Chapala, BC to Punta Prieta, BC

34.3 mi / 11.4 mph / 537 ft. climbing
Home: Motel room at Restaurant Melany

Wild camping isn’t Rett’s favorite thing to do, mostly due to the difficulties of cleaning things (including herself) without access to running water. So I’m incredibly grateful for her willingness to do it again, so soon after her first time. Because for me, it was one of the best nights of camping I’ve ever had. We fell asleep a little after 8pm, and I woke after a mostly-sound sleep around 6am. Unlike Cataviña, where every truck going both ways needed to fire its jackhammering engine brake to slow down through town, here in the middle of nowhere they could just sail by in relative silence.

Dawn at our wild cactus campsite.

Yesterday had been another super-drying day, so we had gone through more than half of the 10+ liters of water we’d brought from Cataviña (I’d filled our 10L bag completely this time). Hmm, we probably should have brought some extra at the restaurant yesterday afternoon. Since today would start with another 25 miles of literally nothing.

But luckily, whether it was our earlier start (8:30am), or just higher humidity (or maybe our subconscious telling our thirst reflex that we need to conserve?), neither of us felt the need to guzzle as much water as we did yesterday.

Cirios and mountain.

Water isn’t the only thing that has made this desert-crossing challenging. With so few places to stop, charting out our days in a way that keeps them manageable has required not just all the excellent information shared by people who have gone before us, but some luck as well. Today’s ride had the most-demoralizing wind forecast, with strong crosswinds in the morning, turning to near-headwinds (at 20+ mph) as we turned straight south for the second half of the ride. The great luck was that this also was the day where we would give back most of the elevation we had built up over the previous few days. For the last 20 miles (the part with the worst wind), we would be on a perfect downhill slope, dropping us 1300 feet. That’s a slope that’s not even visually perceptible, but we could definitely feel it, and it (along with Rett’s impressive effort that let me draft behind her for much of the distance) meant that we could maintain 10+ mph into that headwind, and more-importantly, maintain our sanity.

Crossing the valley.

The ride was once-again gorgeous and breathtaking in spots. The differences this time included a high blue wall of mountains that shadowed us on our left for much of the distance, Joshua trees among boulders (see, I guess we didn’t need to visit Joshua Tree National Park after all!), and finally, yet another mind-bending cirios/cactus forest, this one spreading across the flat plains on both sides of the road for miles, so dense that looking far down the road, it could be confused for a freshly-logged conifer plantation in Washington filled with recently-replanted pines, or an evergreen forest where a fire had left only the trunks standing.

Joshua trees and mountains.
Joshua trees and mountains.
Mountains and probably dozens of desert plant species.
Mountains and tiny Rett.
Tell me that doesn’t look like it could be a (nutrient-deficient) conifer forest!

At 25 miles, we got our first bit of civilization, Restaurante Terramar, an-improbably cavernous building with a few tables that cooked up an awesome order of giant shrimp tacos for me, and a crab-burger for Rett. And the friendly clerk got us logged onto the free (and good!) WiFi before we even asked! Still no cell service anywhere near here, so in a place where there are guys in pickup trucks in the parking lot selling gas to travelers, and the bathrooms don’t have sinks, that’s quite an unexpected amenity!

Retaurante Terramar: This building surely wasn’t built to house a restaurant, but I can’t imagine what else it was for either!
Rett trying to feed carrots to the horses, but unfortunately they were far more freaked out by the weird humans than enticed by the carrots.

We got to Punta Prieta, an actual town with multiple buildings, and walked up to Restaurante Melany at the far end. $30 (600 pesos) for a room, w/ 100 peso deposit. So we’re back to standard Baja small-town no-frills motels, but this one had A/C, WiFi (again, free w/ room, 10 pesos at the restaurant), and a good hot shower. Don’t need much more than that!

