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Baja Beach Adventure – Part 1

For years I’ve been sort of captivated by the idea of multi day bikepack trips on the beach, starting with some initial forays on the shores of Lake Michigan and then doing some exploring around my new home in Southern CA I’ve been testing the waters for years but had yet to fully commit. But a few things pushed me over the edge, one was the great Alaskan Coast trip that Mikesee did with Roman Dial, Eric and Doom the other was a trip report on the ADVrider.com forums by a friend Mark Keicker. (You would be surprised how well the fatbike and offroad motorcycle routes match up.) Mark’s trip was a tour of the full Baja MX coast that took him several thousand miles down and back, but seeing as he had a motor driving him as well as a much longer window of time to complete the trip I decided to go for something much smaller. Basically, we would fly into La Paz, MX and then ride as much beach as possible down to Cabo San Jose, MX then fly back from there.

Our proposed route

Melissa had the first week in April off school so we decided to go for it, we booked tickets costing about $300 a person flying in and out of Tijuana. We can take the shuttle to TJ for $15 and save about $450 each way considering tickets flying out of San Diego were $600-800 each way as opposed to $150. Something else to consider is bike check fees which can run very high if you are not careful, we forgot to buy extra baggage allowance on the way down and got hit for $3000 pesos worth of excess baggage fees (about $135 per bike) but we did buy the excess baggage on the way back and only paid $29.99 USD to check each bike.

So, with the trip setup out of the way on to the fun stuff.

Bikes in one box wheels in the other

With our boxes all packed we hopped the shuttle and got down to the Airport in plenty of time to have a 30 minute argument with the airline guy about paying a huge amount to check our bikes. With that done, we had a short flight to La paz and landed at about 9pm, We had told our friend Wendy that we would be to her house by 10:30 since we would have to build the bikes in the airport and whatnot. First off, if you plan on smuggling anything anywhere just throw it in a bike box, we had these huuuge boxes and everyone else had tiny carryon luggages but once we said the magic word “Bicicletta” we got through customs with just a strange look and not even a cursory inspection of our boxes while everyone else was having their entire suitcase unpacked.

We then set about building the bikes in the airport which the security guards apparently thought was pretty funny.

Building the bikes back up.

After that we set out to find Wendy’s house, I sort of forgot to get her address off my Facebook so we had to call her on a borrowed cellphone in a noisy airport and had what amounted to part of her address and some possibly misspelled / wrong cross streets. Luckily, I had bought an amazing GPS map of mexico from Bicimaps.com it had every street as well as all sorts of dirt tracks that can’t really be called roads. We set off in the general direction of downtown La Paz and hoped to find someone who knew where the street we were looking for was. Eventually, we made it to a Walmart which I vaguely remembered being part of Mark’s directions, but when we asked people about the street we were looking for all we got was blank stares. I started looking for the street on my GPS and found a street with at least one of the words we were looking for on it so we rode there.

We rode up the street till we arrived at what we thought was the proper house number, and then all hell broke loose. Dogs and chickens and every other animal in the neighorhood started going crazy! Eventually, lights started coming on and people came out of their houses (at 11:30pm) so I flagged down an older lady who of course spoke no english all the while trying to yell for Melissa to come over and speak spanish to her while also trying to assure the lady I wasn’t yelling at her. Eventually, she told us some foreigners lived 2 houses down so we tried over there and luckily it was Wendy’s house!

We passed out in her spare room for the night since we wanted to make and early start the next day.

We woke up and toured around Wendy’s house and checked out her awesome chickens.

Soon enough we had the bikes re-packed and were on our way, we rode straight down to the beach and grabbed some delicious breakfast at Cafe Corazon.

They let us bring our bikes inside, where everone in the restaurant had to come over and take a pic including the Chefs from the kitchen

Once we had finished up breakfast we grabbed about 120oz of water each and headed off to hit the beach, we had to ride about 10 miles of pavement out of town before we hit the real coast but my god was it worth it, azure blue bays and perfect calm beaches greeted us.

Stopping for some fishing and a dip in the 75 degree water.

The riding the first day was quite variable, with everything from smooth hard beach sand to rocky loose beaches reminiscent of the shore of Lake Superior (much warmer though)

This section was really fun, lots of rocks to play on

There was plenty to keep you on your toes, beach conditions changed every few minutes including this crazy section that looked like someone had dumped a truck full of coral bits into the sea.

Piles of Coral make for hard riding

We were basically making our way around the peninsula that extends to the north east of La Paz but the problem is the southern half is covered with mountains that drop straight into the ocean so it was impossible to ride the whole way round. My GPS showed a dirt track that possibly led through the mountains but would entail another 30+ miles of very hot riding  on some interesting surfaces. We decided to give it a shot and took off on what we thought was the right track. One thing you need to know about mexico is, there is not much you cant do. want to drive a jeep to your shack in the middle of nowhere? Sweet, go for it make your own road. So you end up with all sorts of tracks maybe going for a few miles or maybe they actually go to another “town”. When I say town, I mean more than 1 house or trailer, nothing more. No services, no water, no nothing,  just some possibly occupied dwellings.

Can you see where the road ends and the desert begins?

We rode around trying various tracks untill we hit upon the track that was very probably the right road but we were running low on daylight as well as water so we decided to backtrack and head back to the last playa with services.

This turned out to be a great idea since we got a free spot to camp and a guard dog to watch our stuff as well as some delicious Ceviche and Cervesas.

So nice to stop and have a beer after 9 hours of riding

It ended up blowing 30+ mph all night which really would have sucked had we not had the shelter of a building to camp in front of. Ss it was, all our stuff got totally covered in sand and we got pretty minimal sleep because the wind was so loud even with earplugs in.

In any case this isn’t to bad of a view to end the day with.

Nice way to end the day

Next time, in Part 2 : we start traveling down the coast in earnest, and melting into the pavement.

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3 Responses to Baja Beach Adventure – Part 1

  1. Ernesto April 17, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    Love the story!

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