Mexico – Baja California Part 4

For the entire trip I’ve been trying out the Mexican food. Mostly though I’ve been eating cheese casadias!

mmmmm chesse casadias!

I rarely eat meat and I’m not a big fish eater so that is somewhat limiting in Mexico. I did expand my eating horizons in Cabo though and ate loads of sushi which was delicious.

Cabo San Lucas is apparently one of ‘the places’ to go to in Baja. George Clooney, Julia Roberts and lots of other stars are roomered to have homes here. The marina, full of designer shops and super yachts, certainly makes you feel like you are in a very modern and rich city. I liked it, I liked that it was yet another completely different place with such a different vibe. Being right at the end of the peninsula looking out to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California was a significant point in our journey too – not yet over – but we had ridden the entire length of the peninsula.

We spent the following day here wondering why people like the place so much?!

Could it be the stunning coastline??
Or maybe the worldclass golf course next to the ocean??
Can't be the sunsets that you can watch through the arch at the most southerly tip of Baja??!

Although I was doing ok without my luggage, I was DELIGHTED that after almost two weeks it was waiting for me at Cabo San Lucas airport and after our day of stand up paddle boarding, golf and sunsets I was finally able to get changed!! So we hit the town and had a very brilliant evening in El Squid. A ridiculous but fun club in the heart of the city.

Paddle boarding (yes, in my jeans, still no luggage!)...

It was a very late night or a very early morning depending on how you look at it. I saw the sunrise and took a dip in the pool, would have been rude not to.

Possibly the most incredible pool I've ever taken a dip in!

The final leg of our Baja journey was back to La Paz to catch the ferry to the mainland. We took a different route back via a small town that boasted a music hall. I wasn’t expecting what happened next. We entered a huge yellow building and were greeted by an eccentric looking musician who showed us around many different rooms full of old instruments, mainly pianos, some of which had belonged to Kings and Queens! Finally we entered a big room; there was the grandest of Grand Pianos in the centre, five metal chairs and sun light pouring in through an open shutter. Nicholas, the musician (the world class famous musician!) sat down and played the most beautiful piano pieces my ears have ever heard. I had just arrived to a small town in the middle of nowhere and was now hearing an impromptu piano concert. I’m really not making this up! The days were all filled with such different and such brilliant experiences.

I was so moved when I listened to Nicholas playing, it was beautiful.

Our final day in Baja was spent back in La Paz, where we were waiting for the evenings ferry back to mainland Mexico. That morning we went snorkelling….

…. with Whale Sharks!

About to be eaten by massive whale sharks!

The sea was quite rough and the water cloudy as a result. I hopped in feeling fairly relaxed and looked down, I wasn’t expecting to see much. To my horror I was about 10 centimetres away from a 15 metre Whale Shark! I knew I was going snorkelling with Whale Sharks and I knew they were big. I just hadn’t expected it to be so BIG or so close! It didn’t eat me, it just ignored me and I calmly swam alongside it feeling very small indeed.

During my time in Mexico, I learnt that there are in fact two times. The actual time and Mexican time. We missed our ferry!

I never realised how comfortable a bike was for taking a nap on...

The next available ferry was an 18 hour crossing with no cabins or any amenities at all as it was only for lorries and trucks. They said we could sneak our bikes on though and we’d have to ‘find’ somewhere to sleep.

Sometimes the best bedrooms aren't the most obvious!

Sometimes when things don’t work out as planned they work out better. As I drifted off to sleep on the outside upper metal deck of the huge cargo ferry, I was looking up at the star lit clear sky wishing I could share Baja California with everybody… and wishing my time there had not finished.

We reached the mainland and rode over a thousand kilometres back to Mexico City. I arrived in one piece, I hadn’t been mugged or murdered and not even seen a hint of violence. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist I’m just saying that there’s a lot more to this beautiful place than you might think….

Very happy Squash!

…..To Be Continued…

Mexico – Baja California Part 3

The section of the route travelled...

We were up early in San Ignacio and headed to the town square to see a very beautiful mission church, begun by the Jesuits in 1728.

The mission in San Ignacio

From there we headed out for a short time on road, then off road to Laguna San Ignacio.

You know that feeling, like your in the middle of nowhere?

We rode right to the coast until we reached an eco hotel called, Kuyimita. This place was really spectacular. We stayed in small huts on the very edge of the Pacific Ocean. Baja had done it again – we were in the next town, I felt like I had entered another world.

Now, shall I put the bike on the left or the right side of my beach hut that is a few metres from the ocean??

