There might be a cactus in my tire.
December 6th, 2019. It wasn’t until the border officials stamped our passports that we realized: we are in Mexico– and Tijuana to be precise. Across the wall, contrast is obvious. On the American side; paved roads, shopping centers, and fast food. On the Mexican side, a city of 1.6 million inhabitants, smashed roads, and a ton of small shops selling more or less everything. Cars, motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians, stray dogs, street-food, … we’re discovering a magnificent mess. The streets are flooded with people and it all seems to look like organized chaos. We are not hanging around though, we have to get out of this mess before the sun sets– our host is patiently waiting for us about twenty kilometers away. We are biking as fast we can, blindly following the directions of our mobile app. We are now climbing roads with a gradient of 15 to 20%, and finally reach the heights of the city. We are sweating profusely and as if it was not already difficult enough, the rain appears. We don’t know it, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Indeed, our GPS has the good idea to route us by a military camp whose access is prohibited to the public. We have no choice but to turn around and to cycle on the highway to get out of town. We’re faced with a tire puncture. We fix it, and we continue. Shortly after, we find ourselves at night on a crowded highway. Cycling on the shoulder in tracked out mud in torrential rain for 2 hours sounds fun, but trust me when I say it isn’t. We finally made it to our guest, who has been patiently waiting, making our first day in Mexico one for the books.
We decided to undertake Mexico through Baja California, a peninsula located northwest of the country. On the road, we meet Thomas & Lucie, a French couple who travel on a tandem. And Jérémy– a Belgian guy who has been traveling straight for 4 and a half years. It is quite natural that we decide to keep on cycling together. We spend a few days resting in Ensenada, and we book it out of town motivated as ever before to face the 930 miles of desert in Baja California.
As the days go by, the organization within our small group takes shape. Everyone is cycling at their own pace, and we meet up again for every lunch break. The advantage of being a group of 5 allows for democatic decision-making; we organise voting sessions to decide when to stop cycling for the day, where to sleep, and which route to choose. But above all, we develop a really good relationship. We take great pleasure in sharing the road together, united as a small family. Oddly, our days are quite uneven. Some are superb, some are extremely boring. But as they say, alone we go faster, together we go further. We motivate each other to move forward, facing the monotony of the desert.
We oscillate between the beaches of the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the peninsula and those of the Gulf of California on the east side. We follow endless straight roads, crossing dense and endless cacti forests. For the first time on the trip we feel the solitude provided by an arid landscape hostile to humans. Besides, we are discovering water management. Water is scarce here, and we have to make sure that we carry enough to reach the next village.
In every village we are invited to pitch our tents in locals yards, or even to settle down in a house that is currently unoccupied. The generosity of the Mexicans is incredible. We are pampered, and we are cuddled. And when there are no villages on our way, we take advantage of the vastness of the desert. We sink a few hundred meters off the road, and pitch our tents hidden behind the cacti. The land is filled with cacti of all kinds. It’s new, it’s refreshing, and it’s beautiful. Unfortunately, with cacti, there is the other side of the coin: punctures… We get a total of 2 to 3 punctures a day despite tires that are said to be “puncture-proof.” But once again, being together helps us. We laugh, fix the punctures quickly and off we go.
It will take us 20 days to reach La Paz, the arrival point of Baja California and the departure point of the ferry which will take us to the mainland. It is with wet eyes that we clink glasses for the last time together on New Year’s eve, but especially to celebrate the end of this epic “Marmol team”.