Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Baja Norte, December 13-16

Pictures will be added when I am able.

December 13
Vamos a Ensenada
We contacted a guy on warmshowers about staying in Ensenada tonight, so we had to make it there.  The road out of Tecate begins with a huge hill.  There's a new road being built but it's not quite done, so we rode on that.  Good thing, because the drivers are crazy.  The traffic laws seem more like suggestions.  Fortunately, once we were back on the main road, there was  a  big shoulder for miles.  We had been told that it's hilly, but really the Spanish word for hilly, montuoso, brings to mind the correct terrain.  On all but the steepest hills, there are houses and stores.  Everyone is selling something; if all of Mexico is like this, we won't ever have to carry much food or water.

Two giant hills and 40 miles later, we came to the Ruta del Vino, the wine route.  This area, the Valley of Guadalupe, is the Napa Valley of the south.  Over 50 wineries are here, many with signs in English, a sure clue to a touristy area.
We picked up some olives from a roadside stand, a gift for our hosts tonight.  Then, finally, we crested the last pass.  In the words and creative orthography of William Clark, "Ocian in view!"  Our descent flew by, and suddenly the smell of fish filled our nostrils, almost to a revolting extent.  This was El Sauzal, a city just north of Ensenada.  Yet if it were me making the map, I would have just made Ensenada a bigger dot, because there was no in-between, no empty space between the two cities.  All was filled with restaurants, food carts, small shops, and more.  The sign "Bienvenidos a Ensenada" confirmed when, yes, we had arrived, and we headed straight for the house of the warmshowers host.  On the way we saw a bike shop, stopped in to buy some brake pads, and ended up talking for awhile with a guy named Juan.  We practiced his English for a bit before I let on that I spoke Spanish and that Tamara was learning, and he was so excited to help us learn, coming up with synonyms for words, phrases, and even Tamara's name, because he couldn't pronounce it.  He christened her "Ara," which apparently is an angel. 

Juan invited us to his place, but we already had a place to stay so eventually we said "adios" and left.  The guy we had previously contacted, Felipe, wasn't home, but we called him and he said he would come get us.  In the meantime we had some delicious quesadillas, then we met Felipe.  He was kind enough to heat some water for showers, and he helped me with my Spanish.  He also invited us to a party, a posada, with his close friends, and while it was a lot of fun, we probably weren't the best guests due to our not understanding much of the rapid-fire Spanish and our fatigue from a long day of cycling.
A terrible picture of the posada

December 14
A late start from the late night.  We thanked Felipe and Margarita for their generosity then hit the road.  Ensenada is miles and miles of sprawl.  We passed about 8,000 taco restaurants and a Costco before finally leaving the city.  Where there had been giant stores were now small houses or little stands.  We stopped at a fruit stand, which led to a great conversation with the owner and some free oranges!
When we were ready to stop that afternoon, there was a little town right there.  Later we would check the map; it wasn't on there.  Too small.  A nice man named Juan showed us to the church, where we explained our story and asked to camp in their yard.  Franco and Yolanda said they would be happy to have us, and we set up camp in a little pavilion.  They brought out some home-cooked tostadas, and, though neither of us is even slightly religious, we attended the Sunday night mass.  The group welcomed us and all shook our hands, as is custom, and wished us a safe journey.

December 15
We joined Franco and Yolanda for breakfast: potatoes, eggs, and cheese on tortillas (of course).  The two of them could not have been nicer, offering to pray for us and asking if we needed anything at all, including money.  We assured them that just allowing us to camp at the church, not to mention the food and their company, was more than enough.

The road wound through less civilization than the previous days, all the land, wherever possible, devoted to farming and ranching.  Much of the highway's edge served as a trash receptacle, but that didn't diminish the beauty beyond: steep hills, rugged enough to be called mountains, rising in every direction and dotted green and beige with bushes and boulders.  Baja is not a flat place.  After 53 miles, we stopped in a little town with colorful houses and music blaring: Ejido Bonfil.  We'll be camping tonight on their baseball field.

December 16
We woke up super early with the roosters.  The riding today was somewhat stressful, as the road had no shoulder and lots of traffic.  The drivers are crazy.  Blind curve?  Pass anyway!  Go whatever speed you want!  See how many couches you can strap onto the roof!
We passed through a number of small towns.  To our foreign eyes, they all look the same.  Main road bisecting two rows of shops; 50 or so feet of dirt on either side of the main road with cars, bikes, dogs, chickens, you name it; many shops selling tortillas; always a market and a few tire shops (for the crazy drivers).  Surprisingly, purified water hasn't been hard to find at all.  The locals all go to every town's water purification station, so we do too.  It's usually a peso per liter.
Tonight we're in a hotel in San Quintin.  It's raining, we're happy to be inside, and we'll be dreaming tonight of a road with a big, smooth, paved shoulder.

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