Exploring around La Paz & what’s next

02/04/2018

The first part of this post narrates my adventures around La Paz with Ian. The second part talks about my travels plans for the next few months. Feel free to scroll down accordingly.

After coming back in La Paz from the Divide we spent a few days there relaxing and sorting out a few things. Since I have started travelling, I have spent a good amount of time solving minor bicycle and gear issues as well as on the internet for research and planning when we pass a city or big town. We were lucky to be able to count on an amazing Warmshowers host, Tully, who basically held a lot of our mail and Amazon gear orders for a few months before hosting us for a few days. There was plenty to see and do in La Paz.

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La Paz Malecon (promenade on the seafront)
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A nice mural at a cafe. La Paz has lots of these paintings.
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Watching the triathlon in La Paz. Lots of cyclists with strange aerodynamic helmets !

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Stuffing ourselves with ripe papaya!

After that, we had arranged to help out on what looked like a very interesting and exciting Earthship project (a passive solar house made of natural and recycled materials such as tyres) via the Workaway website (which connects hosts and people wanting to learn and participate in volunteering projects abroad or to help out a family while staying there). I must say I didn’t ask as many questions as I usually do when looking for such exchanges (I have done Wwoofing in the past) as our host had brilliant reviews. Unfortunately, we got a bit disappointed. While our host was nice and friendly it appeared that the Earthship-like stage of his construction, his first floor, was done, and he was putting blocs of concrete on the second floor of his hybrid construction. Not much work to do for us either, and we spend our helping time there basically filling a hole with sand.

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Ian reenacting “Can you breastfeed a shovel?”
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The same, slightly concerned the old Mexican truck we carry sand in might stall again.
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Reconverted bus for volunteers at our host’s
IMG_1289[1].JPGAfter a week there we cycled out about 30 km east of La Paz, to have a look at some beautiful beaches and have a go at snorkelling there. I had never snorkelled in my life and have never been extremely comfortable swimming in the sea so, with a cheap snorkel kit purchased in a supermarket, I tried to practice a few times to discover it and try to progressively overcome my fears.

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Swimming at Balandra beach
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Camping at Tecolote beach, amongst RVs and cars
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A Canadian family travelling in a reconverted schoolbus kindly invited us to camp behind them so we would be protected from the wind
IMG_1318[1].JPGAnd after, I dragged Ian to cycle on a small peninsula near El Centenario (suburb of La Paz) where I had hope to cycle out past a certain point, where we could have possibly seen whales from the other side of the bay. Unfortunately, a manned gate prevented us to reach our destination but we had fun camping in some beautiful sand dunes.

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View from the peninsula: Fog and pollution on La Paz in the morning…
Then we headed out to La Ventana, famous for kite-surfing. Lots of things to do there including singletrack MTB trails, which unfortunately I did not ride. While I had so far been pleasantly surprised not to have caught a water bug or another midly irritating traveler’s ailment while in Baja, I accumulated a cold and a bad sunburnt in a few days which resulted on me being quite tired and then having an upset stomach for about a week. I did read and snorkel on the beach, by our camp spot. Not further than a dozen meters from the shore, it was great as I managed to see a couple of razor fishes (they are really funny looking), some nice coral and a lot of other colourful fishes.

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Next to our camp

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Another hummingbird

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An air of Greece in La Ventana
Our tour around La Paz finished, it was time to go back to the hotel we stayed in before the Southern loop, to prepare for our flights. The resident cat mechanic couldn’t wait to sniff out our bikes and our gear.

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So what’s next?

Both being independent persons used to travel on our own, cycling with Ian was predictably challenging. More frustrating for him than me as I am much slower. But we also agreed on the fact that we each learnt a lot out of the experience. I must give credit to him for teaching me a few useful tricks and tips including how to use my Primus stove without setting fire to my surroundings and keeping myself decently clean when there are no showers around. As much as I’ll miss travelling with a great friend I will also be happy to plan and cycle on my own.

