We left off in Part 1 as I came down the hill into Bahia de Los Angles and stopped at the PEMEX to fill up. The rotund and downtrodden thirty-something woman working the pump was an interesting kind of a character…. but also could give a shit less about customer service. She finally comes over to the pump after I started pumping myself (I think she was more worried I might just leave without paying… mangy American!) and asked how much fuel I want. ‘I don’t know, fill it up… do you take dollars… yes’. After we finished our fuel transaction I asked her about an ATM or bank in town and she says there’s no ATM dismissively and turns around to plop back in her old chair next to the pumps. I say, ‘pardon‘ indicating that I need pesos and won’t let this go. ‘Could I get pesos somewhere in town?’ She seems frustrated to have to answer questions even though I am being as polite as possible. She says dismissively that a certain market might give me cash back on a transaction. I thank her and she flops down next to an old cowboy (viejo vaquero) at the pump in his old dilapidated office chair. As I’m putting on my gear she is belittling the old man and nagging about something that happened a long time ago. Poor guy. I say thank you and hit the road into town.
The market was easy enough to find so I doff my gear and go inside to look around. After grabbing two large water bottles, to refill my pack and emergency bottle, I stand in line and wait patiently for my turn to check out. I notice really nice looking fresh Tortillas next to the cashier and grab a small pack of them as well. They are more than happy to accept a debit card but will not give me cash back. Crap. I have to ask… and they point me across the street to a different market.
Back out front to the bike where I drink some of the water pouring the rest into my water bottle and pack. I take a tortilla and drop it onto the valve cover of the Motorcycle. A chubby young boy sitting next to the front door looks at me quizzically.
Que haces con esa tortilla gringo?
I turn over the tortilla. He’s more confused and turns his head like a curious dog. I take my freshly toasted tortilla and fold it into quarters and take a melodramatic bite while making a yum sound. He laughs heartily at the Gringo but we share an ‘ah-ha’ moment where two fat kids totally get each other.
Across the street I ask the proprietor of the market about getting cash back… he says ‘no [they] don’t do that, but maybe another market’. Around corner to another Market… Two more markets later, and two hotels later, still no cash. I have seen the entire town by this time and I was thinking that I would check one last hotel. If no cash could be attained then I would leave Bahia De Los Angeles to go to Guerrero Negro where I was told there were Banks and ATMs.
Across town, down the dirt road, past a horse grazing on the side of the road, he was surprised / startled as I went past, two dogs raced out of a driveway and chased me down the dirt road. I gave a bike little blurp of the throttle, the rear end came around a little as the rear wheel spun then caught, and cruise past them. Finally, I see the hotel and I think to myself, ‘El Último intento‘.
The courtyard is paved with round rock similar to cobblestone but not flat. Many of these grapefruit sized rocks are loose.
Really good for keeping the dust down with four wheeled vehicles but a little bit sketchy for me at slow speed on a fat bike. Feet down, I nose the bike into the courtyard and turn it around so my exit will be a little bit easier when they tell me, ‘…sorry no money for you gringo!’. Along with the statues outside… art hangs on the wall inside the main building of a huge old styled Spanish great room. The gentleman behind the counter introduces himself. I started telling my story in my broken Spanish then he answers me in perfect English! He is sympathetic to my trials and tribulations of finding pesos in Bahia de Los Angles then laughs and says this is a common problem but a lot of places accept credit cards. He gives me advice (which Juan duplicates in a text to me later) on money in Baja – ‘in Mexico if they take a credit card, you use a credit card. Save your cash for when you need cash.’
Two sources; and I have independently verified… it can now be considered Gospel to a Baja traveler.
After talking to the owner for a few moments I realized maybe I should stay here and I asked him how much for the night; $60. That is a pretty good deal given how nice this little family operated resort is. They have a swimming pool, a restaurant, and exclusive access to one of the finest beaches. There are only a few people staying in town because this is the off-season so there are deals to be had. I would argue that this is probably the best time to visit. He pitches me a fishing trip and swimming with the whale sharks which I decline due to time and the cost being $150. Maybe next time…
I move gear into the room and changed into shorts and flip-flops grab the cameras to go exploring around the hotel property. This hotel / resort is run by a family from Mexico City (husband, wife, and a niece who runs the kitchen for breakfast). Very nice people very welcoming.
