next town, a little bigger with hotels and supermarket. After that there was not much anymore again, just emptyness and headwind.

After about 300 kms (180 miles), we came to a gorge where we descended into and then went back up to get out. There, the scenery turned very beautiful. It was like the world had split open all of a sudden. The one moment we were cycling through emty desert, the next we were in a gorge. When we rode out, we ended up in a sort of mountain setting and we could sea the ocean through the rocks. We were back on the same side as La Paz. The coast is beautiful over there, with blue water, white beaches and cliffs. The road followed the hilly coast so we had some spectacular scenery.

In the little town of Loreto, we took a day off. A cute, quiet town with a supermarket, restaurants and tourist shops.

After Loreto, we continued following the coast for a while till Santa Rosarita, a sort of cowboy town with wooden buildings and a church designed by Gustaf Eiffel.

But then we went inland again. The weather was a bit calmer for a few days, we quickly learned that when it was cloudy there was no/not much wind, but with the sun came the wind too. The mornings were chilly and cloudy, so not much wind, and every day we hoped the sun wouldn’t come out (early) because then the wind would come too. But usually the sun would come out anyway…

The central part of the last crossing was nice again. It was still desert, but now there were big cacti and huge, strange rockformations. Large boulders seemed to be tossed into the scenery randomly. After that it became boring and arid again and the wind was still there too.

Fortunately there were some nice flowers to look at, in all kinds of different colors.

In many of the countries we had cycled in sofar, there were military checkpoints. They would stand in their bunkers by the side of the road with their fingers on the trigger, ready to shoot. They stop cars to check them for whatever; weapons, drugs and other illegal things. Also on Baja. Till then we never had to open our bags, we only had to stop for a little chat. That was different on Baja. At the first checkpoint we got to, they made us open our bags. They pointed out to us which ones they wanted us to open. They also liked to chat, they always were very friendly. Usually they just took a peek and then we could close them again. A lot of work for us… And this happened a couple of times.

When we got back to the (other) coast, we arrived in the town of Ensenada where many Americans go. We don’t understand why. The town is not that special at all and the tourist area where you might expect to find a nice atmosphere, restaurants and shops is very small; only 1 street with (expensive) restaurants and some little shops. Right before Ensenada we reached the 20.000 kms (12.000 miles)! The last stretch to Tijuana was not very interesting either, we were back in civilisation.

The bordercrossing in Tijuana is a story by itself. It’s the busiest Mexican/US bordercrossing and we had heard and read a lot about it, so we thought we were pretty prepared. But there is nothing that can prepare you for the real thing. When we arrived, there were many lanes of cars slowly driving through the booths. There are more than 25 booths, comparable to toll booths and for all the lanes the cars were as far back as we could see.

But we were by bike and in Tijuana that means that we weren’t alowed to follow the cars but had to join the pedestrians. And that was way worse than the cars! The line of people that was already there was huge, probably about 1 km (more than half a mile) long! It was going to be a long day if we had to join that line. But Mexicans are creative people, especially when it comes to making money. There are taxi’s which take you to the front of the line for a few dollars so you don’t have to wait in line all that time. Taking the bikes was no problem, so they loaded everything on the roof of the car and there we went. But this time it took much longer to get to the front of the line. They said that normally it takes about 45 minutes, but this time it took twice as long… But if we had waited in line, it would have taken at least 3,5 hours to get to the front. And at least now we could sit.

At customs we were sent back and forth and back again and then, after about 4 hours of bordercrossing misery, we finally were in the US! And we can stay for 6 months (instead of 3) thanks to our visa. Because we had gotten tired of the hassle, we cycled a short distance and then got a hotelroom.

We were happy that we were there and that we had left Baja behind us. It wasn’t very much fun for us; the heat in the beginning, the constant stormy headwind and the mostly boring scenery didn’t make it much fun for us. Of the 1500 kms (900 miles) maybe 250 kms (150 miles) was very nice, the rest was boring and arid. But the people, each and every one of them, were very friendly. Also, the adventure was back a little bit; we had to think about how much food to bring and for how many days and we did some wild camping again. A bit like going back to Patagonia.

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