Re-inventing the wheel, deserted days, and begging for water

By Emma

So Mexico started in classic Bremma style. Those of you who follow us on Facebook will have kept-up since the last blog, but for the rest of you, you should click here https://www.facebook.com/TotallyTandem to remedy that immediately. The long and short of it is that we hauled-up in Rosarito, with our new amigo Roberto, for 6 days. We assured the now lame Falkor that a new front wheel would be built to match the strength of the new back wheel, and even made an attempt at crossing back over the border into the States (front wheel in hand) to make our way back to Black Mountain Bicycles in San Diego.  Alas, the USA border patrol didn’t find us as charming as we hoped, and after a 4.5 hour wait, we were hastily shooed back into Mexico. The new plan, to get custom spokes sent to us and have Bren re-lace the wheel.

A happy man at having re-laced his first wheel!

A happy man at having re-laced his first wheel!

The amazing Matt from Black Mountain Bikes cut all new ‘Wheel Smith’ spokes for our front wheel and sent them to us at Roberto’s house. And we couldn’t have been stuck waiting in a better place. Roberto and his family run THE best fish Taco stand on the coast. They welcomed us into their home and took care of us, even taking us out to celebrate my birthday. We certainly got lucky meeting Roberto on the cyclist website warmshowers.org .We also discovered that up the road from his house, along with a giant Jesus, is a wonderful establishment that allowed us to stroll right in & use their awesome pool & spa set-up, while serving us margaritas by the poolside. We weren’t hating it too much.

Our new amigo Roberto! What a legend!

Our new amigo Roberto! What a legend!

And we met so many excellent people in our time there. It’s funny how setbacks seem to actually offer more of a set-up. The connections we have formed since arriving in Mexico have all certainly led us to meet excellent people and form new tactics. It’s our favorite part of travelling; accepting the present and being flexible enough to alter your plans in an instant. It’s quite the thrill, letting fate take the lead.

By the pool side at La Roccas, enjoying a margarita.

By the pool side at La Roccas, enjoying a margarita.

And Brendo built his first wheel! What a legend! He laced that baby up good and proper and we are proud to report that no spokes have broken since. Thanks to Matt’s advice, Brendo’s incredible perseverance and a few YouTube clips, our front wheel is totally supersonic. And just in the nick of time too, these Mexican roads have certainly lived up to their reputation. When they are good, they are unbelievably smooth, and when they are bad, they are unbelievably treacherous. Sometimes the shoulder IS the white line, and if you are forced over it, you are dropping a good 60 cm onto rocks and general roadside chaos. But the Baja roads through the desert from El Rosario to Guerrero Negro have been astonishingly good. This is also a lot to do with the courteous drivers in the desert. Almost always the truckers pull right over into the other lane to share the road, while the other drivers only come close because of their exuberant fist-pumping out the window. The drivers in the desert have shown some incredible signs of encouragement with an array of whistles, thumbs up and honking scenarios that have sped us up along some of those hot, steep hills.

Bad road with a steep drop off

Bad road with a steep drop off

Nice shiny new road....without a shoulder though. You cant have it all!

Nice shiny new road….without a shoulder though. You can’t have it all!

Seriously? I think I found a matinee jacket.

Seriously? I think I found a matinée jacket.

I must confess though, I was pretty scared approaching our 4-day stretch across the desert. It just sounds intimidating right? 4 days in the desert. Gulp! And for a girl who never likes to run out of anything, being in an environment where resources were only available every 50km was a very daunting prospect. As a standard, we carry 9litres of water daily. I drink about 4litres, and Brendo drinks about 3l, leaving us with 2 litres to use at camp. Cooking & cleaning consumes about 1.5 litres if you are frugal, which leaves bugger all to drink at camp. And what are you supposed to brush your teeth with? I wanted to carry an additional 4 litres of water daily through the desert, but that’s an extra 4kg of weight, and Bren wasn’t having it. “We’ll be fine Em. It’s not like we will be the only ones out there.” I was not convinced, but had no choice but to believe.

Mountains for miles

Mountains for miles

Goober has been having a navigating rest. It's the '1' all the way down the Baja

Goober has been having a navigating rest. It’s the ’1′ all the way down the Baja

Our friends in Ensenada; Felipe & Margarita

Our friends in Ensenada; Felipe & Margarita

When we left Ensenada, we came across this organised ride. All the cyclists were lining up ready to go and went absolutely nuts as we rode past. It was pretty cool.

