Coming at you from Conception Bay on the Sea of Cortez. We are now officially out of the desert... well at least for a couple of days. When we last left you we were huddled under a small piece of shade in some dusty old town with about 150 km of hot desert to go before making it to the sea. This stretch of road brought us through a land of ancient volcanos, giant cactus and a true desert oasis.
We again started our day at first light... to be the heat, our incentive to make it to San Ignacio, an oasis town in the middle of the desert, complete with palm trees and a nice cool river. The ride was a cruise, and even though we were within eyesight of San Ignacio well before noon, going any further would require a state of mind more insane than embarking down The Baja on a bike in the middle of July to begin with. The afternoon was spent hopping from one shady area to another as we toured around the sleepy oasis town. The Mision was one of the most impressive ones we have seen yet, and after some photos of the central town square, shaded by several very large trees, we were back in the river by our campsite with some cold beverages in hand. A trip to the cozy B&B next-door in search of some internet proved to be more than we bargained for... In a good way. We ended up meeting a family from Half Moon Bay, CA and after sparking up a conversation about our trip, Greg (the father), kindly invited us to join him and his family for dinner. There was no arm-twisting required for us to take that one up, and the night was spent in enjoying a delicious meal with great company.
Waking up the next morning you could almost taste salt in the air. We were on our way to the Sea of Cortez -- full speed ahead! The ride took us through some larger mountains and a huge dormant volcano. As we reached the crest of the last hill the sea came into site, and along with it a wave of humidity enough to make you choke. The sweat immediately began to pour from every pore, barley able to grip the breaks with sweaty palms, we descended the steepest, most terrifying, and exhilarating hill of the trip thus far and into the town of Santa Rosalia. We stopped at the first air-conditiond building in sight and grabed a cold drink. Supposedly the town was initially settled by the French, though we could not find any evidence of this. The rest of the day was spent trying to keep cool anyway possible as we searched for a pool to sneak into. We later found out that the high for the day was 110F, around 43C. Coming to the realization that we hadn't escaped the heat of the desert was tough.
With little sleep due to the heat we got up early and started peddling, on our way to Mulege, a destination that had been built up in our heads as a tropical paradise. As we approached the narrow valley that the village was nestled in, a burst of green amongst the grey mountains confirmed our arrival. The town was lush and alive. Mulege was also where we were to meet our contact Alonzo. A contact we had made weeks ago north of LA, where we ran into a man called Matt - AKA Tool Box. Matt was the owner of a Palapa hut in Mulege and to find it he gave us the name of an old friend in town... Alonzo. With just a name and a place we began our search, asking around town and being sent in every possible direction until we somehow got on the phone with him around 5pm. Alonzo then gave us the directions to the palapa, but not before warning us of the lack of there being a palapa due to a hurricane that had passed through a couple years ago. We arrived at the spot to asses the situation and ended up setting up camp right on the beach.
The next day was a short ride to the southern tip of the Bahia de Concepcion in an effort to shorten the next day's ride into Loreto. After the 20kms to our campsite was complete, the rest of the day was spent eating and soaking up the salty water. A friendly Mexican family on vacation from Tijuana befriended us and fed us with the most delicious ceviche tostadas and entertained us all afternoon. The evenings entertainment consisted of socializing with 4 Norwegian guys and a couple from LA at an American-owned rancho-style restaurant just down the road from our campsite. The Norwegians were somewhat distraught, unable to get the latest news on the attack in Oslow, but a very friendly bunch, good conversation, food, and beer.
Having lost both bike pumps a few days earlier, the mission for today was A: not to get a flat, that would necessitate a hitchhike; and B: find a bike shop in Loreto that would hopefully have a pump in stock, which we discovered, cannot be assumed in Mexico. As the heat of the day approached, we took shelter in a palapa restaurant on the main drag of Loreto and gorged on the best fish tacos to date. Feeling refreshed with a full tank, we began our hunt for a - 'bomba' - as we learned was Spanish for pump. The task was more difficult than anticipated and every time we asked a local for directions, though very friendly, it seemed like it was 3 blocks up and to the left...... No matter where we were in town -- perhaps a better understanding of Spanish would have helped. After a solid hour and a half of searching, we found the bike shop and our hearts sank as we noticed the closed sign in the window. Turns out the owner was just about to drive off when he must have seen the pained look on our faces and kindly opened up shop for us to try out some 'bombas'. The time spent finding the place paid off, and even after insisting on paying Manny - the bikeshop owner - something for the pump, he gave it to us as a gift.
The Saturday night nightlife in Loreto was a happenin' time and ended up in a later-than-usual departure, which we paid for as we departed the town in the heat of the day. Sipped on some fresh cocos at a roadside stand conveniently located at the top of a large climb, and descended to Puerto Esconidad where we camped on the first green grass we have touched since leaving the US. Some live music coming from a yacht club just down the road got the better of our curiosity, and we ended up crashing in on a 40th birthday party. The triple chocolate cake was outstanding and it's a good thing we were there to help out with that because it didn't look like some of the the American pleasure cruisers really needed anymore... We met some really nice folks though and ended up spending another day camping close to the yacht club as we were invited out to go catch scallops with a couple of younger friends, Nick and Triston. As we donned our masks and flippers and jumped out of the boat the sea was alive with an abundance of life. As we swam around distracted and dazzled by the diversity of marine life, Triston and Nick wasted no time getting to work harvesting scallops, which, if you've never done before, is much more challenging than we thought. First of all, they are incredibly well disguised, as rocks, making locating one enough of a challenge. Secondly, thrusting the knife between the top and bottom shell in an attempt to extract the meat requires accuracy and speed beyond what we were capable of that morning. The excitement of locating our first scallops was shattered as the shells locked shut deflecting the knife like an impenetrable shield. I think between the two of us we managed to collect 3 scallops over 4 hours of diving, but the reward was worth it, and the sweet tasting treasures didn't even make it to shore before being devoured.
The day off in Esconidad was a refreshing break from riding, and even though we were offered to stay as long as we desired, motivation on making it to La Paz within the next few days drove us down the road to Ciudad Constitucion. Today we are in El Cien, and tomorrow the 100km ride to La Paz will without a doubt be a momentous one!
Check back in a few to hear about the Pearls of La Paz...