Monday 7 August
Guerrero Negro, Baja California
As is often the case, this entry is dated just a week after the last one, but it seems so much longer. We are in an entirely new stage of the adventure, and it feels that the appellation “adventure” seems more apt than ever. Having left the USA and crossed over into Mexico, the world feels very different.
But first, there are a few things to note. The first and most significant is that Tom’s daughter Aoife and my daughter Georgina joined us in Los Angeles at the start of last week, each of them aiming to stay with us for a few weeks. It is wonderful to have them along (Ian is displaying great forbearance!) and Georgina is having plenty of opportunity to dig us out of trouble with her excellent Spanish.
We chose to spend a few days in Los Angeles largely to visit our friend Randy (fabulous hospitality as ever, thanks Randy) and drive his incredible Tesla (Ian), and to meet our girls off the plane; it was also an ideal location to get our bikes serviced. Total distance covered by the time we arrived in LA was just over 7000 miles, so a service was well overdue. Ian found a suitable bike garage, and we communicated our requirements with Ryan, who turned out to be the owner and only mechanic of ADV Moto Tech. He was incredibly knowledgeable and an excellent and experienced mechanic who worked until 3 am to get our bikes ready. Not only that, but he also invited us all round to his home for a BBQ and beers – what a lovely guy. Thoroughly recommended to any other bikers looking for service or repair work on their way through southern California.
Mexico! A new chapter to our travels.
We aimed to leave LA on Thursday morning; in the event it was early afternoon before we were ready. After another very hot ride leaving LA in typical heavy traffic (a poor combination), dusk was falling as we arrived in the border town of Tecate. It was dark by the time we escaped the formalities of immigration. The contrast with the USA a few metres behind us was immediate: the town was full of noise and light – people everywhere as a fiesta seemed to be in full swing in the town square but I suspect this was a normal evening. First night’s accommodation at Rancho Tecate dispelled many of the preconceptions – this is a wonderfully luxurious estate in Spanish colonial style reminiscent of a Spanish Parador but with much better food; the wine grown on the estate is also excellent, which came as another pleasant surprise.
From Tecate to San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_California – it’s well worth a read). More desert and more heat, but this ride felt very different – a far remove from riding in the USA. Dinner of tacos, margaritas and beer, all for about $12 a head. Then south, along the coast to Bahia de Los Angeles; glorious scenery and mostly excellent riding despite the heat, until we arrived at an unannounced 25-30 mile stretch of unmade road which was a mixture of gravel and rock, with the odd bit of sand to add to the fun. Tom was silent on the question of whether AWH-G could have managed it. Two up it was a challenge and exhausting; standing on the pegs however still worked well even with a passenger. Half way along this unmade section we came across Coco’s Corner – a total surprise as it seemed almost familiar; I had read in a bike magazine about this little cafe and it’s eccentric proprietor, but I had no idea it was on our route. Coco is a large elderly gentleman who runs his domain from a wheelchair having apparently lost both legs to diabetes. His corner is literally in the middle of nowhere, with a minimum of 12 miles rough track in any direction, and surrounded by decorations made variously from used drinks cans, porcelain toilet bowls and bizarrely an old sailing dinghy. He was able to inform us that the last bikers passed through two weeks previously, and brought out a one and a half to two inch thick ledger inscribed with names, home towns and bike makes of every biker that had stopped at his corner in the past umpteen years. Then it transpired that this particular book was volume number 9. Some hobby, but it has made him famous in the biking traveler circles at least.
Arriving at Bahia later than intended, hot, dehydrated and tired, we found our first choices of hotel both full and ended up at a run-down beach hotel. Despite there being no bar or restaurant, the promise of air conditioning and a pizzeria up the track were enough. But it transpired that the air-con did not work (in my room at least), and when Tom went to check on the pizzeria he was chased off the premises with threats of extreme violence, leaving him (and Ian and me) rattled. I’m afraid that the combination of all this together with heat and exhaustion conspired to result in a temporary loss of sense of humour on my part; the unlucky recipient being the young lad who seemed to be running the hotel on his own. However this soon passed and good humour was swiftly resumed by an excellent meal in a restaurant a couple of miles away.
Until this morning, that is, when we were woken by two armed policemen who had been summoned to ensure that we paid our bill, which of course we promptly did. All was very amicable, helped no doubt by Georgina’s wonderful Spanish, and her massive diplomatic skills more than making up for her father’s lack of them.
The ride today has been back to the Pacific side of the peninsula – shorter, cooler and without incident. However we were rewarded with the most magnificent experience of riding through the Baja cactus desert. For miles and miles we rode through a leafless forest of giant cacti, some maybe 30 feet tall, and stretching as far as the eye could see. We are covering miles, the endurance side of the endeavour of riding from the top to the bottom is becoming apparent. But Mexico is fascinating, and I am loving it!