When we left Ensenada, we came across this organised ride. All the cyclists were lining up ready to go and went absolutely nuts as we rode past. It was pretty cool.

There are military check points all throughout the Baja. They look intimidating with their huge machine guns, but they always simply wave us through with huge smiles.

There are military check points all throughout the Baja. They look intimidating with their huge machine guns, but they always simply wave us through with huge smiles.

The first day was pretty bleak. Riding from Ensenada to San Vicente was hilly and hot, with very little signs of habitation. When we passed by shops we had capacity water, and when we ran out, there was nothing for miles. I found myself feeling desperate and overwhelmed. How on earth were we going to do this? I just felt so out of my depth. That first desert day saw me sink to a very hopeless place. When I looked around, all I saw were dusty hills for miles and miles. Each incline I saw had me sinking deeper, before we had even started climbing it. So that by the time we did make it to the next town, which was only 2km further than Brendo’s calculations, I had lost it completely. Loosing faith in yourself is a very dark excursion. But sometimes, you just have to hit rock bottom. The only way from there is up right? And poor Brendo. It was one of those funks that he couldn’t help me shift. I had to simply pull myself together. After a series of long deep breaths, I wiped away my tears, we drank a coke, shared a burrito and mounted the bike again.

Everywhere we go, we meet awesome characters like these guys."Do they speak English in Australia?" they asked us.

Everywhere we go, we meet awesome characters like these guys.”Do they speak English in Australia?” they asked us.

If you have thick enough gloves, you can pick this fruit. It's delicious!

If you have thick enough gloves, you can pick this fruit. It’s delicious!

Outside, there was a crowd about to get into their cars. They swiftly turned into Falkor paparazzi, and we were delayed in our attempt to find a campsite for the night while posing for their endless photos. In the time it took to grin and bear their zealousness, 2 cyclists magically appeared, their panniers loaded, and their smiles wide. “Hey, are you guys the Aussies? We have heard about you!”

And from there, it all turned around.

Sharing a taco with our new mates, Dan & Bryce

Sharing a taco with our new mates, Dan & Bryce

Sunset after a storm

Sunset after a storm

When you find a place with cold beer in the desert, it's a crime not to drink it.When you find a place with cold beer in the desert, it’s a crime not to drink it.

Enter Dan & Bryce, both in their early 20’s cycling from Montana to Panama. Check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pedalsouth

With their contagious enthusiasm, my melt down began to melt away and I started to feel silly about the whole scenario. The thing that scared me the most was the prospect of trying to find a safe place to camp, but now with 2 extra fools on bikes, I suddenly felt safer in the desert. It didn’t make any sense, but it definitely helped to calm my nerves. It was about 3pm by now so we set off into town, found a taco stand and filled our bellies with good cheap eats. Discussing our plan to ride out of town and find a place to camp off the side of the road, I found my mind rolling over the new Spanish phrase our friends in Ensenada, Felipe & Margarita, had taught me; “puedo acampar aquí?” “May I camp here?”.

There are some mighty large cacti out there

There are some mighty large cacti out there

It’s hard to imagine what a safe place to camp might look like. My regulations state that you must be completely hidden from the road and of course, it has to be accessible for Falkor, meaning no dodgey paths, huge rocks or tight bends around cacti. Seeing an old farmhouse, I felt a surge of bravery overtake me and suggested to the gang that I would go in and ask if we could camp on this property.

I climbed under some barbed wire and sauntered up to the front door. It was open and I could here a TV on so I began calling out “Hola Amigo!”. I was absolutely committed to camping here and so continued my calls for a good 5 minutes. Having heard no movement from within the household, I sighed and turned away, only to hear a little old voice call out from behind me “Hola?”.

This woman was tiny, and looked to be about 90 years old. I am guessing she was pretty deaf too. So I laid out all of my Spanish in one foul swoop;

“Bueno noche señora. Cómo estás? Somos de Australia. Somos bicylistas

Hablo un poco de español, lo siento. Puedo acampar aquí per favor”

“Good evening Madam, how are you? We are from Australia, we are bicylists. I only speak a little Spanish, sorry. Can we camp here please?”