That afternoon we set out in small fishing boats to see the majestic and wondrous huge Grey Whales. It’s hard for me to describe just how amazing this experience was. The whales are so massive! They swim right up to the tiny fishing boats that you are in and gently move around and underneath you. It was just … WOW. They are surprisingly tame and inquisitive. The mother whales, with their babies, came up to the boats to check us out and have a look.

The whale was MASSIVE!

If you get the chance in your life to see whales you must do it, they have an energy that is so wonderful and the experience is magic!

This was a baby, what you can see is just its nose!

In the evening we enjoyed a meal together with Carlos and his family (they run the eco hotel). Carlos is a musician and entertained us with his beautiful voice and guitar. I went to sleep that night listening to the sound of the waves. The music, the day and the setting by the ocean made for something that you might read in a fairy tale book. But it was no fairytale. Just another day in Baja!

Our next destination an old mining town, Santa Rosalia. A most charming if somewhat scruffy town. The French had taken advantage of copper deposits found there in the 1860’s. The French connection explains why the town church is a metal pre fab structure designed by Mr Eiffel himself! The church was originally set up at the Paris world fair and was sent to Baja in pieces about a hundred years ago. Obviously I was expecting the church to look like the Eiffel Tower, I was just a little bit disappointed…

Not quite the Eiffel Tower, but still a lovely church.

I liked the French touch…

We didn’t stay long in Santa Rosalina, there was a lunch date in Conception Bay. We rode to the edge of the East Coast and parked up on the beach. The bay reminded me of New Zealand, perhaps Vancouver too. Clear and calm water engulfed by huge rocks and cliffs. We met some Americans who had returned to holiday in the Bay for the last 25yrs!

Heading out of Conception Bay

Little did I know at the time but the next section of road for the day was a real treat. Great surfaces, rolling hills, lots of twists and turns, back lit by an awesome sunset.

Sunset...

That just got more and more impressive.

I loved this!

We arrived at Loreto in the dark having covered about 350km, in the morning I enjoyed waking up to this view.

I opened my eyes to this

Loreto was the first Spanish settlement in the Californias and was the capital of Spanish Baja until the place was wrecked by a hurricane in 1829 and later flattened by an earthquake in 1877. You wouldn’t think that today, the mission was since rebuilt and the city is clean and full of good hotels.

After a quick visit to another mission off the beaten track we were on the road. 440km to La Paz. I was excited to get to La Paz, not because I had been there before, or because someone had talked to me about the place, but because I have a friend called Paz who I am very fond of.

Up until La Paz, Baja had felt remote, often like you were one of just a few in the whole of the peninsula. La paz was different, it was a large, bustling, bright light, sea side city. There were multiple lanes of traffic and there was an electric energy in the air that made us ride the bikes like hooligans! Well, Andres and I. Paco, as ever, rode calmly and very correctly shaking his head at the races we had off each and every set of red lights.

Breakfast on the roof terrace of the hotel in La Paz was funny. We stuck up a conversation with a really lovely guy called Bruce, who was waiting for his friend Riccardo. Who just happened to be the same Riccardo who was a great friend of Paco’s – so we all had breakfast together. I love it when that happens.

Breakfast with Bruce, Riccardo & co
Terrible view from the roof terrace where we had breakfast!

The aim for the day was to reach the southern tip of Baja, Cabo San Lucas, with a stop at Todas Santos. Todas Santos, does that mean anything to you?? Well, it didn’t to me. Until I got there. Until I stood outside the Hotel California, THE Hotel California!! The Hotel California where The Eagles wrote the song. What a cool place to visit.

THE HOTEL CALIFORNIA!!
I'm told it's good stuff!

We had lunch with the owners and heard the full story. The hotel had become run down and disused until an American couple and a Mexican guy had began a restoration project there almost 15yrs ago. Today it’s a funky, boutique hotel. Lots of interesting guests come from all over the world and in the gift shop…….. they sell sheep?!

The obvious souvenir to buy to buy from The Hotel California!

We rocked up in Cabo San Lucas just in time to ride the bikes up a dirt track to the highest point to see the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Just in time for the sun setting..

Sweet!!

Mexico – Baja California Part 2

The section of the route travelled...

It was a long ride from Catavina to our next stop, Guerrero Negro. Almost 400km, but I can’t say I noticed the distance. My eyes were continually stimulated by the dramatic and ever changing surroundings and I was so enjoying the motorbike!

The road from Catavina

(I’m riding a BMW GS 800, with the most fitting paint job, it’s a guacamaya! It’s a fairly tall bike but the fuel tank is under the seat so I have no problem balancing it. It’s delivers power very quickly and it great off road and on.. I love it!)

