Friends and Desert Oases, Baja California

Arriving san ignacio 2

“…listening to the stars pass by, and reminiscing of our past week together. we would miss our new friends. we would miss them greatly. but the road keeps on going.”

Ancient bicycle hieroglyph

waking just before dawn, but too cold to move, we lay in wait for the heat of the sun. once warmed up and well fed, we headed on again down the rest of the dirt road, some fifteen miles to chapala. we reached highway one around noon, had lunch at the junction, then continued on. it was nice to be back on pavement. nice to finally cover some ground. we pedaled into twilight and stopped at the turnoff for bahia de los angeles to look for dinner. i arrived first and a twenty four hour truck stop was the only apparent option. parking my bike outside i was welcomed by two six year old boys, cousins, intrigued by my nordic girth. i kidded with them for i was about a foot taller than the doorway, before entering to meet the mother and daughter who ran the place. they had a small cafe with one table and offered to cook us food, but first they insisted on us setting up our tents behind their house. the woman had the little boys show us where we could camp and we set up and changed into warm, dry clothes.

dinner has never been better. simple quesatacos, or quesadillas really, with beans, cheese and carne asada with salsa. we filled our bellies and drank iced cola after iced cola, followed by many cups of hot chocolate and coffee. after a good night rest we returned for breakfast – what we all agreed was the absolute best juevos rancheros any of us has ever had. we thanked our hosts ever so greatly for their hospitality and back on the road we went. from there we rode to guerrero negro (it was decided not to follow the dirt road to bahia de los angles due to conflicting feelings about dirt roads, as well as their ill affect on limited schedules – oh well, i’ll get more chances in the weeks to come). the paved road was pure desolation. nothing to see, not even a cactus or a bump on the earth, just low lying shrubs and barren isolation. guerrero negro is nothing to write home about either – an unattended town of 14,000 that happens to be the worlds largest salt producer, and one of the largest grey whale sanctuaries. despite these accolades, it is a dirty, windblown place sadly worn by exploitation. the ninety miles or so from there to san ignacio is more of the previous highway. more nothing and more wind. so much aggravating wind. so much that we only made it half way and had to camp in viscaino. the next day was just the same. the only redeeming aspect of this ride was the common courtesy of the few cars that passed. much like all the roads south of northern baja (ensenada), the cars are few and the drivers, even the semi trailers, slow down, give a wide berth, and honk while holding up the peace sign.

Close to champala

Junction bahia LA

Junction bahia LA 5

Lil pisser

Arriving san ignacio

upon reaching the hill above san ignacio around four in the afternoon, we stopped to rest and discuss whether or not to stay the night or camp past town. unable to make up our minds we decided to first ride through and visit the old mission while we still had an hour or so of day light. descending into san ignacio we realized we had entered a true oasis far more beautiful than we had imagined – large groves of date palms lining a beautiful river filled with various species of ducks and pelicans. nestled tightly in a rich, fertile valley, it’s hard to remember the barren desert that surounds it on all sides. time seemed to stand still as we rolled along the river towards the town center and the famed church, misión san ignacio, built by jesuit missionaries in 1728. Constructed of lava bricks, the church is quite impressive. Walking slowly around the church courtyard and basking in the last rays of the setting sun we were approached by a man who couldn’t help but admire our bikes. He also appreciated the fact that we seemed truly interested in the church, that we were not just passing through quickly to take pictures and move on like the motoring types. his name was also mario and he worked at the mission. he offered to take us to the top of the church, something few people get to experience, in exchange for a donation. we agreed and he led us up an narrow, winding staircase, through the bell tower and out onto the rooftop where we had resplendent views of the beautiful land around us. we soon told him of our need to find camp and he told us not to worry – he had a property along the river that he takes care of for some ex pats. we promptly followed him back down the road alongside the river. after crossing the river we turned onto a dirt road, eventually coming to a stop one kilometer further. mario opened the gate to the property and led us to the sandy river bank where we could set up our tents and build a fire. he helped us gather wood, started our fire and made sure we were all content before leaving. we joked that from here on out, every town we arrive in we must ask for mario, for he is the kind man who will show us to our own magnificent beachfront paradise.

this would be our last night with our german companions for erin and i wanted to take a days rest and enjoy the splendor of this wondrous place. we cooked a feast of fresh guacamole, rice and beans, chorizo and chiles, fresh tortillas. more of the same mexican deliciousness. we then stayed up drinking beer and tequila, listening to the stars pass by, and reminiscing of our past week together. we would miss our new friends. we would miss them greatly. but the road keeps on going.

-a

San ignacio 3

San ignacio 5 1

San ignacio 2

San ignacio 8 1

San ignacio 9 1

San ignacio 7 1

“…more nothing and more wind. so much aggravating wind. so much that we only made it half way and had to camp in viscaino. the next day was just the same. the only redeeming aspect of this ride was the common courtesy of the few cars that passed. much like all the roads south of northern baja (ensenada), the cars are few and the drivers, even the semi trailers, slow down, give a wide berth, and honk while holding up the peace sign.”

San ignacio 4 1

All words and images: Alex Dunn.  All of his other posts can be found here.

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6 thoughts on “Friends and Desert Oases, Baja California

    • Thanks for the support. Actually, this travelogue is written by my friend Alex. Alex and I lived, worked and studied in Tacoma, WA for several years, and even managed a three week trip down the Pacific Coast together. I biked through Baja in early 2010, so it is exciting to see many of these places again, unchanged form the way I remember them. I hope to continue hosting his adventures.

      nicholas

  1. Alex and Nicholas…thank you so much for posting so that I, Alex’s mom Vonnie, get to follow his adventure…much love to both of you…

    • I’m happy to be sharing his adventures, closely following all the great places he has been so far. I biked through Baja several years ago, so I am interested to see some familiar places. I am anchored in the city for the winter, and I am more than happy to stretch my legs through the adventures of others Glad you have enjoyed the ride too.

  2. Alex, I am your mom’s cousin! I loved reading about your adventures. My husband, Rob, and I have been to the Baja, and have seen the some desolate areas but not as personally as you! How wonderful to experience this through your eyes. I also find it interesting that you were in Tacoma. Didn’t know that! We lived there for 6 years in the 80′s. We still have dear friends there that we stay in contact with! Whew! It will be fun to follow your traipsing about!

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