She studied me from under her spectacles and simply nodded, which was awesome because I surely could not have understood any Spanish response back. I then tried to explain there were 4 of us, and called the boys in from the road. Thankfully, Bryce speaks a fair amount of Spanish and he was able to fill in the gaps. She had lived alone on this farm for 30 years, and it was her 81st birthday. We walked around behind her house and set up our tents amongst rusty old tractors and a decrepid satellite dish. Sharing a meal of packet mash and some pasta, we exchanged  adventure stories with our new friends and slept under the stars to the calls of coyotes. It was a great first night in the desert.

Our first night camping in the desert. We set up at an old farm.

Our first night camping in the desert. We set up at an old farm.

I’m not going to go on and explain the details of each day that we had out there, cos it would go on for pages and pages. But I will try and share a few of the highlights of our 3 nights & 4 days desert camping.

Our 2nd night in the desert. It's pretty green eh! We got lucky with this camp site just off the road and shared it with some wandering cows.

Our 2nd night in the desert. It’s pretty green eh! We got lucky with this camp site just off the road and shared it with some wandering cows.

Our 3rd camp site in the desert & our first night going solo.

Our 3rd camp site in the desert & our first night going solo.

Our 4th night in the desert, we met the boys on the road again and set up camp together. It was a stunning clear & starry night.

Our 4th night in the desert, we met the boys on the road again and set up camp together. It was a stunning clear & starry night.

Eating well; it’s all about carbs. Oatmeal and granola for breaky starts us off well and a selection of muesli bars throughout the day to keep our energy up. Lots of pasta for dinner with whatever sauce we can whip up, grabbing fresh fruit and vegies whenever we can, but mostly we are able to get tomatoes and avocados, which make for some pretty sweet tortillas. We soak rice and lentils in a re-seal bag throughout the day so it only takes a few minutes to cook when we set-up camp.  Bread is no longer a viable choice with the super hot weather, so we have converted to tortillas and have even invented a new ‘gringo snack called ‘the pbjilla’. It’s a flour tortilla smothered in peanut butter and jam, and it tastes pretty awesome. Don’t knock it till you try it!

The desert is full of awesomeness!

The desert is full of awesomeness!

Begging for water; I read in another cyclists’ blog that the international sign for ‘no water’ is standing by the side of the road and shaking your water bottle upside down. I tried this on our 2nd day and a car instantly pulled over to re-fill our bottles. I was shocked that it worked. And that’s just one of the awesome things about travelling; realising that most people in the world are caring human beings ready to help. Imagine seeing some cyclists standing in the middle of the desert shaking their water bottles. What would you do?

This technique helped us out on several occasions and led me to learn some new Spanish phrases;

“Tiene agua? Puedo llenar con agua per favor?”

“Do you have water? May I fill my water bottle please?”

We met these French guys riding their recumbent bikes North through killer head winds. We salute you guys!

We met these French guys riding their recumbent bikes North through killer head winds. We salute you guys!

It’s astonishing how many people have gladly helped us out. Americans, Canadians, Brits, Aussies, and Mexicans. One morning, we pulled into a tire repair place to get water, and were invited into their simple Mexican home for a homemade burrito breakfast. It was so heartwarming and wonderful. In Rosario we were even pulled over and invited to camp in a man’s backyard. We heard so many horror stories and were told countless reasons why we should be afraid of travelling in Mexico. All of what we have experienced has been generosity and kindness. We challenge you too to cast off the fear of reputations and tackle your goals with an open mind. It’s exhilarating.

Duffy chased us down in Rosario in his car and pulled us over, insisting that we stay at his place for the night.Love ya work Duffy!

Duffy chased us down in Rosario in his car and pulled us over, insisting that we stay at his place for the night.Love ya work Duffy!

Sara & Adolfo were our gracious hosts in Guerrero Negro

Sara & Adolfo were our gracious hosts in Guerrero Negro

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The many desert landscapes; its completely awesome out there and there is so much simple beauty. I will let the photos talk for themselves. At one point Bren mentioned the similarity of the landscape to ‘RoadRunner’ cartoons. Having never seen a RoadRunner before, of even having considered what one really might look like, we were shocked a few kms later to see a small bird dart across the road and to know without question, that it was indeed a RoadRunner. Much smaller than the cartoon with super small legs, but by crikey, a very fast runner indeed. Meep meep!

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Our 3rd camp site in the desert & our first night going solo.