By the time I finally get to the restaurant I am starving… my BMW warmed tortilla with el nino de pancho de gordo was a couple hours ago. I go to the kitchen and ordered some yellowtail with a salad. I ask that they under cook the fish a little bit which prompts a long conversation with the niece. They cook it the way I ask and the fish is perfectly tender. I sit staring out the window at the fish’s home while shoveling the meal into my face as though I hadn’t eaten in days.
What is the old rule… wait 30 seconds then go for a swim? Ok! I went straight out for a swim. The wife of the proprietor had advised me to shuffle into the water because of sting rays but I did not see any this time. Floating in the wave-less warm bathtub that is The Sea of Cortez looking back at desert mountains I think about the cogs of the machine (all the tools sitting in traffic and hustling to earn a living – myself included) and cannot understand how we got ‘progress’ so wrong… How did we get so far off track? Cities, rush hour, bills, working set schedules so invisible owners (stock holders) can get rich…what about tuna you caught, afternoon swims, tacos, and beer?
Eventually I got tired of floating and dove a few times. The beach is littered with shells and I could actually see myself staying here for a week or more to do nothing but fish, drink, and hike. Definitely another trip!
Right about Sunset I went for a short hike and heard the coyotes yelping at each other as they came together for the evening hunt. I took a lot of pictures and a time lapse.
As I pick up coin like rounds of shell that have been worn by the waves. I think about the old stories of Native Americans and many other cultures using shells as coins. A little research on this… these are not the same ones used for money but let me know if anyone want a few for earrings.
Shortly after dark I returned to the hotel to have dinner. I went down to the kitchen to get some dinner. Smoked Marlin tacos, delicious! There were some guys there who had just returned from the mission up in the Hills about a days travel away. Their report is that the site is difficult to get there but you can camp on the mountain around the mission and there is also a hot spring. (Noted for the next trip…) They did say a big motorcycle would not make the trip and as I chatted up the niece she said she had tried it on a motorcycle and failed. A 4×4 truck might be best but I have a hard time believing you could not make it on a motorcycle.
As I wrapped up dinner and talking with the guys I noticed the moon rising.
Chilaquiles: Years ago I was at Juan’s house in Rosarito. The food and drink was plentiful. In the morning the leftovers were processed into the most effective use for breakfast. Meat and onion browned with leftover salsa added at the end. Then chips or tortillas folded in with cheese. Finally an egg, over easy for me is the only way, placed on top. Many places give you little more than sauce on chips like breakfast nachos…real family style chiliquiles is more like a enchilada casserole.
I woke up early to have chilaquiles and eggs at the cafe before packing the bike. Guerrero Negro held an elusive ATM and I was determined to find that ATM.
Bahia De Los Angeles was clear, cooler than the previous day, and sunny but as I climbed the mountain I punched into a cloud. The desert was blanketed with a heavy fog . Eerie and beautiful; I snapped a lot of pictures as I putted the pachyderm slowly along the empty road.
A Dr. Seuss collection of cacti and plants (interesting read there) were green and happy as they have been watered each day by the condensation from the fog.
It would turn out to be the theme for the day: Birds with death wishes. A bird flew up from the side of the road and scared the pants off me. I ducked behind the windscreen as he glanced off the top of my helmet. WTH!? Close call for both of us.
The remainder of the ride to Guerrero Negro was uneventful, straight…boring even. Which gave time to ‘just be’ in my own head. The town lies south behind a military base and check point. This was a bigger town, about half of the roads are dirt, but the speed bumps (tope) are as large as ever(!). There seem to be a lot more foreigners in this town. I had planned just a short stop to get some pesos then get back onto the road as-soon-as possible. As I putted down main street, with quite a few looks from the locals, then pull into the bank where a vendor is selling chili mangoes, pineapple, and other fruits from a cart that might have been built by a 9th grade shop class from the scrap bin. I must look like a astronaut or luchador to the farmers in line. Farmer, farmer, taco shop owner, gas pump attendant, cleaning lady,… ‘6’3″ 240lb power ranger…. Nothing to see here!
