First of all, apologies for having been incommunicado for a little bit as it is mango season down here and we have had our hands full for the past week with that - more on that later.
We found our first pearl of La Paz at a yacht club just outside the city where we stopped to do laundry and have a shower. We ended up bumping into the owner of a Baja adventure company, who was celebrating the christening of a new dive boat, and were invited to go out that Saturday to a protected island where we could go snorkeling with sea lions. After settling our excitement, we biked into town to meet up with our couch surfing host, Francisco. Night had fallen by the time we made it into town, but the beautiful waterfront was lit up and busy. We unloaded our bikes at Francisco's house and headed out for some pizza with a few new friends.
We found fresh donuts at the supermarket the next morning, yet another pearl, as we haven't found any of these delicacies since leaving the states! The majority of the day, however, was spent riding around visiting the local bike shops in an attempt to find a new tire and chain that would fit the bikes. It took some time, but La Pazs' bike shops proved to have the best service and supplies of any that we have been to in Baja so far. We met back up with Francisco and another couple later that day, and after picking up a few Ballenóns (gigantic bottles of beer communally shared between 4 or more people) we hit the beach with some fresh ceviche. A late night out on the town ensued at a local's bar where we met many more of Francisco's friends who all spoke fairly good English. Amused at our inability to hablar español, we received our first official Spanish lesson of the trip, which I think consisted of learning profanity and just about any way you could think of to tell someone off.
We were up and at it early for a Saturday to meet up with our contacts from Baja adventures. The boat we were on, as it turned out, included a complimentary bar and all-you-can-eat buffet, which you can believe, was taken full advantage of over the course of the 6 hour voyage. As we pulled up to the island harboring the sea lions, it became apparent that they are quite the tourist attraction judging by the number of other boats trucking tourists out to their home in the sea. We received some safety instructions, in Spanish of course, put our fins and masks on, and dove into the clear water to try and get a better glimpse of these beasts. We soon learned that their habitat is protected to within 30ft. of their island as our guides yelled at some of the guests who were getting a bit close to the wild animals. Every so often a sea lion would dive off the rock and we caught a really good view as it swam right underneath of where we were snorkeling. We boarded the ship for the ride back to enjoy the dying minutes of the open-bar service.
The next day, we hitched a ride to a popular surf beach on the Pacific side of the peninsula with some friends we met through Francisco for a lazy Sunday of swimming in the surf and enjoying a few more Ballenóns. After watching a scenic sunset over the ocean, we headed back to La Paz for some runs on the Malicon and rested up for the beginning of our ride to Cabo San Lucas.
We left the next morning much later than expected and only made it about 60kms down the road to a quaint town called El Triunfo. Our first fully loaded ride in 4 days was marked with numerous flat tires mostly as a result of sloppy patch jobs, but several of unknown cause. We pulled into El Triunfo just as it was getting too dark to be on the road and began a game of charades with the locals to try and find a place to camp. A friendly Mexican family allowed us to pitch our tent under a tree in their backyard and notified a local American cafe owner that foreigners were in town. Mark seemed happy to have the company and invited us over to taste some pataya. After downing a bunch of the juicy and refreshing treats, we walked to the only place in town still serving food and ordered a couple of Mexican Hot Dogs.... and for anyone who has had a Mexican Hot Dog, well you know they ain't no normal dog you get in the states. Wrapped in bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and about 5 different sauces, these things will fill even the hungriest traveller.
Just before getting all packed up the next morning and ready to hit the road, Mark stopped by and invited us over to the cafe for some coffee and the best cinnamon buns on earth, just enough fuel to get us about 25km down the road where Mark suggested we stop and check out this ranch owned by an American couple from Alaska. So we rolled into Rancho La Venta to meet Bob and his wife Liz. Bob gave us the grand tour of the place complete with fruit samplings of mangos, grapes, and pomegranate. Turns out Bob had lined up for a couple of English girls to come and help out on the ranch, but were looking more and more like no-shows, and we were looking for a place to rest a bit and get off the road for a few days. Bob mentioned that he could use a couple of hands with a few things in the upcoming week and that if we wanted to help out, in turn for room and board, he would be glad to have the help. So, we signed the contract, unloaded our bikes, and moved in.
The next morning is when we discovered that mango season was in full swing, and our first task was to cut mangos in preparation for the mango wine making process. We ended up cutting a lot of mangos, and of course, eating slot of mangos over the course of the week. Our other responsibilities included feeding the horses and collecting the eggs from the chickens. The pool was frequented many times over the week and provided a nice refreshing break from the mid-day heat. Liz took us horseback riding one afternoon and to our surprise we managed to stay on the horseback despite our lack of experience and expertise. We were invited to a lovely dinner party that same night where we met a couple of other local ranch owners and enjoyed delicious home-cooked food and home-brewed Rancho La Venta wines.
Our stay on the ranch provided us with a needed break from life on the road, but, as we turned the cranks on our way to Cabo San Lucas it was good to get back on the move. We visited some hot springs in a small little town about 80kms north of Cabo which involved a strenuous stretch of off road biking made worse by the recent rainstorms that had washed out the dirt roads. Eventually we made our camp for the night after taking a quick dip in the granite pools just a short hike away. The next morning another stretch of off road riding was required to hook back up with the main highway that goes to Cabo. After spinning the tires and more pushing than riding, we flagged down the first passing truck for a ride. The driver must have taken pity on us and took us right out to Mexico 1 where we continued our ride down to the tip of the Baja.
Riding into Cabo San Lucas reminded us of the urban sprawl of Southern California and all of the American franchises that we haven't seen since leaving the states was further indication that this tourist destination was overrun with Americans. As we made our way into the center of the city we found that this was definitely the case as it seemed there was more English being spoken than Spanish. We met up with our hosts, courtesy of couch surfing, and received a warm welcome from Sebastian and Melisa. We were served some awesome pizza for dinner and crashed pretty early, a bit drained from the day's hot and sweaty ride.
Another day in Cabo and then we are looping around back up to La Paz where we're planning on catching the ferry across to Mazatlan.