Baja Divide Cape Loop, Mexico
The Baja Divide is a dirt-road bikepacking route that runs the entire length of the Baja Peninsula. We decided to ride the most southerly section, called the Cape Loop.
Day 1, 39km
On our first climb out of San Jose de Los Planes we spotted a roadrunner by the edge of the road! He wasn't running - until Julie got up close with her camera. The rocky road climbed steeply over a saddle and back down sea level. The east cape as it's known around here felt like a rollercoaster but gave us expansive views on the emerald colours of the Sea of Cortez. When both the sun and road were headed for the horizon we pitched our tent on the soft sand of an empty beach. While we soaked our sore feet in the water, we caught a glimpse of a dorsal fin, and then a few more, and soon a pod of dolphins swam right by us.
We had decided before leaving to travel without a stove, but realised that our tortillas were still on the table of the casita back in El Sargento. Dinner therefore consisted of tomales and dates. All night long we could hear mobula rays jumping out of the water.
Day 2, 70km
With growling stomachs we set off the next day and had a late breakfast in the quiet village of El Cardonal. There they didn't speak any English so we had to use our Spanish, but it went well and reminded us how much we love bike travel for bringing you in contact with the 'real' side of a place. The contrast with tourism was accentuated when we arrived in Los Barriles later that day, where it felt like we had entered an American retirement town with many people driving ATVs around. After a quick lunch and a top up of our water bottles at a water purification station, we set off again. Or maybe it had not been so quick, because by the time we were eating dinner by our tent, the sun had set and we ate under the light of a nearly full moon.
Day 3, 23km
Riding with three inch tires was very helpful on the many sections of the trail that had deep sand or were very rocky. This also meant that we could zoom down the steep descents that often crossed sandy arroyos (dried out river beds) before a punchy climb on the other side.
We arrived in Cabo Pulmo, a marine reserve that protects a patch of the famous biodiversity of the Sea of Cortez, including numerous species of sharks, turtles, whales, and sea lions. Up until then we had been enjoying a strong 'Norte' tailwind, which while a blessing on the bikes, sadly meant that any snorkelling or diving was out of the question. We were told the wind would last for several days, so we decided to take it easy for the afternoon (tacos, beer and hammocks) but set off again the next day, with strong intentions of returning to this amazing protected spot.
Day 4, 72km
Although we were sad not to have been able to see any underwater wildlife, we were very excited to see a bobcat cross in front of us in the morning. With its continuous ups and downs and relatively monotonous scenery, this felt like the longest day yet, and when we arrived in San Jose del Cabo we collapsed in a somewhat dingy but welcome room at a motel.
Day 5, 47km, mostly up
Passing through big towns on bike rides can have perks - like being able to stop at a street-side stand for coffee and local breakfast (tamales and tacos, what else?) where we got to joke around with the other locals and watch what foods they ordered. We left with empanadas and sandwiches and headed up toward the slightly daunting looking Sierra de la Laguna mountain range. Though the day before had felt long, this climb was at a better grade. We noticed that this range was already more densely vegetated than the mountains we had crossed from Cabo Pulmo to San Jose and we enjoyed this mountain scenery even more. With 13 litres of water between us, we were prepared to camp midway, and spent the night at the top of the pass, where we enjoyed getting to see the sun set over the Pacific.
Day 6, 58km
Despite starting the day at over 700m and ending at sea level, it never felt like a downhill day. The constant ups and downs seems to be a feature of Baja roads and trails. This day brought us through even more lush scenery and many stream crossings, past some ranchos, and finally, after biking through what must be the town's trash dump - into the arty town of Todos Santos. Once again our food planning was a little insufficient, so we had eaten pretty much only peanuts and dried fruit all day - but within a few hours of being in town we had had two large meals and an ice cream in between.
Day 7, 10km, rest day
We decided to end our ride in Todos Santos because it was a lovely place to relax and Julie's knee was very sore. The next day we wandered around enjoying the old buildings and the whimsically decorated Todos Santos Cafe. Once rested, we biked five kilometers to the beach hoping to see some baby turtle hatchlings get released into the ocean, but unfortunately none had hatched that day. We still learned a lot about the turtle conservation efforts from the volunteers there and saw many whales spouting right off shore.
Day 8, riding local buses back to the start
Despite taking the bus 'home' to El Sargento, we didn't feel like our trip ended in Todos Santos: riding a local bus is a great way to get an authentic perspective on a place, and we were touched when a man sitting next to us on the bus wearing ragged clothes and mismatched shoes shared some of his biscuits with us.
Thanks to Lael Wilcox and Nicholas Carman, riders from Alaska, who mapped and published the epic Baja Divide, a 1700 mile trail the length of the Baja Peninsula.