Mission accomplished, 4000 pesos in my pocket, I got the heck out of Guerrero Negro. The goal for the day was to see a couple of missions on my way south. The first one was in Santa Rosalia. About twenty kilometers outside of Santa Rosalia on a unsuspectingly perfect section of Road; I glanced down into a canyon that caught my attention momentarily. Volcanic, black, jagged rock walls… what a cool looking place! I thought of ancient peoples living in this canyon. The signs along the road identifying rock paintings… then turned back to the road just as I hit a massive pothole. Bone jarring! I was worried about my tire so I pulled off into a dirt area to check. Laying in the dirt on the side of a road looking at a tire… not the best situation.
I slowed my breathing to listen for a hissing sound…none. I used my tire gauge to test the pressure…42lbs (hot tire = air expanding; should be 40lbs cold). Still not convinced I listen, look, and weave on the road occasionally to feel if the tire is holding up the rest of the way into Santa Rosalia. As I descend the hill into town I notice the huge number of vultures circling the dump…again reminding me how many chances you get. Then a vulture flies up from the side of the road and glances off my windscreen. Simultaneously ducking and filling my shorts; I was surprised to come up from behind the windscreen still on the bike. These are not small birds!
Rolling down Baja solo I was constantly reminded, by the locals vultures, that this was not a place to take risks . These guys circled areas of interest, city dumps, and animals that had expired. I saw at least three bloated cows on the side of the road being redistributed by these virulent scavengers. All a good reminder to keep my eyes on the road and not take too many chances. At one final roadside resting place a vulture took a break from eating the gut pile and took flight into the road…nearly taking my head off in the process. My shorts filled and his feathers ruffled we both left with increased appreciation for matter not occupying the same space at the same time.
With thoughts of a pinch flat or bent rim still occupying my mind I stopped at the PEMEX on the Northern outskirts of town. The attendants came running over when I hopped off and slid underneath. I found that the tire had actually wrapped all the way back to the rim and left an imprint of the spoke head. My tire gauge verified that I had not lost any air over the last 40 KM. I got very lucky! The jury is still out on truing up the rim…
The mission at Santa Rosalia was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel. Yup! Same guy that built the tourist trap in Paris and the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty. It is a unique mission made out of metal true to his style. Originally the church was built for an exposition in Paris, later it was moved to Brussels, and finally a mining company acquired it and moved it to Santa Rosalia. (There is an alternate explanation from a local business owner on the possible history of this church… later as I come back North ….)
The mining history of the church seems to jive with much of what I observed in my short stay in Santa Rosalia. The town look like it is a ‘past its prime’ mining town with a distinct old fashioned feeling. Streets lined with two or three story wood buildings, very close together, wooden board walk, and lots of abandoned mining buildings/equipment along the coastal road. On to Muleuge (Moo-lah-hay) to see the next mission!
Officially named Heroica Mulege because of events in the Mexican-American war in the mid 1800’s. The locals resisted US occupation during the war and the Mexican legislature saw fit to reward the town with the ‘Heroica’ prefix.
I had planned on staying in Muleuge but the day was very young still. I crossed the large bridge on the highway and my GPS directed me to turn down the road that went back under the bridge at the river level. This road has been completely washed out and only partially built back enough by locals for someone to walk across. There was a narrow dirt path that led up onto a remaining section of Road, then dropped off into another single track walking path, then up a dirt embankment into town where my hotel was. I was nervous about crossing it on the bike loaded with gear since one slip up dumps you into the still rushing river. I walked the path first…
Determination was that as long as I did not stop it should be fine. Keep up speed; stay to the center. I crossed the washed out road and river with no issue then made my way up into a little plaza. As I crested the river bank and came back to pavement a cafe off to the left with a group of men turned to look at me… a bit surprised that this gringo on a pachyderm had come from ‘down there’.