The bike, the road - both perfect!

Guerrero Negro is a pretty small and basic town, just over the boarder into Baja California south.

Guerrero Negro

You cross the boarder and the temperature seems to go up about 20’c! It’s getting hot in the day… the night time is still quite cool though. I had no idea but here is home to the world’s largest salt plantation and guess who got to ride out onto the salt planes and see exactly how it all works??!

The bikes on the salt
Arriving onto the vast salt planes
Salt or snow?

I grew up on a farm, tractors excite me so you can imagine my joy when I saw the largest machinery I’ve ever seen in my life!

HUGE TRUCK!
My new wheels!

The process is incredible. The salt looks like snow, it doesn’t taste the same though, perhaps having a ‘bite’ wasn’t the best plan…

A lump of salt...

The main road through Baja is simple (should you choose to stay on it, you can do the entire peninsula off road) it goes from North to South, there are twists and turns in the road, except for the section from Guerrero Negro to San Ignacio. There is a left turn on this section of very straight road though and we took it. To the Sierra San Francisco. Flat top mountains and stunning, stunning views lead us to our first section of off road and ancient cave paintings that date back to over 10,800 yrs ago!

Flat top mountains, stunning views, fabulous roads.

The off road wasn’t too bad. I was nervous and happy to say that the bike that ended up on its side wasn’t mine!

Something didn't go quite to plan!...

After miles of nothing we came to a small collection of buildings and ranches.

The buildings we finally came to after miles of nothing

The Mexicans have lived here for generations. The people we met here were open and kind. They live well off the land and their ability to make things was very impressive.

Hand made shoes or a pair of Clarks Originals??

We stayed here for the night and the following morning we were up early to ride mules (not motorbikes!) to the bottom of the canyon to see some of the most treasured and historically important cave paintings.

Anyone ever ridden a mule down a steep, narrow, winding canyon path.. for six hours?! It’s…. different, a little bit daunting, quite funny! I’m used to doing this kind of thing on foot, carrying my own load so I did appreciate the mule, only after six hours you walk a bit like John Wayne.

'Pico' & I heading down into the canyon

Reaching the bottom of the canyon was like entering a secret paradise. Nothing like the dessert at the top, deep down there was water and an abundant and green oasis. The cave paintings were really amazing. I just couldn’t get my head round the thought that almost 11,000 years ago someone was there, right where we were (probably in fur knickers) doing paintings!

The cave paintings - just incredible!

We camped in the bottom of the canyon. There was no natural light for miles around, the stars were incredible and the milky way was so bright. I felt at home in the tent.

I love a good camp fire!

The following morning we rode the mules back out of the canyon. I appreciated the mule, however, I was happy to get back on my motorbike!

Heading back out of the canyon on my trusty mule...

We made our way to San Ignacio. On the road we passed a woman who was cycling. I thought as we rode past we would soon catch up with her cycling partner or maybe the rest of her team. We didn’t see any more cyclists. A few hours later the cyclist passed us outside our hotel. On talking to her, we discovered she was actually travelling alone. She was having a fantastic time! She was an American and had a few weeks between jobs so had jumped on her bike and was cycling down Baja. She hadn’t experienced any problems.

We’re only a few hundred kilometres in and Baja is full of surprises; stunning coastline, mountains, greenery, dessert, cactus, massive cactus, vine yards, huge industrial plantations, lovely people, canyons, mountains,cave paintings, great roads and glorious weather. Still not been mugged, killed or in fact in anyway at anytime felt at all threatened.

Another groovy cactus!

Mexico – Baja California Part 1

The section of the route so far...

I arrived in Mexico City and my luggage didn’t!

Under normal circumstances your luggage catches up the next day, the next day however I would be en route to Tijuana, where my Mexico adventure would begin, at the most Northerly point of Baja California. The next place my luggage could be sent to was Cabo San Lucas. That’s the southern tip of Baja.. Yes where we were due to arrive, but not for about 12 days, almost at the end of the trip!

Fortunately I was travelling in a favourite pair of knickers, a great pair of jeans, a white top, my warm RAB jacket and my trainers. (My advice to anyone travelling with hold luggage – travel in an outfit that you can wear for everything, everyday, should you not see your luggage for a while.)

Another great thing was that my motorbike gear was already in Mexico and I would be in that most of the time, so actually I didn’t need that much anyway.

The sight of the bikes and truck when we arrived at Tijuana made me very excited, the looming trip was in the forefront of my mind and I soon got over my luggage worries.

