Baja, Numero Uno

September 10, 2011

I didn’t sleep that well, wasn’t sure whether it was nerves or because I slept on the floor. Needless to say, I was up at 5am, which meant after a quick final pack up, we had our wheels rolling by 7. The first part of the trip was through the familiar L.A. freeway system, but either through recognizable landmarks or the fact that my mind was elsewhere – that tingling feeling of mild concern, have I prepared everything? Will we have an accident? What is ahead of us in the coming 7 months? I don’t recollect any of it.
It didn’t last too long, as my mind moved to one of its favorite places… I was riding a motorcycle!
I do recall Seager mentioning that I should double check my Panniers (Saddle bags for my motorcycle) as he had done them up. They still seemed to be attached, so I didn’t worry. As we crossed the mountains behind San Diego, the temperature and the quality of the scenery went up dramatically – a theme that would continue for a while – it would have been around 110F (~45C), and no matter how much airflow you got over you on the bikes. The Border crossing was easy; we just rode through Mexicali, only stopping for red lights, and pedestrians running across the road in front of us. We went straight for San Felipe, only stopping for a quick rest…

After stopping at the first military checkpoints that dot Northern Mexico, I took off, noting both the unremarkable scenery and the warm weather. On arriving in San Felipe, I looked around to see where Tim was, and as I did, I noted that my bike had decided to go on a diet and relieve itself of its left Pannier with all our tools and spares in it. I turned the bike around in pursuit of both Tim and my missing box of goodies. Perhaps I should have listed to Tim when he said to tighten it up! Anyway, not a mile back down the road, both turned up, Tim recognized the box, and picked it up, there was surprisingly little damage to it given it would have hit the deck at around 80mph (130kph).

We stopped in San Felipe with our hearts set on a celebratory Margareta, our bartender recognized me from a previous visit (not sure that’s a good thing!), and I inquired about a room… $50 per person! We are gringo’s, but we are not going to pay gringo prices. We pointed the handlebars south, enjoying the beaches to our left and the mountains that had begun growing on the horizon to our right. We stopped in Puertocitos to check what accommodations were and fill up on gas, we were quickly relived of $20 for a campsite – an commodity that goes against both of our sensibilities to pay for, but it had been a productive day, around 450miles (600km)
At least this was the result:

As dawn cracked, so did our throttles, and we were off on our way down the road, the first part was an amazing windy sealed road cut into the side of cliff’s, overlooking beaches with those Baja Mountains off in the distance. The road soon turns to dirt, although it looks like based on the construction around that the Mexican government has plans to change that, and sooner rather than later. After about 10 miles or so over deep corrugations, Tim came over the headset “Your Pannier, STOP!”. My bikes weight shedding abilities seemed to have no boundary, and the bolt holding the top section of my pannier removed itself, and the panniers weight completely twisted the frame. We bent it back to shape(ish) re-attached it, and were on our way again.

At the next military checkpoint, I noticed the rear box and frame on my bike looked bad, the weight and corrugations had sheared both front bolts holding the rear frame, and the only thing holding it on was the plastic top plate. Unperturbed we continued the next couple of miles slowly as Alfonsina’s at Gonzaga bay was only a few miles ahead. The weather was really heating up, but the scenery was stunning.

We ate at Alfonsina’s and stopped at the tire repair shop there to try to repair our bike, the owner was super helpful offering assistance, tools and anything else we needed. The bolts unfortunately had sheared off inside the nuts, so without a screw extractor we were SOL. Didn’t matter, we were having a hoot.

I bodged something up that would hopefully hold till the next town, asked the guy how much for his help and tools – nothing he said. These Mexican people are the real deal. We left him $5 and a couple of our stickers.

I purchased and set my bike up to carry the heavier items on this trip, as Tim, my riding buddy had no experience prior, so all the heavy and valuable stuff was put in the luggage system that was on my bike when I bought it (Pelican’s), plus a Givi top box that I mounted from my BMW – and had served well in its duties previously. All the tools, laptop, DSLR/Lenses, spares etc. were on mine, Tim’s bike had a set of Andy’s soft Panniers and a large bag on top to carry sleeping bags/mats etc.

We continued on, the weather heating up even more, and the track getting rougher. With no airflow in full motorcycle gear, and going slow off-road and keeping a heavy bike up-right was starting to do me in. I was exhausted.

I asked to stop, and noticed that our top box bodge job had already broken. I wanted some rest in the shade first before tackling it. Seager was a wonderful travelling buddy and did another temp fix to get us to where we needed to be while I re-cuperated.

My goal of getting fitter and loosing the weight I had gained in America on this trip was not only going to happen, it HAD to happen. My pre-trip regime of coffee in the morning, look at a computer screen all day, then possibly a couple of beers at night wasn’t serving me well. The heat, the gear, the weight of the bike and the terrain was stretching me.
The scenery was great though.

Once back on the bike, I felt quite a bit better, the road improved and I could hold a higher speed, getting some airflow over me. We made it to the sealed road, pumped up the tires and decided to head to Guerro Negro for repairs to my bike abandoning my hopes of a trip to Punta San Francisquito.

A blast down the highway, we pulled into Guerro Negro, booked the first hotel we saw, and pulled in, there was a 1150GS with an Australian flag on it. We met Mark and Maggie, an Australian couple that have spent the last two and a half years circumnavigating the world by Motorcycle. Wonderful people. We swapped war stories, and listed in about their travels through India, Pakistan and Iran amongst other places, and shared our thoughts on some must see spots in Mexico.

In the morning we asked around and found the local mechanics, the fact that they had an ATV and a trophy truck in there held my hopes up.


We had an absolute hoot with the guys, they gave us nicknames Tim was “Harry Potter” and I was “Burro”, neither endearing, but they were calling each other Pendejo’s and Cabrone’s. We taught them some English equivalents too. After lots of laughs, removing the screws, a thorough look over their pre-runner they had built from a Porsche 928 body/engine and a Ford Explorer Chassis, we got down and I explained what I wanted to do to fix the issue from happening again (move the top box closer to me, and mount it more securely). We found some heavy construction bolts for mounting RSJ’s and started drilling. All done, and they wanted to relieve me of $18. They had to settle for $30.

The ride from Guerro Negro down to Santa Rosalia was pleasant, with the views getting better as we got closer to the sea.

Adhering to all travel recommendations, we thought we would get some uncooked fish from a street van.

I liked Santa Rosalia, had a nice feel to it, the architecture was quaint.We stopped in Mulege to check out the church designed by the dude that architected the Eiffel Tower:

The drive down Bahia Concepcion was nothing short of epic. We found our best camping spot so far:

Equipped with a Banos and all:

We went for a swim in the morning across to an island to watch the sunrise

Heading down past Loreto where we filled our stomachs and our gas tanks, we wanted to do one of the roads recommended by Seager’s buddy, Stephen. It was incredible. Started off with an enjoyable fast gravel section, then a tight twisty gravel road cut into the mountain side that gave way to the ocean, with a nice few hundred feet drop to keep the asshole puckered, and ensure mistakes got their maximum penalty.

I requested a breather stop at Agua Verde fish camp, where date palms and some under-nourished cows surrounded us.

We had a great time going for a swim, then jumped back on the bikes. We had plans to ride out a little “track” labeled on my map… to be continued

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