One of the first things I try to do when we reach our destination is to change out of my shoes. Partially because my feet stink. Or, at least, they stink up the shoes I wear while riding, so every day at the end of the ride I pull out the insoles and try to prop the shoes somewhere that lets them dry out. Today I put them right outside our motel room door, on the concrete walk above the gravel that turned into open desert. When I went back out an hour later, I was shocked to find that one of the shoes was gone!

Yes, it was still windy, but not windy enough to blow a size-13 shoe out of sight. And although my subconscious briefly wanted to blame a Mexican shoe-thief, my logical brain quickly realized that made no sense. On the other hand, we had seen at least a couple dogs wandering the property when we checked in at the restaurant, and maybe the comic-trope of dogs-stealing-shoes is more than just a caricature?

So, armed with my remaining shoe, and Google Translate, I went to inquire at the office (I’ve known the word for “shoe” forever for 6th-grade reasons, but simply walking in while waving a shoe around and saying “zapato” would give them the ultimate in “crazy stupid gringo” stories). They had not seen my shoe, but agreed that my dog-stole-it theory seemed reasonable.

So I’m back outside wandering the property with my eyes open, and a shoe in my hand. I saw an older guy come out of an RV, so I gave him the “have you seen my shoe?”, and he somewhat-encouragingly pointed to a woman around the corner. I ask her, and, this is surely my horrible Spanish, but I believed she said something like “this shoe, or the other one?” Ok, yes, I’m a gringo wandering around behind a restaurant waving a shoe, but I’m not so crazy that I’m just asking you if you’ve seen this awesome shoe I have here in my hand. Of course the other one!!

She proceeds onward to a little shack where another woman is doing laundry with her son, and, from somewhere, produces my shoe! At that moment the very same white fluffy dog who Rett had made cooing noises at when we initially showed up, came running out of the same area. Of course, it’s the cute ones who think they can get away with it!

Thankfully, my shoe remained undamaged (or at least no more-damaged than the current state of its partner). And I got a funny story with a happy ending to write in the blog, and I’m sure they all got a good story about the shoe-waving gringo dumb enough to leave his shoes sitting outside!

A 4-by block of motel rooms at Restaurante Melany, scene of the crime.

We still had some food we’d been carrying with us from El Rosario, in case any of our expected food-stops in the desert had been closed, so, maybe still with a bit of that cash-saving paranoia, we decided to cook our own dinner rather than eating at the restaurant. Also it would lighten our load, and Hotel Melany is not quite the Ritz, so sitting outside our room and cooking up a meal on our camp stove would not risk any scolding from the management. Finally, it let Rett spend more time watching ‘The Walking Dead’ on the in-room TV that had Netflix built-in, an unexpected luxury that literally brought her to tears.


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3 responses to “Chapala, BC to Punta Prieta, BC”

  1. Beth Mountsier Avatar
    Beth Mountsier

    Hey all – I’m feeling guilty for reading your wonderful posts and seeing the gorgeous pics without commenting!! I usually check the IG photos everyday – but leave it until the weekend to read the posts.
    Love your stories and this adventure. Today’s shoe thief and the description of the ride and little bits of amenities had me cheering your grit and loving your sense of humor about what each day brings. Hope you are feeling the love from friends and family as you do this ride – but also hoping you are just living in the moment and enjoying this. Best wishes from Seattle!

    1. neil Avatar

      Thanks for checking in Beth, please no guilt, but it admittedly is really gratifying to know that you’re still following along! We just saw a Washington license plate yesterday (and briefly spoke with them as we rolled down the highway together), which definitely made us think of Seattle and our people way up there. 🙂

      1. Beth Mountsier Avatar
        Beth Mountsier

        Who wouldn’t be following along – the pics and stories are compelling. Keep pedaling – I’m loving the vicarious trip! Jim and I are talking about future bike trips . . . in the meantime just enjoying the longer days up here and looking forward to cycling to work as the weather improves. Glad to hear you ran into some other PNW escapees! Cheers!

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