Mexico Midnight and Our Baja Adventure
“That was such a great evening, what a bonfire on the beach! I’m going to sleep well when I get home.” said a resident of Mulege, Baja California, Mexico.
It was 7:30pm.
There is a phenomenon called “Mulege Midnight”. It’s also sometimes referred to as “Mexico Midnight” or “Baja Midnight”. What it means is that people retire for the night early here. A side effect of rising with the sun and active outdoor lifestyles I guess. We’ve fallen into the habit quite easily, especially when camping.
We found Stu on the “tent space” thread on ADV rider. He lives in a little town called Mulege (pronounced Moo-le-hey). Stu invited us to stay in his RV trailer while he wasÂ house-sittingÂ for a friend down the road.
Stu’s house didn’t fare well in a hurricane a few year’s ago:
We were planning to stay in Mulege for a night or two. However, this oasis in the middle of the desert sucked us in, and the people were so incredibly nice that we felt we could stay there forever. There had been extensive flooding during a hurricane in mid October 2012. There were reminders everywhere – houses still full of dried mud, washed out roads, boats in trees, people cleaning and rebuilding. Mulege residents are strong and resilient!
After we’d been in Mulege for four days, we realised we had to force ourselves to leave, or we’d be there forever.
We took a couple days to get to La Paz, camping on beaches. We’d arranged to stay with some Couchsurfing hosts inÂ La Paz and that is how we found ourselves Â being welcomed into the home of Julio and his family – Maria, Eduardo and Alejandro.
We were treated like part of the family. They took us out around the town, to intimate music gigs in art galleries, down to the waterfront, and out for tacos. Maria cooked delicious food for us and Julio told us all about his Peruvian homeland.
At first there was a bit of a language barrier with Maria, but then Jayne discovered that she spoke some French, and communicating became easier. Julio, Alejandro and Eduardo were endlessly patient Spanish teachers, answering all our questions and correcting our constant errors.
We made a trip out to the ferry terminal to book a boat to the mainland for a few days later. While there we had to get Temporary Vehicle Import Permits (TVIP) for each of our bikes. These are documents which involve leaving a few hundred dollars with the Mexican government as a deposit so we don’t sell our motorbikes in Mexico and not pay tax on the profits. We understand that we’re going to need similar paperwork in each of the countries we visit from now on.
We booked our ferry tickets (1600 pesos each) to Topolobampo for the Sunday afternoon before Christmas.
While at the terminal, we met two more Canadians on motorcycles. Neda and Gene (check out their blog). They were about to get on the ferry and are also on their way down to Ushuaia. It is very likely that we will meet up with them again along the way.
We left our hosts with promises to return again in a few days when we were to catch our ferry to the mainland, and headed South to Los Barriles.
Phil takes over writing:
A short ride through some hills brought us to visit my friends Kieran and Jess on their Kitesurfing holiday. Â We were racing the sunset, and had no address to locate them on our arrival. No problem, Kieran just drove up to us as we pulled into town.
Spent a couple days camped on the beach, in the sun! Much more to the approval of Jayne than our last two beach camp outs.
Kieran and I took a side trip out to see a waterfall up an arroyo (dry riverbed). I was warned the dirt path was quite sandy in places, so I stripped off the ammo cans, and dropped the tire pressure.
Jayne is still not in love with sand, thus enjoyed the beach while we were gone.
We had no real plan forwards after Los Barilles, but had met Brian in the pub in Mulege, and he hadÂ recommendedÂ we stop in if we headed to the tip of the Baja. The short journey to Los Zacatitos was not without excitement, as I got run off the road by an oncoming SUV that drifted fully into my lane. Fortunately there was a sandy shoulder for me to escape to, and managed to keep ‘Jugs’ upright throughout.
We would encounter more sand as we got closer to our destination, the road turning to sand. We dropped tire pressures and Jayne and I reviewed my jotted list of tips for sand from the course.
I had my first ‘run in’ with the Police while pulled over waiting for Jayne to catch up. The police asked lots of questions about the trip and about the bikes, I even gave them a sticker! Then they pulled out what looked like a pettition, a list of the people who had given them ‘christmas’donations’ and how much they ‘donated’. They asked for me to also contribute. I opted out, and they drove off. We would later find out they go around to many of the locals asking for donations to their christmas fund. Thus, this was not the bribe request I thought I might have been dealing with.
Finding Brian involved having a bartender point towards his place from the patio, Jayne finally getting eaten by the sand, Brian not being home and getting taken in by his neighbor Carla. We told her stories while she fed us drinks until Brian arrived home.Â Have we mentioned how many great people we meet daily?!
