25.5 mi / 9.7 mph / 1261 ft. climbing
Home: Balneario las Palmas campground
Wind! We haven’t had to deal with it much so far, but it will likely play a bigger factor in Baja. This morning it wasn’t a soul-sucking open-land headwind, but rather, a gusty crosswind. Which made it tough for Rett to keep the bike controlled on the busy out-of-town highway, and prevented her from looking much at all the amazing artisan building-product shops lining the highway. Old-west wooden doors, colorful ceramics, metalworking…she did notice enough of them to say that this would be a place to come back to whenever we’re building up our forever-home!
The town of Puerto Nuevo was at the lunchtime halfway point. As the original birthplace of the fried-lobster dinner we ate in Rosarito, we had to try the “real thing” to compare. The few blocks that make up the “town” are packed with tourist gift shops and perhaps an equal number of lobster restaurants. We walked our bikes down to the last street before the water, where we were met with a gaggle of touts competing for our lunch money. The winner was the guy who said we could bring our bikes right inside the restaurant. Sold! He even helped to lift them up the curb and through the door, where we left them sitting just past the reception stand. We continued out to the back deck, with an excellent view out to the water down below. Lunch was even more-expansive than our dinner had been (since we ordered some ceviche too), but the ~$75 total cost (prices were listed in the English menus in US dollars), while insane by bike-touring-lunch standards, was probably half what an equivalent American experience would be. And yes, Puerto Nuevo lobster in Puerto Nuevo exceeded the Rosarito version.
After lunch the wind felt easier for Rett. Whether that was energy and happiness from the food, the relaxing effects of the couple of Negra Modelos we each had, a slight change in our direction, or Rett’s body having absorbed the lessons that the wind had been teaching her for the first half of the day, part two was much nicer than part one.
There were brief moments where the coast riding was nearly Big Sur or Oregon-coast quality. Highway 1 in this section was paralleled by Highway 1D, the autopista, or cuota/toll road, so traffic on the 1 (libre) nearly disappeared. The surface was fresh and smooth, and only a guardrail separated us from the ocean far below.
Despite that similarity to US locations, there were many places throughout the day where I’d see Rett cycling in front of me in an environment that was so obviously un-American (or un-Canadian) in its details, that it looked and felt like it was straight from some international bike-tourer’s YouTube channel that we may have watched. But it was really us, inside a real-life YouTube video, international bike-tourers ourselves.
We stopped in La Fonda to check out an OXXO, which I’d seen described as the Mexican version of a 7-Eleven. It turned out to be way beyond that, with an incredible variety of items for the size of the space. They had eggs (non-refrigerated as is the norm here), deli, dairy, and even some fruits and vegetables. I have no idea if they’ll all be as well-stocked, but if they are, we’ll be in decent shape. Also, we got a couple of big yogurts with granola, an avocado, two sodas, and some snacks for about $5.
Shortly afterward, we broke off from the toll road and followed Highway 1 as it cut inland into a sharp valley. The day before Rett had found a campground on Google Maps, and while I could find no information about touring cyclists ever staying there, or much information at all (most places in Baja don’t seem to have much of an Internet presence) we decided to take the risk and give it a shot.
We turned right down a gravel road south of the river and just before the town of La Mision. Rett was able to ride it for most of the quarter-mile, but then we were disappointed to see a chain across the entrance and no one around. Closed? I hopped inside to check it out, and a few friendly dogs came running over and alerted the manager, Danny, to our presence. He spoke English, and so was able to explain that “camping” starts at 6pm, while “day use” is from 9am to 6pm. Just telling us this made him seem to realize that, since we were the only ones there for day use or camping, letting us in “early” would be no problem.
He showed us all around the grounds (a rather pretty green oasis ringed with palms and sheltered by rocky hills), introduced us to the dogs (and warned us that they’d take food we left out) and recommended the less-windy side to set up at. There aren’t any specific “sites”, but tables and benches (less-standard than the normal American “picnic table”) can maybe help delineate “mine” from “yours” on the occasions where more people are present. He didn’t have change for the MX$320 fee, but took $16 USD.
So, success! I hadn’t been expecting to camp already at only our second stop in Mexico, and definitely not as such a pretty place, so it was great to get some knowledge from that domain under our belts. And also made us feel good that we were able to “discover” a place to stay on our own, and can now feed that discovery knowledge back into the Baja bike-touring knowledgebase that we’ve been leaning on so heavily to guide our path.
We took an ill-advised scramble up a super-steep, gravelly, eroded path to a viewing platform, but were granted some great sunset ocean- and valley-views in return for our risky investment. And luckily we were able to slowly piece our way down feet-first and hands-down without incident or injury.
Rather than cooking at the janky table near our tent, we made a pasta dinner at a lighted, elevated gazebo thing. The dogs watched us the whole time, but respectfully. Danny indicated (we think!) that we wouldn’t need to worry about raccoons, because the dogs fight them off. Hope so, since we’re leaving our food in our panniers (which presumably the thumbless dogs can’t unzip like raccoons can!)