Although the town has dried out, much of the damage to roads and evidence of houses washed away remains in the river flood plain. This is a small town that time forgot. Sleepy. Seen better days. Past its’ prime. And many more aphorisms could apply here… The plazas have gazebos that probably date 50 or 60 years ago. Old men sitting around in the park or cafes who had seen the boom times but satisfied to relax in the shade on hot days just the same. They all looked with still interest as I rode down the road that no one drives down and through the plazas that no one goes through.
I scouted the hotel that I had found on The Google. With nothing but an icon on a map to judge from (at best when I had service or wifi) learned to talk with someone or go look at it in person. That said, and done, I decided that the motorcycle would not have a good home there. There was no way to get the bike into the courtyard of the hotel.The sidewalks were elevated like a loading dock, possibly a remnant of the stage coach era(?), which meant one could not ride a bike into the courtyard where it might be more secure. Security a conscious consideration since I have no intention of walking home and the day still so young; go to Plan B, check out the mission in Mulege then on to Loreto.
The mission was back across the river trail single track. No need to check the washed out road this time. Putting back through town I receive the same incredulous looks from the old timers sitting at the cafe as I descend onto the river goat trail crossing then turned up the cobblestone road past walking villagers who looked at me with interest. At the crest of the hill sat Los Misiones de Mulege.
The mission sat like a hulking lump of stone on an outcrop of the mountain. The back of the mission looks out onto the river but the front looked at the mountain (and now parking area). Built in 1766 by Jesuits who were replaced by the Franciscans in 1768 when the King of Spain was convinced that he was not getting ‘his due’. The reality was that the mission was in fact very poor. Like most missions – open to the public and no one around. I wandered the site for a while snapping pictures, climbing stairs, and exploring places that maybe should not have been explored. There are no signs, no people, so my operating assumption is that as long as I’m being respectful, ‘No problemo!’
Los Misiones de Mulege: check – set a way-point for Loreto!
Cruising through the mountains, yellow butterflies fluttering across the road (all day), along winding roads, the yellow butterflies crossing in front of me. Fluttering along two-by-two. As it turns out these are annual nomads moving from North to South for the winter. As it turns out there are about 15 kinds of yellow butterfly in Baja this time of year. Possibly a Phoebis Agarithe Fisheri but I am not 100% confident in that. Any butterfly experts out there want to help out?
Along the Sea of Cortez with vistas of desert islands dotting the crystal blue-green waters, finally into Loreto about two hours before sunset. Loreto is a larger town and I instantly know I want to stay near the beach. It had been a hot day and a swim to wash dirt and sweat off sounds very refreshing. Google does not fail me this time and leads me to a better hotel…first try, I have a place to stay. Again being the off-season I am one of only two parties staying in this Resort.
They give me a fantastic price as I am likely the only one they have seen all day. After check in I went straight to the pool. The beachfront pool was too inviting not to go for a swim after the day of riding in 90+ degree heat. I asked if the restaurant is open because I’ve had nothing to eat since breakfast and it’s now almost dinnertime. I am starving! Dinner included the worst nachos in Mexico out by the pool after actually having to go into the kitchen and find someone. I guess being the only person at the resort is not always good. It looks abandoned… Nobody around… I walk into the kitchen… Nobody challenges me. Should I really make my own food? I go back out to the lobby and tell the woman there’s nobody back there and she goes to find the lady who should be cooking. The menu was bleak and looks to be geared towards tourists. Hamburgers and Fries, tacos, nachos, okay let’s have nachos. I ask about drinks and she says they have lemonade which sounded good. Just short of a half-life later she brings me one of the best lemonades I’ve ever had. I scarfed down a terrible attempt at nachos while quietly watching sunset. For hours the light faded to black. Not a single person walked the beach or poolside.
Stay tuned for Part -3! Already started; It will come with some time to process pics, notes, and thoughts. Many more pictures shared on Twitter (@BSin619), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/boutside.org), or Instagram. The holidays have given me some time to get this one put together. As always feel free to proof read, comment, email, or ask questions. There is no way to tell all of the stories but thanks for reading these longer posts!
I enjoy hearing from you all!
Cheers! ~~ B