Yet again we planned to stay one day, but doubled up. Brian introduced us to his great friendly community, and let me work on his ’05 KLR. Yes, with our bikes working so well of late, I took the opportunity to work on someone else’s. We helped Brian spruce his KLR up and get it running again. I also tried to fix his toilet. Flapperless, I failed. In return, Brian fed us, watered us, and showed us the way to the beach. And what a beach it was! We loved our time with Brian in Los Zacatitos.
Leaving Los Zacatitos, Jayne and I split up. I wanted to take the sandy dirt road that followed the ocean, JayneÂ preferredÂ the asphalt route. It was mutually agreed to be the best plan, allowing me to fully enjoy the dirt at a reasonable speed, and not forcing Jayne to take a difficult road when there was an asphalt option. This was a great decision.
The road was washed out and/or sandy in many places from recent rain. There was prolonged patches with deep sand, uneven terrain and missing road dropped off into the sea. And it was fantastic fun! I dropped the bike early on going too slow in a soft sandy bit. After a stern self talking to, to just go faster and do what I learned in the course, it wasn’t long before I wasÂ rocketingÂ stablyÂ along the sandy coast. Great fun, and I really felt an improvement in my sand riding skills by the end! When we reuinited, Jayne and I couldn’t have planned it better timing wise. We both arrived where the roads converged in Los Barriles within minutes of each other.
Our last stop in Baja was in La Ventana, a Kitesurfing Mecca. Kieran had moved up the coast, now joined by his brother Cam and Quin. We liked staying with Cam and Quin so much the first two times up in California we couldn’t miss a chance at another.
Another relaxing beach day while they kited. After 5 months, I finally finished my first book this trip! The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples
I can see why people come kiting here. Sun, wind, beaches. Learning how to kite is in my future. I’ll have to offload a lot of gear off the bike first…
Back to La Paz for our last night on the Baja, again staying with our new family. Julio took us out to find some acrylic for Jayne’s windshield, then out with the family for drinks and live music. A couple members of the band were the same from our first night out! Met some great locals and transplanted ‘locals’, and got some tips on where to go on the mainland from Lila, the owner/artist.
AlejandroÂ and Eduardo shared a room in order to avoid having us sleep on the living room floor. A very kind gesture.
We ended up in a bit of a rush in the morning, with things still always taking longer than planned. Fortunately we were still able to arrive only just after the Â 11am suggested arrival time. Unfortunately timeÂ recommendationsÂ are meaningless here. Prepared with all our paperwork in hand, we rode through the port unimpeded… that is until the man at the scale asked us for 72 pesos each. This was not mentioned on any blogs or websites that we could recall, thus instantly I assumed he was trying to rip us off. He wasn’t. But I don’t mind doing some investigatory work to save us to chance of getting ripped off.
As a bonus, we finally found out how much weÂ weigh; together, fully loaded we weigh 743kg (1640lbs).
The ferry terminal is an absolute madhouse.
There are truckers flying everywhere, passenger cars getting parked, then re-parked, then parked again. Then when loading, many truckers have to back onto the ferry. There’s no ramp to off load at the front so if you don’t back on, you’ll be backing off. Many cars did the same.
We stuck Cricket learning against a railing, Jugs leaning on Cricket, and a ratchet strap holding them in place. Good thing too, the trip got rough. The voyage started out calm. Too calm. We didn’t leave until almost 3 hours after the scheduled departure. Nobody seemed upset or bothered. Just another day in Mexico. If this was in BC, folks would be having anÂ aneurysm.
On board we chatted with Derek, who we had met in the parking lot (where else?). An incredible life story. If you’ve ever looked up or bought playground equipment, it likely went through his book or website.
Jayne and Derek conspired to steal their dinner. Dinner was included with our ticket price, but they still managed to steal it. In the end there was plenty of dinner left in the toilets anyways, the seas got rough. The rough seas slowed the trip a little further. In the end we arrived about 4 hours late.
The only real meaningful result of the slowdown though was that the truckers had an additional 4 hours to drink beer. They put that time to ‘good’ use.
Knowing this, and having no choice but to ride at night as it was, Jayne and I did our best to keep well away from the trucks.
Being so late arriving with no campground to be found; we stayed in our very first hotel of the trip.
Christmas eve brought us to Mazatlan. We had run out of cash, and found that few banks here accept our cards. Finding banks at all can prove difficult.Â Good to learn now instead of later.
Whilst initially unsuccessful at getting some plastic for Jayne, our stop at a home depot would be fruitful. Being in a parking lot, we of course met another new friend, Lev. Also on a KLR, and also heading south.
While home depot didn’t stock what we needed, a staff member named Luis eventually tracked us some down. For free. Merry Christmas!
Our Christmas eve and Christmas morning were spent with my friends Stacey and Nathan who invited us to stay in their suite. How sweet! Right on the ocean, we had a ball! Even joined by Nathan’s parents for some shenanigans. Christmas would bring fun photosÂ and a great sunny morning before the family had to run to catch their flight.
This was our welcome to the mainland.