The bikes and the truck in Tijuana at the very beginning of the trip!
The bike I was riding - The guacamaya!

I’d visited Tijuana almost 11 years previously and it had developed into more of a modern city, i.e, there were now Starbucks on most corners, there was some great architecture and good restaurants but I wasn’t that excited about the place itself.

I was excited by this little chap though who I met dancing outside on the street.

Not a typical Mexican, but fabulous!

We left Tijuana after a drive around the city and I was pleasantly surprised by the excellent road we were on. (For some reason, in my head, I’d assumed the roads would be bad). It wasn’t long before we saw the ocean. I was riding along a great road, through rolling hills alongside the cliffs next to the ocean. Not bad, not bad at all!

Our first stop was Valle de Guadalupe, a winery, totally wasted on me as I’m not a drinker! The location, cheese and olives were very nice though.

We rode about 200km and before we reached our night stop, Ensenada, we called at Bufadora… and here’s why..

Bufadora, stunning coastline!

The next day the scenery changed so dramatically I felt like I was in another country altogether. In fact I really felt like I was finally in the Mexico I had pictured in my head… Dessert and cactus! Huge cactus! Cactus that only exist here and in one other place in the Middle East. It almost didn’t look real. It was so cool! The roads continued to shock me, it was like riding in the Alps. Brilliant roads, great corners and lots of elevation.

Massive cactus!
The incredible dessert and the cactus

The roads were very quiet and as I watched my fuel gauge get lower and lower, we passed no towns, no garages and I began feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere. Until we came across this very modern fuel stop, right opposite our lodgings for the night!

Fuel stop!

Riding with Paco and Andres is great. They are Mexican men, they are therefore (I have learnt) very polite. Paco rides at the front to lead the way and Andres rides at the back to make sure everything is ok. Riding motorbikes in a group, especially over time is interesting because (like with other team or group sports) you bond with each other. You ride together and soon you fall into a rhythm and it’s cool.

Getting to know the crew better too. There’s five guys in the production team, they are also Mexican and very polite. So far I’ve not opened one door or carried anything heavy! I’ve been in Mexico for three days, I haven’t been mugged, attacked, killed or got involved with any hint of any drug scene! Amazing!

Me and the boys!

Mexico

“Dad I’m going to Mexico”.

I never imagined that these words could fill dad, my dad, who’s used to me saying things like, “I’m going to fly off the top of Mont Blanc, I’m off to climb Mt Everest and try and fly off the top of that too”, with such worry and dread.

“Oh no… You’ll get killed!”

My mum, my sister and even my friends weren’t sure that this was a good idea either.

I was pretty shocked I mean, I know Mexico has a bit of a bad reputation… but that bad?? It would seem, yes, that bad.

After I rode a BMW motorbike to the foot of Mt Blanc, climbed it and flew from the top my story reached far and wide and Boxer Motors, a BMW magazine in Mexico liked the story so much they wrote a seven page national magazine article all about it.

To read the article click here

I was delighted. I thought it was quite funny that I was getting lots of hits on my website… from Mexico!

The very same people who produced the magazine told me that they had a plan to produce a television series that would involve riding BMW motorbikes across Mexico to showcase Mexico to the world. Very briefly the intention – to get away from the negative reputation that Mexico has got itself and show it off in its, also, wondrous glory.

We remained in contact about the project and I thought it was a very nice idea. But, alas it was just that… an idea…

Before Christmas though, after many emails (mostly about how safe the trip would be!) I went to Mexico and apart from not getting killed I discovered that there’s a lot more to this wonderful place than just its bad reputation. The people, for starters, are absolutely delightful; they are welcoming, warm and generous. Mexico is rich in history and culture. It is a fantastic blend of beach, sea, mountains, crazy cities and altitude! Mexico City itself is 2240m above sea level. I was only there for a short time but it was long enough to know that I wanted to see more and discover more.

This week I’m heading back to Mexico to begin making the first programs for the series.

We’ll be riding BMW motorbikes down the peninsula of Baja, across thousands of kilometres of incredible landscape and onto mainland Mexico.

The project is called – Rodando Por Mexico

“Rodando Por Mexico – Rolling Through Mexico
Rolling through Mexico is a new concept of communication through a series of television programs, web sites, social networks and printed media, which aims to show the positive image of Mexico. All this is seen from the perspective of a group of three expert riders, with the adventure that only travelling on a motorcycle offers. The goal with their program is to let people in other parts of the world know about Mexico. It is magnificent; rich in its culture, cuisine, and wonderfully warm people.”

www.rodandoxmexico.com
www.boxer-motors.com