February 23, 1997
Photo Montage - biking Baha
#43...Ollie about to cross over the border at Tijuana from the US into Mexico. The poster board to the left of his shoulder is advertising an electric car; the new generation of eco-friendly travel. The next morning we woke up in Tijuana (having been kindly sheltered for the night by a local sports institute) and things were very different - as you can see by the next picture...
#44...the difference between San Diego and Tijuana was very marked; the level of poverty, the amount of garbage that is everywhere - and I mean everywhere !!! and the junky old 'hand-me-down' cars from the US that everyone drives; no electric cars here for sure. The side of the road coming out of Tijuana to Rosarito was strewn with broken glass from broken wind-shields and beer bottles. In just one afternoon we clocked a total of five punctures (flats).
#46...garbage aside, the people have been incredibly friendly - like Pepe here in Rosarito who gave us some invaluable tips for biking on Mexican roads - like biking onto traffic to avoid being run over from behind. He used to be a doctor of medicine mending people 'before I went crazy' - now he's only allowed to mend bikes. 'Everyone in the world should go by bike' he says, 'more safer, more cheaper, more fitter, more time for life...'
With Pepe's words of wisdom fresh in our ears we biked a treacherous road to Ensenada with no shoulder and trucks skimming us by inches; we each have our own way of dealing with traffic - I for example prefer to bike onto the traffic whilst Jenny feels more comfortable going with the flow. Its a personal choice, indicative of how we work together as a group. As close as we can we all exercise personal free choice, and respect the free choice in others. Only when it is beneficial to all do we make a 'group decision' which so far we've had no problems with. We often spend days miles apart on the same road, regrouping only at night. We have some structure to avoid total chaos - like if someone peels off to explore something of interest near the road they leave a pile of stones so everyone else knows whether they are in front or behind - but not enough to kill the spirit of personal adventure. Its a fine balance, and one that is hard to reach and sustain, but we're working on it; maybe by the time we reach Peru we'll be experts!
#47...this picture was taken in a fish taco stand in Ensenada. We all had a caving for fish at the end of the day's ride (mind you we are craving any food all of the time now our bodies are burning so many calories each day), and stopped by the fish-market where you can pick your own dinner fresh off the boat and take it around the corner to be cooked on the spot; mmmmh - so good !! We wolfed down three or four fish tacos each, costing around 4 pesos (50 US cents), along with guacamole (avocados), cabbage, red-hot chili sauce and of course cervezas!
In Ensenada, we all had a craving for fish at the end of the day's ride (mind you we are craving any food all of the time now our bodies are
burning so many calories each day), and stopped by the fish-market where you can pick your own dinner fresh off the boat and take it around
the corner to be cooked on the spot; mmmmh - so good !! We wolfed down three or four fish tacos each, costing around 4 pesos (50 US cents),
along with guacamole (avocados), cabbage, red-hot chili sauce and of course cervezas!
The next day we woke to find four of our panniers (saddle-bags for bikes) had sprouted legs and run off in the night. Our stupidity really, sleeping out in an exposed area on the outskirts of town. Someone must have seen us in the first light of the morning when we were still asleep and crept up in bare foot and snagged the loot under our slumbering snouts. We we're all pretty amazed that they had managed to disengage the bags from the bikes so easily without any of us waking up. Nothing major was taken - mainly clothes, tools and worst of all some undeveloped rolls of film of Carol's from the trip so far. But at least the mayonnaise was safe and they hadn't found the M+M's! We consider this experience to be our wake up call to being in Mexico; now each night we find somewhere secure to put the bikes - like a room in someone's house that we rent for a few pesos. Either that or if we're stuck out in the open we literally make a giant bed out of the bikes and gear, and strategically plant plastic bin liners in amongst the panniers that rustle if anyone touches them.
#48 ...this is the road to San Vincente - our fourth day in Mexico. By this time we had overcome the trauma of our gear being stolen (aah - just stuff!!) and started to find more of a rhythm to our traveling. The evening before I'd taken a flat coming out of San Tomas and told the others I'd catch up. Turns out I strip out the thread on the left rear axle nut and spend the night in a disused chicken coop that Pablo (the town's store owner) let me and the Raleigh (my antique 3-speed bike) spend the night in.
The next morning, tire fixed, I set off at first light to meet up with others, walking the Raleigh part way up a long grade that the three speeds that I have at my disposal can't deal with. Then I hit this stretch of road that is dirt and gravel the last ten miles to San Vicente. The roads are frequently like this - good then suddenly turning to rubble. There is far less emphasis on safety in Mexico compared to the US. Due largely I suspect to the absence of the insurance liability nightmare that seems to be spreading through the US like a disease. There are no guard rails on the switch-back roads and mountain passes; its much more down to personal responsibility - you mess up, you're the one that pays. Not like in the US when if you stick your foot under a bus you can retire on the proceeds of the resulting law suit. If the road turns to dirt like this one and you fall into a pot-hole and come flying off the bike you just deal with it. You find yourself needing to be much more flexible to change in Mexico - adapting to fluctuating circumstances as and when they arise...
#49 In San Vicente we met a missionary called Dan - seen here reclining in a wheel-barrow he intends pushing across the middle of Baja one day as a kind of perverted gardening adventure. Dan took Jen, Ollie and Carol into his house for the night.
#50 ...we spent the night in this wee shack for a few pesos. We find this to be a good routine when in or near a town - preferable to sleeping out in the open where we are exposed and susceptible to being robbed.
#51 ...this is me plus Raleigh getting new bearings for the bottom bracket. The combination of weight, only having three speeds and the age of the bike (1969) adds up to a lot of strain on the bearings. I have learnt more about bike mechanics in the last few weeks than I ever did with my fancy 21 speed Ridgeback from England.
#53 ...while waiting for the Raleigh to be fixed Jen played hackysac with Jose - one of the local kids from town. The ball is a miniature globe - symbolizing the ability for people from different cultures who can't speak the same language to be able to communicate - in this case through a ball game. Who needs languages!
#55 ...on the road to Bahia de Los Angeles through the Catavinia Boulder field in the central desert of Baja; the diversity of cactus and other plant species is impressive bearing in mind the arid conditions. One common trait they all share though is prickles!
#56 ...often we see shrines by the road side like this one dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Many of the shrines and crosses mark the spot where people have been killed in car accidents.
#59 ...check out these trees with no branches; designed to prevent water loss from excessive foliage?
#60 ...the road to Bahia de los Angeles...
#62 ...the group - now five with Theresa who joined us recently - nearing the little town of Bahia de los Angeles on the eastern coast of Baha. Behind is the Sea of Cortez, a 60 mile stretch of water separating Baha from the Mexican mainland. This will be our next stage - crossing to the other side by Kayaks...see 'Kayaking Baja' next.
The group - now five with Theresa who joined us recently - nearing the little town of Bahia de los Angeles on the eastern coast of Baha. Behind
is the Sea of Cortez, a 60 mile stretch of water separating Baha from the Mexican mainland. This will be our next stage - crossing to the other
side by Kayaks...see 'Kayaking Baja' next.
Posted on February 23, 1997 5:52 AM