Bajaaaa 3 —Lapaz -Las Barilles and Todos Santos
La Luz (The light)
Last night was a relief. It had been a fast day of sport riding on abrasive roads with fully loaded bikes. The formerly new Road Pilot 5s (great tires!) are starting to wear from the sides in and God and the Devil both hate a @#%$! flat-spotted tire. We too are starting to wear from the sides in. We have both travelled enough in poorer nations to know of the inherent friction between the material wealth of travelers (tires) and the rough durable residents (road). For example, here at the Resortito (La Bastilla) Jose is the brother’s co-owner here and ironically, he vacationed for 2 weeks in Vancouver just last month. He appreciates that we wince at the cost of living there too and seems to understand we are looking for something different by camping on a beach and stargazing which is what this paragraph is about. Yes I tried in vain to get star photos but they were uninspiring.
A nice enough sunset over the mountains and as darkness descended, we got a most remarkable dark sky display of desert air stars with meteors and satellites aplenty. The visual treat was underscored by a pounding surf. Then, almost ominously, the stars began to fade and the sky lighten. Whaaat? Light-dark-light? The nearly full moon slowly emerged in the east and cast twisted shadows of the ocotillo and acacia thorn all about.
By early morning the moonlight was fading and getting slightly darker when the sunrise again reversed light and lightened the eastern sky with reds and chalky blues. It really doesn’t matter, my alarms are off, we have no schedule, and time zones are mixed up with watches and phones. Oh we have tasks to write, correspondence to read, and some Spanish to learn but it happens as it does. Sometimes we get meals made, others we skip and find a pretty place off the road to cook.
We burn the stuff. My bike has a safe 180 km range. Brad’s tanker is the Adventure model (AKA the pregnant guppy Mothership) carries about 8 gallons and can cross a continent. We scrounged a hose to siphon to my tank but eventually, just bought that strap-on (not that kind you perv!) tank. It was too big.
Then, later when the ocean delivered a pretty blue fuel to my feet and I had to wait for it to wash up but I sure got it! Then the fun started! I lashed them both on the back and went in search of a tanker truck to drain. After the wind blew them off (twice) Brad observe that I was dragging a fuel-air bomb down the highway and should a spark or exhaust ignite 2 gallons of premium, I had to make a choice of either abandoning my bike to its self-made funeral pyre, or gassing it. Out-running an attached flaming can is not unlike a coyote with a flaming tail or possibly a Just Married car pulling cans on strings. There is no escape. Some Deja Vu here. I think I am repeating. OK done with it.
Baja is windy and my gasoline mileage reflects it. We are holding a steady 75 mph which should give me 49 mpg. Headwinds drop that to 40, tailwinds bump it to 61. The prodigious curves with braking and throttling up through curves makes the old bike thirsty too but well worth it. Twice I was down to an indicated 4 miles remaining. We stopped at the classic gas dispensaries out of the pickup truck ($4.50 US per gallon) selling 5 gallon cans of gas. Strategically the metal jerry can is slightly collapsed inward effecting a 15% volumetric reduction which I can accept as a tax. The $4.50 US per gallon for double handling of carcinogenic fuel with bare hands is another satisfactory fee.
Gasoline quality here is GREAT too. No stinking ethanol in this go-juice!
Geology and Birds
Now, I don’t want to go all Bill Byrson on anyone reading this but dayum, Baja has some cool geology. Neither Btad nor I knows the real story but we do recognize volcanic dykes intruding into multiple layers of cross-bedded sandstone in the cliffs along with volcanic black sand beaches that alternate with coral white sand stretches. I spent a half hour with the binocs inspecting the mountainside next to us, ostensibly looking for desert bighorn sheep. Baja has the largest, darkest subspecies of desert bighorns on earth for some reason that might be related to background color, cold ocean winds, or something else but it flips the normal rules of size and color on their head. I saw none but I did see peregrine falcons hauling into a cliff-side perch. I don’t think they breed here but dunno.
