“Tu estas muy rapido!” I greet the hombre racing along the dirt road paralleling the paved one. He shouts back, speaking as fast as he rides. Felix and I understand two words: Quince, 15, and dormier, to sleep. Quince kilometers pass at break-neck speed and we arrive at a fire hall. It is our fifth day in Mexico and our third night in a row staying with locals. Life in Baja Mexico is good, muy bueno. It’s also quite the learning experience.
These five days in Mexico have taught us valuable lessons. The hard way. We learned the first lesson less than an hour into this country. I call it, “Shortcut for adventure.” The police kicked us off the toll road. A woman directed us to a restaurant. Her husband appeared with maps bypassing the toll road, but it required backtracking. We checked our own maps deciding on a shortcut. The shortcut took us well off the main road, through the heart of Tijuana and it’s crumbling houses and sandy, rocky roads. It added hours to our ride. Shortcuts are often quite the adventure. Just don’t expect them to be shorter.
Lesson two: giant holes should be avoided. If, however, your friend fails to heed this rule and flies over his handlebars with German accented grunts, try not to laugh too hard. Save it for the next night in camp when his scrapes stop oozing. A beer or two will quicken this process.
Lesson three is extremely important. When conversing with locals whose language you do not speak nod your head, smile, and say “si” a lot. This rule does not apply when asking permission to camp in someones yard. In this circumstance, flap your arms like a chicken and hop up and down on one foot. If they fail to comprehend, use the next gesture that comes to mind. This process is much easier if you know a word or two in the local language. In this case, squawk these words while flapping your arms and hopping. Resting your head on your hands before pointing at the ground is also very effective.
Lesson four: familiarize yourself with dangerous indigenous plants and animals prior to traveling. Unless of course, you’re the type that prefers to wing it. In this case, do what you do best when a cactus sticks your fingers together like velcro. Lucky for me, I have two hands and was able to use the second to operate the front brake and stop my bicycle. This second hand was also handy to remove the thorns. Which brings us to lesson four-point-five: When a cactus sticks both your hands together, call a friend with pliers. Tweezers were not strong enough. (I possess a video of the cactus extraction process, but I must warn it is not for the faint of heart! I’ll upload when I learn how)
Lessons of life are bred from experience. Mexico, thus far, has been quite the experience. Our first two nights in this country were spent with a Warm Showers host who owns a hostel. Ian was kind enough to let us camp for free in the front of the property, yet allowed full access to the hostel: showers, bathrooms, living room, and kitchen. He also let us stay a second night which was good for mi amigo. Felix, like every one of us, began his trip carrying too much. He used this second day to lighten his load. The pool table quickly filled with four piles; a pile to continue on this crazy adventure; a pile to ship home; one pile for garbage; and a pile for further consideration. He even went UL (ultra-light) backpacker style ripping off the handles of his pot set and tearing his towel into pieces. After completing his chore, we went surfing! He is as addicted as I am.
The next two nights we mastered lesson number three. We squawked what little Spanish we knew and flapped our arms like a chicken. Hopping on one foot was unnecessary as the owner of the Bloquera, and the ranch the next night, quickly understood our intent giving permission to sleep on their property. The people of Baja Mexico are incredibly kind and helpful. Most likely from necessity as this place is unforgiving. It is desert.
Like everything else here in Mexico, the fire house where we spent the fifth night is nothing like one you’d find in the states. There is a hole in the ceiling above where we sleep; a half circle large enough to fit a car. Lucky is does not rain here! The walls are pieced together from scraps of old drywall most only a few square feet in size. One thing that is the same is the nature of the firefighters. At night they carry on late into the night. They are also very messy (perhaps because they are all male?!!). A bottle of shampoo lies open and leaking on the bench press. Dishes leftover from dinner lie scattered about the kitchen.
Our journey now takes us into the desert. For the next few days, we will carry as much water as will fit on our bikes (15L each) and food enough to see us through. The next town is 400km away. We will ride at dawn to avoid the heat of the noon sun then hide under whatever shade we find. Then, when the sun sinks lower on the horizon, we will ride once more until setting up camp in the desert sands. I look forward to star filled nights literally in the middle of nowhere. Wish us luck as we hope to not learn new lessons in this deadly place. Hasta Luego!