We were initially thinking to do the Divide and then maybe cycle together for sometime on the mainland before he headed back to the US to do the PCT, while I would head south still on my bike.

In the end, it took us a LOT of time doing the Divide (which we were suspecting from the beginning). While most people on a bikepacking setup with a reasonable level of fitness do it in around 6 weeks, it took us, overloaded and with me not having trained before leaving home, 3 months ! During our time on the Divide Lael Wilcox’s (one of the founder of the route, see link for more info) Fastest Known Time even got beaten by an hour and a half, by someone who had never done the route before (important as you do have to look for Tiendas and water when you reach a resupply town). The new FKT ? A bit more than 11 days. It is important to note than on those attempts racers will only sleep or rest a few hours a day and mainly power on energy bars. But still…

So, in short, by the time we had managed the Slowest Known Time (or actually realized how long it was going to take us to finish, so several weeks before) we thought there was not much point for Ian to pay an expensive ferry to get to the mainland before having to cycle to a big city to fly back to the US.

And me? Well let’s say travelling and cycling through Mexico put me a lot out of my comfort zone in the first weeks. While I was definitely enjoying it, I also had to adapt a lot and I felt a bit as if I had directly jumped from my last months of work and trip preparation into something a bit hardcore at the beginning. After some thought and dealing with various feelings about the way I wanted to travel I realised along the way:

  • I miss climbing a lot
  • I definitely still enjoy cycling and feeling tired after a long day of riding, as well as overnighting. And cyclotouring for a few weeks. But in the long term, what I really look forward to, are various experiences and pursuits of some interests which don’t necessarily include the bike.

So, while I was initially quite set on cycling South from Mexico onwards, I knew going in that direction after the Divide would probably have meant trying to cram in a lot of visiting in different areas I am interested in, far apart from each other in Mexico, before it got scorching hot and my visa expired which would have necessarily included quite a few flights. And it still would have been scorching hot and rainy season by the time I got to Central America. As well, it appears to me there are many more options to explore in the States or Canada to tick a few experiences I want to have while on this trip off my list.

One of these was climbing in a great crag. I initially toyed quite a long time with the idea of going to El Potrero Chico in North Mexico, but while this looks like a fantastic place I’ll one day end up in, it didn’t look like I would have get there before April, which is the end of season there (it’s getting quite hot). It was also difficult to plan my travels from there onwards. After talking with a few people, hearing about a place called Squamish north of Vancouver where there seems to be great climbing, thinking that could be an occasion to visit Canada where I have never been, and meeting a lot of Canadians and Americans in Baja I made up my mind. I was going to the Pacific North West, starting by Oregon and Washington before arriving in Canada in May, which would ensure a decent weather. Although, it looks like I’ll get a lot of rain in Portland and around when I’ll get there.

There is also the fact that the culture North is a bit more familiar to me, if only in terms of language. I speak fluent English, while I still babble in Spanish. This is in part due to the fact that I found it difficult to find the time and energy to try to learn and practice after a long and strenuous day of riding. Speaking a country’s language definitely make a big difference in meeting like-minded people and finding about various opportunities to do this thing or learn about that.

Anyway, I just feel that at this time I am much more looking forward to go North for a bit.

The second big change have to do with this blog. Inspired by some other travel blogs, I have done quite a few long posts in a relatively short time. While I enjoyed narrating and sharing here the detail of the beginning of my trip and my ride of the Baja Divide, it appears that blogging takes a lot of my time, even if I keep notes of what happened in the day every evening. I am also thinking it is also probably more interestingg for my readers to read posts of a different form… Which means that from now on I’ll be posting shorter posts resuming what happened in a month or a couple of months. I hope the past posts on the Divide give a good idea of what cyclotouring life is like to family and friends back home not familiar with the concept. Although cyclotouring on my own North will definitely be quite different to my experience here, the main differences actually are quite simple. I won’t have to resupply as much in food and water as I will be less remote, I will have more mini or longer adventures off the bike, and… much more rain !

So, goodbye beautiful Baja Califonia… It’s been a great adventure !

 

 

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