Our 3rd camp site in the desert & our first night going solo.

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IMG_2595IMG_2762 Anyone need to re-fill at the servo?

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Every 100km or so the desert scenery changes enough to continually take your breath away. And surrounded by rugged mountains and canyons, the stars at night had you question if you were dreaming. I’m not gonna pretend that there isn’t a huge rubbish problem though. There is no plastic bottle recycling here and so instantaneous garbage dumps pop up all over the place. The amount of car and truck smash remains and old tyres littering the place is a real worry. The answer of course, is to simply pile it up and burn it. Not the most environmental solution. But much contrast there is.

A huge pile of burnt tin cans sits and waits

A huge pile of burnt tin cans sits and waits

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Right now, we find ourselves now in a little town called Loreto. We have ridden through incredibly desolate places, faced killer head-winds, been pushed by an immense tail wind to our longest day (148km in 6 hrs), camped in an Oasis, cycled from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Cortez and swam in The Bay Of Conception. We have eaten well and tried loads of new treats. And my god, we have met some amazing people.

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Our sandal tans under water to prove it aint just dirt!

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Our camp site at Buena Ventura

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The turqoise waters of The Bay of Conception

The turquoise waters of The Bay of Conception

Turkey Vultures warm their wings in the sun

Turkey Vultures warm their wings in the sun

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Sitting on a bus seat by the lagoon

Sitting on a bus seat by the lagoon

Camping by the lagoon at San Ignatio

Camping by the lagoon at San Ignacio

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The church in San Ignacio

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The San Ignacio lagoon.Total Oasis

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After riding our longest day, finding a campsite by an Oasis was only made more awesome with a cold beer

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We will spend about 3 days riding to La Paz, where we will leave the Baja Peninsula via ferry for Mazatlan on the Mexico mainland. From there we plan to head to Guadalajara to spend 2 weeks in a Spanish immersion course. And then from there? Well, the plan is very fluid. We are hoping to meet up with some mates for Christmas, then cycle east to the area of Oaxaca where we will check out some ancient Mayan ruins. From there, keeping east to head for Cancun and then Cuba? But who knows? The Bremma plan is in a constant state of flux. It’s a wonderful state to be in. You should consider giving it a go too.

HUGE special thanks to the remarkable people who have graciously hosted us along the Baja Peninsula. It’s been incredible to hear your stories and share your lives for the briefest moments and take refuge in your kindness.

Roberto & family in Rosario: Iain & his daughter Molly in La Fonda: Felipe & Margarita in Ensenada: Duffy in Rosario: Sara & Adolfo in Guerrero Negro: Wendy & Ken in San Lucas: Yvonne, Debbie & Mick and Allie & Weylon in Lorreto.

The excellent Aussies Ken & Wendy in Santa Luquitas

The excellent Aussies Ken & Wendy in Santa Luquitas

In  Loreto with Mick, Yvonne & Debbie

In Loreto with Mick, Yvonne & Debbie

Help us reach our fundraising goal of providing 100 bikes to World Bicycle Relief. You can contribute any amount you like and every little bit makes a huge difference. Donate by visiting our page by clicking here 

14 responses to “Re-inventing the wheel, deserted days, and begging for water

  1. Love your work, Bremma! Absolutely amazing hospitality stories this post has highlighted. You could be the tourist advocates for Mexico!

  2. You are such a strong, passionate and amazing woman with a pretty special fella by your side. Whenever you are scared think about all the people who love you with all their hearts. Especially the Brophy’s in Melbourne town. Ride like the wind Bremma. Much love to you both xxxxx

  3. Was beginning to wonder if you were still in the land of the living. I’m surprised you hadn’t had prickly pear before. They were brought to Oz to feed cattle in drought. Having said that, I only learnt about them in South Africal

  4. Hey friends, it’s so great to read your adventures. You guys have already seen more of Baja on bike than I did when I visited in a car. We missed that lagoon completely. Nice sandal tans, and I’m glad your wheel probs are sorted. Joe broke two spokes just before we crossed at Laredo, and it made us think of you. We have a great Canadian girl riding with us, and are currently in Monterrey. We will catch a bus in a few days to Guadalajara, because the pacific coast seems much better than the gulf coast. We might be in Oaxaca for Christmas because we want to see you guys, but we might be moving faster than that. Let’s see what happens. Keep on having adventures x

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