Earlier I made up a cursory bird list of cool species seen that were new or exciting to me. Sage thrasher, magnificent frigate birds, Xantus hummingbird (local endemic!) Caracaras, reddish egrets, roseate spoonbills, whimbrels, long-billed curlews and others. And here the ladies thought I was using Brad’s binocs for girl-watching — Hey look! A brown-breasted bedthrasher! (Possibly those working girls in the sub-string bikinis at Las Barilles).
Today we unloaded and rode up to the gulch that leads to a hot spring 9 km up a dry river bed. We made it exactly 20 meters and re-considered. Soft sand, big bikes and incompetent riders had the making of a lot of tip overs. I was less worried about injury than breaking something on the bike here at the zenith of our southward travel. We have a hard 10 days to get back to Canada and little time set aside for repairs. We were suitably humbled and felt rather wimpish but we slunk out of the draw, had a delicious mole lunch in San Ignacio and puttered back to our beach house.
Once we hit Las Barilles (the barrels, presumably rum) we settled into the Palomar Hotel, a famous fishing destination in the fall. Great beach, good food, and a small mosquito fleet of fishing boats that go out every morning. We went. Friends Shawn and Sue are long time regulars at Las Barilles and he took us to sea. Sunrise, had us stepping off the beach into the boat with Captain Chui. The little center consoles are faster, cheaper, more maneuverable and better wind than the cruisers. They have a lot of local knowledge and advice for the area.
We jigged our arms off and caught white bonita, an odd edible bottom fish, a red rock sculpin, and a trumpet fish a meter long. I managed to snag a 35 lb Amberjack subspecies (called a Yellowtail here) for a whopper of a fight. Those marine fish “have shoulders!”. Had we not caught a fish the show put on by the dolphins, hump-back whales, rays, flying fish, sea lions (thieving bastards!) and birds would have made it a great half day.
This was all followed by a massive fish grilling evening with planks of yellowtail the size of an original Walkman (dated reference I know) dredged in olive oil and spices then cooked pink over a mesquite charcoal fire. I ate so much I feel the urge to go spawn. We ended the evening with a Pacifico beer and a hot tub the size of two parking stalls. Little did I know that the fish would have the last laugh as my stomach and ribs hurt the next day from being repeatedly jabbed by the butt of the rod intended for a fighting chair. Worth it!
The big gossip around the area is about the two prostitutes that stripped down yesterday on the ledge behind me and were doing butt photos. Missed it all.
The second sad but intrigue was watching a humpback whale entangled in a fishing net just offshore. A boat full of rescuers were trying valiantly to cut the lines but darkness overtook them first.
We packed up this evening and made ready for a breakfast departure when I spotted this White-winged Dove had committed Kamakazee on the chainlink fence. Man, wildlife is taking a beating around here. At least I ate my fish.
We head north tomorrow. Matt, another riding friend is flying down to Oakland on the 3rd of March area to help with riding duties back to Canada. Brad may drive the meat wagon and we can swap off some if the weather is miserable (which it can be this time of year — snowed in Burnaby yesterday). We are getting cocky. The weather has been clear and breezy, 65–78 degrees and dry every day. We figure to enter the US at the Mexicali border midday to miss the migrant worker bulge.
After a few hours ride south, over the mountains on delightful twisty roads, we hit Todos Santos of Eagles fame apparently. Found a sketchy hotel MiraMar for $35 each (the hostel was full) then went out for health food. Lunch had been a delicious Mexican buffet with grilled cactus leaves, mole, empanadas, cochinita pibil , hand-patted blue tortillas grilled on order, and a great assortment of spices and sauces. Later, Brad found us a quaint but pathetic health food store in which to do penance with vegan smoothies. I won the eating contest today.
Then, we went upscale for supper. We rode the gravel rise up to El Mirador Restaurant on top of a high hill overlooking the Pacific. Whales were EVERYWHERE, probably 30 across the horizon. Birds were sailing past and the sun set like a giant orb as delicious food came to our table. Not cheap but well worth it.
Back to camping in the dirt tomorrow.